It's no coincidence that movement is my modality. I find movement such a metaphor for life and often look to it to teach me what I need to see, or to gather the resources that I need to build within myself.
Of course, yoga and pilates are important practices for me to play out these metaphors: when I need to feel strength I am drawn to strong standing poses, when I need to go inwards and look within myself I am drawn to forward flexion or the stillness within yin poses.
But I also feel these metaphors in sport: the challenge of long endurance sessions when I have to apply patience and conserve my energy, the process of moving forward when I want to stop and learning to dig deep and keep focused towards my goal when other things threaten to get in the way.
It's triathlon that has taught me a big lesson recently. It highlighted to me how I have been transitioning through stages and phases of life. In triathlon, 'transition' is the change time between each of the swim, bike, run elements of the race. It is the moments between getting out of the water in the swim and onto the bike, and then the moments from getting off the bike and out onto the run section of the race.
Transitions in triathlon are about being smooth, focused, efficient. They are about getting to, then settling into, the next phase of the race as quickly as possible.
During my prime competing days in triathlon I was an ace at transitions! I could get off my bike, get my helmet and bike racked, trainers on, gels picked up and then back out the transition area for the final run of the race in well under 30 seconds. Many of my medals were won on the basis of my transition times being quicker than my competitors. I was known for my fast transitions and would often hear coaches tell their athletes to watch and learn from how I did them! It was about being organised and focused and decisive.
So I find it hilarious, and ironic, that I can be fairly rubbish at dealing with transitions and change in the bigger context of my life! In my younger years, maybe not so much, but as I get older I've definitely found it more challenging to know which direction to go in, what to let go off, what to take with me, and I really care more about how others are handling the transition too. If I play out the metaphor, my transitions in life these days are the equivalent of me finishing the swim and then taking my wetsuit out on the bike leg with me while also having a full bag of snacks because I don't know what I might want for energy, and then trying to lug my bike with me while I run and during ALL of that I'm hell bent on making sure that my competitor has got out of the transaction area unscathed and onto her bike ok too. Jeepers!
I AM going through a transition at the moment. I've changed my work pattern to suit my energy levels better and I'm in the process of building up some work nearer to my home to make commuting easier on myself. I think that I'm now in that decisive, focused stage of transition but I had a heck of a faff about getting to here.
We moved to the country 6 years ago to enjoy a different lifestyle, a quieter and less busy one. Yet, I insisted on keeping my city life going at the same volume and pace as it had been. My working days became way longer! 7am get ups needed to become 5:30am get ups in order to not sit static in traffic. Dinner time got later and time sitting in cafes increased as I wasn’t able to pop home between working both ends of the day. There was me metaphorically lugging the wetsuit and bike with me into the next stage of this event called life, but not sure what to put down where and when and what to take with me.
The light bulb came when I realised that I actually love getting up at 5:30am. It really suits me. So the other end of the candle had to stop burning. It was time to stop spending my evenings coaching running groups, something I’d been doing for 18 years. It was a decision that I found difficult to make but knew that I had to. It was time to leave it lovingly in the transition area. Of course I was taking all the lessons and experience I’d gained from those 18 years forward with me, because they were threaded through me and integrated into how I work with people in others ways.
Once I had made that decision, things felt so much easier and it was clearer to focus on moving forward with a different energy. I am settling into the new pattern of working and I can feel that I'm beginning to flourish from it. My energy levels are significantly better and as a result my thoughts are much clearer and more positive. I'm doing less 'managing' my life, and instead I'm enjoying 'being' in my life. It does feel like a load has lightened and I'm actually doing more while also feeling incredibly rested. Deciding what to let go off has also helped me focus on what does fill my working week. I really enjoy my time in Edinburgh much more now and can think clearer when working with clients there. I've got other work much closer to home now too and it lets me have study and creating time which is so important to my development. When I wind down at the end of a working day I have an evening now to spend with friends, catching up with tv or just doing life stuff. It feels great. Really great.
I can see in hindsight actually that the process of transition is simply a case of decide, focus, action, go. It really was like my triathlon transitions used to be. I would decided exactly what I needed, where I was laying it out, what order to do it and then it was just a case of focus, action, go. The decision was the hardest bit. And I guess sometimes it takes getting to a place of carrying too much and losing energy before you even realise that you need to make some kind of decision and what is serving your energy and what isn't.
So, thank you triathlon for teaching me about life - again! I'm ever so thankful that you are a force, and a resource, in my life.
I am Caroline Toshack. Movement is my passion, my mirror, my creative source and outlet. I am a teacher, educator, writer and coach.