Three things I have learned this season….

1.    The brilliance of planning and dreaming big

It’s hard to believe I have raced in the Ironwoman series for 8 years now!

My initial goal was to just make it into the series where I could race against my idols.

My goals progressed from making the top ten, to the top three, and this year the ever elusive number one position.

An important lesson I have learned is that I need to change my goals as I realise them, and always aim to do better.

I have also learned that when it comes to achieving a big dream, all the little things along the way are what make this dream a reality. Training, treatment, healthy eating, and mindfulness are all vital steps on the path to success. I plan my training months out from my main race and set little goals along the way, and I’m able to adapt when things don’t go to plan. Setbacks like illness, injury, or even big surf!

My body is my engine, and needs regular physio and massage treatment, stretching and strengthening to prevent injury. Healthy eating is essential in giving my body fuel for my training sessions. By preparing and planning my meals, I know I’m keeping myself in the best condition.

I usually do one big grocery shop per week, and stop in at the fruit shop on the way home from training to stock up on fresh fruit and vegetables so I can make healthy meals. By preparing my meals, I can keep track of what I’m eating, and won’t make poor food choices like buying takeaway when I’m exhausted after a night of training.

More recently, I have discovered the benefits of mindfulness, and what works best for me to prepare myself mentally for the challenges I will face.  I am often rushing around from training to work to other commitments and exhaust myself before I realise how much I’m trying to fit into my day. Some of my best training weeks and races have been when I am relaxed and not stressed. Over the years I have learned how to take time out of my day for myself to relax and recover. During this time, I practice mindfulness, meditate using the self-guided 10-minute meditation ‘headspace’ app or listen to chill out style music. I try to do this a few times per week.

My coaches help me plan my training blocks to fit in work and other commitments, and are always encouraging me to aim higher. I seek advice from others who have been here before, and use them as a sounding board for my wild ideas.

From experience I now know how planning and preparation can help me realise my dreams. If I had only ever dreamed of making the top ten in the Ironwoman series, then I wouldn’t know how it feels to be number one today.

I have also realised the value of not getting caught up in the little things. If I have to miss a training session, it’s not the end of the world. By being relaxed and flexible, it’s a lot easier to enjoy the journey and not just the destination.


2.    Just as I am physically fit, I also need be financially fit   

As an athlete, managing my finances isn’t quite as straight forward as someone who has a 9-to-5 job. My sport requires me to travel to compete, which I absolutely love. Last year I travelled to the Netherlands for the World Surf Life Saving Championships and also to Fiji for the World Paddleboard Championships.

I had to save up to pay for both of these trips so needed to be careful with my money and planning throughout the year. Having a budget became critical, and ultimately, was a key element in deciding whether I could chase my dreams.

Since becoming an ambassador for Catholic Super, I have learned a lot about managing my finances and superannuation. Through talking with the wonderful experts at Catholic Super and discussing with family and friends, I have realised that whilst accessing my super is a long way away, having a sound understanding now will help me in the long run, and being with a super fund that encourages financial fitness has given me peace-of-mind knowing I’m on the right track.  

My personal goal is to be the number one in my sport. I have realised that dedicating myself to my sport and achieving the dream of being number one can also assist me financially with the benefits of prize money and acquiring sponsorship when I race well.

I try to not rely on my prize money for daily living so that it doesn’t put too much pressure on my racing. When I do earn prize money, I will save it or use it towards travel for another competition. I also work as an Exercise Physiologist part time which I really enjoy as it challenges my mind, and helps with everyday living expenses.

In order to achieve my goal of winning the Ironwoman Series, I had to train harder and smarter than ever to make it happen and I think my dedication to sport can translate to many aspects of life including my finances.

Currently I’m saving hard and training even harder for my next adventure.


3.    As a female role model, I am able to influence change  

Young girls look up to actors, singers, athletes, reality TV stars and Instagram celebrities. All of these role models are unique and promote different views, ideas and qualities that influence young women. We see hundreds of photos and words everyday which affect our ways of thinking, how we view our bodies and even our self-esteem.

When I was younger I used to feel self-conscious about being so tall. I used to slouch and wish I was a bit shorter. I have grown to love my height and try to use it to my advance racing and wading out longer than the other girls. I now stand tall and am proud of my height. 

I used to struggle to be powerful in the water. At the start of races I used to get left behind because I found it challenging to develop explosive power off the beach. This used to play on my confidence racing and I would go into a race believing that I wouldn’t be the first off the beach. Because I am taller than most of the other girls my limbs are longer which make it more difficult to apply force, quickly.  I have since worked incredibly hard in the gym to develop strength and explosive power which now gives me the confidence in my body that I need at the start of a race.

I hadn’t realised until recently that being at the top in my sport automatically catapults me into being a role model. It wasn’t until I started interacting more with young nippers that I realised how vulnerable and impressionable these young girls are. Last year I ran nipper and youth clinics that included workshops on goal setting, motivation, nutrition, body image and social media. I discovered that many girls were dropping out of sport because of body images issues, lack of confidence and self-belief.

During and after these sessions I have heard back from so many young girls about their goals, healthy eating, training sessions and how they are inspired to follow their dreams. I love being able to share the healthy and active lifestyle I live with other aspiring athletes. From the feedback I have received I have learnt that as a sporting role model I am able to influence change.

Harriet Brown