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Jenny Meadows – Life From the Track Part 5

Posted on September 29th, 2016

In part 5 of our interview series, Jenny and Trevor describe the psychological journey athletes experience when competing, their plans for the future and supporting current runners, including Paralympian, Graeme Ballard.

Is there a psychology to running injuries and getting over them?

Jenny: Well it sounds quite a strange term, to say it, but I’ve had to learn how to be injured

So you can anticipate it?

Jenny: Yeah. The first injury I got, I freaked out, and I thought ‘I’ve never been injured before, what is this about?’ There were lots of tears and stress, because I’ve got competitions and I’ve got an injury and I’ve got a training plan, I can’t therefore do what’s on the plan and if I don’t do what’s on the plan, then I won’t be able to do tomorrow, then how does that impact on two weeks’ time when the race is?!

So, I think Rob and Jeff in particular, have really helped me understand, you know, if you are injured it is a part of sport and life and you have to expect to at some point. That doesn’t mean you get used to being injured, and if you are injured, okay well, what can you do instead? Which like I said as long as an athlete knows they’re achieving something, so it might be ‘Okay, I know I’m not physically running today, so I’m going to swim or I’m going to cycle.’ You can get a lot of benefit from those other things, whilst the knee calms down or the hamstring has time to recover.

I definitely think it’s the mind-set, of working with a good physio that allows you not to panic, because if they are relaxed, you relax.

If we didn’t have Harris & Ross, I would panic and be crying; Trevor would get stressed out, because I am. He would then panic and I would then see his body language and panic more, it becomes quite toxic. So it’s been good, having that other person to almost help you deal with it. I have said from the very beginning, they are like psychologists, they would deal with me and say ‘Okay, Trevor so you’re job now is to keep Jen relaxed. What did you need from that running session? Well, whatever you needed, we’ll make sure we get that out of an alternative session.’ So as long as that gets filtered to me, I buy in to it, so it’s very clever!

I think as coach and athlete, who are also husband and wife, it could get tough without somebody actually being there for us.

Yeah, as you say, you need someone who is outside that box.

Jenny: Definitely, it has definitely helped us overcome that avenue.

What about, on the starting line at the start of a race? What goes through your mind?

Jenny: I’m pretty good at that, I’ve worked with a Sports Psychologist

What do they do?

Jenny: We have this term called ‘Control the Controllables’, so you know ‘Oh something’s happening over there!’ ‘Well can you do anything about it?’ ‘No’ ‘Well, that doesn’t involve you then, does it?

And I think it’s just helping you, realise what is in your control, as long as I stand on the start line with a goal of ‘Have I done everything that I can, within my possibilities?’ And if I have managed to do everything I possibly can, I can actually be relaxed at the start and actually think ‘Whatever happens, I know I can give it everything.’ Whereas, if I’ve missed a training session or couldn’t be bother doing something, that would be an awful mind set going to the start line with, thinking ‘Oh gosh, I could’ve given more.’

So I think, the Sports Psychologist has really helped me realise that…

Help you focus

Jenny: …On what I can do, forget the external things, just concentrate on me. So that’s been a really good help.

Going back to the Diamond League, when you were getting ready, getting prepared, psyching yourself up. You were focussed on what you were doing yourself, rather than what others were doing?

Jenny: Yeah, I would have my race plan, so I would think ‘Obviously, you’re competing against a number of other girls, and the race could go anywhere.’ But that’s sport, sport is unpredictable; and as someone who likes a plan and likes being in control, it’s quite strange that I ended up in sport, because it’s against all those principals. But you know, if somebody went off in a race very, very fast, then I would have to think ‘Okay, don’t get caught up in this. What do I want to do? Which is the best way for me to win this race?’ and I would know what pace I want to go at and my own targets, from how training has gone. So just really keeping a clear head and not getting caught up with something that doesn’t suit.

 That’s quite hard isn’t it?

Jenny: Yeah definitely

It’s all in your peripheral vision

Jenny: Because you have that, you have the noise of the crowd, the stadium announcer, you

know it’s being aired on television to a number of countries, you know that all your close friends and families are really passionate and they want you to do well; so it’s really almost blocking all those things out.

Tunnel vision…

Jenny: and doing your own thing, which is quite tough really

But you did it well!

Jenny: I managed to do it, yeah! It seems like a daunting task when I talk about it now, but I managed to do that yeah

What are your next steps, any plans for the future?

Jenny: Oh there’s lots of steps and plans for the future, we’ve been inundated really.

It’s exciting and very, very glad I’ve had a 28 year career. I certainly did not expect to be doing this until    aged 35

It’s amazing though

Jenny: It’s crazy and in our sport, you’re actually termed a veteran at age 35. So all of this season, I’ve had this big capital V next to my name, V 35. Me, a veteran at 35.

So this year, basically every race I’ve ran almost, I’ve broken the British Veteran 35 record, and it’s not something I’m incredibly proud of! But I think ‘Oh well, I’m the fastest British woman ever, aged 35 or over. That’s pretty cool, I guess.

I’m part way through a Master’s degree in Sports Marketing and Business Management, so I’m enjoying that. That’s at UCLAN (University of Central Lancashire), so I’ve still got to finish that.

Even though it’s 3 weeks since I retired [at time of interview], I get emails on a daily basis, asking me to get involved in   different projects which is good.

Is it local stuff?

Jenny: All sorts, local, national. So I might do some work on a European or an international level within the sport, which is great.

Trevor: We’ve been invited to give a workshop in Australia, which is a hard one…we’re not even sure if we really want to do it…!

Yeah, I mean you’ve been flying so much over the past couple of years… [Laughter] Who know, we might see you training athletes over there!

Jenny: During the Rio Olympics, I’m working on BBC Breakfast to be an Olympic pundit. So I’m going to be doing that in Salford. I’ve done a lot of work on Radio 5 Live, the past couple of weeks. Filmed Question of Sport last night, so I’ve got lots of exciting things to do at the moment.

That really will keep you busy

Trevor: I’m also doing a Masters at the moment, in Sports Coaching. I’ve just got a dissertation to do now.

But you’re already a coach?

Trevor: I am a coach yeah, but there’s not many opportunities, once you get to my level, to develop yourself. Rather than standing still and thinking ‘I’m the best coach in the world’, I thought ‘Let’s do this and test myself.’

So the first 2 years is a Post Graduate Diploma and the third year is the dissertation and the full Masters

And you’re doing it at UCLAN as well?

Trevor: Yeah

Jenny: We don’t see each other that much so it’s okay

[…]

Trevor: A lot of the guys on my course, have just retired from competing and are going in to coaching. Whereas, I’ve been coaching for 15 years so I know what I’m doing and I’m linking it to the academic side. Whereas they’re not knowing what they’re doing and they’re trying to link, something they don’t know about to the academic side. So it’s a much tougher course for them, and I’ve done quite well in it.

Jenny: You’ve done really well. He’s totally, not blowing his trumpet, but obviously for an undergraduate, 70% is a first class and he’s been getting 81% on average. He got a letter from the submissions board thanking him. He’s like ‘Everyone gets one of those, don’t they?’ ‘No, believe me. No way.’

You’ll probably receive a PhD!

Trevor: Yeah, they actually want me to do a doctorate

Jenny: And I’m like ‘Gosh, I can’t believe how clever Trevor is!’

Trevor: It’s a lot of reading though, isn’t it?

Jenny: You [Trevor] actually need to wear glasses now, because you’ve read so much

Trevor: Because of all the journals you have to read, my eyes have gone…

Jenny: It just shows over the years, how you’ve developed as a coach. Which is great as well, because it’s gone from something you’ve just enjoyed doing [and] you’re passionate about, to a career, which is great.

Trevor: I’m earning money now from coaching and I got in to it because I love it and I still love it, I’ve got a passion for helping people. That comes from, when I was athlete I don’t think I got the best kind of guidance and I didn’t do all of Rob’s rehab! But seriously, I think those limitations are because my coaches didn’t push me enough.

Is that why you became a coach?

Trevor: Kind of yeah, and I was told by the lady on my left here [Jenny], she was not happy with the coaching that she was getting at the time. She said ‘Why don’t you be my coach?’ I’m like ‘Okay!’

Jenny: The thing is about Trevor, is that he’s a people person and it’s very similar to what we were saying about Rob and Jeff – he cares. And if someone cares, that makes such a difference, because they’re doing it for the right reasons.

Definitely, you share the same views and goals

Jenny: And even though Trevor’s been my coach, I watch him interact with other people and it’s…Gosh, it’s a tough job being a coach, you know it really is. You’ve got to absolutely love it, because you’re there in the rain, the cold, the wind; and when you’re an athlete, at least you’re doing something, but they’re just stood there timing, it’s so hard! But now, I’ve obviously finished competitive running…

Trevor: Yeah, we’ve got a really strong squad, obviously Jenny was the best athlete there; but the squad, there’s over 20 athletes and there’s some very high standard individuals; some youngsters coming through. I’d be foolish to walk away, because I’ve gained so much experience that I can help people win.

Where do you coach?

Trevor: Based in Wigan, but we do come across to Manchester quite a bit and then we use the sand dunes at Formby; we use all the local amenities close by. It’s my squad, my group and people come from Preston, from Manchester, from Liverpool, they all come to Wigan [Jenny: The hub!] Because of the experience

Jenny: And you’ve had a good announcement this week…so Graeme Ballard one of your athletes, has just been selected for the Rio Paralympics! Yeah, that’s pretty cool and everyone in the training group is really pleased for him.

Trevor: Technically, we should’ve had two people at the Rio Olympics, but Jenny didn’t quite make it and another girl has had glandular fever, so we’ve just been that little bit unlucky.

Jenny: Well, we were both at the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and we were at the World Championships last year in Beijing. But unfortunately, me and Kirsten [McAslan] haven’t had the greatest of years.

Trevor: Life’s all about timing

Has your squad got a title?

Jenny and Trevor: No…Trevor’s Squad?

Jenny: Trevor’s Training group? That’s as good as athletics get.

Trevor: A lot of people say ‘Oh I’m part of Team such-a-body’ and they mention the coach’s name, but I don’t like doing that

Jenny: Because a lot of the athletes say ‘[…] Team Painter!’ and Trevor always cringes, don’t you?

Trevor: But I’m part of Team Meadows, I’m part of Team McAslan, I’m part of Team Barrow. I’m part of many teams, because it should always be about the athlete. They need empowerment, they’re at the top of the tree and we’re all there to support them.

So for the next couple of weeks, with Graeme Ballard will you be keeping in touch with him whilst he’s in Rio?

Trevor: Yeah, he’ll be travelling in about 3 weeks’ time, so I’ll still be coaching him and then he’ll go off with the team and try and get a medal!

Jenny: He got a medal in London, he got a silver at the London Paralympics. He’s great, he’s got Cerebral Palsy in all four of his limbs, but he’s just an inspiration.

Trevor: His character around the group has been fantastic, you know, he’s lifted everybody this year and to think ‘Well, if he’s doing this, then I’ve got no excuse. I’ve got to get in…!’ He’s super.

You do need someone, to give you that…

Trevor: Motivation

Is there a psychology to running injuries and getting over them?

Jenny: Well it sounds quite a strange term, to say it, but I’ve had to learn how to be injured

So you can anticipate it?

Jenny: Yeah. The first injury I got, I freaked out, and I thought ‘I’ve never been injured before, what is this about?’ There were lots of tears and stress, because I’ve got competitions and I’ve got an injury and I’ve got a training plan, I can’t therefore do what’s on the plan and if I don’t do what’s on the plan, then I won’t be able to do tomorrow, then how does that impact on two weeks’ time when the race is?!

So, I think Rob and Jeff in particular, have really helped me understand, you know, if you are injured it is a part of sport and life and you have to expect to at some point. That doesn’t mean you get used to being injured, and if you are injured, okay well, what can you do instead? Which like I said as long as an athlete knows they’re achieving something, so it might be ‘Okay, I know I’m not physically running today, so I’m going to swim or I’m going to cycle.’ You can get a lot of benefit from those other things, whilst the knee calms down or the hamstring has time to recover.

I definitely think it’s the mind-set, of working with a good physio that allows you not to panic, because if they are relaxed, you relax.

If we didn’t have Harris & Ross, I would panic and be crying; Trevor would get stressed out, because I am. He would then panic and I would then see his body language and panic more, it becomes quite toxic. So it’s been good, having that other person to almost help you deal with it. I have said from the very beginning, they are like psychologists, they would deal with me and say ‘Okay, Trevor so you’re job now is to keep Jen relaxed. What did you need from that running session? Well, whatever you needed, we’ll make sure we get that out of an alternative session.’ So as long as that gets filtered to me, I buy in to it, so it’s very clever!

I think as coach and athlete, who are also husband and wife, it could get tough without somebody actually being there for us.

 Yeah, as you say, you need someone who is outside that box.

Jenny: Definitely, it has definitely helped us overcome that avenue.

What about on the starting line at the start of a race? What goes through your mind?

Jenny: I’m pretty good at that, I’ve worked with a Sports Psychologist

What do they do?

Jenny: We have this term called ‘Control the Controllables’, so you know ‘Oh something’s happening over there!’ ‘Well can you do anything about it?’ ‘No’ ‘Well, that doesn’t involve you then, does it?

And I think it’s just helping you, realise what is in your control, as long as I stand on the start line with a goal of ‘Have I done everything that I can, within my possibilities?’ And if I have managed to do everything I possibly can, I can actually be relaxed at the start and actually think ‘Whatever happens, I know I can give it everything.’ Whereas, if I’ve missed a training session or couldn’t be bother doing something, that would be an awful mind set going to the start line with, thinking ‘Oh gosh, I could’ve given more.’

So I think, the Sports Psychologist has really helped me realise that…

Help you focus

Jenny: …On what I can do, forget the external things, just concentrate on me. So that’s been a really good help.

Going back to the Diamond League, when you were getting ready, getting prepared, psyching yourself up. You were focussed on what you were doing yourself, rather than what others were doing?

Jenny: Yeah, I would have my race plan, so I would think ‘Obviously, you’re competing against a number of other girls, and the race could go anywhere.’ But that’s sport, sport is unpredictable; and as someone who likes a plan and likes being in control, it’s quite strange that I ended up in sport, because it’s against all those principals. But you know, if somebody went off in a race very, very fast, then I would have to think ‘Okay, don’t get caught up in this. What do I want to do? Which is the best way for me to win this race?’ and I would know what pace I want to go at and my own targets, from how training has gone. So just really keeping a clear head and not getting caught up with something that doesn’t suit.

That’s quite hard isn’t it?

Jenny: Yeah definitely

It’s all in your peripheral vision

Jenny: Because you have that, you have the noise of the crowd, the stadium announcer, you

know it’s being aired on television to a number of countries, you know that all your close friends and families are really passionate and they want you to do well; so it’s really almost blocking all those things out.

 Tunnel vision…

Jenny: and doing your own thing, which is quite tough really

But you did it well!

Jenny: I managed to do it, yeah! It seems like a daunting task when I talk about it now, but I managed to do that yeah

What are your next steps, any plans for the future?

Jenny: Oh there’s lots of steps and plans for the future, we’ve been inundated really.

It’s exciting and very, very glad I’ve had a 28 year career. I certainly did not expect to be doing this until    aged 35

It’s amazing though

Jenny: It’s crazy and in our sport, you’re actually termed a veteran at age 35. So all of this season, I’ve had this big capital V next to my name, V 35. Me, a veteran at 35.

So this year, basically every race I’ve ran almost, I’ve broken the British Veteran 35 record, and it’s not something I’m incredibly proud of! But I think ‘Oh well, I’m the fastest British woman ever, aged 35 or over. That’s pretty cool, I guess.

I’m part way through a Master’s degree in Sports Marketing and Business Management, so I’m enjoying that. That’s at UCLAN (University of Central Lancashire), so I’ve still got to finish that.

Even though it’s 3 weeks since I retired [at time of interview], I get emails on a daily basis, asking me to get involved in   different projects which is good.

Is it local stuff?

Jenny: All sorts, local, national. So I might do some work on a European or an international level within the sport, which is great.

Trevor: We’ve been invited to give a workshop in Australia, which is a hard one…we’re not even sure if we really want to do it…!

Yeah, I mean you’ve been flying so much over the past couple of years… [Laughter] Who know, we might see you training athletes over there!

Jenny: During the Rio Olympics, I’m working on BBC Breakfast to be an Olympic pundit. So I’m going to be doing that in Salford. I’ve done a lot of work on Radio 5 Live, the past couple of weeks. Filmed Question of Sport last night, so I’ve got lots of exciting things to do at the moment.

That really will keep you busy                                                                        

Trevor: I’m also doing a Masters at the moment, in Sports Coaching. I’ve just got a dissertation to do   now.

But you’re already a coach?

Trevor: I am a coach yeah, but there’s not many opportunities, once you get to my level, to develop yourself. Rather than standing still and thinking ‘I’m the best coach in the world’, I thought ‘Let’s do this and test myself.’

So the first 2 years is a Post Graduate Diploma and the third year is the dissertation and the full Masters

And you’re doing it at UCLAN as well?

Trevor: Yeah

Jenny: We don’t see each other that much so it’s okay

[…]

Trevor: A lot of the guys on my course, have just retired from competing and are going in to coaching. Whereas, I’ve been coaching for 15 years so I know what I’m doing and I’m linking it to the academic side. Whereas they’re not knowing what they’re doing and they’re trying to link, something they don’t know about to the academic side. So it’s a much tougher course for them, and I’ve done quite well in it.

Jenny: You’ve done really well. He’s totally, not blowing his trumpet, but obviously for an undergraduate, 70% is a first class and he’s been getting 81% on average. He got a letter from the submissions board thanking him. He’s like ‘Everyone gets one of those, don’t they?’ ‘No, believe me. No way.’

You’ll probably receive a PhD!

Trevor: Yeah, they actually want me to do a doctorate

Jenny: And I’m like ‘Gosh, I can’t believe how clever Trevor is!’

Trevor: It’s a lot of reading though, isn’t it?

Jenny: You [Trevor] actually need to wear glasses now, because you’ve read so much

Trevor: Because of all the journals you have to read, my eyes have gone…

Jenny: It just shows over the years, how you’ve developed as a coach. Which is great as well, because it’s gone from something you’ve just enjoyed doing [and] you’re passionate about, to a career, which is great.

Trevor: I’m earning money now from coaching and I got in to it because I love it and I still love it, I’ve got a passion for helping people. That comes from, when I was athlete I don’t think I got the best kind of guidance and I didn’t do all of Rob’s rehab! But seriously, I think those limitations are because my coaches didn’t push me enough.

Is that why you became a coach?

Trevor: Kind of yeah, and I was told by the lady on my left here [Jenny], she was not happy with the coaching that she was getting at the time. She said ‘Why don’t you be my coach?’ I’m like ‘Okay!’

Jenny: The thing is about Trevor, is that he’s a people person and it’s very similar to what we were saying about Rob and Jeff – he cares. And if someone cares, that makes such a difference, because they’re doing it for the right reasons.

Definitely, you share the same views and goals

Jenny: And even though Trevor’s been my coach, I watch him interact with other people and it’s…Gosh, it’s a tough job being a coach, you know it really is. You’ve got to absolutely love it, because you’re there in the rain, the cold, the wind; and when you’re an athlete, at least you’re doing something, but they’re just stood there timing, it’s so hard! But now, I’ve obviously finished competitive running…

Trevor: Yeah, we’ve got a really strong squad, obviously Jenny was the best athlete there; but the squad, there’s over 20 athletes and there’s some very high standard individuals; some youngsters coming through. I’d be foolish to walk away, because I’ve gained so much experience that I can help people win.

Where do you coach?

Trevor: Based in Wigan, but we do come across to Manchester quite a bit and then we use the sand dunes at Formby; we use all the local amenities close by. It’s my squad, my group and people come from Preston, from Manchester, from Liverpool, they all come to Wigan [Jenny: The hub!] Because of the experience

Jenny: And you’ve had a good announcement this week…so Graeme Ballard one of your athletes, has just been selected for the Rio Paralympics! Yeah, that’s pretty cool and everyone in the training group is really pleased for him.

Trevor & Graeme

Trevor: Technically, we should’ve had two people at the Rio Olympics, but Jenny didn’t quite make it and another girl has had glandular fever, so we’ve just been that little bit unlucky.

Jenny: Well, we were both at the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and we were at the World Championships last year in Beijing. But unfortunately, me and Kirsten [McAslan] haven’t had the greatest of years.

Trevor: Life’s all about timing

Has your squad got a title?

Jenny and Trevor: No…Trevor’s Squad?

Jenny: Trevor’s Training group? That’s as good as athletics get.

Trevor: A lot of people say ‘Oh I’m part of Team such-a-body’ and they mention the coach’s name, but I don’t like doing that

Jenny: Because a lot of the athletes say ‘[…] Team Painter!’ and Trevor always cringes, don’t you?

Trevor: But I’m part of Team Meadows, I’m part of Team McAslan, I’m part of Team Barrow. I’m part of many teams, because it should always be about the athlete. They need empowerment, they’re at the top of the tree and we’re all there to support them.

So for the next couple of weeks, with Graeme Ballard will you be keeping in touch with him whilst he’s in Rio? 

Trevor: Yeah, he’ll be travelling in about 3 weeks’ time, so I’ll still be coaching him and then he’ll go off with the team and try and get a medal!

Jenny: He got a medal in London, he got a silver at the London Paralympics. He’s great, he’s got Cerebral Palsy in all four of his limbs, but he’s just an inspiration.

Trevor: His character around the group has been fantastic, you know, he’s lifted everybody this year and to think ‘Well, if he’s doing this, then I’ve got no excuse. I’ve got to get in…!’ He’s super.

You do need someone, to give you that…

Trevor: Motivation

 

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