David talks to us frankly about his battles with negative self-talk and depression. It is so refreshing to hear somebody who has achieved so much show that no matter how well we appear to be doing to the outside world that often people are fighting internal battles which we know nothing about.
Not only do we delve into mental health issues, we look at the performance elements that helped David excel at a European and International level in the 400m sprint event. In particular we zone in on the major contributing factors to his most successful seasons.
We touch on everything else in between too. Nutrition (discuss orthorexia – food obsessiveness), relationships, developing a bullet-proof mindset and much more…
Here’s a teaser of what’s in store should you wish to be wise and listen to the full audio podcast below.
David proved wrong the perception that Irish people aren’t built to run fast i.e. that we’re built more for 800m and longer. He proved it wrong through talent matched by hard work. Leaving his childhood and teenage coach Jim Kidd to move to a more professional Loughborough set-up was only the start of the challenges he would face on the way to many achievements like partaking in the Olympics, at a stage running the fastest 400m time in the world during 2006, running consistent sub 45 second times and many more.
Negative self talk turned positive through taking ownership of your situation. David fell into the trap of using negative self-talk like you’re only a flash in the pan and you’re way behind your training partners at different stages in his career. He discussed how in hindsight many of his most successful periods were when he didn’t sweat the small stuff as much and at one point deciding you’ve got to get back to enjoying this!
Speaking of the small stuff, there was a day when he was annoyed with his partner for giving him 50g extra of sweet potato. He discusses wholeheartedly issues over the years with food and a recently labelled eating disorder called orthorexia.
Nutrition when he was in control was a major string to David’s performance bow. He realised the importance of off the track aspects like this in helping him get that .1 second faster on the track. He talks about assembling a great team around him and the liberation of asking for help when you don’t have the expertise.
It’s all about times. Interesting how when asked about his best performance David didn’t mention a podium finish but a consistent season in terms of great times. It was clear that by looking after his times the podium finishes came (he had a great race win running streak that same season).
He produced the best at Loughborough the first time around as he was surrounded by the best and this facilitated his own development. Some comical memories he shares are an athletic flat mate critiquing his mountain of spag ball as desperate dan’s dinner and how he was among the first to jump aboard the lycra and foam roller bandwagons…
Throughout his excellent career David developed interesting performance rituals including: putting his negative thoughts down on paper and then challenging their truth. He then burned the paper containing negative doubts (most of which were unfounded) and wrote down some positives which were facts e.g. I won the European Indoor Championships in 2005. This helped him sleep easier. Another ritual was the evening prior to travelling to a competitive event was a long walk with his partner to clear the head. He was more and more honest during these walk and talks as he got older and acknowledged his nerves more which helped performance.
For years David never got the Olympic rings tatooed as he did not feel worthy as his experience there was not how he had envisaged. It turns out he had a bad virus at the Olympics and he didn’t tell anyone for fear of looking like a moan. Now his mindset has changed for the better…
David discusses his battle with depression. Asking a friend who has also suffered for help, going to a counselor and opening up to his mates about his issues over a beer and the surprising reaction he got.
He also goes into detail on:
Becoming a creature of habit to set the basis for optimal performance.
Taking inspiration from Michelle Smith and Sonia O’Sullivan bringing home medals for Ireland.
Falling in a race and not being derailed. Why? Inner belief. He touched on the bullet-proof mindset which helped his self-confidence and performance.
Doping in athletics.
The fun park run being a launch pad back into running after retirement. It being a positive environment for all shapes and sizes which was important to him when he retired from sprinting.
How winning masterchef (the only prize he displayed for a long time) gave him great confidence in realising sport isn’t everything he’s good at. What led on from here was a wonderful cookbook.
And lots lots more. Enjoy folks and thanks to David for sharing!