The Importance of Priorities In Sport

The Importance of Priorities In Sport

- Kia Schollar

What does it take to become one of the best 1500m, 3000m and 10,000m runners in Canada?

I certainly don’t have that answer, but Gabriel Ghiglione does. He has spent the last 5 seasons racing these events for McMaster University and was kind enough to let us in on his thoughts and insights for these distances.

From the very beginning of our conversation it was obvious; one’s head must be in the game. It was a clear and resounding necessity, not just for Gabriel but for anyone looking to improve at long distance running.

I don’t know if I would describe the first few kms of a 10km run as ‘breezing by’, but that's how Gabriel describes it. Before those kilometers can breeze by, he emphasized the importance of reigning in one’s adrenaline. Setting a pace that is not too high off the start is key because the pain train will arrive at the station, and it will be ahead of schedule if you don’t.

Mental preparedness is critical; Gabriel notes visualizing the racecourse, thinking about his cadence and noting when the pain will start are all important to running at a high level.

In order to be ready for training and competition, Gabriel emphasized the need to take care of everything in between. One of the most difficult things for him is making time for running amidst all the other demands of life... sound familiar?

I found it unbelievably reassuring to hear an athlete - who competes in a sport where you can essentially put your shoes on and go, also finds it difficult to find balance between life and exercise. So, how did he make time for sport amidst work, school and everything else under the sun?

Two key elements stood out.

First, completing school work ahead of competitions allows Gabriel to compete with a clear mind.

Second, sleep was a larger factor than he had been giving it credit for.

In 2016 Gabriel decided he would go to bed by 10:30pm - instead of his usual after midnight routine, to ensure his body was rested and ready to perform on any given day. To make that happen he needed to acknowledge it as a priority and that sacrifice, for things that are important to us, is a way of life.

Gabriel was happy to share that when he made sleep a priority he noticed his mental well-being stabilized, his ability to manage stress was improved and while he's a competitive runner, he also found it more enjoyable and relaxing, likening it to meditation, yoga or breathing exercises.

Mental preparation and education is ever changing and Gabriel noted it's something he has worked on improving every, single, year.

Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses. Gabriel said his biggest struggles are consistency with strength training and sleep. In some ways, he said, he takes for granted that he is a racer. He knows how to hurt and in his sport this is part of the recipe for success. Take for example his view of how his 10-km race unfolds: It is around the 3km mark that Gabriel said he starts to notice the pain setting into his muscles; at 5km it hurts, A LOT and mental toughness becomes an integral part of the race. With 3 kilometers to go he said his stomach is churning, his head hurts, but through the fog he knows it is about putting one foot in front of the other. At this point, there is one more kilometer to go, Gabriel said his legs are usually seizing at this point and it feels like there are 100’s of little needles jabbing at his muscles.

Gabriel reminded me that coming down the final stretch of a race he often wonders “Why do I do this?”, but once he crosses the line, knowing he put forth his best effort, he thinks “I could do this again”.

So, push on, push your limits, and remember that often times the first step to achieving your goals, is making them a priority.

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