Photo (above) by Ewan Nicholson
'You've always got more,' soccer keeper says
— By Rachel Sovka
A large part of successful people, especially athletes, is resilience; what they tell themselves in the moments when they feel they can’t go on.
How each individual pushes beyond that physical or emotional barrier may vary but when that mental strength is psychologically harnessed a whole realm of untapped possibility opens up.
Stephanie Labbé is one of those people.
Throughout her years kicking a soccer ball, the Olympian has learned to harness the strength to push through the pain wall and be successful. She shares with us how she learned some of her most effective strategies to get more out of training.
“I remember when I was young, just starting in the national training centre, doing a beep test, the coach was starting to get mad because people were stopping when they got tired,” Labbé recalls. “He said to us ‘you're not done when you’re tired, you're done when we tell you you're done.’
“That was a real epiphany moment for me.”
That day Labbé went on to ensure she never stopped until someone from outside her own mind said so, and ended up getting three or four stages higher in the beep test than she was usually capable of.
“When you’re on the field, you don’t ask the coach for a sub, and you never let yourself say you’re tired,” she says. “You've always got more, there’s always a little bit left in the tank.”
The power of the mind
“That’s what’s so cool about our minds,” Labee says. “Just when you think your body is giving up, your mind can overpower that.”
That’s the level Labbé says she tries to train at.
In the gym she does six of each exercise, pushes until there’s nothing left, and then tells herself ‘just give me one more!’
“You have to train at your limits,” she says. “That’s how you get ready for a game where you’ve got to push yourself non-stop.”
Part of pushing herself is considering her competition as motivation. While being careful to listen to her own body, Labbé finds it helpful to think about the other people in her position.
“‘They’re doing one more rep so I have to do two more, if I quit now I’ll have to do one extra,’ ” Labbé says. “Considering your competitors comes in handy, especially in the off-season when I’m not preparing for games, and I’m trying to get as fit and strong as possible.”
Labbé describes that strength building training regime as ‘short and sharp.’ Being a goalkeeper, she gets the most out of exercises that target power and explosiveness.
“I love being in the gym and challenging myself with almost anything dynamic,” she says. “I don’t like lying on my back pushing a bench press, I find isolating one muscle is not that fun and hard to mentally engage.”
Labbé prefers to do box jumps, obstacle courses, use her core, and come up with alterations on exercises that accomplish more at once by activating many different muscle groups like on a balance ball or on one foot.
“Soccer is a sport where anything can happen, you're not running straight the whole time, so in training you need to challenge your body in more ways to be able to adapt and be agile in response to unpredictable movements,” she says.
“I do also need a strong cardio base, so that means doing some long runs on top of the short sharp sprints to improve my VO2 max,” Labbé explains.
Increasing the maximum oxygen her body can handle before exhaustion, measured in heart rate or beep test, is another instance where Labbé’s ability to push herself mentally helps her make gains physically.
It’s that same drive which has taken her this far and will take her even further.
“I want to be the best in the world, and lead Canada to be No.1,” she says.
With her dedication and gumption that will come as no surprise; and when the going gets tough, she’s always got a little bit left in the tank to get her there.