Pressure to perform
During Leisel’s competitive years, there were many highs – the wins and the new PBs, but there were also the lows of defeat and the pressure of relentless training, strict diet regimens, personal sacrifices and the constant scrutiny that comes with life as an elite athlete. “When you’re training for an event as big as the Olympics, your every breathing moment is about the pool and that podium,” she says. “When you have a pinpoint focus on winning gold or nothing, it can be challenging to find balance in life.”
The result was a young woman with all the normal adolescent insecurities of a teen yet amplified by life under the spotlight. “I was a teenager growing up in the public eye,” she recalls. “I struggled with the pressure and the attention. When I look back at the video footage, I was so little – just a young girl competing on the world stage.”
Starting a new chapter
Following her successful fourth Olympic Games in London in 2012, Leisel announced her retirement. “I had lost the love for swimming. It’s a lot of hours in the pool and the gym to dedicate to one goal,” she says. “I had broken world records, I had won medals, I had achieved everything I wanted to get out of the sport and that was the time when I knew I was ready to move on.”
Like many professional athletes, however, Leisel initially found adjusting back to normal life to be a challenge. “Life outside of sport is so different,” she points out. “Your day isn’t as structured any more, it doesn’t revolve around training and that’s where life gets in the way.” Without the rigid discipline of sport, Leisel found herself slipping into a mindset of self-doubt and habits that left her feeling negative and sluggish.
Finding the balance
As she adjusted to her new life, Leisel found herself questioning how she wanted her next chapter to look, which helped her to move forward. “I had to reimagine my life,” she says. “Who am I now? What do I want? And really, it was quite simple. It’s about balance.”
Today, by embracing a holistic mind and body approach, Leisel has found a new way to embrace life. “I’ve realised that the thoughts we think affect our body every single day. So, it’s about working the body to feel well and healthy, and to celebrate what the body can do.” By practising mindfulness and working towards feeling more present in every part of her day, Leisel says she’s living a more balanced life, with happiness at the heart of it.
Still working in sport, which she says will always be her passion, Leisel wants to share her own experiences to mentor young people by helping them to find their balance as well as make positive, healthy choices that will enhance their lives. She has also recently become an ambassador for FatBlaster clinical shakes, which she includes in her own daily nutrition.
“I’m still on my own journey,” Leisel says. “There’s no finish line. I’m always trying to improve and do better, and that’s something I’m learning every day.”
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