Keri-Anne Payne: my 7 greatest life lessons
From living in the moment to why she embraces feeling nervous, retired Olympic open water swimmer Keri-Anne Payne, 29, reflects on what life has taught her:
1 Nerves are all part of the process
Lots of people see nerves as a bad thing. But it’s important to understand what those feelings are there for. When I get nervous, I know that it’s my body preparing itself – it’s what it needs to do to get me in the right head space before a race. Once I walk out into the stadium, the noise of thirty thousand people cheering for me is truly breathtaking.
2 Live in the moment
Wherever I’m swimming, I always take a moment to just stop and appreciate where I am and my surroundings (although obviously one time I can’t do that is when I’m actually competing!). At the Rio test event, we took a swim around the Olympic course and I stopped to look up into the mountains. There was the Corcovado mountain, and on top I could see the Jesus statue with his arms outstretched. I thought to myself: ‘I have the coolest job in the whole world.’
3 Happiness is being with friends and family
My perfect day off is either a day with my best friend or with my nieces and nephews – I’m very family-orientated. The hardest thing about doing so much training is when I miss important family life events like birthdays and weddings. Also, whereas my family live in Manchester, David and I live in Scotland, so I’m far away from them in terms of day to day, but whenever I get the opportunity to go and see them, I take it. It means the quality time we spend together is special.
4 Everyone needs a support system
My husband, David, understands the sacrifices I’ve had to make for sport. I’m so lucky to have him. After London, a lot of people, including some friends and family, were expecting me to stop. But having someone like David who supports me helped me to carry on for the Rio Olympics.
5 Disappointments can take you in an exciting new direction
Coming fourth at home Olympics was a heart-breaking experience, and it took me some time to decide if I wanted to carry on swimming professionally. What helped was moving from Manchester to Edinburgh, so I was training at a different club. I also found a new coach who is spectacular, and really challenges me. So I’ve managed to make that disappointment a positive turning point in my career.
6 Always have something to look forward to
To prevent feeling down after a big event like competing in the Olympics, it’s important that I always have something to be excited for. That’s why David and I planned our wedding for straight after the London Olympics – it meant we always had a massive celebration to look forward to.
7 For me, healthy means having a challenge
It’s important to have goals that help you to live better. You have to understand what it is you want to do, and to be curious about the best ways to get there. It can be anything from trying a new recipe to training for a marathon, as long as it keeps you excited and happy.