Episode 36 – Kate Smyth | Olympian, Naturopath and founder of the Athlete Sanctuary

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Kate Smyth is an Olympian and naturopath who is passionate about supporting athletes around balance, performance and longevity.

In this episode I chat to Kate Smyth, an Olympian and naturopath who is supporting athletes by providing a holistic service tailored to their unique requirements, focused around balance, performance and longevity.
If you’re not a sporty person, please don’t discount this episode! There were so many parallels between life as an athlete, and the challenges we face in business and everyday life. Kate provided some amazing insights and practical examples of how she dealt with challenges in her running career and has then applied them to other aspects of her life, especially requiring performance.
We chat about Kate’s incredible journey from gaining 20kg on a European holiday to running 30km stints in six months, how Japanese runner Naoko Takahashi changed the course of Kate’s sporting career, and how to manage identity attachment when it comes to anything in life.
Key highlights on this episode include:
  • Take objective reviews of your performance and note down 3 things you did well and 3 things you could improve. This helps to keep momentum in moving forward.
  • Before any performance-driven task, utilise a ‘what if’ list – note down the possible negative scenarios and then the best case solutions.
  • If you’re operating at 100% all the time, you’re not giving yourself space for rest, recovery and adaptation.
To find out more about Kate, head on over to Athlete Sanctuary, or connect with her further on Facebook and Instagram.

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Murray Guest  00:00

 Kate, how are you? 

Kate Smyth  00:03

I’m great, Murray, how are you? 

Murray Guest  00:10

I’m good. You have some awesome energy. 

Kate Smyth  00:13

Thank you. Thank you. 

Murray Guest  00:32

So I am so looking forward to our conversation today and this episode of the inspired energy podcast. And I say that because I’ve gotten to know you, I don’t know, past 12 months or so. It must be. Yes, yeah. And you have a big beautiful smile. And underneath that is this energy and story and inspiration to share. So I’m looking forward to talking a bit about who you are and what it is that you’ve done, and that you do.

Kate Smyth  01:01

Thanks Murray, thanks for this opportunity.

Murray Guest  01:04

That’s okay. So what is it that you do right now?

Kate Smyth  01:10

In terms of my business? Yeah, yeah, I’m in clinical practice as a naturopath primarily working with sports people, and they’re sports people of all different levels, of abilities, and all different disciplines. I work with them in a way that really enhances their performance, but also their longevity in the sport.

Murray Guest  01:37

And your focus as a naturopath with sports people. Now that comes from a bit of a background in sport, and I’d love to share your background and what you’ve achieved. So let’s now go back in time, now used to, now you still run but not you’re not competing anymore. You were a marathon runner. Tell us about that. How did you how did you get into marathon running? 

Kate Smyth  02:04

Oh that’s a that’s a good question. Loved running as a youngster. But look, I was really hit and miss. I wasn’t particularly overly talented. But I loved it. Like it was just something that I really enjoyed. And it set me free. But I, as a young woman in my mid 20s, I decided to travel around the world. And I literally ate my way around Europe. And I came back from that trip carrying an extra 20 kilos of weight. At that point in time, I felt so uncomfortable in my skin. Like I really felt uncomfortable. And I thought what, what can I do to really shift this weight. So I decided that I just wanted to get fit again. But I had this crazy idea that I wanted to finish a marathon and I wanted to finish without walking. So I did that. I did it in Canberra in the late 90s. I was in my late 20s at the time, and I finished the my very first marathon without walking and I loved it. I absolutely loved it. And at that marathon Robert De Castella was the PR dude and he was signing autographs. And I think he had some books or something he was selling at the time. And I approached him and I said, Deeks, you know, I’ve just finished my first marathon. What do you reckon I could do to improve my time? And he said, Well, you know, a great idea would be for you to go home. And to find yourself a coach, a running group, and to maybe train properly for a marathon. So you could maybe test yourself a bit more but being a bit better prepared, because to put in context a high level elite athlete would run up to 200 kilometers a week, for now like 180, and I’ve just maxed out at 30 kilometers a week. I was I was hardly trading properly and I certainly wasn’t training specifically for marathon because a marathon being 42.2 kilometers you know I was not even getting near that in my total accumulation for the week.

Murray Guest  04:24

So I just want to acknowledge that is a fantastic result for your marathon. Just get some clarity to go from the I’ve come back from Europe after eating my way around numerous countries to to then getting into your first marathon and completing that without walking, what was the timeframe there?

Kate Smyth  04:47

Look it took me about six months so once I got active again and ate the right foods and not just survived on pastries and bread and croissants and all the great things that Europe has to offer. It shifted, it shifted, and I just ate well, and exercise. It was really simple, not complicated. And it did fall off. So that was, you know, that was good. Like it really taught me a lot of things about looking after yourself as well. So at that, at that event, what was also funny to most of the spectators was that I didn’t even own a pair of running shorts, and I borrowed my brother’s boxes that my mother had actually handmade on her sewing machine. And they chaffed. It was not something I ever want to exerpeicne again. Yeah, that was just how amateur I was. I had no idea what I was doing. But I did go back to Melbourne and I did find a coach and a running group. And that was where my progression started. But a year later, I went to the Sydney Olympics as a spectator. And I was sitting in the stadium watching all the girls that were competing for various countries, including Australia. I watched them all come into the stadium. And the Sydney Olympic Stadium was just electric, like the atmosphere was just amazing. And I was sitting there just watching them come in. And I saw Naoko Takahashi from Japan. She came in and she won the gold medal. And she was the most, I could only describe her as the most gracious, humble winner I’ve ever seen. And as I watched her come across the line, and she was bowing and bobbing at the at the crowd. And, you know, there was none of the high fiving flexing of muscles that you see in the sprinters. Yeah, this woman had run her heart out for 42 kilometers. I don’t think she had anything left in her tank. But she was just beautiful the way she held herself. And I just thought, Wow, what a really inspiring sports woman. And at that moment in time, the hair stood up on the back of my neck, Murray, it was like, it was like a lightbulb had gone off in my head. And I just went, Oh, my goodness, that’s what I want to do. I actually want to be the woman who runs into the stadium, an Olympic Stadium representing my country in the green and gold. And at that point in time, you know, I told my partner and I said, that’s what I want to do, who is now my husband. And you know, I’m sure in his mind, he was going Yeah, right. You know, you’ve just finished your first marathon, as if that’s gonna happen. But it was like, everything started to change once I put that out into the universe and which I set that intention. Because what was incredible for me was that eight years later, exactly eight years later, I had that opportunity. And I ran into the Olympic Stadium representing Australia in the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics. And you know how that theory is that it takes 10,000 hours to master anything? Yeah, yeah. When I equated that back to the number of hours training and the years, it was exactly eight years. Isn’t it freaky?

Murray Guest  08:31

Yeah. Well, I mean, as this podcast is called, inspired energy, and I just, I am feeling that energy. And that inspiration that you got, when you saw Takahashi as she came in, in the 2000 Olympics, and you have, you’ve been inspired to take action to, to set that goal and work towards, in eight years later, you represent your country in a marathon. That is just amazing.

Kate Smyth  09:06

Yeah, it was a really, it was such an amazing journey. And I’ve got to put that context around it in that what I remember most and what I cherish the most was the journey, not, not the wins along the way and not the accolades, you know, like it was definitely the journey that really stood with me. And one of the beautiful things about the journey for me was that I close the loop at the end as well. So on my final race before I retired, I went back to Japan and Takahashi was the PR person a bit like Deeks was at my very first and I had an interpreter that was assigned to me because I was an invited runner for this event. And she, I said, I’d love to meet Takahashi and she said no problem. So she went over and introduced me and I I explained Takahashi how she had inspired me to follow in her footsteps and have an Olympic dream too. And Takahashi, so true to her character, bowed and bobbed, and then walked over and gave me a hug and cried. She just had no idea how much of an influence she had had on women all around the world. Like this woman totally revolutionized women in Japan, in terms of running, it had been very male dominant, and all of a sudden, she opened up the field for Japanese women to also take on the marathon. It was just yeah, and it was a beautiful moment for me. You know, I, I initially thought she was some kind of out of reach hero, you know how we can idolize someone, put them on a pedestal. But in the end, I realized that we were both just two human beings, loving our running and and replicating the journey. Yeah, it was just such a heartfelt moment for me. That was probably the best thing out of any of these.

Murray Guest  11:08

And you also mentioned the journey and not the accolades over the years, when you reflect back on the journey of the marathons that you did run, what stands out to you from that journey.

Kate Smyth  11:23

In terms of the major the major races, and the experiences that those races provided me, I had a lot of I had my two major, major major races in my career were the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006. And then the Beijing Olympics in 2008. But my PB my personal best time, was achieved in a race in the Logano, Olympic Committee on in 2008, which was my qualifier for Beijing Olympics. And at that race, it was my peak performance literally. My Commonwealth Games one is memorable, because it was a race that was the most difficult, the most challenging for me. And it taught me the most because I made a lot of mistakes in that race. And, and I think it also it highlighted my naivety and my inexperience as an elite athlete, because it was my first opportunity and things didn’t go well on that day for me. But I learned so much from that, that I could then rebound into my best race of my entire life. And that journey was incredibly challenging. And it was, you know, it was less than two years between being completely heartbroken from, what eventually happened in the Commonwealth Games was I was the fittest I’d ever been and the race unfolded such that I got heatstroke and really bad dehydration. There’s a number of factors that contributed to that with an illness beforehand with the flu and give a medication that didn’t agree with me and missing some drink stations along the way. Because I wanted to keep up with the with the surges that were happening early on in the race. And so in about halfway with the wheels were falling off. And by halfway, I couldn’t really see that well. My vision was going blurry. And I was feeling horrendous. And it was so much like running without feeling your body a bit like a puppet. Like I could see myself but I couldn’t control anything. Yeah, it’s pretty crazy experience. Not one I want anybody else to really go through because it was yeah, pretty torturous. And a lot of discomfort.

Murray Guest  14:05

I can imagine. In those moments when you’re in a marathon, and as you’re sort of saying the packs may be getting away from you, is there a process you go through where you are assessing? Do I change my plan to stick with them? Or do I stick with my plan?

Kate Smyth  14:25

There’s constant assessment in the competitive field. Yes. So later on, after that experience, I learnt a lot more about counter surghing and techniques. I learned that just because others are surging and trying to break apart the pack, that it’s actually not a bad thing to run your own race in some circumstances. So for that qualifying race where I ran my personal best of two hours 28, I did just that. I ran my own race and I paced it properly that suited me. So yeah, there’s lots of, there’s lots of lessons that elite athletes learn along the way that helps them to be a better competitor. Because there’s different dynamics in big city marathons as well, then there’s racing, competitive championship racing is. So the championship races often start out quite slow. And then the pace will really pick up from halfway onwards when everyone’s getting a bit tired. So the comm games was different in the surging, and the shenanigans that starts with competitive action started very early. It started at 10k instead of halfway. Yeah. And, you know, in combo with a warmer day than what everyone was expecting, and yeah, the things were just quite different.

Murray Guest  15:55

You’re talking a bit about the learning process. And one thing that I’ve talked a lot to businesses about is, we’re very much about doing and moving on to the next thing and the power in that review. What do we learn from it? How do we apply this? What was your learning process or your reflection process like, so you would apply that to your next race?

Kate Smyth  16:17

Yeah, and this was, I was really fortunate to work with some great high performance sports psychologists, and coaches. And we would, a technique that I learned was doing a review of your performance, but standing back, like not being too critical, and always putting forward three things that you did well, and three things you could work on. So not things that you stuffed up or whatever, it was three things you could work on for the next performance. Yeah. And doing that, and then letting go, like not getting caught up in beating yourself up. Yeah, because something I found was so useful. And I apply that to every area of my life, because there’s opportunities every day where we have to perform. And in business, that might be a public speaking exercise, it might be putting your foot forward for a big deal and negotiation on whatever business that you’re in. So just reviewing it, and looking at both the positive things that went well, and the things you could work on next time, really help, I think to help you move forward. And I would also do a bit of prep before my next major event, or major thing now in business. And that’s a what if list as well, and I don’t get, again, I don’t get caught up in it. I just do it, like a week or 10 days before the event. And it’s literally a what if list, what is the worst possible thing that could happen in this situation? In this event or this negotiation? And that might be simple things like in for an athlete who is a runner, it may be their shoelaces come undone. Or they get an upset stomach during the race. Yeah, that’s an example is that might mean you can’t close the deal that day.

Murray Guest  16:43

So that risk, that risk analysis and that risk management upfront a week or 10 days before to identify the what ifs. And when you go through that do you just think about it? Or do you write it down?

Kate Smyth  18:30

No. Always written down. All my reviews are always written down. And they’re always shared with someone that I trust. Yep. Always both of those. Yeah. written down, not just thinking, written down, and then shared.

Murray Guest  18:44

How often would those what ifs, eventuate in a race?

Kate Smyth  18:48

Well the thing is, you write down the what ifs on the left hand side, but then on the right hand side of the paper, you write down the option or the best case solution to that what if. So going back to that example I gave your shoe laces come undone. On the right hand column, I would write down Well, I’ll stop really quickly do them up double knot and then keep running. Yep. So if that happened during the race, which rarely it did, like, I mean, rarely, sometimes it would, but very rarely, I was prepared, and it didn’t freak me out. I didn’t get paralysis, you know? Yeah, the fear factor of Oh my God, I didn’t expect that to happen.

Murray Guest  19:29

And what I like about that, too, is it’s all the possible what ifs, it’s not like, the simplest little what ifs are being skipped over. Like you’re still, you know, making sure that any possible what ifs are being captured and explored.

Kate Smyth  19:43

The main ones. Yeah, you won’t cover all of them, but the main ones that are your personal, your personal concerns.

Murray Guest  19:50

Yeah, gotcha, gotcha. I just want to go back and I just want to ask you, how would you describe what it’s actually like to represent your country at the highest level of your performance? How would you describe that feeling?

Kate Smyth  20:09

I’d have to be honest and say it’s mixed, mixed feeling. It’s not all good. And I say that because with that position, comes up what can feel like pressure or responsibility. And there’s an unwritten, even unwritten rule within athletics, the sporting code that I represented, that if you, if you’re not going to do your best on the day, and you feel like you have to stop for whatever reason, you have to take your Australia top off. So, yeah, it’s like, you have to almost surrender to the fact that it’s not letting down your country. But it’s a sign of, ah, it’s hard to describe the sign of respect that you’re not able to do your best for your country on that day, it’s probably the best way of putting, yeah. There’s this pressure, there’s this unwritten pressure. And there’s a lot of expectation that you’re not always trained for or prepared for it, it’s all the extras that no one really tells you about that becoming an elite athlete is part of it’s part of a package. And you see this across all sporting codes. For example, we see it highlighted in elite footballers, AFL or other sporting codes, where there’s even a behavioural expectation, that is with an elite athlete, you know, the way that they will conduct themselves in public, whether that’s on on the field, or whether that’s off the field. And that wasn’t so much an issue for me, but I see it with other athletes, and I see it, especially in their off seasons, and I see it when they retire, and they’re no longer in the spotlight. And if they’ve been attached to this sport, emotionally attached to this sport, for their sense of need, and ego, when that spotlight is taken away from them through retirement or injury or whatever, they fall into a hole, you know, and we see this with depression, high levels of depression in the lead athletes when they retire, or they step down or whatever.

Murray Guest  22:42

And is that that my identity is wrapped up in what I was doing as opposed to who I am. 

Kate Smyth  22:48

Yeah so it’s not for the love of this sport, it can be ego driven. And I see, it’s something that I really try to hone in with the athletes that I coach and I also mentor through my practice is that to give them a balanced perspective of their sport, so they don’t only have that in their lives, because they will inevitably perform better when they’re balanced when they have other things that keep them whole. So they still work, they still study or they still have interests outside their sport, for example, and then good support networks that aren’t just based on their sport. So family, friends, not just their teammates.

Murray Guest  23:26

Well, I think that’s a good message if you’re, as you’re saying, an elite athlete, but anyone in life around where you put that identity, and it’s attached your ego of what it is that you do. And if that’s all that’s you’re relying on to be who you are. And that’s not there, the impact that, as you say, can have on you and your mental health is quite drastic, or could be could be.

Kate Smyth  23:49

Absolutely, yeah, absolutely. Because the thing is, with with any sports person, and with any business often is that you have, especially with sport, because you have a you have a finite time, a finite window in your life, and you will inevitably either retire or get injured, and that will force you into retirement. So there’s this cycle where you improve massively, and you climb the mountain, so to speak. And then you come down the other side, every single person goes through it, but on the way up, if you’re just ego driven, and you don’t enjoy the journey, if you’re in too much of a damn hurry to get that achievement to get that gold medal to just be focused on what’s next. You know, what’s next? What’s next. You kind of you miss out on all the goodies along the way, and you miss out on all those moments and friendships and just, yeah, all the goodies because you’re in such a hurry and you’re just focused on the achievement part and there’s just so much more, so much more that you could get from your sporting goals as well as your business goals.

Murray Guest  25:03

The athletes that you work with that you coach and mentor. You’re talking about that balance and how important that is. I wonder, do you or have you thought about what message you would give to your younger self? Who was starting out in marathon running? Would there be anything that you wish he knew back then that you know now?

Kate Smyth  25:24

Totally, totally 100%? Yes, I was, I was a notorious over trainer, Murray, over achiever, over everything. My strengths are my number one strength, you love strengths. I love Strengths. Is achiever, my number one. But unfortunately, at that point in time, I didn’t know about over dialing it. And I was a total over dialer. So

Murray Guest  25:55

So what would that look like? What would that look like back then?

Kate Smyth  25:59

What that looked like was that I would push the boundaries all the time in terms of my training, in terms of my mileage, so I put up over 50,000 kilometers in my legs in those eight years, I could have probably done it, or maybe three quarters of that, half to three quarters of that. That’s, you know, I know, that’s in reflection. But now, a lot of the training, I was trained like a man, I was trained by brilliant coaches, but I was trained like a man. So I did not quite as much volume, but same intensity, and absolutely zero respect for female hormones or difference in recovery or body shape, or shape or like anything, and the fact that I hadn’t even come from a marathon background, I came, my pathway was very unconventional. And I ruffled a lot of feathers on the way through because of that I didn’t come up through sports development program, a junior development program. And a sports Institute, you know, AIS, I didn’t come up through those channels, I kind of burst onto the scene as a mature age athlete. And I ran in the Olympics at 37. But you know, that’s not to say women don’t run well, in their later years, they absolutely do that many of them have been running, you know, since they were teenagers at elite level. 

Murray Guest  27:30

So if you’re talking to a younger athlete that’s full of potential, and striving to be at their best. And they’re in potentially that mindset of over achieving, how do you help them change that mindset in a way they’re approaching their training? 

Kate Smyth  27:51

Yeah I give them a bit of an analogy of, you know the concept of giving something your best. And there’s a bit of a cultural thing where we give something 110%. Yeah, that’s the classic overachiever. We give everything 110% I try to get my athletes to think of it as actually do 90%. Because not less is more. Because if you give things 90%, you’re on the edge, yes, you are pushing, you’re still at the high end. But that 10% gives you more of a buffer for adaptation. Because especially with sport, it’s about adapting to your training. So if you’re going at 100% or 110%, all the time, you’re giving yourself no room for rest, recovery and adaptation. Yep, you might have a scheduled in rest day. But typically, athletes will still be active on that rest day, they’ll still be pushing something in their life. And that might be they go and do extra work hours, or they, whatever it is. So when they pull back a bit, like take their foot off the throttle, they actually find that they will perform better. And they can actually also do this around their performance. So it’s all about having the mastery mindset rather than perfectionism. You know what I mean by that?

Murray Guest  29:23

Yeah, well, I I think I do, but I’d love to know your take on that.

Kate Smyth  29:27

Yeah, sure. So the mastery, well, let’s talk about the perfectionism. So the perfectionism is focused on the here and now very much. And, you know, in an athletes perspective, it’s someone who like always has to check their watch always wants to analyze this, splits every session, always. For after every race, it was never good enough. They might have won and they might have done a PB but oh, I wanted another minute of that time. You know, they’re constantly critical and seeking perfection, but perfection is never there, you know. So it’s this constant chase that for something that isn’t able to ever be captured. Yeah. And everything typically is Yeah, that was good. But it wasn’t good enough, you know? And yeah, because,

Murray Guest  30:21

There’s a ripple effect I can imagine with that mindset beyond the sport that that athlete is participating into, potentially, or there is a life and also the people they are interacting with.

Kate Smyth  30:35

Yeah, totally, that can be quite harsh on others, if they don’t see that they’re giving them giving 110% is usually as well. But it can also present in the terms of procrastination. Like, if they don’t think they’re going to do something perfectly, they’ll procrastinate.

Murray Guest  30:52

Well, yeah, whereas a mastery mindset? 

Kate Smyth  30:57

That mastery mindset is different. It’s, Steve Moneghetti was one of my great mentors, and still is, he’s still a good friend of mine. And Steve taught me the concept of building your book, one page at a time. So and that’s very much a mastery focus. So one page at a time might be one session at a time, or one race at a time. And the idea is that the accumulation of these pages over time will give you a chapter, a really good foundational chapter. But chapters don’t form a book, you have to keep forming these chapters to get a complete foundation underneath you, that might be the book. So it’s never about one race. It’s never about the outcome of one session, it’s about trusting in a process that will take you in the direction you’d like to go. And it’s, it’s one step at a time without getting too focused on too much detail, whereas the perfectionist will worry, get caught up in the detail. And it also means when something happens, which inevitably does, you know, you get injured or sick, that when a master goes off track or something doesn’t quite work out, they can far more let go of that and the pressure of that, and heal and recover, and then get back on track. They’re much more patient and much more persistent. When they come back. They’re much more realistic.

Murray Guest  32:28

That mastery mindset. Yeah, I can see the links to that to the review process you talked about earlier as well, with what went well, what could I do differently next time? Because that mastery mindset, I can’t imagine the review happening in an effective way. If you’re just, as you said, coming down on yourself hard for the smallest detail.

Kate Smyth  32:53

Yeah, no, totally, totally agree. Totally agree. So the perfection is the perfectionist might and you see this, even at high level professional, tennis players or whatever, they will chuck a wobbly, you know, the rackets thrown down, or they’re, like really spitting the dummy. And they’re really upset at themselves. 

Murray Guest  33:17

It’s a bit hard to do that in a marathon. Let’s be honest.

Kate Smyth  33:21

No, no, it can happen. It can happen. You know, you do see this and you and you have to wonder, wow, you know, they really blew their lid there. Whereas a masterer will restrain till they have a moment of expression in their own way. It doesn’t mean that they’re not upset, and they’re not feeling like that. But they have an ability to put it in context. And not let that emotion that comes up, cripple them.

Murray Guest  33:55

Gotcha. There’s a resiliency that comes with that mastery mindset.

Kate Smyth  33:59

Absolutely. Yeah, totally. They can just reflect, refresh and then reset. And off they go.

Murray Guest  34:06

Hmm, fantastic. And the work you do with athletes and I know a lot of work with younger athletes. How do you also support them? Or what’s your insight to support them for the people that are also in their life? Because I can imagine you could change the mindset and influence that of an athlete, but then there’s there’s coaches, there’s parents there’s teachers, all these other people.

Kate Smyth  34:33

Yeah. And I learned this from a great performance coach Mark Dobson, and he’s written a book called coaching, sorry, Parenting Freakability, which is literally all about that. So I’ve got a lot to thank him for. And it’s really about when there is a family member or a youngster who has a talent for some thing. And that’s quite unique in the family even, or it could be a family trait. But that child’s uniqueness is embraced. And the family, I’ve seen some great examples where families have not, the parents have not been sporty whatsoever. But for whatever reason, they’ve produced a child with a really unique talent. And it might be motorcycle riding. It might be running, it might be triathlons, it might be swimming, whatever it is, but they have a unique way of supporting the child to bring out their strengths without driving the child, without pushing them, allowing the child to determine how much they want to invest in the sport. Rather than being a parent who screams on the sidelines, if you know what I mean.

Murray Guest  35:59

Yeah, and that’s something I wonder about with my own children and other parents, with their children around, how you balance that, encourage, and help them be the best they can be, without pushing them too hard. 

Kate Smyth  36:14

Yeah absolutely. And I know it’s a natural instinct for parents to want to encourage. But one of the best things they can do is actually to sit down with their child and do that reflection process. What did you do? Well, like, what do you, how did you feel that when Johnny, Sarah, whoever? And what do you reckon you might be able to do a little bit differently next time, you know, asking those questions, having those conversations, encouraging the child to be reflective, rather than critical. And always just putting it in context for the child because it’s very difficult for a young sports person who is talented, to not be obsessed and to not think that the world has just ended because they’ve missed out on a team sport, or whatever it is. And I noticed this a lot in athletics, is a lot of our junior champions, which are such talented young men and women, they don’t mature to being really good senior athletes, because they burnt out.

Murray Guest  37:21

So Vishen Lakhiani, who’s the founder of Mind Valley, I’ve heard him say, you shouldn’t attach your happiness to your goals. And that’s what I’m hearing in your message around, strive your hardest, but don’t put your identity and happiness to achieving that goal? 

Kate Smyth  37:40

Yeah absolutely. And kids need to have, you know, as well, they need balance, like not just one sport, get them to try a whole range of different sports, you know, get them to experience different things. Yeah, and they just need they need true balance, not just, yeah, just just not just blinkered with one thing. Even thoiugh they love it. And have a good coach who also share that page. So the coach isn’t pushing them beyond their current ability as well. There’s a fine line, real fine line.

Murray Guest  38:15

I can. Yeah, I can imagine. I guess in my simple sort of analogy, I’m just thinking about this a moment when you train for one type of sport. And let’s say you only train one muscle you’re not balanced. Are you know, you’re gonna change at training, change where your focus is to get that more well rounded? And I shouldn’t say as a strength approach, I’m not sure I’m saying it right, but more balanced to your body, mind and spirit.

Kate Smyth  38:39

Absolutely. Especially, you know, men and women, but especially with teenage girls. It’s so important, because if they over train too early, you’re impacting on their bone density for the rest of their lives. And I’ve seen Junior athletes with multiple stress fractures by the time they’re 18 and chronic osteoporosis by the time they’re 30. Yeah, and it’s so preventable, if they just had balance and they would still achieve those goals, but they would do it in a healthy way.

Murray Guest  39:14

Something I’ve noticed just jumping to a different age group, and and I could be way off here, but I get the impression that running as a sport, particularly for women seems to be growing. 

Kate Smyth  39:26

Oh totally. We actually had the flip side, of one of our biggest events in Australia up at the Gold Coast. We actually had more women running in it than men this year.

Murray Guest  39:37

That’s That’s fantastic. Wait, where’s where’s that come from do you think?

Kate Smyth  39:45

Well, multiple, multiple factors. I think it’s opened up like we have a lot more recreational running groups like you know, Park Run, for example, which is free and on every week. And it’s non competitive, it’s inclusive. So I think women often don’t go into sports because they think that they’re not good enough. And it’s a competitive environment in which they may not feel comfortable. But we’ve really opened that up now and really said, Look, it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter what time you finish or how you finish, but it’s about your participation, it’s about just having a go. So a lot more women are feeling more comfortable with that culture. I think we’ve also got a bit of a more depth, more depth to our development now. There wasn’t many women when I was running more seriously. And I was lucky to have a few mentors, but it wasn’t that many at that elite level. And now we have a lot more depth. So when they rise to the top, then we have a bit of a paying forward culture. Yeah, especially in athletics. So when your time is to retire and complete your career, you pay it forward. And that be through mentoring or coaching or involved in some way in the sport to help nurture the younger ones come through. And I think we’ve got a lot more great female role models now stepping forward in all sports, you’ve just got a look at what’s happened with AFL. Like, it’s just, the girls always wanted to play, but they weren’t necessarily given the support. And now that we’re investing time, energy, money into the sport, the girls are just blooming. Absolutely.

Murray Guest  41:29

Doing fantastic. And what I love too is some of the recent stories around equality of pay and equality of coverage that are happening in some of the sports is fantastic as well.

Kate Smyth  41:39

Yeah, yeah, it is. And it’s shifting. It’s changing. We’ve still got a way to go. But it is moving in a really positive direction, which is great.

Murray Guest  41:48

So you still run now? 

Kate Smyth  41:50

Yes I do. Yes. Yep. Yep. Most days. I do take a rest day when I need it. But yeah, I definitely ran this morning.

Murray Guest  41:57

Yeah, I asked that just out of curiosity around your relationship with running. So do you still run marathons or shorter distances?

Kate Smyth  42:08

I don’t do, I don’t do hard surface marathons anymore. So road running. That’s purely because I want to still run when I’m 70. Ideally, 80, if I could, and I know that there’s a point at which it can deteriorate your joints, considering I’ve, you know, put so many kilometers through my joints. And they’ve held up really well. But I just don’t want to push the envelope too much further. So my, my joy is actually running on trails in the bush on the beach, something with a little softer surface. But I can still run, like each each Sunday, I still go for a long run, which would be at least to two and a half, three hours. So it’s not like the endurance goes, it’s just my need for competition is gone. I just don’t, I just don’t need it. I find my joy from running slowly.

Murray Guest  42:58

You need to get yourself a mountain bike.

Kate Smyth  43:01

Funny you say that I do enjoy a bit of mountain biking for cross training. I find it really helps my running because it loosens up my back and just yeah, it’s great to cross train. It takes a load off.

Murray Guest  43:10

We have to we’ll talk about that another time. I think. So you are a naturopath? Yes. Were you interested in natural therapies and a naturopathic approach when you started or has this developed somewhere along your journey?

Kate Smyth  43:25

It developed during my journey, happened after the Commonwealth Games. I became quite ill while I was on an altitude study. And the scientists came to me one morning and suggested that I might have been drinking alcohol. And because my liver levels were through the roof and I said no, I like I haven’t drunk for 10 years. And they said well, you can’t stay on this study. We’re canceling our arrangement. You have to go home and work out what’s going on. I tried lots and lots of different doctors. You know, even the Australian team doctors at the time just couldn’t they couldn’t pinpoint what was going on. So on the advice of a good friend who was really open to all different kinds of medicine, she suggested I went to an integrative medical practitioner who practices naturopathy. And he ran a lot of additional investigations and tests on me and that revealed yes, I had severe liver damage from a medication I was given at the time was just a general anti inflammatory. It’s since been withdrawn from the marketplace for causing liver damage and heart attacks. And I was just unfortunate that I’ve been given it, I hadn’t even taken it at therapeutic dose, like I took a low dose and it had that effect on me. I was just unlucky I think and at the time I also got insulin resistance and I got diagnosed with celiacs. None of those things were picked up by the other carers I had in my team, the other medical practitioners and his, the practitioner, the naturopathic practitioner’s perspective was all about getting me balanced from the cellular perspective, and helping me rest and recover. So he literally put me to bed. And I was in a darkened room for 48 hours where I just slept, I was so chronically fatigued and exhausted at a cellular level, that I just needed rest. And then after that, I was on a great, really balanced, nutritious diet. That was just whole foods. I didn’t touch anything out of a packet for three months, absolutely nothing, not even almond milk, you know, nothing. And I started to walk, I was only allowed to walk, I couldn’t run for three months. And it taught me a lot about balance. And about, yes, I did need some support at that time in terms of medications to help my body heal properly. But I really learned a lot about good nutrition, about balance about moderation and allowing the body to do some amazing healing for itself. If we only got out of the way of ourselves. You know, we just, we seriously do things through our choices in life that are detrimental to our health. And if only we knew how detrimental they were, we wouldn’t we probably wouldn’t make those choices.

Murray Guest  46:37

Yeah. And from a naturopathic perspective, that preventative space. And of course, that, as you mentioned, a holistic perspective of how can you get that preparation to be at your best, not just through supplements, but through a whole approach of diet and everything else I can imagine that you’ll bring to that.

Kate Smyth  47:01

Yep, totally. But we could also have great chats about, I’m a spiritual person, not a religious person, a spiritual person, I could even have conversations with him about that. And it was a safe space to actually share that and there was no judgment. And I felt, I just felt totally beautifully supported by a whole, a holistic approach. And he looked at all of my systems, he didn’t just look at my gut, or look at my liver in isolation, it was looking at everything that was going on in my body and working out a process that would best suit me. And, you know, I got to take my hat off to him, because it wouldn’t have been easy having this athlete that should have been at high performance, but she was broken, like, broken in every way, shape, or form, like my emotional, my emotional status was pathetic, like I was crying all the time. I was just, I was so unbalanced and so unhealthy at every possible level. And he just, he literally helped me rebuild all of those, but I had to do the work. But he guided me. Yeah, so I felt fully supported.

Murray Guest  48:22

And I can imagine, because you’ve lived and breathed that, that story helps you with those athletes you work with around that greater holistic approach. And the impact that can have.

Kate Smyth  48:34

Yeah, totally. So with every athlete that I work with, I asked them about all those other areas of their lives, you know, how are their relationships? How are, you know, every other aspect in their life outside of this sport, not just how is their training? So even just the most basic things that sometimes we take for granted, can give us some really good clues. You know, are they sleeping? Are they you know, how are they waking up in the morning? Are they feeling fatigued before they even go out and train? You know, there’s lots of lots of signals that I look for. And you know, you got to take into account a lot of them have these time pressures in their minds, and they have an obsession with a certain race that they want to do. So also helping them to be realistic about those goals.

Murray Guest  49:25

Yeah, if there was one message that you could make sure that all athletes heard it. And it was this one message that they could hear. What would that be?

Kate Smyth  49:38

Balance. Balance. It’s, it’s I know that sounds like a fluffy word but too much of anything is not good for us. You know, but but having self learning about yourself, you know, not outsourcing your healthcare to it. Anybody else, you know, getting guidance, getting, you know, credible guidance, but owning it yourself is just so powerful so that you better understand your sense of balance, because only you can determine what that looks like. Yeah, but with balance…

Murray Guest  50:21

Sorry, I’m excited. I think that’s the same as, it’s just not for athletes. But for everybody, isn’t it? 

Kate Smyth  50:26

It is. It’s everyone in life. It’s all about balance. Yeah.

Murray Guest  50:31

So The Athletes Sanctuary? Tell me a bit about that.

Kate Smyth  50:37

So The Athlete’s Sanctuary is my clinical practice. And I really started that based on a naturopathic model I saw in Boulder, Colorado, in the US while I was there training, and they’re naturopathy practice services all the elite athletes in the world that are in the endurance space. So they were a great model for me to investigate. And I experienced that as an athlete when I when I used to go to Boulder. So when I decided that I wanted to go into clinical practice after finishing my degree, I really thought about Okay, well where are my connections in terms of sports people and places that really light my fire that would really embrace sports naturopathy here, because it’s not that well known, I guess, yet in Australia. And I really set about creating the business so that I could give athletes that balanced perspective, and give them some support that would enhance everything else that they’re doing. So collaboratively working with the physio, with their myo, with, you know, with their sports medicine doctor if need be, but providing them with a support network so that they can also fine tune themselves. Yeah, really fine tune themselves and rebalance so that they can, you know, go on and do what they want to do. The practice is set up in Ballarat and Torquey and in Melbourne. Three of my favorite places near where I live, but I also do online work. Now I find athletes from all around the world and now contacting me from New Zealand’s, all over the place. Which is really cool.

Murray Guest  52:30

So there’s the the clinical practice. And beyond that, from what I know, you’re also providing your message and insights out to athletes and also in corporate environments around what you’ve learned through your journey. 

Kate Smyth  52:45

Yes absolutely. So I share my journey from what I’ve talked about today from from being a fun runner, to Olympian, as a motivational or guest speaking opportunity, and I do that with corporates, and I do it with school groups, and I also run workshops for both corporates and school groups on mindset and the athlete mindset. Because that can apply, you know, not just the sporty people, but in a business context as well. Yeah.

Murray Guest  53:20

I will make sure in our show notes, we’ve got a link to the athletessanctuary.com.au, which is an area where people can find out more about your services and your story as well. Kate, I’ve loved you sharing your journey, your insights today. It’s just, you know, I could listen to you chat. And I’m sure we’ll we’ll connect again very soon, because it’s just so much gold that you’ve got to share. So thank you. 

Kate Smyth  53:52

Thank you, Murray. Thank you.

Murray Guest  53:55

That’s okay. But I do need to ask you one last question. Being the inspired energy podcast, what is your definition of inspired energy?

Kate Smyth  54:05

And, yeah, this is a tricky one because it keeps evolving.

Murray Guest  54:10

And that’s okay. In this moment, what comes to you?

Kate Smyth  54:14

Oh, now, for me, ah. So inspired energy is what it’s like what I describe it like a force. It’s like a powerful force that seriously drives you. Sometimes you can’t pinpoint it or put your finger on it. But inspired energy is something that you naturally gravitate towards with ease, and without force, but it really enhances your life purpose. It lights you up, it lights your fire up, your internal fire up. And it’s it’s something that in terms of inspired energy, it just, it just flows. It just comes To you naturally. That’s how I would I know that’s a clunky way of saying it, Murray. 

Murray Guest  55:07

I can picture it, and I think we tapped into it a few times in this conversation in your journey when you were inspired to take action. And I can imagine being on one of your workshops, at one of your talks about how you pass that on to those people you’re working with around what that can look like for them.

Kate Smyth  55:23

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, definitely. And sometimes it’s not, sometimes if we’re looking forward, it doesn’t come, it’ll come when you least expect it. For me like a classic time when I had absolute inspired energy was that time when I sat in the stadium? Yes. And saw Takahashi come in, that was like a lightbulb moment that was like, the next day, I made a change that would determine, totally change the rest of my life forever.

Murray Guest  55:56

And while that motivation was extrinsic that was then burny in you internally as an internal inspiration. Thank you again, so much.

Kate Smyth  56:07

You’re very welcome. Thank you for having me, Murray. 

Murray Guest  56:10

No, of course, Kate. If anyone listening through this great conversation here with Kate Smyth, please share your insight online on social media tag me and tag Kate. Also hashtag inspired energy. If you want to be on the podcast, please reach out at inspire my business comm there you can submit to come on the podcast as well. But please share your insights online. Don’t forget to tag us. Kate, again. Awesome chatting with you today. Thanks so much for your time, energy and beautiful love that you’ve shared today. It’s been great. 

Kate Smyth  56:47

You’re very welcome.

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