For Colleen Quigley, a 3000-meter steeplechase runner from the United States, there’s some reduction that she “discovered mental health” a yr and a half in the past.

The revelation has not solely helped her to face the challenges of canceled monitor meets and a disrupted schedule, but in addition to change into a greater athlete.

“Only in 2019 did I start realizing that my mental health affected my physical health, and if I kept ignoring that, I was going to be missing out on so much of my potential as an athlete,” Quigley tells CNN Sport.

“And I kind of got over the ego of actually working on that side of my game — thank goodness I did — and started with some meditation and some journaling stuff on my own.

“Then in the summertime of 2019, I lastly received satisfied to start out speaking to a mental coach.”

Quigley clears a hurdle during the 2019 USATF outdoor championships in Des Moines, Iowa.

Barriers and water jumps

Quigley, who has been training at altitude in Flagstaff, Arizona, as she prepares for Olympic qualification later this year, now builds meditation, breathing exercises and weekly meetings with a mental coach into her schedule. Walking her dog Pie has also proved a tonic for the mind.

“Everybody wants a bit little bit of mental teaching, a bit mental help, particularly in a yr like this the place regardless of who you might be, you’ve got been challenged in a brand new, totally different, loopy means,” she says.

“I believe a whole lot of athletes do not give that sufficient credit score or see it as a weak point.”

Quigley placed eighth at the 2016 Rio Olympics, a result she aims to improve on this year if the Games continue as planned, which organizers insist will be the case despite rumors of a cancellation.

Her personal best of 9:10.27 in the 3000-meter steeplechase — an event that requires negotiating 28 barriers and seven water jumps around seven-and-a-half laps of a track — is the third-best time in American history behind Courtney Frerichs and Emma Coburn, both of whom ran alongside Quigley in Rio.

The 28-year-old arrived at professional athletics via an unconventional path, never anticipating when she was growing up that she would run at an Olympics. As a teenager, it was a career as a model that beckoned.

Growing up, Quigley balanced schoolwork with a modeling career. Here, she poses during a photoshoot in 2019.

“It was a unique highschool expertise for me,” says Quigley.

“Definitely none of my different classmates have been skipping out on a few days of math and English and science to go to Turks and Caicos and shoot with some firm for Glamour journal for a few days.

“It was super fun — I feel very lucky that I had a really positive experience.”

‘No regrets’

After highschool got here the choice of whether or not to take up an athletics scholarship with Florida State University, or to maneuver to New York, signal with an company and attempt to change into a supermodel.

“I’m not going to sit here and say it was a no-brainer; it was a hard decision for me at the time,” says Quigley.

“I thought that life was going to be really glamorous and awesome. And I didn’t really know what being an NCAA athlete was going to be like. It was never a dream for me as a kid.”

Quigley takes victory in the 2015 NCAA Track & Field Championships.

Looking again although, Quigley has “absolutely no regrets” about her profession path.

Since turning skilled, she has undertaken modeling campaigns for Nike — the sponsors of Bowerman Track Club, her former coaching group in Portland, Oregon — however insists that being an athlete stays her precedence.

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“I’m training really hard and I don’t have the flexibility to go from Flagstaff, where I’m spending eight weeks at altitude, to fly to New York for three days and shoot something and come back to training and try and pick up where I left off,” she says. “It’s just really hard on your body to do that.”

After profitable an NCAA title in 2015 and becoming a member of the Bowerman Track Club shortly afterward, Quigley made her Olympic debut the next yr.

“I think I surprised myself in that almost immediately after the Games, I was just hungry for more. And I wanted to see what else I could do,” she says.

“And I wanted to immediately start making plans to go back in four more years and do it better and do it bigger … I was eighth and didn’t know what the heck I was doing.”

Quigley races during the 2016 Rio Olympics.

With five-and-a-half months till the Olympics are on account of begin, what format this yr’s Games will take stays unsure.

Organizers have insisted the Games will go forward as deliberate, citing a “toolbox of Covid-19 countermeasures” which embrace immigration procedures, testing, quarantines and vaccinations.

Upcoming indoor monitor races have been wiped from Quigley’s schedule, and final week, she competed in her first race with out representing a sponsor or her nation having lately left the Bowerman Track Club.

Yet to announce the place she will likely be coaching sooner or later, she stays assured and targeted with the Olympics on the horizon.

“I’ve gotten a lot stronger and just learned a lot about myself as an athlete and as a person,” says Quigley.

“And so that’s really exciting — to go into another Olympic year feeling like an even more confident version of that kid that I was in 2016.”

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