Five-time off-road triathlon world champion, endurance coach
Imagine swimming a mile with a broken shoulder… followed by an 18-mile bike ride through rugged terrain and finishing with a 6-mile run. Well, that’s exactly what Lesley Paterson did in 2015 on her way to claiming the XTERRA Costa Rica Pro Women championship title. It’s just one example of many feats throughout her career when she faced adversity head-on. We decided to ask Lesley how she faces a challenge and what habits she swears by to help her stay balanced and reach her career goals.
What’s your morning routine like? How does it determine how you feel the rest of the day?
I tend to just jump straight out of bed at 4 am and then I put on my coffee. While I’m doing that I do a little stretch routine which is also a mindfulness routine and helps set me up for the day before I have to head out the door for 6-7 hours of physical training. I’ll take phone calls in between training sessions. Stretch and roll before I work on business or film for about 3 hours and then make dinner, and then have downtime before going to bed at about 8:30 pm.
How do you juggle a busy schedule? Are there any tips or tools you use to help you stay organized?
To stay organized, I’m constantly focused on what’s ahead, planning and having a system. I spend a few minutes every night preparing everything for the next day and then have a schedule for each category of my life, like recovery category, film category, coaching and so on.
Everything I do is about segmenting. The brain loves to break information up into little pieces, so I don’t think about just one thing while I’m training, which, I think, is why I’m able to achieve so much in one day. I maximize every bit of time that I have during training to brainstorm about projects that I’m working on, scripts I’m writing or new ideas. Oftentimes during a 30-minute cooldown, I’ll use that time to listen to a book or podcast — something to help me think about other avenues of my life. It’s about maximizing every piece of time that you have to further yourself.
How do you face challenges or stressful moments in your life?
I try to come to peace with it quickly and focus on my positive experiences and understand that when things aren’t going well it’s part of the journey. It’s those moments when you’re going to grow and learn about yourself the most. The best thing to do is to get into that space of acceptance real quick and focus on gratitude and perspective on what you do have.
Can you describe a great challenge or failure in your career and how you overcame it?
A huge turn in my outlook on life when I won my first world title in 2011 because during the race, I was in perfect time position coming out of my swim and I was thinking to myself, “Oh my God, this is all I’ve ever dreamed of, I can do this.” Then I got a [tire] puncture coming out of the bike transition. And then I went through about 10 minutes of horrible thoughts, like “I knew this would happen… this was never meant to be… I’m not one of those people who are lucky in life, etc. But I quickly changed my mindset to focus on the process. I am fit and I’m going to enjoy the scenery and just give it 100%. I got off the bike 10 minutes off the leader in 4th position and passed her with half a mile left to win the race. So you just gotta keep moving forward no matter what.
Was there ever a time in your career when you second-guessed a decision or doubted your skills? How did you overcome those feelings?
Every race I do. I get into the start lane and I start thinking about, “I’m not prepared enough, can I do this?” I think every athlete goes through those emotions. But you have to knuckle down and focus on the process rather than the outcome.
Are there any books or podcasts that you read or listen to, to help you stay motivated?
Hollywood Reporter and Variety podcast.
Do you have a woman in your life who is inspirational to you over the years?
When I was younger I was really inspired by South African runner Zola Budd from the 80s, who ran in bare feet, which was really revolutionary at the time. She had a lot of drive and passion and she didn’t care what anyone else thought about her.
Is there a piece of life/career advice you’d share with others?
Push beyond the fears and get past your comfort zone, because that’s when the real growth happens; and follow your own journey. Too many times we’re told at a young age, “this is what you have to do to succeed,” and we buy into that. Then if you don’t succeed, you think I’m not good enough, and it’s something I went through in my younger years. Eventually, I realized there’s more than one way to be successful and maximize your potential, so find the right path for you, be honest with yourself, and the outcome will be much better.