Colleen Quigley clears a hurdle in the opening round of the 3000 meter steeplechase during the 2019 USATF Outdoor Championships at Drake Stadium on July 25, 2019 in Des Moines, Iowa.
Like so many of my Team USA friends, I started the year claiming “2020 vision!” and dreaming of an Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. My big goals for 2020 were to stay healthy (I got injured 5 times in 2019), qualify for the Games and finish on the podium in Tokyo.
The year started off well! After a January training camp in Colorado Springs with my team, I had some super solid indoor races. I picked up two medals at 2020 Toyota USATF Indoor Championships. I also dipped under an American Record in the 3k with two of my teammates at the end of February.
Then everything changed.
It has undoubtedly been a challenging year for all of us. As I looked back on the last 12 months, I found it surprisingly easy to pick out some seriously bright spots amidst all the cancelled plans and restrictions on our lives.
Reflecting on these has helped me narrow in on what I learned from 2020, what really matters to me and how I will do some things differently going forward. When all the reflecting is done, it always feels exciting to look forward and set some new goals for the upcoming year.
Let me take you through my favorite things about 2020, the lessons I learned this year, and my goals for 2021.
Four Best things About 2020
1. Breaking an American Record AND a World Record!
It feels like forever ago, but two of my teammates and I broke an American Record back in February! I’ve had my eye on the American Record in the 3K steeplechase outdoors for a few years now, but the indoor 3k? I haven’t run one of those since college!
This was not in my sights, and it was a pleasant surprise even though I finished behind two of my teammates in the same race. (Read: I am still not the American Record Holder in the event).
Then later this summer, three of my teammates and I broke the World Record in the 4x1500. It was another opportunity I didn’t see coming but was more than happy to take advantage of!
2. Spending so much time with my boyfriend and dog.
This was the most pleasant surprise of the year. My boyfriend Kevin and I have been dating for 11 years now and have lived in different cities for 10 of those years. When the pandemic hit, he moved from LA to Portland with our dog, and we all got to live together under one roof for the rest of the year.
3. Still being in a relationship at the end of the year.
I finally got to live with my previously mentioned long-distance partner. I still love him, and he still claims to love me. This is all after nine months quarantined in a 550 sq ft studio condo with our 70lb dog while both working from home! WINNING!
4. Seeing Portland show off in the summer.
I am usually traveling for training camps or competitions all summer when everyone says the Pacific Northwest is at its peak. Normally I get to see a little fall and spring sunshine and then a TON of rain and gloom in the winter. Turns out, they were right! Summer in Portland is gorgeous and I got to work outside every day and enjoy it.
Lessons I Learned in 2020
I learned some lessons from what went well and what didn’t go well. Looking back, there’s some things I want to take with me into the new year, and some things I won’t repeat anymore.
My biggest lesson of 2020 was that mental health requires just as much routine maintenance as physical health.
Imagine if an elite athlete were to train for months to get in peak fitness then just sit back, stop going to workouts and stop eating healthy. They would just expect to keep performing for weeks and months saying, “I don’t understand why I’m not setting personal bests.”
Earlier this year I completely fell into the trap of thinking all the work I’ve done with my therapist last year would “stick” over time and that I didn’t have to focus on it as much anymore. The truth is that there are so many layers to the process and to be strong mentally I need to keep working that muscle out or else it will get weak and won’t be able to perform like I want it to.
A lot of people will tell you that therapy is important, but I’m here to remind you that consistent therapy is key.
Intentionally setting aside time to unplug from electronics is key.
Before COVID-19, I had a daily morning meditation practice. But then my puppy, Pie, got in the mix and we only have a studio condo, so finding a quiet spot to be uninterrupted for 10 minutes in the morning got kind of hard. So I pivoted and found a new morning routine that makes me happy.
Now I wake up and make a coffee. Then I take Pie on a 30 minute walk while I sip my coffee and keep my phone on do not disturb. Emails, IG messages, and texts can wait. This morning ritual is a kind of walking meditation and helps me start the day in a more peaceful and grounded headspace.
Working out in my 500 square-foot condo is actually totally doable.
Not having access to a gym forced me to get creative with strength work. It also forced me to figure out how to motivate myself without the “gym vibe” of people around, music, nice equipment, etc.
I can easily find myself lost in an Instagram scroll when I should be focusing on stretching out my calves. When gyms open back up again, I can see myself still going once or twice a week, but I think I’ll keep at least one day a week at home.
I love laughing at my dog, Pie, when she wiggles her way between my legs as I squat, lunge, crunch, twist and bend. Fancy equipment is nice and can be inspiring, but if you truly want to get the work done, you can do it anywhere.
Five Professional and Personal Goals for 2021
1. Qualify for my second Olympic Games!
When I turned pro in 2015, it was with the intention to train for a year and try to make an Olympic team. I didn’t see myself competing beyond the 2016 season. It’s five years later, and I will make sure to not take the qualifying part for granted as I chase even bigger goals!
2. Win an Olympic medal!
Woah. Typing those words still makes my little girl heart pound. I made this goal in 2019 and have been working with the intention of reaching it ever since!
3. Find a way to live with Kevin so we don’t have to do long-distance anymore.
Since one of the best things of 2020 was getting to live with Kevin and Pie, I don’t want to give that up when the world goes back to “normal.” I am confident we can find a way to live in the same place from here on out.
4. Figure out the storage issues on my laptop.
Don’t laugh! I got this little laptop when I signed my first pro contract. I really value the ability to keep things for a long time and take care of them so I don’t want to give it up. But I can’t download anything anymore or watch videos so I think it’s time for an upgrade in 2021.
5. Finish 2 books per month.
I did this in 2020 and loved it. I read one book and listened to one audiobook each month and plan to do it again in 2021.