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Shape Your Self: My 6-Step Diet and Fitness Plan to Achieve the Best Shape of Your Life Excerpt from Shape Your Self: My 6-Step Diet and Fitness Plan to Achieve the Best Shape of Your Life

by Martina Navratilova



Learn to Bounce Back

One of the toughest things athletes face is training for their sport, then competing and not winning or even getting close. Every athlete experiences this; none of us has a never-ending winning streak.

One of the lowest points in my career occurred during 1976, a year after I defected to the United States. What I thought was going to be easy -- moving to America and playing on tour -- was anything but. I was not yet 20, very much on my own, and very alone -- alone in my hotel room, alone in airplanes. I was irritable, sad, and lonely, with few friends and no place to call home.

I stayed constantly on the go. That year, I was playing for the Cleveland Nets, one of the teams with World Team Tennis, a new league at the time. Then I played Wimbledon, where I lost to Chris Evert but got my first Wimbledon title by winning doubles with her. Afterward, I was back on the plane for a Nets match in San Francisco. I played something like 12 matches in 14 days and continued in pretty much the same vein for the rest of July and August. That gave me 2 weeks to rest and get ready for the U.S. Open that year -- hardly enough time. If you don't put in enough practice, it catches up with you. I was so tired after that long run that I actually took the 2 weeks off and hit the ball only on Saturday and Sunday before the Open.

Playing against Janet Newberry, I won the first set, 6-1. But then I fell apart, doing everything wrong, lunging at the ball, and the match started getting away from me. Janet won the next two sets and I was out. I walked off the court just sobbing, with tears rolling down my face. For the first and only time in my career, I ducked the press because I was so miserable. It wasn't nice, the way I acted. I just didn't have any control over myself at the time.

I still consider that loss the worst of my career, at least in the way I responded to it on and off the court. So much was expected of me, so much happened to me that year, that I felt like the whole world was crashing in on me. It was hard for me to adjust to losing because I had come along so fast that I didn't know what it was like to struggle. I just knew it felt like the world was going to end.

I was like a ship without its anchor, adrift and lost, and what I needed most of all was an anchor. I had always had my home in the Czech Republic to go back to, but not anymore. So I did what made sense to me at the time. Soon after my loss to Newberry, I went to Dallas and bought a house. I knew the city. I had friends there, so it made sense to settle in. Right away, I felt more at home. My way of bouncing back was to get anchored.

There have been other times in my life when I didn't feel right about my game, times when I couldn't hit the wide side of a barn if my life depended on it. To get back in gear again, I knew I had to train harder, make adjustments, and refine my game so I could come back stronger and better than ever.

You know what I'm talking about if you've ever fallen short of your health goals by slipping up on your diet, getting lazy exercise-wise, or not following your doctor's orders. These things happen; you can count on it. You have to be prepared to take some nicks along the way.

The only way you can fail at building a healthy lifestyle is if you give up. As long as you pick yourself up after a setback and get back into the game as top athletes do, you have a great chance to succeed.

Following Through

  • Rethink your goals. Maybe your original goals were too lofty or unrealistic. You can motivate yourself a lot more, and prevent possible setbacks, by focusing on goals that are more attainable, especially over the short term.
  • Learn from your experience. Take something positive from it. What lessons can you take away? That you have trouble eating healthy at restaurants or parties? That you don't like a certain type of workout? Don't beat yourself up over it. Learn from it, gather information to help you succeed, and move on. You've got to. Whatever your slipup was, determine what you can do to prevent it from happening again. That's what great athletes do: They convert setbacks into strengths. In other words, they know how to bounce back.
  • Remember how far you have come. Take note of how much strength you've gained, the fat you've lost, how much better you look in your clothes; appreciate your newfound energy. Noting your progress will help reinforce your commitment to a healthy lifestyle.
  • Keep your sense of humor. Look for an amusing aspect in everything, even your setbacks.

Reprinted from: Shape Your Self: My 6-Step Diet and Fitness Plan to Achieve the Best Shape of Your Life by Martina Navratilova 2006 Martina Navratilova. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098. Available wherever books are sold or directly from the publisher by calling (800) 848-4735 or visit their website at www.rodalestore.com.