Never Give Up – Tim Lodge’s story of determination and will to succeed
How, with so many setbacks over the last 6 years, has Tim Lodge managed to keep improving as a GB Paralympic Canoeist.
The answer for Tim is: “As a child with a disability my family always taught me to try and live each day as it comes and to never ever give up. I’ve taken these lessons with me all the way through my life: at school where I didn’t feel I ever fitted in, when at 14 years old my father died and throughout my career where I consistently pushed myself to achieve success by networking with my peers and seeking new opportunities to ensure that my career was always growing.
Tim was born with a severe case of club feet and had 30 operations up to the age of 14. On the 14th of January 2013 he received a phone call that would change his life.
That call, after 20 years away from the sport, was to find out if Tim wanted to start training to become a GB Paralympic Canoeist.
“I was as far away from being an athlete as you could imagine. An overweight Sales Director, stressed and suffering from anxiety and depression which I had suppressed with a destructive alcohol habit that took its toll on my mental health.”
The training and the physical change his body went through was painful but enjoyable and Tim started to see daily progress that motivated him to keep on improving.
“I love canoeing, I always have since I first stepped into a boat aged 9, it still makes me feel as equal as everyone else.”
After qualifying to represent his country in 2015, Tim made his international debut at the World Cup in Duisburg, receiving a Bronze medal, and ended that season ranked 8th in the World.
“I knew there was more to come so I decided to finish work, move to Nottingham for 2 years to the GB HQ and focus solely on becoming an athlete. The choice to leave work was a gamble but I wanted to learn more about becoming an athlete. At the time the great GB Paracanoe set up was the best place for me to be, I missed my family, my girlfriend and my friends but I learnt so much.”
In September 2016, Tim’s Mother was diagnosed with cancer.
“My Mother had been my main support all my life, especially with the death of my father at the age of 14. The thought of her dying was unimaginable so I decided to move back home in 2017 to be closer to her.”
Sadly Zoe Lodge passed away in June 2018.
Since we spoke a year ago times have been tough for Tim, dealing with the death of his mother, as well as the break-up of his long term relationship. In the spring of this year these events took him to a place of loneliness and darkness that he hadn’t experience before and at times he was even starting to question the value of his life.
“Mental health is so difficult to understand when you are going through it, you think you’ve got the answers and then all of a sudden it hits you again and old feelings come back twice a strong as before.
“This what happened to me in the spring, but rather than the depression and anxiety taking over I found a new desire to learn more about my mental health.”
“Once you understand that you are not alone, that there other people that have suffered, learnt and changed then you can gain acceptance and clarity. My go to teachers on the subject of Mental Health are Russ Harris, author of The Happiness Trap, Tony Robbins, Rod Stryker, Echarte Tolle, Russel Brand and Brene Brown.”
Tim created a team of mentors and coaches around him that would support him on this next part of his journey.
“Drew Povey, Ivan Lawler and Paul Dimmock became an invaluable addition to my coaching team back home to allow me to start to believe in my ability at an athlete and as a person. The value of having people around you that you trust is imperative to personal growth, especially when you suffer with mental health issues.”
Scott Simon, Head of the GB Paracanoe Program, said: “I have been enormously impressed with Tim’s resilience and determination to continually improve in what has been a very testing year.
“Tim has continued to progress his performance year on year leaving him in a strong position to qualify for International and Paralympic selection in 2020.”
Even though he wasn’t feeling himself in 2019, Tim still managed to get his first Paracanoe win in Australia against a strong field and improved on his personal best back home in training with Ivan Lawler, so was in the best place to race for selection in June.
Ivan Lawler said: “I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Tim last season for the 2 months before his selection event.
“Tim was a great athlete to work with, his enthusiasm and commitment to our agreed course made the process simple and for his efforts he was rewarded with some personal bests and a great race on selection day. I relish the opportunity to continue working with him.”
The top 2 boats were selected for the World Championships and even though this was Tim best performance to date he narrowly missed out by under a second.
After selection Tim decided to head to Sri Lanka on his own to the Tallala Retreat for a Yoga and Meditation Retreat.
“I wanted to have a complete break, a healthy holiday where I could continue to work on my mindfulness, wellbeing and core strength through Yoga.”
“Within a week there the teachers had me doing exercises in Yoga that I never imagined I would be able to achieve on my feet. A new self-belief was growing inside me that I hadn’t experienced before. ”
Another challenge was soon to be put in front of Tim, as whilst in Sri Lanka he was involved in a serious road accident, he broke his shoulder in 3 places, broke a rib, punctured his lung and damaged his knee badly.
“I couldn’t believe it, I was lying in the road, my body was broken and I was scared.
“I was ambulanced to 3 different hospitals and spent 6 days in hospital. It was an experience I will never forget but I knew there had to be a reason for what was happening to me.”
“I headed back to the retreat in a wheel chair and continued my journey of self-development under the great care of all of the people there. As time went by I began to realise with the guidance of Jenna and Tye at the retreat that the accident had forced me to stop and reflect what I had been through over the past few years.”
“I will be forever grateful to all the people at Tallala not only for looking after me so well but for teaching me something that has taken me to a place of clarity and understanding.”
Upon returning to the UK Tim had his 55th anaesthetic to reconstruct his knee and was then forced to rest.
“It gave me time to practice what I had learnt in Sri Lanka. Yoga, meditation and Reiki have changed my perception on how I feel about myself. They also allowed to recover more quickly and manage my pain after surgery better than ever before.
“My winter training is fully underway, I am fit and healthy, feel strong and have a great coaching team around me. I am very excited about improving again this winter heading into Tokyo 2020.”
When meeting Tim, you will see that he has a will and determination to keep going. Mental health, especially for men is still somewhat of a taboo subject and, although people are becoming more aware and trying to understand it, journeys like Tim’s need to be shared and can be learnt from. How he has managed to keep coming back and keep improving is an inspiration.
Tim’s good friend James Brown remembers talking to Tim when he was in hospital in Sri Lanka thinking is this it, could the injuries he has suffered mean the end of the canoeing for him? But Tim never even mentioned that, it never entered his mind, all he was talking about was the recovery process and the fact he would come back stronger.
Being involved in high performance sport has given Tim structure to achieve this success and there’s lessons within that that can be learnt by others.
“I spent many years telling myself to live and feel a certain way, dependant on destructive and unstable situations that were out of my control.”
“I’ve found that once you are completely honest with who you are and you make the appropriate changes then good things start to happen.
If you keep saying to yourself that things are bad, that your sad, that you wish things would be different then you’re only going to feel one way. I’ve learnt about mental health to give me ways to assist me in dealing with these unstable feelings and situations.”
“My life now is very different, I spend a lot of my time in my own company which in the past would have been hard but I am happy and making a life for myself doing something that I love with a new self-belief that I always wanted to find.”
“Life is a journey and everything happens for a reason and even though at times you can’t see it, you need to take each day and focus on your progression.”
Aside to training, Tim now spends his time sharing what he has learnt with businesses on change, mental resilience, self-awareness and the use of certain practices to gain clarity in the midst of difficult and stressful situations, whether in the work place or home life.
Chris Sanders of the Institute of Credit Management said: “I have known Tim for some years now, from his days in the corporate world to being an athlete. I was lucky to be able to get Tim to speak at an event as I was looking for a motivational presentation on Change. The delegates feedback was great with words such as ‘inspirational, determined, motivating’ and his presentation was given >90% score by the 120 delegates. Tim has completely changed his outlook and his story and determination to succeed is amazing.”
If you’d like to get in touch with Tim about his workshops and presentations then you can contact him on [email protected]
First published in Business Money Magazine. www.business-money.com