interview with Shannon Malseed, by guest contributor Lucy Ingram of Peloton Inside Out
Shannon’s cycling career was short and sweet. During her two years as a professional she saw great success, winning the national road race and qualifying for a place in the Commonwealth games.
Then she retired.
Despite being in her physical prime, this was not echoed for her mentally. Thoughts were percolating at the back of her mind, leaving her with the unsettling feeling that she wasn’t following the right path.
Shannon now works as a human potential coach. I was her first client.
Shannon laughs a little as she explains how her enthusiasm for competitive cycling waned and she came to the difficult realisation that it was no longer for her;
“It wasn’t a physical thing, I could have kept going, and kept improving and I could have made it to the Olympics, which was my ultimate goal. At the same time, I was feeling less and less passionate about wanting to race.
I started to have this moral dilemma thinking, ‘why am I trying to beat you?
I just want to help you. I just want to be your friend. I want to have an impact on your life in a different way and I don’t want to be out here just trying to smash each other’.”
“There wasn’t one moment where I was like I hate all this. I was fulfilled, I loved my team and racing. There was a big overlap and grey zone that I had to navigate and come out of the other side. When I did, it was a relief as I wasn’t in that confused state anymore. I had so much clarity and I could let go of all that stuff. I didn’t have to keep showing up for people. I wasn’t being a people pleaser anymore, be it for family, friends, the team, media, I didn’t have to keep telling them the things I thought they wanted to hear. I could confidently say who I was.”
Shannon went full cold turkey when she retired, stopping riding altogether. She doesn’t even own a bike anymore. Alongside the relief however, there were some challenges. Although Shannon counts herself very lucky that unlike many athletes, retirement was her choice, she still had to work hard on making the transition. It took time and effort to discover all the reasons riding just didn’t sit well with her anymore.
Thinking about why you are here on this planet is nothing short of overwhelming. It takes time, self-awareness, and bravery to ask yourself if you really enjoy the things you do every day, or if you just do them because that’s all you’ve ever known. As Shannon explains;
“I always had this thing in the back of my mind like,
‘Why? Why do you want to make it to the Olympics?’ And I’d think, ‘I don’t know? That’s what people want to do’. I realised that wasn’t a good reason to do something.
I spent so many hours considering what my values are, what my purpose is and what that actually means to me. I wrote it all down and kept going back and re-evaluating it. It was a process that happened over time.”
Shannon recognises this won’t be the case for plenty of athletes, the many who do truly love what they do. However, there is still great value to be taken from doing some serious life evaluation, particularly before retirement. Shannon explains;
“With athletes, no matter how successful they were, if they went to the Olympics or became world champion sometimes, they stop and think ‘I don’t know why I did that. I’m here with all these accolades but I’m still just me.’ I think people struggle when they retire, wondering what was it all for? And who are they without all of it?”
Shannon realised that it was helping others that truly fulfilled her. Her mantra as a coach is to guide people to confront fears, overcome challenges and live a life that inspires them. She coaches one-to-one, supporting clients to break through any mental barriers they have.
It’s her life experiences as an athlete and subsequent transition that make her a phenomenal coach. I’ve experienced her coaching and her empathy and solution-focussed approach were like getting a mind massage every week.
Shannon has five reasons why she believes her background as an athlete makes her well-suited to her new career, reasons that aren’t limited to her but are applicable to other athletes too;
As parting advice to athletes considering next steps, Shannon tells me how important it is to think about exactly what you find fulfilling about what you’re doing and indeed, the opposite;
“If you figure out why you’re doing it when you’re in the sport, that’s when the transition becomes easier, because you really know what part of you it was fulfilling. Then you can let go of that when it’s not fulfilling you anymore.”
You can connect with Shannon through her human potential coaching website or on her socials:
LAPS Members can discuss Lucy’s post on our Community page.