Inspiring 30-Somethings - Emma Mackie

I’m thrilled that my dear friend Emma has finally entered her thirties (what took you so long?). I decided a couple months ago to add a new feature to my blog - Inspiring 30-Somethings  - and although she doesn’t know it (yet), Emma was the one to inspire this fresh addition. You’ll soon understand why. Most of us can name at least one person in our circle that lives life to the fullest and inspires us to do the same, often unintentionally. Emma has been that person for me recently and going out on a limb here (sarcastically), for many others as well.  

Emma and I met in New Zealand a year and a half ago when I took on a locum position at her work and a room in her house. I felt accepted as her friend within the first few minutes of meeting her. Emma is one of the most generous and kindest people I’ve ever met, and it didn’t take long for her personality to shine through. Through her enthusiasm for all aspects of life, she silently (and vocally when necessary) inspires those around her to make the most of every day. Emma appears to have a bottomless pit of energy - whether it be related to work, sport or play. She’s an exceptionally dedicated athlete, physiotherapist, and pet-owner, amongst the many other hats she wears from day to day (girlfriend, daughter, sister, coach…). Allow me to introduce you...

Post-race glow

What does a typical day in the life of Emma look like?

Between 5 & 6 a.m.: Up and at 'em
6 - 7:30 a.m.: Kicking butt at triathlon training (usually some combination of bike/swim/run)
7:30 - 8 a.m.: Breakfast (such as coconut yogurt with banana/honey/nuts; or 2 slices of toast with almond butter and a banana; or a smoothie (cocoa/avocado/banana/ice/vanilla essence/coconut milk)
8 - 10 a.m.: Takes dog for a walk
Dinner prep
House errands
Emails / Admin
Triathlon race prep (e.g., packing up bike)
Noon - 6/7 p.m.: Work (Physiotherapy)
6:30-7:30 p.m.: Dinner (such as homemade burgers with salad and grilled sweet potato chips; or Thai beef salad; or chilli with cauliflower rice; or spaghetti bolognese with zucchini noodles
7:30-9 p.m.: Relaxing, “me” time (see below for details)
9:30/10 p.m.: Lights out for the day

You’ve been a triathlete for 13 years now. How did you get into the sport?

I used to be a track runner to international representative level, surrounded by skinny people. I think I got too competitive in that department and got too skinny weighing in at 32kg. I was not very well at all and had to stop. When, thanks to my parents, I got better, I wanted a new sport where body image wasn't everything and I found triathlon. Every shape and size can do triathlon and be good at it. I did my first triathlon as an 18 year old at the Scottish school tri champs and won it! From then on I loved it! And when I moved to New Zealand in 2009 I found an event called Ironman and I loved it even more!
Refresh my memory - how many Ironmans have you completed?

Two. First one in 11 hours 20 minutes, 2nd one in 12 painful hours and some change. My first one I had no expectations and loved every minute; the second one I had too many expectations and hated every minute.

Competing near Auckland, New Zealand

I don’t think I’ve ever seen you miss a training session. What motivates you to pull off the covers each morning and hit the bike, pool, or treadmill?

Hahaha, you're probably right! I just love that feeling of getting up, working hard, getting the job done and feeling awesome after! There are days I want to hit snooze but I know that even if it is just a 30 min jog or 3 hour ride my piece of mind will benefit perhaps even more than my physical aspirations.

Do you have any advice for someone just getting into the sport of triathlon? Or for someone training for their first Ironman?

Don't take yourself too seriously. Remember to take your time to acknowledge the goal you have set yourself and embrace it. The journey to the start line is bigger than the race itself. The race is just a chance to show off what you have learned and you should feel confident in your learning and feel no pressure! Smile.
If you’re support crew…. spectating can be harder than racing!

What are your goals for next year’s triathlon season?  

Well, that's a wee bit up on the air at the moment. I did qualify for 3 world age group teams this year, sprint distance tri, duathlon, long course! I now can't do any due to my new role as Triathlon Australia's Physio! So I will be all of these races and more but with my work hat on! I am not complaining though as my work and tri play grind from June to October will be Spain!
So I think I will get World Masters Games over and done with at the end of April (in Auckland) and then maybe do some French or German Grand Prix races when I am in Europe with the Australian Triathlon team.

Game face on

Emma battled with anorexia for two very tough years as a young teenager. With the unrelentless help of her family, she came to understand the disease, eventually winning the battle and turning down a much healthier path.

What was the biggest lesson you learned from your personal experience with anorexia?

I think I learnt resilience. I have seen how bad life can get so when life throws some lemons at me I know I can handle it now. It's definitely not easy but I know that strength is there because I am still here. Sometimes it just takes time for me to figure out how to make lemonade out of lemons.

Emma has shared her eating disorder story in the form of a book in the hope that it will help others who find themselves or their loved ones in the same situation. Check it out here.

Emma graduated with a Physiotherapy degree from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, Scotland. Since then she’s also completed a Master’s in Sports Physiotherapy (Otago University, NZ) and has worked in several private clinics and with several sports teams.
You’ve recently started a physiotherapy role that you’re really excited about. What excites you about being the team physiotherapist for the Australian triathlon team?

Well I am still trying not to have major fan girl moments when Richard Murray or Jodie Stimpson walk past but I am just looking forward to working where my passion lies with like-minded people. I get to travel the world while trying to keep some of the best athletes on the planet upright and healthy…. no pressure then!

Have you experienced a failure in life that now, in retrospect, you realize was a blessing in disguise?

haha, heaps of times! I nearly quit being a Physio because I was making zero $ and felt like I was going nowhere in my career. I kept getting rejected from high performance sports jobs because 'you don't have enough experience'..... 9 years and a masters degree.... that counted for nothing! Then I met my now new boss and world triathlon coach Jamie Turner in a pub in Auckland and he offered me the opportunity of a lifetime and I took it!

We all have days where we feel that we have to drag ourselves to work. How do you get through those days when your motivation for work is not at its highest?

I plan something nice for dinner so I have something to look forward to and enjoy when I get home. Cooking allows me to switch off from the world for a bit, it relaxes me and I enjoy it.

You call yourself an “adopted Kiwi” having permanently moved from Scotland to New Zealand in 2009. What was the most challenging part about moving to the other side of the world and how did you/are you overcoming it?

Hardest part was saying goodbye to my mum and dad. Even my dad was crying which threw me sideways as he is such a staunch gentleman who doesn't really do emotion! After that though I never really looked back! I came to NZ for a year 8 years ago with a bag and a bike. Now thanks to the kindness, generosity and opportunity of New Zealand, I have too many bikes, some houses, a man I love, a dog I love, a career, a million memories and some of the best friends on planet earth. New Zealand has given me all that so it's not a hard decision to stay. Yes I do miss home. I will always be Scottish, I am proud to be Scottish but Scotland couldn't give me the life I was searching for and New Zealand does. It's also made easier by technology. My mum is my best friend and she is on Facebook everyday looking at what I am up to. We also text and Skype as often as we can and every week for 8 years mum has hand-written me a letter of her Monday to Sunday and sent it to me. I have kept every single one and will continue to do so. I love it! So I always feel close to me family and friends in bonny Scotland.

We can see where Emma gets her signature smile from! 

You make the most of each and everyday, fitting in more than most people do. Do you have any advice on how others can do the same?

Be organized. It's easy to pack lunch or breakfast the day before. I also do that with my kit bag for training. It's all packed the night before so I am not scrambling in the dark to find clothes and it also means I don't need to set the alarm any earlier than I need to. I can just get up and go. I also plan my meals for the week so I go into the shops and get everything in one hit. Then I know when I get home each night the ingredients I need to make the meal are already there. Yes, sometimes take-aways happen but I have a repertoire in my brain of quick and easy nutritious recipes that I can cook ASAP.

You’ve told me before that you “don’t do tired”? Tell us how that’s possible!

Ha, I don't stop! I do pack a lot in but I make sure that I don't stay up too late, I eat well, drink a lot of water and have some “me” time. Whether my “me” time is half an hour of mind numbing silly tv shows or listening to a podcast or walking my dog, I just escape into Emma-world for a wee while and that keeps me going.

You’re passionate about your sport and your work. What else gets your juices flowing?

I love my dog, Skye. She is a black lab and has just turned one. I never knew I could get so attached to something so deeply! She is my little world. She is funny, intelligent, moody and dopey but she gets me. She doesn't judge me or question me, she lets me be me. Time with her, even if it's at 5am after being licked awake makes the world seem right every day.

Quality time with Skye is high on the priority list 

What are you reading these days?

I am rubbish at reading, I fall asleep after one page! I do listen to Audible which is a great app for downloading books online and listening to them. Mainly I listen to sports autobiographies from rugby to running!

What podcasts are you listening to?

I am trying to learn Spanish for my stint in Spain so I listen to ‘coffee break Spanish’. I also listen to every triathlon podcast around - fitter radios, marathon talk, Ironman talk. These all keep me company on my long runs. I also listen to BBC Radio One podcasts just to keep me in touch a little bit with the U.K.

Who, or what, inspires you?

My mum - she is a Duracell bunny. She bounces around everywhere, everyday, full of energy and never wastes a moment of life

My coach - Sam Warriner. A bit like my mum in the energy department!

My monster inside of me…..sideways one but my anorexic monster still hangs around. I have locked him in a closet in my brain but sometimes he rattles the door or sticks his head out but so far I always manage to shove him back in, allowing me to push on and strive to be the best I can be, monster or no monster.

Is there anything within you that you’re working on improving right now?

I am quick to anger & too quick to act so I am trying to learn to take deep breaths and fully consider all my options before acting. It's a slow process but I am getting there!

Is there anywhere in the world that you’re dreaming of visiting and why?

Canada! (@feelslikethirty did not solicit this answer!) Many reasons: a) to catch up with you again, b) to catch up with my brother who lives in Toronto and c) skiing - a ski holiday in Canada would be the ultimate dream come true!

Excited nerves for scuba diving lessons in Fiji

And the biggie: Do you have a philosophy on life?

Hard one! I would say to remember to take time to live in the moment and really feel/see/sense The Who, what, why, when and where at that precise moment in time.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

As they say Down Under, what a legend! A huge thank you to Emma for letting us into her world. Follow Emma's adventures at sport, work and play at @emmakmackie.

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