Profile of Perseverance: Claire Hutchinson

Today I'm honoured to  feature Claire Hutchinson (a former fellow University of Toronto Varsity Blues Rower) in my "Profiles of Perseverance" series.  Claire was on the Varsity team while I was a Novice.  I never had the chance to really get to know her, as I only saw her briefly at practices and competitions.  I have had the chance to connect with her electronically since my depature (due to graduation) from the team.  Claire is an incredibly strong athlete and person!  I really respect her, and  I am blessed that she took the time out of her busy training schedule to share.  Thanks Claire!  

My name is Claire Hutchinson, and I am often hesitant to know what words I should use to immediately follow my name in an introduction. What is the most important or pertinent? I guess my number one passion and pursuit in life would be most appropriate. So, I’m Claire the rower, and I train for it alot. It all started while studying at the University of Toronto. Once averse to the idea of waking before the dawn, that was all sacrificed once I fell in love with rowing. What an amazing sport and wonderful life gift when you consider all that you gain! My closest and best friends in life are from rowing, and I’ve been given opportunities to travel for competition throughout the USA and Canada. Next stop, Europe! That’s a goal to be sure. I very much value my family and friends. I am a happy and healthy lifestyle enthusiast and hope to carry this passion into all that I do. I consider my quality of life and commitment to self-improvement a matter of the heart. “Those who live passionately teach us how to love. Those who love passionately teach us how to live.” – Yogananda :)

Image (c) Claire Hutchinson
Image (c) Claire Hutchinson

What is the best piece of advice you have ever received? Who did you receive it from?

“Be mindful of what story you tell yourself about your life. Be wary over what colours you choose to paint with.” – My Mom

How important is mentorship in terms of your success?

Very important! Everyone can use a helping hand at some point, but most of all, perspective. It’s all about perspective! How you look at things in your life plays a large factor in its quality.  It’s easy to get side tracked or distracted by negative thoughts so having someone with a different perspective from yours to give you encouragement and guidance is key. I like to put faith in my team-mates and coaches, for example, to be honest with me and have my best interest at heart. I trust and respect them and therefore value their opinion. I appreciate that there are things they can see that I can’t, or at least that my viewpoint may be tainted by bias. So, having a mentor I would say is key to development.

What has been the best moment in your life so far?

Wow, that’s a hard one to narrow down! I don’t know if I could pinpoint it exactly. It is probably winning the bronze medal in both the women’s varsity eight at OUAs (Ontario University Championships) and the pair at CUs (Canadian University Championships). No one expected those results and so to clinch them in my final varsity year at UofT  was a perfect way to cap off that chapter in my life :)

What tips would you have for living a healthy life?

Balance. Make sure you have balance between work, leisure, physical activity, and family/friend time. It’s not always easy, but keeping balance in mind may help to lessen stress and ultimately would allow you to keep perspective on all areas of life. Never forget getting enough protein and veggies in your diet, and 6-8 hours of sleep per night has proven to help everything!

How do you motivate yourself to persist despite setbacks? 

No guts no glory! When the going gets tough, the tough get going! Pain is temporary, quitting lasts forever! Just a few sayings I’ve had to bring back into play over and over. My magic when rowing is to ask, “What would Silken Laumann do?” Silken Laumann, one of Canada’s greatest rowers, came back from a devastating injury to win the bronze medal in the 1992 Olympics, which was a huge accomplishment. The woman was able to row again before she could walk. After the accident, when the doctors said that the Barcelona Olympics would no longer be possible, Silken just blocked their words out and pressed on. How can you not press on when someone can come back from something like that? I try to ask myself at the end of the day, What will make me happier? That I gave up, or that I pressed on? Setbacks challenge you and define your character. Think of them as character building and to challenge yourself to deal with it the best way possible.

(c) Arianna's Random Thoughts
(c) Arianna's Random Thoughts

What has been your biggest setback? How did you deal with it? What did you learn from it?

I think my biggest setback would be when one of my coaches told me that I didn’t have the natural talent in rowing to ever be good enough to compete internationally in a smaller boat (i.e., single, pair, double, four) and that I might make the quad or eight but that would be it. That no matter how hard I practised, I would never be good enough to be one of the best. That I just don’t have the natural touch, not made of the right stuff. That was capped off with that I’m good to have on a national team because I push people. I’m thinking, “So they can make the boat and I sit on the sidelines?!” Needless to say, I had an awful year of rowing after that. I stopped during the 2k erg test the next day, a club championship that I wanted to defend my title on. It was the first time I’ve quit an erg test since I started rowing 5 years ago, and I went on after that to quit on almost every test. On the water, I would be haunted by the words, “Not good enough” and “No matter how hard you try you’ll never be the best.” It took a year for me to overcome to the point where I’m not depressed. I sought out counseling when I realized that I could not recover from this blow on my own. Today I catch it in glimpses and fleeting moments of doubt; but that’s just it, fleeting. I have been told that many women on the national team are told at least once that they’ll never make it. So I’m trying to see it as criticism and a challenge that is only helping me prepare for tougher times/challenges ahead. My first sign of overcoming the setback? I’m still competitively rowing :)

How do you deal with critics?

I try not to completely deflect their comments right away. People have opinions for different reasons. First, I assess the source: who it is coming from and what my relationship is with them (i.e., stranger vs mother)? Then I assess the validity in terms of their knowledge on the subject and what their motive is. Are they trying to be helpful or is there something else behind this? It is good to be open-minded to feedback but to also take a moment to reflect on it and consider yourself in their shoes before you dismiss the criticism.

How important is social support in overcoming obstacles?

Incredibly important. I think having friends/family to reach out to when times are tough is a source of encouragement and can give you a boost when you feel discouraged. People naturally like to be social, so becoming a recluse during tough times is a backwards way of handling challenging situations. That doesn’t mean you have to tell a person everything, but rather the points you feel you’d need support on specifically. Again, perspective is key and social support will give you that.

What advice would you give others about goal setting?

Write them down. Post them. Hold yourself accountable, which means valuing integrity. Do what you say you’re going to do. Your chances of success triple when others know what you want to achieve because psychologically no one likes for others to think that you’re not true to your word or are a quitter. Use making your goals public as an asset and don’t be afraid to take that often very necessary step!

What is a life lesson you wish you had learned before graduating high school?

That I should have cared more about my marks. I should have seen the value of continuing to take French classes. I should have been nicer to/more appreciative of my parents. All very worthwhile things that I would be benefitting from today had I known how important they were to prioritize. To summarize as a life lesson? Think ahead. Consider the future consequences of your actions. Live in the now, but with half a mind on how it prepares you for tomorrow, and the day after that, and so on.

Thank you Claire for being such a positive example in the athletic community! You rock and are really inspiring!  I'm so glad you persevered and hope you continue to! I have no doubt you will.  I can't wait to cheer you on at the Olympics one day :)

Thank you for reading and your presence at this beach retreat. You Rock! I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts in the comment section below.

See you at the beach!