Former AFL player and current assistant coach, Simon Black, is one of the most decorated players to grace the game – and he’s no stranger to pushing his body to the limits.
With an impressive 322 game streak, Simon’s achievements extend far and wide – a triple premiership player, a Brownlow Medallist, and Norm Smith Medallist, amongst many other accolades too long to list.
Since his retirement from AFL, Simon has been busily applying his wealth of knowledge in strategy, coaching, and performance towards educating and training young athletes through his footy program. When he’s not coaching on the field, Simon is a family man, and doting father to his three children.
As a coach, father, and ambassador for Nature’s Own, Simon is no stranger to the challenges and stresses of life, as well as keeping up with one’s health during busy times.
We spoke to Simon about how he manages his busy schedule while juggling multiple roles, and how he manages to make Body Smart choices for himself and his family. Below, Simon spills his secrets on maintaining a fitness routine, why it’s important to look after your health and wellbeing and tips for the entire family to get active.
How do you manage to keep up with your fitness routine while you're busy?
When schedules get busy, I find that, for many people, fitness is the first thing to get cut from the priority list. From my experience, it’s a lot easier to stick to a fitness routine, even during busy periods, by doing a little bit of activity each day to establish a habit. It could be anything, such as doing some quick stretches, or even picking a longer walking route. Once you’ve got a habit going on, it’s a lot easier to maintain it – regardless of schedule. On the crazy busy days, I stay Body Smart by just ensuring that I’m at least on my feet, moving around, and choosing to walk or to ride places. Chasing the kids around always keeps me pretty busy, too!
Why is it important to look after your health and wellbeing?
There’s a stack of good reasons why looking after myself is so important. First and foremost, it makes you feel great – from the post-workout rush of endorphins to the feeling of accomplishment afterwards, looking after your health is a great way to boost your self-confidence. Not to mention, keeping fit and healthy has a lot of ongoing and long-term benefits, ranging from mood, quality of sleep, and overall body function.
Secondly, as my kids get older (and myself too!), I want to make sure that I can keep up with their active lifestyle and be involved with what they love to do. By making body smart choices about my diet and exercise, I’m increasing the changes of maintaining my health for the future. Looking after your own health doesn’t only benefit you, but it ensures that you’re able to keep up with your loved ones, too.
Coming from a high performance and professional sporting environment, I’ve always enjoyed challenging myself and my physical abilities. I think that has really influenced my outlook towards health and wellbeing.
How has this year been for you compared to last, what were some of the things you learnt about yourself?
I feel incredibly lucky to be living in Queensland, as we have been quite fortunate compared to other parts of Australia. Dealing with the unknown and adjusting to a new way of life has been stressful and challenging for everyone. I think that because of the pandemic, many people have realised that mental health plays a huge role in one’s overall health and wellbeing too. There’s been a lot of discussion about how to stay fit and active through lockdown as people aren’t able to go outside as much. But I think mental health has become an increasingly important aspect that people should be considering throughout their daily lives. To stay body smart through Brisbane’s lockdowns last year, I really prioritised creating a clear divide between my work and also my personal life. I found that by getting adequate sleep, squeezing in exercise at home, and eating well definitely put me in a better headspace. I really feel for all the people who are going through a tough time, and I strongly encourage everyone to stay in contact with their family and friends to make sure that they’re okay.
Aside from learning about the importance of considering one’s mental and cognitive health as part of one’s overall wellbeing, I have learnt to re-prioritise what I really value in my day-to-day life, like family-time, my health, fitness & immune strength, and my work life balance. Mostly, I’ve learnt to slow things down and enjoy the little things.
What are some tips for busy parents to stay healthy despite having a busy schedule?
My favourite tips to stay body smart is to use your feet! Get out and about and incorporate some action by walking or riding to nearby places instead of driving. Secondly, aside from getting enough activity, diet plays an incredibly important role to one’s health. I recommend eating a balanced diet, emphasising on variety of fresh fruits and vegetables to give your body the nutrients and vitamins that it needs. When preparing meals, it’s a great idea to double the recipe, or just to cook a little bit extra so you guarantee a healthy dish for your next meal. By incorporating this tiny hack into your dinner routine, it’s a great way to stay mindful about what’s going into your diet. Not only does pre-planning save you some extra time, but to ensure that you get the necessary nutrients.
What are some of your favourite activities that you do with your family to stay healthy?
As a family, we really enjoy hitting the bike trails around Brisbane. There are some great tracks that provide opportunities for all skill levels and ages to get involved and to enjoy a day full of activity. I definitely recommend doing a quick search for some local nature trails, bike trails, or parks that are nearby. Our family is particularly fond of going to the park and kicking around a football.
Another great way to stay body smart would be to find some fun activities that take place outdoors but are not necessarily physically strenuous. For example, a beach trip or a trip to a local fruit picking farm would be a great way to get the body moving, yet they’re not activities that would be too tiring.
What are your top five tips that you'd like to share with little athletes?
Getting outside with your little ones is a great way to stay body smart, as you’re not only exercising your own body, but you’re also instilling the importance of exercise to your children. My favourite tips for little athletes are the following:
Always have a go and give it your best shot. Don’t be afraid to try a new sport because you’re scared to fail. Everyone was once a beginner, and we’ve all got to start somewhere.
Don’t compare yourself to others. Do your best and set goals that work for you.
Get involved in team sports, even if your main sport, or focus, is on an individual sport. I think there is great value in being involved in a team, such as establishing better communication, collaboration, and discovering new perspectives. Even if your child dabbles in an individual sports, I recommend trying a team sport during the off-season.
Create good habits early such a prioritising having fun and enjoying what you’re doing; practice the basics and fundamentals of your sport religiously; and eating a variety of healthy nutritious foods and drinking plenty of water.
Have an eagerness to learn and stay open minded to growth.
Most importantly, have fun!