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Life after Sport

Transitioning into work life from being a busy bee, or in my case an elite athlete and how you can maintain fitness while doing this; I’ve done about 3 sessions since then… so you can kind of guess where this is going.

About 9 months ago I was hurtling myself down a very icy, very cold bobsleigh track and making British history while doing it, however my life looks a lot less than historical right now and I guess the reality slap of retiring out of sport or at least transitioning intao a new area in life, comes with it’s obvious challenges.

The first one is something we ALL relate to. Just finding the time.
I’ve always worked while training, most of my career for as many years as I can remember, because being a self -funded athlete and I guess ‘non-professional’ I had to find a way to sustain my financial demands, while being on season for 4-5 months out of the year with very little additional help or way of sponsorship and funding.

Having finished sport, on the biggest stage of the world, I found myself in an extremely fortunate position of being offered a job within a very high profiled organisation doing something that was completely new to me.

Going from voluntary sector work, mentoring young people, being here, there, and everywhere; a different school, talking to different people every day for weeks on end, sometimes in 2 or 3 different places in the day, travelling hundreds of miles a day to ‘WFH’ (working from home) in front of a screen, for 8 hours a day was a transition.

A very welcomed one in the beginning, because when you overly busy yourself, you can often find that you need time to pause.

Being an athlete or someone always on the go, always training, always moving and fitting things in can be a breath of fresh air. Adhering to a real stable structure of having something to do between the hours of 9-5 and then using the remaining time as you wish, was something that I personally welcomed at the time, just to give me some stability and bring me back into some routine.

It also meant that I was stationary for long periods of time.

Being in the back of a bobsleigh you experience 5-6 G forces on your spine down even the nicest of tracks, which is a lot of compression on your back. Yet, nothing beats the compression of sitting in front of a computer desk for 8 hours of the day.

I found the immobility and the change of mobility in my body, just incredible and not in a positive way. This was just because I wasn’t having that time to move around as much and I wasn’t taking breaks (as I should have been) and creating those real healthy working habits. It meant that my body being so dormant for such periods of time was detrimental to not only my physical but my mental wellbeing.
Initially I was still able to train for a sustained period, even with my new work-life balance, so I decided to take up more of one of my passions in coaching and started my own athletic group, which had been put on hold for 2 years because of my demands elsewhere in my life.

Coaching was very welcomed surprise because it allowed me to add in time where I would train also and inspired me to keep that going.

In the start of summer, I trained consistently and well but got to a place where my body didn’t really appreciate what I was doing, after coming straight from an Olympic Games to pretty much continuing training, just really enforced that I needed to have a break as I suffered a minor injury that took me away from training for 2 months.

This followed by a holiday and developing covid off the plane meant that for at least an additional 5 weeks of doing absolutely nothing I was now in an enforced break and realised that was probably going to have to get back on this horse at some point.

So how do I keep fit?
Keeping fit has been a lifestyle for me, for as long as I could remember, but it was always purposeful and intentional. Having no real absolute performance goals to work towards meant that had to strategically change my mindset towards the idea of working out, but it also meant that it opened the doors to other things.

Reset goals.
I started focusing on the things that I wanted to do and challenge myself in.

Taking up a new skill was one of them. I started a new skill in the summer and tried a new event to challenge my body in different ways because it really responds to versatility and variability, especially having trained for 20 years. Knowing what your body needs, likes, and then wants is key to setting appropriate goals for it.

My body adapts to anything very quickly, with means I must always keep her guessing just so she can give me maximum output.

I also keep fit by being consistent.
This has been a real faux par in the recent months, because as mentioned, it has been quite hard to find the time, when you’re devoting 40hrs of your week working, and then 16hrs of that coaching, there weren’t many additional hours left to put some consistent work in. You could be waking up at 5am and getting that workout done, I just know I’m not going to do that which means I have to find other ways to get training in and keep it a constant appearance in my schedule.

Consistency over quality.
Set a plan.
I know there are certain days and times that I can train. I set those days and times as my training slots and I try my best to absolutely stick to them. Of course, life just gets in the way however knowing I have the plan there, gives me structure and it provides intention to go and do what has been set, in some way.

Bearing in mind, I’m not working out as much as I did before, which means my appetite is nowhere near as high as it was doing bobsleigh when I was burning 2500-3000 calories a day, moving sleds, lifting weights, in high altitude conditions. It means that now I’m not really burning much of anything and sometimes then just having one meal a day which isn’t totally healthy for my wellbeing.

I also keep fit by making meals a priority in my life. Making sure my breakfast routine is there, my lunch routine is there and a snack before coaching or working out before having dinner when I get home allows me to keep up the nutritional element to my training.

The number one thing I do in managing to keep fit is really in my mind. I adapted my mindset to chill out, to not overthink or stress out over this process.

Your fitness goals, your workout goals, your performance goals, anything to do with you having a healthy, body, mind, soul etc is all very personal. It is greatly determined by how you want to be. For me that means not over analysing it, not overthinking it and doing exactly what I want, when I want, within structured reason.

Because if I leave myself, do it completely open and free, with no plan, goal, or commitment, nothing will ever get done.

Set plan
Differ the training
Eat well
Do you

By Montell Douglas OLY
History Maker: First British Female Summer Winter Olympian