Why did I choose University? It was one of those decisions where you can see two outcomes to the life journey you want to have. All you have to do is decide which you want most and therefore be at peace with the one you didn’t choose. It took a whole semester, and coming home to my parents for Christmas, to finally feel comfortable with the decision I had made for myself.
I chose to study Sport and Exercise Science BSc at The University of Surrey, because it’s part of the bigger picture for me. It was simultaneously both an easy yet difficult decision. Due to part of my life journey being closed off, because of the UK leaving the European Union, it opened doors for me to take on another route to my life, whilst still being able to race 100%. I was incredibly excited to go for it. I had always had a complete fascination with the science of sport, more specifically I had always had a fascination with the anatomy and functionality of a human body during high performance sport. I’ve always been helped and taught by Mum, allowing me to learn to recognise the consequences of how I’m standing and how I’m creating twists unintentionally and I think my mum, in addition to my love of other sports, really drove this passion home. It’s an incredibly intriguing topic that I hope to learn a lot more about in the coming years.
I had taken a year out of education partly due to Covid-19, but primarily to see what I could achieve in a ‘Full-Time Athlete’s’ life. I believed this sport required, 100% of your thoughts on improving the performance on the bike, so that’s what I did for 15 months. So, what do you get up to in the day, as a full time athlete? The answer is, as you may have suspected, not very much. For me at least, there wasn’t enough psychological stimulus in the day to really have the drive to push on with what I wanted to do. For nigh on 15 months I was feeling: lethargic, lonely and unmotivated for anything other than riding and racing my bike to the limit of what I was capable of. I was staying in bed watching YouTube and Netflix until 11am to 12 noon, and finally setting off for a ride from lunch time until mid-afternoon. Once I was back I would sit on the computer and watch more, or just flick through tabs on my laptop nonchalantly until I felt like ‘maybe I should go to sleep’ and would pack it in for the night around about midnight.
I think you’ll agree that isn’t a healthy way of living. I had no routine at all, It was a struggle. This lack of routine was heightened when I finally went to Belgium, in the second half of 2021, to get my u23 racing career off the ground. The family there was really nice and incredibly welcoming, livening up my day to eat dinner or learn a bit more French. But with a lack of friends off the bike in the region, I would find myself in my room for the majority of the day recovering from the day’s training. There were a few things keeping my head up. Of course racing my bike and needing to be fit was one of them, but so was playing F1 2021 with my mate, almost daily, my parents, Charlie & Paul and walking out to watch the Sun rise and set each clear day (there weren’t many but it was enough). Thankfully though, despite this isolation, I was still performing when I was racing. That did keep the spirits up well.
All of this was going on, yet I was excited to see on the horizon that I would soon be starting University. I thought I would finally get the sort of routine I needed. Unfortunately, with all the content being online it wasn’t the case immediately. Apparently, University isn’t anything like the school time table that I naively craved. But it was a crucial start in my life transition where I would start to learn to be completely independent in looking after myself and making use of every minute of my day.
I had always really wanted to study Sports Science, it just didn’t look like it was anytime in the near future with cycling being the sole focus. It took me a long time to learn that it isn’t a healthy way to spend every waking minute thinking of the bike. It’s important to have other focusses to deter away from the stress and pressure of making sure you’re good enough at your priority passion. I wasn’t recognising all the things that can be done during a day to give it meaning and direction. It’s down to being at University, and living with a great bunch of lads, that they allowed me to recognise the opportunities in all walks of my life. 2021’s journey allowed to me to recognise incredible people I’ve got around me in my friends, family and sport support network. I’ve become so grateful for them all after last year, I hope I showed that this Festive period.
This change in my attitude is why I’m so excited to bring this journey to you, because I’m finding things left right and centre that truly excite me outside the thrill of racing. For me it is truly euphoric. I finally figured the importance of “why not just go and get it.” Part of that is wanting to share how possible it is to race and perform in Europe whilst studying for a degree.
All of this attitude evolution has also come about from working with Paul Burden, Perform well. He’s taught me so much about the psyche and how powerful it can be to get it right. During that isolation mid-summer, his work with me kept my race performance up, without a doubt. Cheers, Paul.