Choose one: career or sport. Not both

We all have our things we do might makes you – ‘you’, and me – ‘me’.

Without sport I wouldn’t be ‘me’.

It’s a good 50/40/10 split respective of work, sport and a tiny bit left for social beer drinking.

Returning to sport after a break, feels like coming back after an injury. Trying to get into the swing of things again, and formulate some kind of new routine in my new city. This feeling is heightened with added frustration when it happens over and over again.

More often than not, injuries occur when you’re close to your peak fitness, so the last memories you have – the last performance markers you have – are of elite performance. David Millar

Taking up triathlon and endurance sport was a big lifestyle change from horse riding and team sports. Not only in terms of physical changes: exercising more and changes in body shape, but change in mindset too which transpires towards everything else in one’s life.

Endurance sports give you the understanding that to succeed in anything one has to be dedicated to the cause and committed enough to overcome the hurdles in order to achieve the goal. Whether that’s in a race, in the workplace, or as a general rule in life. Good things come to those who work for it.

Yet, this attitude is rare, and many people give up too easily. In fitness, it can be a bad day at work which results in a missed run or a missed gym session. For some, that’s a one off; but for many it spirals out of control and in order to get back ‘on the wagon’ one must be seriously motivated.

Often my friends ask how I have the motivation to train after work. The answer is it’s mostly just a mindset and a lifestyle, and many people have the same mindset and lifestyle – if I didn’t train I would feel like something was missing.

I love my industry, and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else right now. However my frustrations come from starting over and over again when there is an interruption, whether that be injury or career. Injuries (which are non-self inflicted – in that they weren’t planned) and tend to appear when training is going well and the peak phase is about to begin.

New jobs are good in every other reason of your life, except the sport part, and every single time I’ve had one it knocks me out of the running for peak performance.

It’s certainly true that the 9-5 kills all hopes and dreams, but if one can endure the pain to go to a session regardless of a long or bad day at work, there is a genuine guarantee that exercise will turn those bad feelings into good ones. Nobody ever regrets a workout.

Don’t stop training

When an athlete stops training abruptly, the effects aren’t just mental with the stress of knowing it is going to be harder to get back to the performance state you were in , but physical too. Their body goes through an array of changes from weight gain and water retention over short periods, to muscle atrophy, a drop in metabolic rate and a loss of fitness for longer periods.

In addition to all of that, for me: my muscles ache, my sleep becomes disrupted, my eating habits change because my body stops telling me what it requires as fuel and I become extremely grouchy and even more short tempered than usual.

So not training isn’t as simple as missing sessions and relaxing instead – when all of that is going on in the background.

Love-hate are the strongest relationships

Fitness and exercise is something I dedicate so much time and energy towards. I wholeheartedly love it; but there are things I hate about it too. There are times when I wish my life could be ‘normal’ and didn’t revolve around exercise and nutrition.

Sometimes, I don’t like that 40 percent of my life is sport related, and I wish the majority of that 40 percent could be socialising, or just hanging out and not doing a lot, what it feels like the rest of the world does.

My way of switching off is suffering on the turbo or a weights session in the gym. Not relaxing in its most popular form. But, the burning of the body often means relaxation for the mind.

I would like to learn the art of doing nothing. For once be one of those people who after getting home after work, is happy vegetating on the couch.

That is the ultimate luxury for an athlete, especially in winter when it’s cold and dark outside. It is a luxury I hardly get to experience, but it never feels like such a treat as the when the feeling of guilt and disappointment sets in, the realisation arrives that one could spend their time more wisely by training and not lounging around, then outcomes the time management diary and the vicious circle starts again. Looks like I can slot in aimlessly browsing the internet, talking bollocks to friends, and watching trash TV three weeks on Thursday after the gym.

Moving jobs and moving cities isn’t easy for the average person. It’s even more difficult when new gyms, /running/cycling/triathlon clubs are added into the mix. On the bright side, exploring new routes is a good way to get to know the new local area, but since I came from one of the best swim/bike/run/gym locations in the country, the bar is set and as much as I love the city, my new found sport routine will never compare to the old one. Besides, I don’t even know where the nearest swimming pool is.

#strongnotskinny •• I get loads of comments on my #thunderthighs. Often at time trials folk will say "you've got powerful legs" which I'm never sure is a compliment or an insult. 😳 However, despite looking a bit odd in shorts I wouldn't have achieved any of my finest moments if they were half the size. •• They can squat almost 100kg, carried me around 4x half ironmans (one of which got me a European silver medal) I've scaled a massive proportion of Lake District peaks either walking or running, they can put out a load of #watts and do well in time trials, as well as countless other physical challenges; so they might be #thunderthighs but they're functional and bloody powerful 😏🍑🙌🏻 • • • • #hatersgonnahate #fitisthenewskinny #stronglegs #strongisthenewskinny #strongissexy #strengthtraining #strength #endurance #legs #pins #gym #health #fitness #fitnessmotivation #squat #peachy #squatbum #leanin15 #strongwomen #healthybodyhealthymind #cycling #cyclist #tri #triathlon #trife #athletelife

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New beginnings

Which brings me to my main frustration.

Eight weeks ago I was in the best shape of my life. I was healthiest I’ve ever been with a resting heart rate of 47bpm and the leanest I’ve ever looked. I had some good results constantly coming through on the bike, with my power output steadily growing, and my time trial results getting quicker.

I wasn’t the strongest I have been in terms of kg lifted, (earlier on in the year, I claimed a 97.5kg squat) but I had more all round body strength.

I spent the end of the summer stripping back my weight workouts to focus on technique, stronger individual muscle groups mastering body weight strength, and working on weak points before I wanted to lift heavy again. My body was very much being fine tuned to being a good cyclist, runner, and strong and functional.

I had the balance of nutrition down to a tee because when you focus on the food vs fuel concept, your body eventually tells you what it needs and you feed it, simple as that.

Since I came back from a long break in April I was very happy, and full of mojo to have a successful season, and to really be able to peak.

But, at the ripe age of 22, I decided it was time to take my career a little bit more seriously and got a new job – in other words, eventually I had to listen to my mother.

Here we are now

My 50 percent is happy and has significantly increased to take the majority, but my 40 percent has shrivelled into a measly 25-30 percent, while the social beer drinking has increased slightly.

All of those physical and mental effects took over. And as I’m in the biggest city in the North of England, I spend a lot of my training time stuck in the car.

I reluctantly said bye bye to my low resting heart rate and my bike which now lives further up North. I watched the power in my legs flitter away as my strength and leanness faded. Anytime I get back on the WattBike I look despairingly at my new low FTP, and wonder how we got here.

Now, I now sit in the traffic envious of the runner/cyclist commuters.

At the beginning, I was happy to take two weeks off to adjust to my new job, and the short period of rest would do my body some good, before starting to wind down into winter training.

But my days were too long, the commute to far, and eventually I had to move to a different city which resulted in a shift in everything. Finding a new gym, finding a running club, finding routes to run and trying to find time to cycle is impossible.

I love my work, it was an excellent risk and decision to I needed to make, and it means I have new projects to focus on. Despite it being no more hours than before, it is more mentally taxing, and the commute takes the most time.

I certainly still bat for the shift workers. The dreaded 9-5 makes one feel totally lazy. It drains the life out of you along with the motivation to do any exercise. Eight hours minus lunch never seems to provide enough time to be productive – the day is over before it has began, the weekend comes and goes, and Monday is spent waiting for Friday. Then there is the lack of movement while hunched over at a desk staring at a computer screen.

The dreadful effects of eight weeks off is a sad reality of sport and fitness. One cannot expect to stop training and still be lean and lift one-and-a-half times their body weight. Achieving the goal, as well as maintaining that physical shape takes hard work, and hard work I am willing to put in every time.

Again and again and again

David Millar’s description of coming back after an injury is the most accurate. Although this isn’t an injury, the last eight weeks have felt like some form of rehab:

“Returning from an injury is hard, though that’s not really due to the injury itself, but more to do with your head coping with the total inability it has to make the body do what once came easily.

“More often than not, injuries occur when you’re close to your peak fitness, so the last memories you have – the last performance markers you have – are of elite performance. Comebacks are at the opposite end of the scale, which is humbling for a professional athlete, but also it makes coming back an interesting and affirming experience.”

I’m all for change and new beginnings, I realise I’m in a fortunate position to be able to change jobs and re-locate as easily as this; but my frustrations lie in the drastic amount set backs and multiple times starting over and over. Every time, I will stand up and go back to it because it’s my 40 percent, my non-negotiable and I would be very different without it.

Every time I will build back up to where I was and more, but every time it makes me feel less enthusiastic and more exhausted to achieve something I once loved. Set backs make us stronger, but stronger for what?

The most upsetting part is in seven years of training, I have never managed to reach peak performance and reach my true potential in triathlon, cycling or power lifting. Something has always had to give, whether it be opportunities or injuries, they come along and wipe me off my feet like a game of snakes and ladders. And in every stretch, I drive to reach my potential in any given sport… until an opportunity comes along and the last tier to peak performance fades away.

I often wish there were more hours in the day, longer days would mean I wouldn’t have to choose between sport or career. I want to see a time where I can have both, not one or the other.

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Why would you ever want to leave Europe? 

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A memorial in Denmark to remember those who fought and went to war. “One moment, one person, one place.”

Here’s a question for a British citizen:

“When was the last time you visited another European country on the continent?”

Because I can hedge my bets on if the answer is: “in the last year or so” one may have been more likely to have voted “remain” in the EU referendum.

As a pro-European, I sit here in a European country surrounded by people I have met from all over Europe to read an article on the progress of Brexit so far, and I still cannot understand why just over half of the voting population would vote to leave Europe, and nor can they.

Our location in the UK, coupled with our British values make us actually quite far removed from Europe already. We have our own currency, we predominantly govern ourselves, and we make our own laws; yet we are part of something bigger.

Think of the company Virgin. The parent conglomerate is Virgin, and the branches are Virgin Media, Virgin Airlines, Virgin Trains and so on. Each is almost an independent company which sets it own rules, and is each directed by a different person, but it it is overseen by the vision of the founders of Virgin.

So the UK is its own company, and we look after ourselves like we are our own company. But ultimately we are a branch of Europe.

When Virgin Airlines was in decline, Branson sold Virgin Records to invest the money back in the Airline. When Britain was in recession in 2008, we were bailed out by our fellow branches from the same tree (as well as other non-EU countries). And when Greece suffered financial problems throughout the last few years, they were bailed out by other European Union members.

We have European laws. However, the vast majority of our laws did not change whenever we joined the euro zone in 1973. European laws do not have to be implemented in every country. If a country decides it does not want to comply with a law, it doesn’t have to, but it has to show that it has something put in place instead. Just like in the UK when a bill is passed through the Parliament: it has to be voted on in the cabinet in the commons and in the House of Lords, if it is not then it is  passed backwards and forwards until it is.

This is why in the UK we drive on the other side of the road and the other side of the car to other European countries–and the rest of the world for that matter.

It is unclear what the percentage of EU laws are implemented in the UK, as there is no distinct definition of what is an EU law. However, in research conducted by the BBC in the referendum campaign: of “945 acts of parliament implemented between 1993-2014, 231 implemented were of EU obligation.” And of over 33,000 statutory instruments implemented in the same period, 4,283 were of EU obligations.

But why is it important to show the number of EU laws the UK has opposed? The EU are the not the enemy, and the whole point of an EU law is so countries in the union can operate on the same level.

To apply for EU membership is difficult, and the country in question has to show that it respects the common values of the member states. Article two of the Lisbon Treaty outlines these values as: “Respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights”.

For example, Turkey is geographically in Europe, yet it has never been recognised as European by its neighbours. To quote the Author Tim Marshall: “Istanbul was European City of Culture 2010, it competes in the Eurovision Song Contest and the UEFA European Championship”; but it is not part of the European Union despite applying for membership in the 1970’s, it has been continually rejected. Factors include its record on human rights, its economy, and the disparity of living conditions.

Here in the EU there are so many opportunities for people of different nationalities within Europe to have free movement, to live, work and retire in a different country while still receiving all of the benefits of their country like pensions.

Being in the EU has given us cheaper and safer holidays without having visas, as so much security is invested in EU airports and online for things like buying a ticket abroad. We have European health insurance, free trade deals, access to the single market, and access to one of the biggest economies in the world.

We pay a hefty membership to be part of this member state, as one does for a club. But just like in your local athletics, darts, or Harry Potter club you receive something in return: a cape, a club house, weekly training sessions, equipment, subsidised entry fees, insurance, and membership to the worldwide Harry Potter alliance.

EU money pays for our roads in areas like Cornwall as part of the regeneration scheme, bridges and infrastructure in some British cities, investment to the NHS, renewable energy infracstrure, and some government schemes are partially funded by the EU. Wales is the biggest benefitter of EU funding (in terms of UK countries) as it goes through regeneration.

Why wouldn’t a tiny island in the sea want to be part of that?

The EU was set up after the Second World War as a peace organisation between member states. In the 1970’s the UK became a member of the ECC (now the EU) and a few years later had a referendum vote. The British public voted to stay in the EU, so what has happened since?

The nonesense debate about taking control of our borders has been going on since the 1960’s and it will continue to go on forever more. But if we have free movement to places like Spain, Germany, France and Portugal, why should those citizens not have free movement to the UK?

Let’s not forget our country is surrounded by the sea. There are exceptions to the rule on how people enter illegally, (such as the immigration crisis in Calais last year) but that happens in every country, and yes changes need to be made to prevent this but the numbers are minuscule in terms of the bigger picture. For anyone to get in, unless they arrive by swimming they have to go through a border.

To obtain a UK visa for non-EU citizens is now extremely difficult. First of all it is not a simple as just getting a visa, there are so many different types. Which cost different amounts and the individual receives different benefits, such as receiving NHS care the same as a UK tax payer.

In Germany I met an Australian girl who applied for a visa, it her cost $1,000 AUS dollars, (the price has recently gone up) and she has to sit a test. This is not a girl who is coming in the country to “take our jobs” she has a profession and is looking for a place in Europe to settle in, and to simply pass through the UK to visit some friends in Edinburgh, she still has to go through this process.

An EU source told the BBC: Everyone in EU parliament think “the Brits have lost it.”

Back to Brexit, the leave campaign did make some good points, and there are so many things that need to be improved in the EU, such as all of the problems surrounded by the migrant crisis last year, trade deals, and so on. But look at the way the referendum ended…

The Leave campaign was taken to court over “knowingly misleading” voters over the figure of £350bn paid to Europe every week, which was found to be purely mythical. In addition to this, take a look at the politicians who were heading the campaign: one is the former and current, and former and current leader of the UK Independence Party. Another is a former cabinet minister who was sacked after the by-election. And the final is Boris Johnson: a once good Mayor of London who stood for two terms, but since failed on his dream to become Prime Minister. Instead settled for a role too far out of his depth as foreign secretary, as a result the international reaction was “overwhelmingly negative”. After the news of Johnson as foreign secretary, an EU source told the BBC: Everyone in EU parliament think “the Brits have lost it.”

This is not to say the referendum was a waste of time (and money–whose money?). The Brexit campaign posed some good arguments and the EU is by no means a model union. If it were, the UK would have implemented a lot more of EU laws, right? And we might drive on the wrong side of the road and the wrong side of the car.

The Switzerland model works well for the EU and Switzerland. But Switzerland have products and an industry to trade. Much of the British industry has been sold off to foreign companies either in Europe or the rest of the world such as the French energy company EDF who own many UK power stations. The outstanding Chinese trade deal for nuclear power stations, the steel works in the North East is now owned outside of the UK. We have our British farming industry to trade because the produce we consume in this country is imported, yet farmers subsidiaries come from the EU. Where will it end?

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A quote from a prisoner at Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp in Berlin.

On my travels in Europe, I have so far met people from Germany, Portugal, Denmark, France, and Brazil, and I have been in three cities for less than a week overall. We learn by meeting people from all over the world, seeing how different counties operate, and how people communicate. A cosmopolitan Europe is a good thing, but in the UK we seem to be scared of growth, and regeneration. Of Brits under 24, 75 percent voted to remain in the EU. That means a variety of things, that people under 24 want a diverse Britain, they want access to other European countries, because that means more opportunities.

In Copenhagen I made friends with a Portuguese guy, I asked why he settled in Denmark and he said because the wages are much higher and the living conditions are much better. In a medium scale job (not a manager or a supervisor) in one day he earns a the equivalent of a week’s wage in Portugal.

One day I would hope to do the same, to move to a different country for a while, work in a different industry and experience life in a different country. Being part of the EU makes that much easier.

As I discuss the brexit situation with these people from all over Europe, I feel embarrassed to say that nearly 52 percent of the UK voters voted to leave the EU.

 

Downgrading arts and humanities isn’t the key to education

Nicky Morgan, education secretary
Nicky Morgan, education secretary

Last night, education Secretary Nicky Morgan said that teenagers should avoid arts and humanities when making subject choices in schools.

Previously students choose science and maths based subjects to follow a specific career path such as medicine, engineering and science professions, but Ms Morgan said that now it “couldn’t be further from the truth”. It’s seen that students choose the arts and humanities with subjects such as English literature, design, textiles, religious education and history, as topics that may keep their options open to different careers.

Ms Morgan says the key to “[keeping] young people’s options open and unlock the door to all sorts of careers are the STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering and maths),”

Ms Morgan wants to encourage young people avoid arts and humanities otherwise known as “soft” subjects because they don’t have as good job prospects.

Christine Blower, from the National Union of Teachers, said: “Downgrading the arts is the wrong message.”

The vice-chancellor of the University of the Arts London, Nigel Carrington, said: “this absurd discrimination between ‘hard’ STEM and ‘soft’ arts subjects will damage the next generation of entrepreneurs. The Government needs to recognise that creativity is vital to the economy and should be taught.”

If students choose to only study STEM subjects, their prospects are only in science and technology based jobs, therefore their future doesn’t lie in any other career path.

Ms Morgan’s point is that students may be harming their future if they don’t choose the right subjects. But surely to allow the student to make the choice is the most important thing. Bridges can be built later in life when they have decided their career path. Mature students at university and adult colleges, are in place to allow this to happen.

It didn’t stop Louise Minchin who studied a degree in Spanish and is now a journalist and news presenter.

David Cameron studied history of art, history, politics and economics at A level. (Source: The Independent)

Gordon Brown studied a degree in history, and prior to becoming Prime Minister worked as a TV journalist. (Source: BBC)

Students should be encouraged to pursue the subjects they have an interest and excel in. Not all students are academic, and therefore don’t have an interest in STEM subjects and will find a career in an alternative subject.

As an employer of an engineering firm, you have two candidates both with the same qualifications and experience, but one has a skill, and an interest in something other than engineering, perhaps can play an instrument, or is creative and competent in product design…

Which one would you choose?

Not only that, but beyond education, intelligence doesn’t lie with good exam results. Non-academic people have valuable skills needed in industries which this country wouldn’t survive without. Having terrible exam results doesn’t mean people are unintelligent. Intelligence applied, coupled with skills and creativity conceives a good environment, and a balanced society.

For example in the profession of journalism, both English language and literature is a humanity and an art subject, without these there would be no journalists, nor people who could write, or construct a sentence.

What about the professionals in beauty and hairdressing? Granted they perhaps need some knowledge of chemicals, but an A level in maths, technology or engineering need not apply.

What about in the design sector? When a surgeon, somebody who has studied science, and medicine for a number of years, decides to buy a painting, or refurbish their home, they go into a gallery, or a show room where they expect the artist or designer to have studied or at least have a vast amount of knowledge of art and design and the products there. And they want to see how creative the person is to apply something different to their wall.

When you go into a book shop, you expect the writer of your chosen title to know how to string a sentence together, and to have some creativity in constructing a story. You don’t learn creativity from studying STEM subjects.

If the message keeps continuing into the next generation after generation… they will eventually all have qualifications in the “hard” subjects, surely there will be nobody fit to work in the art or humanities industry. Then, consequently, the science, technology, engineering, and maths sectors will be overrun, and too competitive because everybody has the same qualifications.

There are thousands of jobs in both arts and humanities, and more and more are created everyday, more of which require knowledge and a form of qualification in the subject. STEM subjects are important for the professionals who need the exact qualifications such as doctors, nurses, and scientists, but not everybody should be swayed to these professions.

Not everyone has an interest, or a capability of studying “hard” subjects, students should be free to make their own subject choices. Not guided by the people who cannot fix the education system as it is.

 

 

(Photo: Wikipedia)