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The Student Athlete – When work gets too much?

Written 2.11.14!
So while I’m sat on a flight to Porto on the west coast of Portugal, eating breakfast & drinking a recovery shake, I’m starting to wonder how bad student life can be?

Work? Some students will ask you what that even is! Gone are the days of being a fresher or sitting in our room keeping ‘entertained’ until training comes around. Some having more fun than others in Ben’s case.


Yeah ok the government are conning me out of £9,000 a year, my rent is more than my maintenance grant & the athlete’s food bill could feed a family of 4. We’re just under 4 weeks into term and I’ve been in the studio working past 12 at least 20/30% of those nights. But all we do is train, drink & sleep right?

If you asked Bath Spa what we do at university, they’d tell you we don’t go hard.

If you asked the locals, they’d tell you we ruin the crescent & other nice landmarks drinking & littering.

And I suppose if you asked our parents what we do at university, they’d tell you on the average day we’d wake up at maybe 1 or 2, eat a meal sat in our pants at the kitchen table, before returning to ‘the cave’ for another hour or so. Maybe do our first session, turn up to the odd lecture here and there before training a second time. Go out for dinner with our mates or see the girlfriends before starting pre drinks. Going out & blowing all our money on ludicrous amounts of alcohol that we don’t need before returning home in some mindless trance, maybe not alone. Get some sleep, & repeat the process. Easy life.

However… This couldn’t be further from the truth!

Balancing student life with sport is a tricky game as any student athlete will tell you, & with a degree like architecture/…pharmacy?, this is no easy feat.

The 8am wake up, all sounds rather easy really, quite laid back day compared to the regular 6am start for the other athletes. But the sleep is most definitely needed.

After getting a thorough breakfast before training I make sure I have everything I need, usually packed the night before & jump on my bike. Depending on the weather & how fresh the legs feel and the looming 9am session, I’ll choose the most suitable route to campus & decide the intensity of the ride.  After all, with fresh legs and a mileage session, it’d be rude not to see what numbers you can push on Strava.

So I arrive at training, usually the morning ergo to keep the rowing muscles crisp, get my recovery shake in and then head over to studio around 11. Already 2 hours behind the rest of the flat on work, I know I’ve got to get my head down.

12.30 comes around and my stomach starts to rumble. It’s been 2 hours since my recovery shake and my body knows it’s time for some more food. So I take a quick lunch break before powering on with the studio drawings, desperately trying to catch the volumes of work everyone else has produced.

At 3 I’ll start to tire, a cycle up, session and 4 hours solid working start to take their toll. Drop Pan a quick text, he’s got too much work to train. Turns out we’re not the only course that actually does something on campus.

So I return to the gym for the lonely second session before it gets too late for my body to handle. 5 and it’s another 3 hours work before heading home for dinner at 8. I’m already a step behind with the work, and a step behind on training as I wasn’t completely fresh like some of the other athletes, which has to give?

8pm, 12 hours into the day. Right about now we’d be looking to finish the ironman in Nice and we’ve completed a cycle to uni, cycle home, 2 sessions and 7 hours of work in the studio.

But still the day goes on. 9pm and it’s time for a few more hours work.

Through the early days of the project it’ll be a short-lived work session before off to chill for the evening with a friend. Sometimes pre’s before the others go for the late night lash. After all, nobody can complain at good company. Going out is off the cards, as you can’t run the risk of ruining training the next day. On a schedule like this, catching up sessions isn’t something you want to be doing.

In the later weeks of the project it’ll be back to studio at 9pm before returning home somewhere between 12-2 ready to sleep and recover for the next day.

So the average day seems to consist of:

20 minutes to wake up & get ready

40 minutes – 1 hour of commuting & getting changed.

3 hours eating or cooking.

4 hours training, stretching and showering.

12 hours working.

1 hour chilling.

And then of course 8 hours recovery sleep for the athlete.

4.. 8… same thing right?

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Training: A Healthy Pastime or Horrible Addiction?

This is a topic I have just written a 3,000 word university essay on, as it is currently being marked I’ll have to save the publication of that for a later date.

There’s a certain amount of admiration given to all athletes, be it the guy that won the high school race or the olympic champion. People pay respect to the people that work hard and get the results. And after all, like we’re taught from a young age, it’s the taking part that counts, right?
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It’s 5am and you wake up to the horrible drone of the iPhone alarm, quickly hitting snooze so it can pleasure your ears again 5 minutes later. 
Training is in 30 minutes but you still can’t bring yourself to go down for breakfast or brace the cold, wet morning knowing that your bed is warm & dry.
You just about conquer the step out of bed, pull on some kit and head down to the kitchen, praying that in some miracle a full english has been cooked waiting for you. However the morning weetabix taste surprisingly similar to the day before, but you know it’s gotta be eaten. Flacking in training is not an option.
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Healthy lifestyle, healthy mind.
Arriving at training you look around and that couldn’t seem farther from the truth. Dull and weary; everyone is feeling the same. There’s some comfort knowing that the rest of the team are going through the same thing, but all with the same question on the mind.
‘why are we doing this?’
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If you miss training you feel guilty, groggy, lazy. You know it’s not been done, you’ll never make that time back, the goals are one step further away. 
So you go, you go because you have to, your mind won’t let you not. You want to be faster, bigger, stronger, better, whatever the aim of the session may be, “you’ll feel better for it afterwards”.
An hour, how hard can it be? A OWA. 1 hour. Of my life.
10 minutes in it still feels easy.
20 minutes in you want it to stop.
30 minutes in you’re ready to stand up.
29:59 left, I can do this.
29:50….
29:45….
29:30…..
It goes through your head that you’ll quit all sport the moment you finish. You’ll never do this again, it’s pointless, pain for no reason. I’d much rather be out on the lash, or tucked up in bed.
Eventually, in what feels like a few hours later, it ends. You feel tired, achey. But there’s a strange feeling in your chest, a relief, a happiness? that it’s finished. You’ve improved and feel better for it, you almost want more. But are you getting better, or just fuelling the addiction?
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So off we go to Kaha’s next destination.. work/uni/home. We feel tired and hungry ticking away the seconds until we could have a little nap or a bite to eat. Resisting the urge to eat the protein bar in your pocket until you know it’s time, constantly making trips to the water fountain to maximise hydration.

Off out for lunch, finally! everyone gets a pint, you’d love to but the voice in your head won’t let you. You’ve got training. You can’t do it, you have to be the ‘boring one’. Fantastic. You know desert is too unhealthy & just a main won’t fill you up. Lunchtime becomes a constant strain on your wallet.
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And so we go again, work, then off to the second session. This is even harder than the first because you have the fatigue lingering in your legs. We could just miss it though right? The little voices battle for a few minutes before you finally reside yourself to just getting on with it.
“Just do it”
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A Summer of Results

2015 was an interesting year for me. Finishing off my third year at university, working for 8 months at a large architecture firm in Bristol, taking up a new sport and finally starting what would be my last 9 months in undergraduate education.

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I started triathlon in January of 2015, coming from a family of recreational cyclists I had been no stranger to a bike ride however I’d spent the last 3 years rowing for the university. Sitting at the best part of 90kg I knew I had a lot of weight to lose, and not a lot of time. I had to fit my training in around a full time job which proved no easy feat. I started off by joining Bath Cycling Club. A very supportive club with an active race squad in the South-West area. Alongside the support from these experience cyclists, I could run in my own time and teach myself to swim. Although competent enough not to drown, armbands aside this was going to be a long process.

My first race was Ironman Nice, as a sufferer of IBS and a newbie to the sport this was going to be a huge learning curve for me. A day of 31 degree heat and poor nutrition led to struggles before even leaving the bike. With my strongest discipline compromised I knew that it was going to be a battle to get round. Putting this to the back of my mind I put a smile on my face and got round in 12:31. 12544680_10156443795160346_680172517_o
Back to the drawing board, I had 10 weeks until I would be on the start line of Ironman Wales. Knowing that drawing on the knowledge I had gained from Nice alongside a solid 8 months of training behind me, I could make a much better second impression.

With my average mileage at over 500km a week my legs were starting to feel the effects. Dropping down to 78kg to manage the hills was a diet I’d rather not repeat. A cold windy morning at the end of the heavy block and 3 weeks out from Ironman Wales saw us on the startline of the Cotswold Classic. A local middle distance race I targeted to check form. Coming out of the water in the middle of the field I knew I’d have a lot of work to do if I wanted to press the lead. A solid bike leg saw me 11th fastest, overtaking some of the time trial bikes with the road bike set up. Finishing off with a solid 1:28:50 half marathon saw me win my Age Group, qualifying for the ITU European Championships 2016.

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With confidence in my form I was able to move forward to Wales with my mind much more relaxed. Standing on the start line with waves bigger than the hills I was about to cycle was a very daunting experience from me. I emerged from the water again in the middle of the field at 1163rd place, I knew that my legs were going to have to pull something special out of the bag. Putting the other competitors out of my mind and trusting my legs I began to do what I do best, spin.

Finishing what I would later find out was 33rd on the bike like, I got off my bike in 130th place and started the run. The empty field before my implied that I’d achieved a solid bike split. Putting this out of my mind I started to run. Taking each 5k at a time and making sure I didn’t stop, I was round before I knew it. Finishing in a final time of 11:05:57, 1 minute and 30 seconds off a Kona slot and moving me into the current top 10 under 24’s. Not bad for my 3rd ever triathlon. This would qualify me for the ITU Long Distance European and World Championships, a new challenge to be taken forward and a good end to my first season in triathlon.

Seasons Bests:

Half Marathon: 1:24:47 (Cardiff Half)

Cycle Race: 2nd (Odd down summer series & Bath CC Road Race)

Cycle Audax: 240km, 33.3kmph

Middle Distance Triathlon: 04:23:28 (1st u24, 28th overall) (Cotswold Classic)

Long Distance Triathlon: 11:05:57 (3rd u24, 98th overall) (Ironman Wales)

Highest 2015 Ironman Ranking: 10th Global, 2nd GB