By Jersey Sport’s CEO, Catriona McAllister
While 2020 brought new challenges, it also presented the opportunity to reflect on the important things in life. Quality time with family and friends came out on top as we tackled the isolation of lockdown, but also high on the list was our health.
More specifically, our physical and mental health.
COVID-19 gave us a new perspective on health and fitness, highlighting sport and active living as tools to improve our emotional wellbeing, not just our waistlines.
Pandemics aside, 2020 nudged me into taking more responsibility for my own health and shaking up my fitness routine to achieve some exciting new goals.
At the beginning of the year, I cycled to work most days (from west to town) and found it a great way to counteract the pressures of combining my full-time, CEO role and my role as a mother of three. Over the years I’d had to find sports that worked well with a hip problem and tried, but didn’t always succeed, at keeping my weight in check. Cycling as a commute ticked all the boxes as well as allowing me more time with my family.
I’d started cycling to work when I moved to the island, swapping a two–hour daily commute for the beauty of Jersey, first one day a week, then two and three. After realising I wasn’t in my twenties anymore, I invested in an electric bike which allowed me to cycle virtually every day without experiencing the same level of fatigue. This also enabled me to play my part in ‘active transport’ on the island, reducing the number of cars on the roads during busy periods. I noticed very quickly, improvements in my health, fitness, mood and weight.
My passion for cycling evolved into setting up the Breeze ladies-only cycling community in 2019. Bringing women together and sharing my enthusiasm gave me a sense of purpose. Listening to inspiring stories of how the group helped individuals overcome personal struggles and feel confident, healthy and happy again made me even more fired up about cycling. During lockdown, the community spirit of the group helped keep us all emotionally sane, even though we couldn’t actively meet for many weeks.
At some point during 2020, the ex-competitive sports player in me wanted to come out to play! While I loved cycling for the social, physical, emotional and environmental benefits, I also wanted to get faster!
Using my background in sports science and a solid knowledge of my own body and limitations, I designed a programme that targeted my weaker areas of strength and speed. Later, with the help of a local sports nutritionist, we fine-tuned my diet to help me achieve my performance and weight loss goals.
In the summer, I joined in some track races with the Jersey Cycling Association. I was totally out of my comfort zone, anxious and nervous, and even thoroughly hopeless with the young academy riders showing me just how it’s done! But it’s not always about winning! The important thing is to compete against yourself; to become better than you were yesterday, last month or last year. Setting your own goals and success markers is a powerful tool in succeeding with your own personal health ambitions.
What better reward or prize is there than your health?
It’s sad that so many people don’t give new sports or activities a try because they don’t think they’re good enough or worried about looking silly. But sport doesn’t have to be competitive – you can go along purely for the training and the social aspect. Our Island’s sports clubs are all very welcoming and love helping others enjoy their sport. You might even find you do have a little competitive spirit in you once you get started!
Exercising with a group or team (even virtually) is uplifting, motivating, and a great way to sustain new year habits. Why not set yourself a challenge to try a few new sports and, who knows, perhaps like me you will find one that works with your lifestyle. One that will give you more than you could ever have imagined: Improved health, new friends, a sense of achievement and lots of fun and laughter. With over 60 different sports on Island, spanning all ages and abilities, there will be one that works for you.
As we head into 2021, ask yourself this:
What is the thing that will get me outside even when it’s 7am, dark or raining? What is the thing that will make me feel so alive that I’ll have the motivation to keep going, even when things get tough?
And simply, do more of that!
This article was originally published in the Bailiwick Express on 7 January 2021.