Chrissie Slot and nine other cyclists are keeping rider journals for The British Continental in 2021. Chrissie only started cycling three years ago and this season will be her first year racing at the national level, a big step in her fledgling career. She will ride for Brother UK – Team OnForm. In her third journal entry, she explains why the perception of being a full-time cyclist doesn’t always match the reality and reflects on the importance of a life outside of cycling…
Dreams and reality are often so different. I was thinking about this the other day, how the career ambitions I had growing up looked so different in my mind compared to what they actually feel like in real life.
The hectic life I had back then was a blessing in disguise. It meant that every time I turned the cranks over, I appreciated everything about it
Back at university, going full-time as a cyclist was a dream at the back of my mind, always just out of reach, as studying had to be the priority. Although I didn’t realise it at the time, I think the hectic life I had back then was a blessing in disguise. It meant that every time I turned the cranks over, I appreciated everything about it: the freedom, the escapism, the chance to reflect.
But as Marilyn Monroe famously once said: ‘dreaming of being an actress is often more exciting than being one’. And I don’t mean to sound cynical or pessimistic, but I think there’s something to be taken from that quote, even if it’s just that the lives people appear to lead online paint a warped image of what their lifestyle is really like.
Anyway, after graduating, I hit a crossroads: do I go straight into full-time work, or commit to cycling for a year? Admittedly, I was pretty naïve and was heavily swayed by the rose-tinted vision of other riders’ social media. And so, with that filtered image in my mind, coupled with the bucketload of motivation I had, committing to cycling seemed like a no-brainer.
However, as I began to take training more seriously, the saying ‘cycling is a lifestyle’ really started to ring true. I suddenly became aware of the effect that every aspect of my life might be having on my performance: stress levels, sleep, nutrition. All the focus on myself wasn’t doing my head any good; I really struggled to switch off from it. And an unhappy rider isn’t a good rider. No doubt about it.
I underestimated the benefits that non-cycling distractions had on my riding. They gave me a reason to get out and ride, another side to my identity
But now I’m starting to realise – the bigger picture is so important. To be my best self, cycling needs to be just one string to my bow, like it used to be. Looking back, I underestimated the benefits that non-cycling distractions had on my riding. They gave me a reason to get out and ride, another side to my identity. It’s all personal, but I do think that to truly appreciate what you have, you need distance from it.
I think as an athlete, however, it’s common for passion and motivation to slip into obsession and perfectionism. Just like nerves can slide from excitement to fear. It’s all a bell curve, and in my opinion, the curve extends to every aspect of life; you can nearly always have too much of a good thing. Personally, that’s exactly what last year made me see. Being a full-time athlete looks great on Instagram, but the mental challenges aren’t really spoken about. Knowing what I know now, I wouldn’t have gone ‘full-time’ so early on; there’s a lot to be said for not rushing, mentally more than anything. But then again, you have to live to learn.
Speaking of not rushing, that’s exactly how I’d describe my race preparation! Following on from my last journal, I’m still on a break from structure, and – well – riding at all, actually. It’s been a good decision, given that I’d been burnt out for a while, not just from the training. I won’t lie, going from riding 10-18 hours a week to barely at all has left me with a lot of extra time. But my newfound love for yoga has definitely helped fill that void, as well as improving my flexibility loads. My theory behind it is this: if I can get my CdA (aerodynamic drag) ridiculously low, it won’t matter in the upcoming time trials that I haven’t been training…
With that, I’m looking forward to getting things going with Brother UK – OnForm (fingers crossed) soon! Even if the racing is only 30 minutes long, it’ll be good to add a social element to what’s been quite a solitary time. After my month-long hiatus, it’s fair to assume I probably won’t be flying, but being mentally fresh takes priority. And right now, we have time on our side.
Featured photo: Daniel Gould
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