Journals

Nathan Hardy journal: balancing cycling with schoolwork

Journals 2022: Nathan Hardy #01

18-year-old junior Nathan Hardy is one of our eight journal contributors in 2022. In his first entry, the Tofauti Everyone Active explains how he balances his studies and his cycling ambitions…

First of all, I would like to point out that this is not meant to be a guide, or how-to article, but written to shed some light on a challenge that the majority of juniors face: balancing cycling and schoolwork. Also, I want to write this with other juniors and youth riders in mind, knowing that many would always rather be riding a bike than in a lesson. I don’t want to write something just because it’s the ‘right thing to hear’. 

The challenge of juggling studies with cycling is dealt with differently by almost every rider; a wide range of methods are used, yielding a wide range of results

I feel that the challenge of juggling studies with cycling is dealt with differently by almost every rider; a wide range of methods are used, yielding a wide range of results. I also think that the amount of care juniors give to schoolwork varies greatly – some riders I know don’t even go to school!

For me, successfully balancing both cycling and academia involves achieving the best possible results in both, demonstrating an equally high level in both fields. 

Nathan Hardy (second from the right). Photo: Dexter Mansel-Thomas

I would say I am in a good position to achieve this at the moment, having been regularly training for 12 to 15 hours each week during school time over the winter, and also obtaining winter mock results that would be enough to see me into my first choice university. 

I am now only a few months away from finishing my A-Levels in Geography, Maths and Physics, which is quite daunting, especially given that I have never sat official exams before; my GCSEs in 2020 were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

The way I set the winter up starts with receiving my school timetable at the start of September, which operates on a fortnightly basis (which has its benefits but also drawbacks). I then see how many free periods I have toward the end of the day. These enable me to escape early as if I don’t have a lesson I’m not required to be at school. This often gives me the daylight hours of 2 pm – 4 pm to train.

Missing these free periods, however, means that the study time has to be made up for later, so on these days my study usually runs from 7 pm onwards. For most adults, this wouldn’t work well, and I thought this may harm my work rate, but, if anything, my teenage brain is more awake and alert later in the evening than during the early afternoon. This has led me to working at odd times, but I have often handed in high quality pieces of work that I did at 11 pm the night before, whereas something done at a sensible time may score lower. Nonetheless, I do not recommend this, and I still try to avoid it as it is likely damaging to my well-being. 

As with achieving any goals in life, it’s all about prioritising the right things at the right time

As with achieving any goals in life, it’s all about prioritising the right things at the right time. Personally, the right thing to prioritise is always my studies, but this doesn’t mean I  compromise training and racing. I think it’s important to have something else going on outside school so you have that time where you can relax and take a break from schoolwork. But also, I feel that training more helps me think better, and helps keep the mind fresh for when I do need to focus more. 

Photo: Katherine Mills

The biggest piece of wisdom for those younger riders reading that I can offer is always plan ahead. And I mean well in advance, especially around exams, even mocks. I think you should always take these seriously as doing well can boost your confidence for the real exams. A lot of riders and classmates I know don’t like to take them seriously as it’s not the real thing “so it doesn’t matter if I do badly”, but trying to relearn things you learned 18 months ago can be challenging. I think if you do your revision in blocks, and prep well for exams during your first year as a junior, you’ll be able to ride more and be less stressed in year 13, where the pressure is also on to perform on a bike. 

If there are lessons you find challenging, then it perhaps isn’t the best idea to do a three-hour smashfest the night before

And always plan around your timetable. If there are lessons you find challenging, then it perhaps isn’t the best idea to do a three-hour smashfest the night before, else you risk not grasping the content in lessons the next day. Likewise, if you have lessons you find easier or less lessons on one day, then putting a tough session the day before shouldn’t do you any harm. As an example, every other Wednesday I have double physics in period 1 and 2, and an extra hour of maths the day before, so I tend to plan a short, hard session indoors on the Tuesday night so I’m getting to bed sensibly, which not only aids cycling performance, but also my academic progress. 

If you take nothing away from this, then planning and balance are the most important things. 

Featured photo: Dexter Mansel-Thomas

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Journals 2022: introducing… Nathan Hardy

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