Start Off Slowly
It might surprise people to know I only started riding my bike again last month after the Tokyo Games. It’s been little and often – an approach I’ve found to be key after any big competition. In fact, I sat down with my training coach after the Olympics and looked at the plan he’d laid out for me. My first thought was, “There is no way I’m doing that.” I felt as though I was coming from nothing – I suppose it was a place of very little energy – and being asked to completely throw myself into it. That said, I knew I had to start somewhere and starting slowly is better than not starting at all. If you hate the thought of running, go for a walk; if the idea of a spin class turns you off, go for a bike ride with your family or a friend. There are ways to be active which don’t involve doing things you hate or are too much for you at that point in time.
Set Yourself Small Targets
It’s fine to start slowly and gradually, but if you don’t set yourself a few realistic targets, it’s easy to do something one day, nothing the next and suddenly you’ve not done anything all week. Plan the week ahead – it might be that all your say to yourself is, “Just 20 minutes a day.” That’s something all of us can do and it doesn’t matter if it’s a walk or a full-body workout. It’ll be different for all us, and even different on different days. At first, it’s the time target that matters. Once you build some momentum, you’ll inevitably want to do a bit more. If you reset these targets every Sunday night, you can keep changing things up so you don’t get bored.
Find A Routine
The pandemic has been so different to anything we, as athletes, have ever had to deal with in the past. I’ve had races delayed or cancelled, sure, but this was on another level. We’ve never had an Olympic Games delayed before. Thankfully, I had a solid routine to fall back on during the first couple of lockdowns – it mainly involved going out on my bike, then coming back and walking the dogs. It became such a ritual that I really relied on to stay sane. My mental health might not have been so strong in the end without it.
I appreciate that, as athletes, a lot of our routine is laid out for us by professionals who know what they’re doing, but whether it’s getting up at the same time every day or eating at the right times, a routine can help you achieve your goals faster. I really believe that. You don’t have to punish yourself if things start to slip – we all have commitments and things that change last-minute – but if you have a base level to come back to when things go wrong, it’s a lot easier not to let it all go to pot.
Broaden Your Focus
For me, my dogs are a huge part of my life. I remember back in 2013, when my husband Jason was off racing cars, I didn’t really have anything to do. He suggested we get a dog and I honestly thought he was mad. I didn’t believe we could balance the commitment with our careers – especially in the run up to the 2016 Rio Olympics. But it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Cycling is great – and it obviously keeps us very fit and healthy – but if I didn’t have anything else in my life to help me switch off, I wouldn’t be as successful. That’s a fact. Getting Sprolo changed my mentality completely. I truly believe having a dog helped me achieve what I did in Rio – it gave me some real perspective and a sense of normality.
Prioritise Good Nutrition
When Jason and I go out on the bikes, it’s vital we come back and eat the right things. We simply couldn’t reach our goals if we didn’t. We obviously get a lot of support from a team of nutritionists –and both have to eat very different things to fuel our training – but if you’re looking to get into some sort of routine now that it’s the New Year, I really rate meal delivery services. You can control the calories, choose to stick to vegan food only – the options are endless. And you might just find it an easier way to reset your eating habits at the beginning of the year. Once you’re in more of a routine – and it might only take a week – you might feel confident enough to take things into your own hands.
I’ve been told what and when to eat for such a long time now, it almost feels like second nature. And yet, whenever people ask me what my favourite healthy snack is, I always say a banana. Sometimes, simple is actually best. There’s no need to overcomplicate things. In fact, a good diet is something I’m so passionate about, I’ve even extended it to the dogs – trust me, decent dog food can be hard to find and having one that’s actually good for them is crucial! My go-to brand is ORIJEN.
Encourage Healthy Habits
Of course, Jason and I are lucky to be in the same career, so nutrition and exercise isn’t much of a debate in our house. But our son Albie isn’t on our bandwagon, so I’ve made it a priority to try and extend some of our healthy eating habits to him. It’s something I’d recommend to anyone out there trying to be a little bit healthier in 2022 – if the whole family’s on board, it will be easier. I know that’s easier said than done with kids, though…
The secret to getting a four-year-old to eat vegetables? Blend it. If he sees carrots on the plate, he just won’t eat it. But whizz it up as part of a pasta sauce and he doesn’t know the difference. I was a bit of a fussy eater as a kid, so I get it, but Jason wasn’t – he definitely grew up in a you-finish-what’s-on-the-plate kind of household.
Find Ways To Deal With The Pressure
I’ve had my fair share of big pressure moments and all of us deal with pressure in different ways – some better than others. Mental health is as important as physical health, and I find one usually feeds into the other. It’s why I don’t read any of the press or comments around a big race and certainly the Olympics. The smallest of comments can completely derail me mentally and it’ll show up in my performance on the track.
It sounds odd, but my advice when it comes to protecting your mental health is don’t engage. If there are things – be it the news, comments from other people, social media – which make you anxious or upset, learn to tune it out or turn it off completely. It’s important to remember we’re the ones in control of our emotional wellbeing.
Establish A Support System
So often, I rely on my family for help. I know full well I couldn’t do most of this alone – whether it’s a bit of emotional support in the build-up to a high-stakes race or looking after Albie while Jason and I are away. Plus, if my family don’t agree with something they’ll tell me, and it keeps me really grounded. People say I’m quite no-nonsense, but that’s a direct result of who my parents are and the way I was raised. I never want people to question how I’m feeling – even in the middle of the velodrome, I’ll let people know. In my opinion, it’s important to surround yourself with people you can count on and who can help you out in the tough times. It’s one of the biggest keys to my success.
Laura Kenny is working with premium pet food brand, ORIJEN, to help pet parents provide the best nutrition for their dogs and cats through biologically appropriate meals found in the ORIJEN range. Visit ORIJENPetFoods.co.uk.
DISCLAIMER: Features published by SheerLuxe are not intended to treat, diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. Always seek the advice of your GP or another qualified healthcare provider for any questions you have regarding a medical condition, and before undertaking any diet, exercise or other health-related programme.