Today I am announcing my retirement from Professional cycling. This decision has not been taken lightly and I just know it is right from me. The past year has given me perspective and taught me how important it is to follow my feeling. Last season with COVID - 19 and a major crash, my outlook shifted and I now look to the future with excitement to take on a new challenge. My career has spanned more than a decade, racing professionally with Rabobank, Wiggle, Hitec Products, WM3 Pro cycling and FDJ Nouvelle Aquitaine Futuroscope as well as with the Australian Institute of Sport. I am grateful to each and every member of these teams as each experience has shaped my outlook and given me invaluable life experience.
Right now I am continuing to run my mentoring program to assist young riders on their cycling journeys, I love this program as seeing these young women empowered gives me great satisfaction. I am looking to return to Australia in the coming months to begin a career in Town Planning and see where that takes me as I intent to make an impact in that world.
Thank you to everyone for being apart of my journey!
I am really excited to be given the opportunity to be an Elite Athlete Ambassador for Quality Mind Global. I have been apart of the Mindfulness Advantage program for the past 6 weeks and I am genuinely at awe in the progress I have made within that time period. I am really excited for the future with Quality Mind and look forward to sharing my story with their community.
What attracted me to Quality Mind was honestly the energy that Rich Moloney and Shaun Higgins had for the program on their podcast; Mindfulness in Sport. I downloaded the free app and checked it out. Being in the coronavirus crisis, I am actively looking for opportunities to better myself and jumped at the chance to be apart of something that could help me reconstruct my mindset towards how I approach races and competition as well as my beliefs of myself, others and obstacles that I face in life.
Already I am blown away with the clear links between mindset and injury as well as the scientific data and studies backing the teachings. I really believe that this is an application that everyone can gain immensely from, whether in elite sport, approach to business or in day to day life.
We cannot always control the situation but we can always control our reaction to it.
If you would like to know more about the Quality Mind Program please reach out!
A three part series of blogs where I will share my thoughts on Mindset and the capacity to grow in this area as well as the techniques I am using to enhance my confidence and improve my mindset on race day.
So how does your mindset affect your confidence, well now racing in my 12th year of international cycling I believe that mindset plays a massive role in performance. Physiology is huge in cycling and performance however at the top level I believe the difference is made in mindset. Or phrased differently, the mindset can influence the physiology to a greater degree than what many may realise.
I believe that there is so much information available on how to physically prepare optimally to compete at the highest level, there is an abundance of coaching, training, sport science and many more support systems available for athletes to progress. But working on your mind and your mental approach to training, preparation and racing is where there is untapped potential.
Cycling is a hard sport, if you crash, the peloton doesn’t wait, there are no time outs and if you don’t finish a stage, you can’t sub someone else in. You develop resilience in this sport to keep going no matter what, but to reach the very top echelons of the cycling world you need more than resilience, you need confidence. According to Psychology today: ‘Confidence is a belief in oneself, the conviction that one has the ability to meet life's challenges and to succeed—and the willingness to act accordingly. Being confident requires a realistic sense of one’s capabilities and feeling secure in that knowledge.’ So what does that really mean, I believe relating it to cycling, it means that you really truly believe in your heart that you not only have the ability to perform to a certain standard, but that you feel secure in that belief. Hoping is not confidence.
I have been working on overcoming self doubt and limiting beliefs in order to build my confidence to take on my goals and dreams. Self doubt is propelled to the limelight come race day IF you are not confident in your ability to perform. Everyone has a different story and upbringing that has shaped them into who they are today and also shaped what they believe. I have learnt that having limiting beliefs is something that you can change through different techniques. My own struggles on race day have been gripped by a belief that certain courses are not suited to me even though data or previous performance may counteract that belief. Building confidence is not something to happen overnight but an area that needs constant maintenance, much like physical fitness. I look forward to sharing some skills I have picked up on overcoming self doubt to build confidence next.
Recovery is a key component to elite sport. While training is obviously a key element to success in any field, allowing your body and mind adequate recovery is key to improve physiologically and mentally as an athlete and person. Personally if I don’t get enough adequate recovery I am not always happy so without adequate recovery I am genuinely not as good physically on the bike or at life stuff in general.
When I was younger in my career, I used to think recovery days were opportunities to go shopping and have adventures with my friends or days to get all the other things done. I have learnt that this is not the best for me. My recovery day is usually spent not doing a lot at all and trying to get a solid afternoon nap in as well. I also love to hang out at the cafe or call a friend to tune out from bikes and the cycling bubble. While I know some athletes who respond really well to having very full ‘recovery’ days, it is just something that doesn’t work for me.
Photo: Laura Fletcher
I think the most important aspect of recovery to consider is sleep. Sleep is the only state wear the body can fully recover and prepare for the next day. You can do every recovery technique in the world but if you have poor sleep quality it is hard to measure up. According to Matthew Walker’s ‘why we sleep’, sleeping less than six hours a night actually makes it as dangerous driving a car as drink driving. Think about that for a moment. You body and brain need sleep to rebuild and rewire every day to create new memories and remove waste. Not only does increasing your sleep hygiene improve longevity, its my number one tip to help you recover better from training and races. If you want to improve you recovery then improve your sleeping habits.
Some other proven recovery tips I love:
Cold water immersion; There are a lot of studies to do with cold water therapy and it is a technique I love. I believe in full body emersion for 10-15min. I know this helps recovery; It actives the parasympathetic nervous system, ‘rest and digest’ system and helps you sleep better and the pressure of the water on your muscles helps them to flush the waste products away. This is also perfect in summer after a long day on the bike!
Massage/physio treatments; I have regular massages, in training blocks I usually try to have a massage every week in order to flush the muscles and also to pick up on any tightness I might have missed before it can lead to injuries. I work with some key people depending on where I am as they know my body and where the tension usually sits. On tour we have a massage daily to aid recovery and flush the race out of our legs.
Food; Nutrition is a key part of success. I am not a nutritionist but I have a love for learning in this field and I am forever trialling different techniques. I believe that everyone is different and has different demands for their body for the optimum recovery, however adequate protein is always key for muscles and cells to rebuild and grow. If you have a second session within 24 hrs, nutrition can play a more major role, if you aren’t training again for at least 1 day then I believe it is less important as you can refuel your body adequately if you are eating a balanced diet that is inline with what works for you. For women, your cycle plays a major role on your ability to access carbs, if you feel tired and struggle to recover in the week before your period, you may need to add some extra good quality carbs to fuel you body.
Stretching/foam roller; Something I think everyone should do every day regardless if they are an athlete or not. I usually spend 5-10 minutes each morning doing some basic yoga stretches and foam roller my back, legs and butt. I think adding this to your routine can really benefit your recovery and set up your day well by getting everything moving.
Meditation; I know it’s a popular thing right now, but I have really enjoyed getting on board. I start my ride each day with a 20’ meditation and I finish my day with a 10’ meditation to wind my mind down and to listen to my body. For me this has been a game changer and I look forward to seeing how this will help me when we get back to the races.
Recovery is a key component to elite sport, but I will argue that it is a key component to life and something everyone should be focusing on to ensure optimum performance, at work, at home or on the bike. I would love to know your recovery plan or what you focus on.
I announced earlier this week on social media that I am looking for two female cyclists to mentor for three months. I am running this as a free opportunity where I want the recipients to gain insight and knowledge on how to take action to make their dreams a reality. Having had a lot of time to reflect on my career to date and my future goals and plans, I have re focused and redefined my purpose in the last few months. I realised I gained so much from helping others and setting up a mentoring program to share my experience and knowledge with the next generation of cyclists gets me seriously excited.
Over the ten years I have been a professional cyclist, I have overcome injuries and setbacks, I have been exposed to many different cultures through different teams and teammates and I have ridden and performed over every type of terrain and in every condition the weather has thrown our way.
Growing up in Port Macquarie, regional Australia, I didn’t have a clear path to the top level of the sport, my story is filled with overcoming obstacles and developing a ‘find a way’ attitude. Everyones path is different and thats what makes the story exciting. I recognise the need for role models and mentors for young athletes and now, in the times of social media and technology, it is possible to connect and embrace the opportunity and responsibility I feel I have as an elite athlete.
I will be establishing an ongoing mentoring program opportunity for athletes to have the chance to connect with me and others as I share my knowledge on different aspects of the sport and how these aspects can be applied to make the next step in their journeys. I intend to cover multiple topics with my mentees, ranging from nutrition options, recovery techniques, general training structure, mindset and meditations, strength training techniques, yearly periodisation, goal setting and exploring missions/purpose and passions. Individual programs will be tailored to each athlete with weekly calls to focus on areas that are the key growth areas for that individual. I believe everyone needs someone they can bounce their ideas off and learn from, I intend to provide that opportunity for athletes.
Establishing this program gets me really excited and emotional. I want to empower others by sharing my story with purpose and passion.