Gold medals, hair loss and the importance of wellbeing
Most people take a gap year before going to university but I look a gap decade.
When I started my physiology degree at Manchester Metropolitan University last September I was 28 and although I had no concerns about being a mature student, I suddenly felt very old.
When I graduate I’d like to work in healthcare because I know the difference that sport can make to improving people's health.
I can honestly say it was never a dream to become an Olympic cyclist, the dream found me.
I'm from London and I was talent spotted at the age of 15 and moved to Manchester to pursue my cycling career at the age of 18 after my A-Levels.
I used to train six days a week, with two sessions a day on four days.
I've had alopecia, a condition which results in hair loss, as long as I can remember. It doesn’t bother me now. I wear wigs but it doesn't define who I am in same way gold medals don't define who I am.
When you're an elite sportsperson people imagine you're really fit but my memory of my life as a cyclist is of being permanently exhausted.
Life would revolve around resting, training and eating and in general spending as little time on my feet as possible.
For 10 years I put my heart and soul into my cycling career. I travelled the world training and competing but didn’t normally see much more than a hotel room and a velodrome.
After winning gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics I took a few months thinking about my future and decided to retire in spring 2017.
It was a hell of a ride but I’ve never regretted retirement. I’ve now got far more energy and feel 29 instead of 89.
As well as some commentary and corporate work I decided to finally start university after my gap decade.
One of the other things I do in my spare time is volunteer for British Cycling as a Breeze Champion and lead women-only bike rides. Many different things can put people off cycling, from road safety, fear of not keeping up, what to wear and how to maintain your bike, so this initiative aims to break down some of those barriers and it’s very much about riding a bike as a leisure activity rather than to compete.
That's why exercise and wellbeing is so important. It gives participants more confidence. There’s nothing nicer than seeing a social media post from someone who has completed their first group ride, or conquered a further distance than ever before.
It’s only natural that you're going to work harder if you're happier. I learnt in sport that a balanced lifestyle and being happy off the bike made me perform far better on it. Wellbeing is vital in business as it is in life.
- 'Wellbeing: Unlocking your business potential’ takes place on September 25 at UKFast Campus in Manchester. To register for free go to http://www.businesscloud.co.uk/events/2018-09-25-winning-the-race-for-talent