As part of our annual WOW Month, we got some top tips for fitness and wellbeing from colleagues and friends of the firm.
We are proud to sponsor professional Irish cyclist Megan Armitage, and this week she shares her fitness tips, talks about what makes a good professional athlete and how she motivates herself to stay on track.
What are your top 3 fitness tips?
There’s a huge array of tips out there to help you stay on top of your fitness goals. There’s no exact magic formula that’s going to fit the precise lifestyle of every individual but here are my top 3 fitness tips that I think are applicable to most people!
Being consistent is the best way to achieve the fitness goals you have set for yourself. It’s often easy to set expectations and at the first bump in the road to throw in the towel. Missing one workout will not make or break the new lifestyle habits you are trying to achieve, but being consistent over time will lead to longer lasting results.
2. Being realistic
Being realistic with your goals is a hard task to fathom. Oftentimes, our own egos can get in the way and we set goals that are quite frankly unachievable. On the other hand, we can also underestimate ourselves and we don’t set the bar high enough. It’s important to push our boundaries in order to get a verifiable sense of achievement when we meet our fitness goals, but we need to make sure it’s something that is realistic. When we set a goal that we know deep down is not achievable, it is often easier to quit and never know the outcome than to try and inevitably fail.
3. Engaging in an activity that you actually enjoy!
It seems like a pretty obvious tip, and I’m sure you all know this, but it boggles my mind how many people try to achieve a fitness goal but fail to pick an activity or outlet that actually puts a smile on their face. Give me a bike and I’ll happily pedal around for 4 hours but if you were to give me a football, well this would be a different story and I think I’d last all of 10 minutes.
We often over complicate things and think we need to do strenuous exercise to get results but this isn’t the case. Picking something that you enjoy will naturally lead to consistency and long-term results. It will also put a big smile on your face (which is inevitably the goal we are looking for!) So whether it’s hitting the gym, going for a walk or doing some yoga, there’s so many options, but it’s your responsibility to pick one.
What makes a good professional athlete?
There’s many characteristics that make a good professional athlete. Here’s 3 that first came to mind:
Professional sport is hard. Bike racing is a terrible sport if the only enjoyment you get is winning, because quite frankly it doesn't happen very often! There’s also so many variables that can influence who passes the line first. This season has been my first time mixing it up with the best girls in the sport, and I come out of most races with a sense of happiness to have merely crossed the line but also a tangible sense of disappointment to not have done better. It’s a constant learning curve with a lot of highs but also incredible lows. To flourish in professional sport you need to be resilient and not base too much self-worth on the results. You need to be objective in your approach to races and when things go wrong (which they inevitably will) be able to surpass them, learn from the mistakes and hopefully not make them again!
Having a support system around you is so important. It’s too easy at times to become extremely insular when you’re dedicating so much time to a sport, often resulting in other aspects of your life such as social interaction being neglected. Having support from people off the bike is just as important as the people such as coaches who keep you accountable on the bike. As I’ve mentioned, professional sport has the highest highs but also the lowest lows so it’s important to have other aspects of your life that bring you happiness because it’s simply an empty promise to base your identity and sense of purpose purely from a results sheet.
Again, it seems self-explanatory but the best athletes are those that purely take immense enjoyment for their chosen sport. It’s important to be process driven rather than goal orientated. Of course, everyone wants to win but it’s a more enjoyable process if you’re able to take pride in the process, to appreciate the little goals and also be grateful for the opportunities we get to experience along the way regardless of the result.
What are your key nutrition tips?
Hydration is probably the most boring but equally most important nutrition tip I have at my disposal. It’s also something that is completely within my own control. Being hydrated before, during and after races can make or break results. I try to drink at least 2 litres on a rest day, but this increases significantly when I’m doing more strenuous training days. During hot weather, I have to put electrolytes in my water to ensure my sodium levels are maintained and I don’t become dehydrated. To monitor my intake, I usually fill up a big 2 litre thermos and keep it in the fridge, this may be something you consider doing too!
Please do not fear carbohydrates. For an athlete they are the main food group we require in order to perform. Since working with a sports nutritionist over my off season, my consumption of carbohydrates has increased significantly which is one of the main factors that has allowed me to perform better this season. My consumption of carbohydrates varies depending on the day-to-day requirements of my races. For example, if I have a multiple day stage race coming up, the majority of my calories will be coming from carbohydrates. However, on rest days and the off season, I do not require as many carbohydrates so my consumption will be reduced. It’s also important to replenish your stores during and after a training session. If my session is longer than 90mins then I always bring some form of carbohydrate rich food with me on the bike. After a long session I make sure to eat within a 20min window when I arrive home. Even if you are not a professional athlete, cutting out complete food groups that are deemed ‘bad’ isn’t something I would recommend.
Recovery is what makes you a better athlete, not the amount of hours you spend in the saddle. Adaptations are made off the bike, so it is important to facilitate adequate recovery to allow for these improvements. Recovery for me involves 8-10 hours of sleep a night, taking my rest days off the bike, stretching and yoga, taking power naps if required and managing stress. I think recovery is something everyone could pay a little closer attention to, as in the long term you will reap the benefits and improve quicker.
What’s your favourite food for energy/nutrition?
My favourite food that I use for energy on the bike are rice cakes. I’m often too lazy to make them myself but I always look forward to them at races. The ingredients sound quite odd but they taste really good! The soigneur will cook rice, mix it with cream cheese, sugar, coconut oil, chocolate chips and sometimes Nutella (if we’re good!!) The mixture is then cut into squares and wrapped in foil. We put them in our back jersey pockets to eat during the race to avoid the dreaded bonk!
How do you motivate yourself to stay on track with your wellness?
Looking after my wellness in terms of my mental health is something that is a continuous work in progress for me. When I’m so focused on achieving a goal it’s easy to neglect other aspects of my life which in the long term are not sustainable. I try to carve out time to spend with my friends and family. I make sure to get optimal recovery, sleep, eat well and have other interests outside of sport. It’s often a juggling act and it’s never a seamless process, but it’s most definitely worthwhile. In order to stay accountable, I often use apps as a resource to help me with this process. Some of my favourite apps include:
- The calm app
- To do - it’s really good for making to do lists