Guest blog by Amy Wilson-Hardy, professional rugby player for England 7s
I was the kid at school who went to all the after school clubs. Ever since I was young, I had to be busy. It was down to my dedicated mum - a.k.a. taxi driver, chef, housemaid (the list is endless) – to take me from art club to netball training, via violin lessons. But as I got older, my commitments became slightly more significant and my responsibilities weightier. So I had to learn to organise myself.
A little help from mum
Now, as an international athlete with a slightly unpredictable lifestyle – we never quite know when we’ll be picked to fly off to tournaments around the world – I’m even busier than I was when I was an active junior school pupil. And, because it is vital that I lead a healthy and balanced lifestyle, it’s never been more important for me to be organised.
Last year, as I balanced two parallel aspects of my life – I was finishing my degree in Engineering at Bath University and also training full time with England Women’s Rugby Sevens squad at Surrey – the need to sustain that essential balance was crucial. The challenge was not to get so bogged down with training and academic work, that I neglected social and down time.
So I evolved some techniques and tricks to keep me on top of the game.
It sounds so obvious. But by taking 5-10 minutes before you go to bed to lay out your clothes and get your bag together saves so much time in the morning and means you can get that extra 20 minutes sleep before the alarm goes off.
We are all guilty of it. Coming in from a hard day and heading straight for the sofa where we collapse and suddenly, before we know it, it’s bed time. An evening wasted. Instead, if you have been training, get in the shower straight away. All those jobs that are nagging in the back of your head – aim to get a couple of them done. Make sure you eat your dinner at a sensible time and then relax, guilt free, because you deserve it!
It is sometimes challenging to get enough sleep. I love my sleep and need at least 8 hours to function at my best. When I can’t get enough sleep at night, I will always try and nap during the day.
Due to how our sleep cycles work, there are optimal times to sleep. I avoid setting my alarm to wake me up when I am in a deep sleep, as this will mean I will wake feeling more tired than I did in the first place. So depending on how tired I am and how much time I have, I opt for a quick 20-30 minute nap or a longer hour and a half; normally after training when I’ve come home and showered. Then I’ll have more energy for a productive evening.
To make a meal plan for a whole week can take a bit of time. To produce one for 2-3 days takes no time at all. I personally like doing it on excel. I have a template I use and it’s so easy to quickly jot down what meals and snacks I will need over the next couple of days. I often bulk cook a quantity of one staple ingredient that can be jazzed up with different flavours so that I can grab something quickly and meals will not become monotonous.
I often cook a large batch of jasmine rice, stirring in a large tablespoon of Lucy Bee coconut oil, which makes the texture and taste amazing. Then I will buy several packs of free range chicken breasts, divide them up and marinate them in two or three different flavour combinations so I can combine them with my pre-cooked rice and some fresh veggies for a really quick dinner or lunch if I am short of time or need something to quickly prep if I am out for the day.
It is so important never to neglect spending time with family and friends. When you’re absolutely dedicated to your career, this can be the first thing that slips – but arguably it will also be the factor that comes to haunt you later on.
Family and friends are the people who support you no matter what, so you owe it to them to see them – but you owe it to yourself, too. You need to switch off from a high pressure lifestyle. You need to cherish and enjoy time when you can fully relax as it helps both your body and mind recover.
Everything’s possible if we work hard, eat nutritiously and sleep well. But the busier our lives are, the more pressing the need to plan ahead. So the key to it all is: be organised.
Previous articles from Amy:
Photo Credit John White
Photo Credit Rikki Temi of RMT Photography
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