LOCKDOWN DIARIES: The elite athlete enjoying downtime

Elite cyclist Abi Smith is making the most of living in beautiful rural North Yorkshire, while finding time to bake and paint

TEAM GB and World Championship cyclist Abi Smith is missing her velodrome training and group cycling, and all the major races she’s been working towards have been cancelled. But she’s still managing to look on the bright side.

The Ripon Grammar School sixth form boarding student reveals that she's whiled away a few hours painting her white cycling shoes with Yorkshire roses: “With A-levels and cycling I’ve never had time to do many of the other things I love, such as baking brownies and painting and making greetings cards, so I’ve been enjoying these activities when I’m not on my bike.

"I’m also attempting to learn Spanish to keep my brain active which is quite challenging but hopefully I’ll get there!”

Abi is also thankful she managed to get some spectacular cycle rides under her belt after school shut - during the period of social distancing and before severe lockdown travel restrictions – including an impressive ride from her home in Ryeddale all the way to Scotland.

The 129-mile journey took her an impressive seven-and-a-half hours after her coach jokingly mentioned riding to Scotland: “I don’t like to turn down a challenge, so I decided to take it on,” she says.

“I know that I and many other sports people are finding having no racing and events quite difficult as there is ‘nothing to train for’ in the short term, but there are so many opportunities to get better in the long term.

“I am enjoying keeping up my training and trying to improve on the bike so that when the racing does return, I’ll be in good form and raring to go if I keep working hard now,” she explains. “Without school I have a bit more time during the day so can go out for longer.

“I’ve been entertaining myself by planning some funny shaped routes – including a ‘duck’ and a ‘snail on the social-fitness network Strava, riding 180km for my 18th birthday, as well as challenging myself with the ride to Scotland.”

She feels lucky to live in such a stunning rural area: “Currently lockdown isn’t feeling too much like a lockdown! We can go out for walks and bike rides (alone of course) straight into the beautiful countryside, especially with the nice spell of weather recently.”

While she’s disappointed all her big races have been cancelled, she has more sympathy for this year’s Olympic hopefuls: “I felt this could really be my year to do well. However I feel more for the athletes who were targeting the 2020 Olympics, as they’ve worked so hard for four years or more to get to this point. But I suppose everyone is in the same boat, so we must make the best of what we have, and be thankful we can still train outside.

“It’s hard not going out with friends and for group rides, but considering the circumstances I think we’re very lucky and in a privileged position to be able to still lead happy and optimistic lives, with very few sacrifices compared to others who are suffering terribly during this time.”

Abi’s top tips for life in lockdown

1. Make a list either the morning or the night before, of things you’d like to get done in the day. This keeps things a little more structured and also keeps you busy which always helps!

2. Spend time with the family. Especially with such uncertainty at the moment, it’s really important to make every day that we have with our loved ones count, no matter how annoying they might seem...

3. Only watch the news once a day, or just catch the headlines. It can be quite depressing listening to the same facts, figures and updates all the time, so take yourself away to keep preoccupied.

4. Find things to do that make you happy. I would recommend doing exercise maybe every other day, to get some fresh air and maintain general health. But it could also be things such as baking, cooking, drawing, painting, music, teaching your pets tricks, redecorating, playing board games, or anything else you wouldn’t usually have time to do.

This is the link to my Strava profile if anyone’s interested in following my activities: https://www.strava.com/athletes/6109502