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ELITE SPORT AND A MASTERS

The Juggling Act from Maddy Henderson

Here we have the first BLOG contribution from one of our ambassadors, Maddy Henderson on how she manages a hectic training and university schedule. This is what she had to say.


Juggling triathlon and study really come to a peak in the spring and summer months. If you asked me where I revised for my exams over the past three years of my degree, my answer would be about four different countries, airport gates, mini-buses and most commonly the back of the car squeezed in next to a dog and a bike. They may not have been the most conventional study spaces, but they have worked for me. In my second year I was in Dunkirk ten hours before an exam in Loughborough (409kms away), I still owe my dad for getting me to that one! Having a manic schedule isn't something I really consider anymore and it's just the norm now, but I often get asked how I manage it, so I have got some hints and tips for anyone who is struggling to juggle study (or work) and hobbies.

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My main strategy is weekly planning, although this isn't exactly ground-breaking I prefer to call it flexible timetabling. At the start of the week I work out what needs to be done and what commitments I have. From there, I can make a rough timetable. I try to stick to it as much as possible but sometimes things come up, like multiple puncture bike rides or cancelled flights. Not staying strictly to my timetable means I put less pressure on myself so I am less stressed if I can't start work or don't feel up to working at the time I had planned.


 Although, this strategy comes with a big BUT! If you choose to have a flexible timetabling approach there is one key consideration to make, priorities. Each week I know what is most important and what can wait if absolutely necessary. Often I find myself prioritising pieces of work that my course-mates are putting off for another couple of weeks, but it is through prioritising things well ahead of the deadline that I am able to not be stressed and not miss training because I have left coursework too late. 

Ultimately, the key reason I am able to manage both an 18 hour training week and full time study for a Masters degree in Physical Geography is my enjoyment of both. On the surface neither compliment each other, yet both provide an outlet for one another. So, when uni is stressful, training is the perfect way to refocus and relax and on the other hand if I have a niggle or training isn't going so well I can still achieve academically which re-motivates me to train. The lack of similarity between the two pursuits has meant I have met so many people with different outlooks that I have learnt so much more than if I had been forced to choose between my degree or triathlon.

So, in a nutshell, the way I can juggle both my masters and triathlon is planning and a genuine passion for both the sport and the subject I study. 

My advice to anybody currently struggling with maintaining academia and competing in any sport is to choose subjects to study which you genuinely enjoy and make sure you continue to enjoy the sport as well. Throughout university I have managed to take every opportunity that has come my way both in triathlon and geography with confidence that I will be able to find the time to fit everything in. It is surprising just how much time there is in a day when your weekly screen-time report shows an average of 1.5 hours a day.(apparently that's low?)

I am now reaching the end of my degree, so from someone who has been through it, not only is it possible but I would recommend continuing to compete in your sport whilst at uni because it has certainly provided me with a much wider range of opportunities and experiences than just one or the other would have done.

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