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Life Balance – How friends are key to elite success

We’re back again with our favourite Paralympian – Hannah Dines. We can’t believe we’re already at number three of her guest blogs. In this blog, she gives us a very open and frank insight into her professional life. Hannah talks about how she uses help from her friends and other distractions to balance her life.


“There are a lot of other things in your life though”

I immediately bristled to the men’s World Champion from this year’s trike road race. As he tried to justify my defeat in the women’s events. We used to date and we have little Facebook chats at race time. Being my ex, I had felt shy about updating him. I had to take almost three months off to undergo two extensive vulval surgeries, and so I just didn’t let him know. So he might have been referring for my need to work ceaselessly around training. Or the fact I kept my legs in at RaceRunning, the athletics discipline I also compete in. I wanted to rigorously explain to him that there’s a difference between activities which keep you balanced and the ones that physically drain you and negatively impact your training.

Off the bike

My zero hours contract job of note taking for students all over the learning institutions in and around Manchester really drained me. What had been advertised as entirely flexible was in fact a regimented schedule. With so many last-minute phone calls from a manager – whilst I was mid road ride – asking if I could just cover someone else’s lecture.

So too, waiting on doctors to rule out a cancer diagnosis after surgery. This used up all the useful cortisol I used in my training sessions to dodge cars, keep my balance and remain focused. The degree I have been ‘drip’ studying for two years though, that was different. Adding a new slice to my universe, like a surprise bit of lemon drizzle every Friday! RaceRunning is a different sport to cycling entirely. Though the immense grassroots structure it has in every part of the UK filled in the massive gaps of life as an unfunded British Cycling athlete. RaceRunning can be used for endurance training or sprint efforts in cerebral palsy athletes.

Balance Life - Climbing with friends
Taking the time to escape training to spend time with friends

But of course, the men’s trike racing World Champion was right!

I went into this year’s World Championships with more than any athlete should have on her plate; my coach having died. I took a break from training to mourn, and went in having matched my all time best twenty minute power. My intention was to set times and results I could be proud of. I came 5th in the time trial and 4th in the road race at this year’s World Championships. Much further back from the podium than I’ve ever been before. Frankly, I’m not where I should be if I want to compete at a Paralympic Games in less than 12 months. Maybe it was because I’ve had a life of death and injury, maybe it’s the unknowns, or maybe it’s the late night study sessions and invoice chasing.

What kept me and all my pieces together?

In amongst the chaos, it was not the cycling. Had I just been cycling I may well have decided not to attend at all. It was the balance of having friends rallying around me and the genomics project (I had been running for my Masters Degree) that kept me focused on something other than my own sport performance. In fact, it was exactly because I had a lot of other things in my life that I got through any of it. Living a life this full of friends, strength, side projects and big bear hugs is exactly what I needed.

I am so grateful for each and every one of them. Here’s to living a full life, of failures and joy and resilience! Have a little look at the video below from Storey Racing‘s Monica Dew, she got the opportunity to follow Hannah and Katie Toft as they prepared for and raced the Paracycling International in Yorkshire.


Did you enjoy that? Will you be making the life balance part of your routine? Want to read more from Hannah? Well, you can go back now and read her previous blogs. Simply click on the links to read Terminating Injury and A Day in the Life of a Paralympian.

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