It’s time to move on

British pro Vicky Holland, explains her reasons behind why it’s time to hang up the jersey and quit the D-squad

This lifestyle is not sustainable long term. So in search of greater balance, results and happiness, I’m moving on

There’s a lot to be said for consistency of approach and sticking to your guns. As anyone who reads this column regularly will know, I’ve spent the last three years travelling the world with bike in tow, traipsing after my Australian coach, Darren Smith. It’s been an incredible three years, and I have no doubt it has set me on the right path for future success.

I’ve become a senior elite athlete, I’ve learnt how to train properly and consistently, I’ve learnt how to look after my body, recover efficiently and get the very best out of myself at crucial moments. I’ve had amazing races (and some downright awful ones), but most importantly I’ve made lifelong friends on the road to becoming an Olympian. In short, it’s been an amazing ride.

But I’d be lying if I said it’s all been a bed of roses. I’d like to prefix the following statements by saying that I’m not in any way ungrateful or unaware of the fortunate lifestyle I lead and have led these last few years. How many of you would give your right arm (and possibly your left) to be a ‘pro’, and to spend at least nine months a year in Australia, the USA and the Swiss Alps, to name just a few?

However – and yes, there is a big however – sometimes this life has been downright hard. I’ve not spent my birthday with my closest friends and family in four years. I haven’t seen my brother, mother, father or sister on their birthdays in that time, either. I missed my oldest friend’s wedding. To say my relationships have suffered would be an understatement. I’ve been abroad for half of my nephew’s life.

I’ve cried over injury and illness and the sheer frustration of my body not responding as it should and as I want it to. I’ve been lonely beyond belief – sometimes Skype just doesn’t cut it. I’ve felt bullied and victimised by ‘the boss’ and a million miles from the people I need. I’ve cracked under the intensity of a squad where if you’re not at 100% for every session you’ll be chewed up and spat out by a gaggle of World Series medallists. I’ve been hungry for weeks on end trying to get to a race weight that might provide me with one crucial extra percent and qualify me for the Olympics.

I haven’t watched a full series of X Factor in three years… okay, I’m joking with that one… although I genuinely haven’t.

Yes, boo hoo, woe is me. But that’s not my point. In recent months I’ve realised that my life, as exciting and glamorous as it may sound, isn’t very balanced. To a certain extent, it’s impossible to be truly ‘balanced’ and be an elite athlete. There’ll always be sacrifices to make in this job and tough decisions to call, but lately it has come to my attention that maybe I’ve made things harder than they need to be by being in this squad environment.

It’s been a bit like living in a boarding school. Every move is monitored, every half kilogram of weight fluctuation noted. Every technical motion analysed and every decision – sport related or not – scrutinised and judged. It’s super intense, super focused. In many ways this has taught me how to become that senior athlete; it’s inspired me, improved me and has moulded me into an Olympian. And in other ways it’s left me feeling dependent, a bit helpless, a bit like a 26-year-old school kid.

So it’s time to grow up. This chick is flying the nest and moving on to pastures new. Darren Smith is an incredible, passionate and driven coach who will settle for no less than 100% excellence and 100% commitment. He changed my life. But the lifestyle is not sustainable long term. And now, in search of greater balance, greater results and, ultimately, greater happiness, I’m moving on.

It’s been a scary decision – I don’t know any other way to succeed. But I do feel equipped with the tools to attempt something new. I may fall flat on my face, but I will do so in search of reaching a new level. I’d never suggest ditching your coach or quitting your job on a whim, but if you can’t see any way to improve yourself in your current situation, if you aren’t truly happy and if the balance in your life isn’t right, then be brave. Make the move. Find the balance.