Finding my niche and the importance of exercise and nutrition to healthy living

In her second blog article, Prime Health Ambassador, Bobsleigh Athlete and Junior Doctor Felicity Bee discusses finding her sporting niche and the importance of nutrition to her training.

“In terms of sporting background, I have always been active and at school, I found enjoyment in the team aspects of hockey, netball and rounders, but found true happiness in athletics.

I loved the diversity the sport provided, learning to run, jump and throw, and I personally feel athletics provided me with the solid foundations of fitness, strength, flexibility and power that are transferable into many sports. For this reason, it is not uncommon to see athletes like myself transition from athletics to bobsleigh. Transferring the speed and power on the track onto the ice.

I feel fortunate that I found a sport I enjoyed and excelled in so early in life, but it hasn’t been plain sailing. There have been moments where the love for training has diminished. In these moments there is reliance on discipline and routine to continue and push through.

At present, on cold evenings when I finish work as a Junior Doctor at 6:30pm this has never rung more true. I overcome this by having a set-out training programme through the week, and ensure my kit is laid out the night before, to minimise the obstacles to get moving.

The thing that never falters is my love for competing, the adrenaline it brings and the platform to showcase the training and time you have invested in mastering your craft.  This provides focus and a goal, and means keeping fit and healthy is just part and parcel of the journey to the start line.

Although competitive sport might not be for everyone, sport and exercise have a profound effect on the health of the nation and everyone knows the benefits of movement.

Everyone has a genre of music they enjoy, whether it be R&B, jazz or pop, the world of music is non-discriminatory in providing an avenue of suitability for every listening ear. Similarly, I truly believe there is a sport or form of exercise for everyone. The discovery of it is however more difficult and a trial at a local gym or sports club takes a little more investment than clicking ‘next’ on Spotify.

Interestingly, I now compete in bobsleigh, a non-traditional, alternative sport and this shows that there is great worth in looking outside the box to discover a sport that brings you enjoyment. Whether it is Zumba classes, rock climbing or open water swimming, the important part is finding something you enjoy and this element of discovery doesn’t have an age or time limit.

Eating well for sport and exercise

The other aspect of a healthy lifestyle I’m often asked about is nutrition and diet.

Bobsleigh has a weight target or limit, depending on which side of the scales you are. You are frequently weighed in and out of competition, with the aim for women to be around 75 to 80kg.

For myself, my focus is therefore on sustaining a healthy balanced diet and maintaining a constant weight. I’m also conscious that aside from the enjoyment and social aspect of food and dining, I see food as fuel. I know what fuel makes my body feel good and function at its best. Through work with nutritionists, I am able to ensure I include the key components of protein, fats, carbs and micronutrients within my day to day meals and to make sure I have sufficient calorie intake to allow me to perform optimally.

I recently found I was going long periods of time without food and as a result under fuelling myself to be able to perform at my best. With concerns over the risk of fatigue, injury and not being able to have the energy to train at my best, I implemented changes to ensure I was eating enough. I snacked on healthy options at work such as bananas and cereal bars. This was with the aim to avoid extended times of fast which for an athlete, training 5-6 times a week, with a focus on hypertrophy is crucial.

In summary, I can’t stress more the importance of finding your niche in sport. If going to the gym or running doesn’t bring you joy, look outside the box to find a sport you are passionate about. There is great benefit in exercise and movement. If you’re new to exercise, make small changes to your day by taking the stairs rather than the lift or go for a walk in the evening, you may be surprised by the positive effects it has on mental and physical health.

In terms of nutrition, take the focus away from the negative chat regarding diet, and take notice of what foods make you feel good and give you the energy to perform at your best. Focus on including all food groups into your diet. You wouldn’t let your car run on empty, so treat yourself like a formula one car and optimise the quality of fuel you have. It will have a profound effect on your mental and physical well-being.”

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