Life outside the comfort zone

Not following the crowd and plucking up the courage to take a different route…You never know what you might discover along the way

Not following the crowd and plucking up the courage to take a different route…You never know what you might discover along the way

Back in the Autumn, I wrote about my decision to take a six month career break from my job as a producer with BBC Sport. Deep down when I walked out of the door in mid-September, I didn’t think I would be going back, but I didn’t have the guts to simply quit.

My final day as a staff member at BBC Sport

My final day as a staff member at BBC Sport

If you have read any of my blogs over the past few years, you’ll know I love a good challenge or two. But this was one that I felt needed a safety net and I will be forever grateful to my bosses for allowing me to take a sabbatical. It gave me the time and the mental space to see if I could cope away from life - and job security - at the BBC.

By Christmas I knew for certain that I wouldn’t be going back. I was rather enjoying things in the big wide world and in my eyes the choice was fairly straight forward; I could go back to a secure, nicely paid job, but a job that had started to get me down, or I could choose financial insecurity and 7 day weeks, but have more control, more choice and ultimately be happier. I went to see my boss in January to tell him that I wanted to make the career break a permanent one. I’m not saying I’ll never work for the BBC again but for now, I’m really happy and I’m rolling with it.

It’s certainly not all been rosy. It’s tough carving out a completely new career and learning to to say no and switch off at the weekends are skills I’m still struggling to master. As for coming to terms with the fact that something you had strived so hard to achieve for so many years just doesn’t seem to matter any more….Well, talk about soul searching!

Giving a careers talk at Shrewsbury Colleges

Giving a careers talk at Shrewsbury Colleges

But bursting my comfort bubble has challenged me and inspired me. It’s given me the chance to get involved in different projects and forge new friendships and connections that just wouldn’t have been possible, had I opted for the easier route of going back to my job.

Take the work I do with MOVE Charity, supporting teenagers and young adults living with and beyond cancer. Phone calls can be really bloody difficult, sometimes you just don’t know what to say. Factually, you know what they have been through, but emotionally and physically I don’t have a clue. All I can hope is that my words, my empathetic ear and my knowledge of cancer and exercise can plant a seed or give them the tiniest of confidence boosts they need to become more active and start to feel better about themselves and their body.

Expanding my horizons has allowed me to grow not just personally, but professionally too. I’ve enjoyed mastering new digital skills so we can tell some of the incredible stories of the young people we support and spread the word about the amazing work MOVE does.

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Moving on from the BBC has enabled me to do more writing, something I’ve always enjoyed, but was never convinced I was very good at it. So when I was offered the opportunity to be a columnist for Outdoor Fitness Magazine, I jumped at the chance. It’s very strange seeing my work in print!

Thankfully I’m still able to keep my inner radio geek happy through the Oxygen Addict Triathlon Podcast. It gives me my broadcasting fix, allows me to get my teeth stuck into in-depth topics like the impact of the Menopause on female athletes and of course I still get a buzz from securing rare interviews with the likes of Swiss triathlete Nicola Spirig. Having a mic in hand for post-race interviews at the finish line of events like Ironman Wales is as fun as it ever has been and while the interviews might not be heard by ten of thousands of people, it’s brilliant to just be ‘me’ and share my passion with fellow triathletes.

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I’ve also spent more time coaching, whether triathlon specific workouts, working with PT clients or setting up a fitness class for 50/60 year olds who wouldn’t be seen dead in Lycra; it’s been so energising.

And it’s been really fulfilling spending more time outside too, convincing friends and strangers that walking with Nordic Walking poles is actually way more fun and beneficial than it looks!

A few people comment about all of the ‘spare time’ I must have now that I’m ‘not working’. Others are surprised I’m not spending my days triathlon training. In truth I’m busier than I ever have been because it’s harder to switch off - I still have to pay the bills! And while spending more time training would have been fun for a period, it would have been another way of avoiding having to figure things out, make a change and take the plunge to head down a new path.

That said, I should really spend some more time in the pool and on my bike at some point, because I have actually entered a triathlon this summer... Thankfully my running is in a much better place and I am back running injury free and regularly, thanks to some superb coaching from Tom Lowe.

In my happy place. Fit, healthy and run-buddy-tastic

In my happy place. Fit, healthy and run-buddy-tastic

It’s been hard work, but things seem to be going in the right direction, especially if I can use a 42km cross country ski marathon in Switzerland as a guide?!? Engadin Ski Marathon was equally as fun the second time round, but I finished quicker and in so much less pain compared to the first time I did it in 2011. I’m taking that as a sign of being far fitter, with some decent endurance under my belt, but time will tell. More on that another time!

Finish line, Engadin Ski Marathon 2019. A fine combination of practically pros (Tom, Chrissie) and daring debutants (Rich, Lucy and Lauren) with me somewhere in the middle

Finish line, Engadin Ski Marathon 2019. A fine combination of practically pros (Tom, Chrissie) and daring debutants (Rich, Lucy and Lauren) with me somewhere in the middle