Surviving as a Student/Bike Racer 101

By: Ali VanYzendoorn

Tons and tons and tons and tons and tons and tons of things have changed since I’ve last written in my blog…

It’s crazy to think that I am almost finished my first year of University!!!! For those of you that don’t know, I am studying Kinesiology and living in residence at the University of Waterloo. A week after Junior Track Worlds in August, I moved to Waterloo and started my University career. I have enjoyed every second of living in residence and meeting so many new and amazing people. I have also loved the fact that everything I am learning is teaching me more and more about my body as an athlete. This year has proven to me how passionate I really am about health, fitness and nutrition (and cycling of course). Which brings me to my next topic…. cycling. Yes, I am still training and racing on the track and on the road. And yes, it is difficult to manage at times with a full course load. However, I do feel like school and training help each other in a way… When I find myself stressed out with school work, I squeeze in a bike ride or a workout and almost instantly feel like a load was taken off. Right now, I am enjoying the challenge of balancing training and university.

I’ve also signed with a new team for this year, High Gate Racing. I feel so lucky to be on a team with so many amazing women. The kindness, support, and strength this team has is something I feel so lucky to be a part of. In terms of racing, track season wrapped up last weekend for me with a win in the Provincial Championship Points Race. This was a pretty special moment, especially because all of my new High Gate Racing teammates were at the velodrome watching me and my amazing teammate Aubrie! My friends from Waterloo even streamed it online to watch the race. It was an amazing feeling for everything to come together, especially after all of the unknowns and doubt that of what university life would bring. Here is a list of a couple tools that I use throughout racing and also use here at University…My days are pretty hectic, so I wanted to share a couple of things that have helped me with the transition to uni and help me deal with the associated anxiety of balancing racing and school:

1. Living in the present moment. This one can definitely apply to training, racing and school. At races, I often find myself getting anxious to the point where I almost feel sick. In moments like this, I find my brain taking me somewhere else that I am comfortable and relaxed, such as my home or on a vacation. Recently though, I have been really trying to “stay” where I am. I feel SOO extremely lucky to be able to go to the track, see a lot of my favourite people that are supporting me, and ride my bike because I CAN and I WANT to. Why would I want to be anywhere else? Being able to race and attend university are amazing experiences that don’t last forever and I don’t want to fly by me. I have noticed that practicing mindfulness and being in the moment has really helped me get the most out of the fantastic days and the tougher days (whether that be cycling, school or work) because there is always something to learn from both of them.

2. Staying organized and prioritizing. I found this especially important when it came to juggling lectures, tutorials, midterms, deadlines, training, friends, family and races. When I have everything mapped out in front of me, I am better able to prioritize what is more important at that specific moment. Having multiple calendars has helped me plan out my day, week and month so that I can get everything I need to get done, done!

3. Remembering the bigger picture. This has been the hardest one for me. Sometimes I get caught up in what everybody else is doing and need to bring myself back to the fact that I chose to be here because I want to be here. Sometimes I worry about not getting in as much training if I would if I stayed at home, but I am doing what I need to do and want to do at this moment in time. I have a poster on my wall that says: “Life’s about the journey, not the destination” (with a picture of a bike on it…cheesy, I know)… But for some reason I have really connected to that quote this year. This can apply to racing also, as I know it is easy to look at every race as the end-all- be-all race. I will never forget my coaches over the years saying “It’s JUST a bike race.” Remembering this helps me put things into perspective. Zoom out every once in a while. Where you are at is a small piece of the puzzle and there are many more pieces to come.

4. Taking care of your body. This year especially, I have learned the importance of health and taking care of yourself. Busy schedules can easily take time away from self care and healthy habits, but guess what? Healthy eating and self care can actually make you a more productive and happy person so you can tackle EVEN MORE in a day. Making time to do a face mask, spend time with friends, watch Netflix, etc is so so so important to being able to juggle everything. Healthy Eating + self care + sleep + training = productive Ali

These past few months have been full of changes, opportunity, new friendships and so many more unknowns (which I’m ok with!). It was hard to make the decision to pursue university full time, but honestly, I can’t imagine my life any different.

Thank you to all the amazing people and sponsors that have supported me through this