A weight lifted

oliviaBy day, she’s a learning consultant managing multiple stakeholders yet by night, Olivia spends at least two hours training to lift barbells weighing up to 105kg. That’s world-class level. When chasing your dreams is an uphill battle, something as simple as working flexibly can make a huge difference.  

“Fitting my passion around my full-time role is a challenge but I make it work by flexing my working hours. I talked it all through with my manager and proposed I would start and finish earlier, allowing me to train with my coach. Luckily, EY are really open to flexible working, and so my manager was happy to agree to my request.

“When I’m cutting weight for a competition I sometimes need to re-work my day, so I work with my team to schedule my time around team meetings. It’s important to be flexible in return, and EY trust me to get on and do my job, wherever and whenever I’m working.”

Adapting during Covid-19

“Social restrictions were tough as gyms were closed, so I wasn’t able to train with my coach.  It meant I had to get creative with home equipment and I was using bins as squat racks. I also cracked a patio slab or two, much to my fiancé’s disapproval.

“Motivation to keep moving has been tough too, especially without competitions to aim for. It’s hard when the tool you use to keep your physical and mental health in check is limited, but you just have to practice being grateful for what you do have, friends and family being safe, and reassess your goals.  

“Gyms have since reopened and I’ve noticed a vast improvement in my mood, as well as my resilience to keep plugging away until this is all over.”

Tackling perceptions         

But Olivia’s faced further challenges along the way, from financial barriers to her own self-perception.

“There’s no money in weightlifting – for men or women. When I went to the World Championships in Thailand last year, it cost me more than £2,000 – I had to start a fundraising page and that felt uncomfortable at first. 

“On top of that, I have major imposter syndrome. I used to be embarrassed about my muscular shoulders, so I’d wear cardigans and long sleeves to cover up. Now I get comments saying I don’t look like a weightlifter. The idea that strong doesn’t have a look – whether you’re a ‘traditional’ weightlifter or a size 10 – helps."

Maintaining excellence

olivia b weightOn top of the physical and financial barriers, there’s the question of motivation. How can anyone work an eight-hour day and train at night?

“During the restrictions and with gyms closed, it was easy to end up working longer hours. But with the gyms reopened, I have reset my own boundaries. It refreshes me and taking time out for yourself massively helps. Weightlifting has built my mental resilience.

“I want to keep fighting for my titles and to lift more and more – I’d like to be at the Commonwealth Games in 2022. It’s just the best feeling when I lift something well. Seeing my efforts pay off makes me feel like I could do anything.”

Olivia’s tips for agreeing a flexible arrangement

  • “Don’t be afraid to ask if you want to adjust your working pattern – if you don’t ask, you don’t get!”
  • “Remember that if a reason is valid for you, it’s valid, full stop. Being able to go to the gym is as important to me as different responsibilities are to others.”
  • “Make sure you fulfil your side of the bargain. Flex is a two-way street.”

This article has been supplied by EY. The ideas and opinions expressed here are those of the author, and do not reflect Timewise’s view.

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