Feature: Surviving lockdown Rebecca Richardson

A lockdown feature written by by Timothy John on hill climber Rebecca Richardson who is sponsored by Brother UK

Feature: Surviving lockdown Rebecca Richardson

by Timothy John for Brother Cycling

Lockdown is a difficult time for everyone, but I’m convinced that rapidly adopting a new routine, rather than trying to make your previous schedule fit such dramatically changed circumstances, is the best way to protect physical and mental health.

As a mother to a six-year-old, director of an architectural practice and semi-professional cyclist, I’m used to dividing my time into discrete ‘bubbles’ for work, childcare and training. School closures and the need to look after my son Arthur except when my parents can support has inspired me to set new goals.

Photo: rra_design (Twitter) 

More importantly, lockdown has inspired a new routine. This has been critical. I suffered anxiety in the first week of lockdown, but later thought, ‘You can’t be anxious for this whole period.’ Some things you can’t control. Arthur is at home. His care is my overriding priority.

My solution to the seemingly overwhelming challenge of lockdown has been to find a new routine quickly and to ensure that it is a routine. Lockdown isn’t a holiday, but it isn’t a waiting room either. Rather than attempt to make old methods fit a new period, the most important thing is to find a new way of living that protects physical and mental health, built around exercise, healthy sleeping patterns and eating well.

As a cyclist, I’ve been blessed throughout this period. In the first instance, my principal sponsor, Brother UK, has assured me and all of its sponsored teams and athletes that our contracts for 2020 will be honoured. Brother’s motto is #AtYourSide and Managing Director Phil Jones MBE has certainly lived up to the billing.

I’ve also enjoyed exceptional support from within my team, Brother UK-OnForm. Manager Simon Howes has placed a psychologist at our disposal, should we wish to talk through the effects of lockdown with an expert. Before the new measures, Peter Hudson’s work for Simon was limited to the CAMS-Tifosi professional team. Peter has already emailed valuable articles on how to manage anxiety and protect mental health to each of us on Brother UK-OnForm.

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Additionally, I’ve been able to continue training outside. I live in a remote corner of North Wales, where challenging (and now deserted) roads have allowed me to reconnect with the first thrill of riding a bike during the permitted daily exercise window. I’ve followed a natural progression to racing – my first love was simply to ride – and so it’s been too easy to revert to a time when data and training targets represented a new and unexplored environment.

As a hill climb specialist, my major goals will arrive towards the end of the year, hopefully in a time when lockdown is a distant memory. The hill climb calendar’s biggest events take place in October, giving the nation time to resume normality once the threat of coronavirus (hopefully) has passed. I’d been due to ride in mass start road races this season for Team Brother UK-OnForm. I hope still to do so. British Cycling has cancelled all events in the first part of the season, but its ban is due for review on June 30, 2020, by which time lockdown might have been lifted.

Rebecca Richardson @BrotherCycling was an outright winner in the women’s category with a fine 6 wins out of 7 at Sheffields Magnificent 7. Photo: rra_design (Twitter) 

Last year, I enjoyed my most successful season on the bike, winning 18 consecutive hill climbs, including the Welsh national championships. Tiring out a six-year-old boy might be my most significant athletic achievement to date, however! After three days camped together at the top of a hill close to our home, Arthur went to bed early and of his own volition the following day.

I thought the house was unusually quiet while I cooked dinner, so I crept upstairs to find him asleep. When he woke the day afterwards, he couldn’t believe he had slept for so long! Precious moments like this are an unexpected upside of such a dramatic if entirely necessary response to the pandemic.

My biggest takeaway from the unprecedented circumstances triggered by coronavirus has been the value of pressing ‘pause’. I’ve adapted to the ‘new normal’, notably home-schooling Arthur, with a new routine and by outsourcing some of my design work while continuing to manage projects. Outsourcing will have an unavoidable financial impact in the short-term but is a price worth paying to protect my son’s welfare and to discover a new way of living.

Lockdown has helped me to reconnect with things that matter most: time with Arthur, rather than extra time spent working to provide something he might not want or need. I’ve also rediscovered the joy of riding for pleasure, rather than for racing or training. A new routine and new priorities can be powerful additions to your life, whatever inspires them.

Thanks to Brother UK for support in publishing this article.

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