Case studies

Staying active

Eilidh Doyle reflects on the transition from pro athlete to staying active in spare time

Eilidh Doyle retired in 2021 after a distinguished career which saw her win Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth medals.

The hurdler went from a strict training regimen to having to find spare time to stay active, not always easy as a working mum of two.

Eilidh tells us why it is important to her to stay active, what sport and physical activities she enjoys now, how she has found the transition from being a professional athlete to having to find time to keep herself active and continuing to set herself goals.


Why is it important to you personally to stay active?

I think it’s really important to be physically active, obviously for all the health benefits, but I think it’s really important for your mindset to stay active. For me, when I go for a run it allows me time to just switch off, switch my brain off and relax. Once I get out there, I feel good and I also feel even better when I’m back and know I’ve done something. 


What type of sport/physical activity do you enjoy most now?

I really enjoy swimming. I’ve always enjoyed that even as part of my athletics training when I was a full-time athlete, but now I do it purely for my own enjoyment. It's the same now with going out a run, there’s a certain aspect of freedom when going out as I don’t need to hit specific times and targets although I do like to set myself goals. 


How often in a week do you exercise now and what do you do? 

I walk most days for an hour and a half as I have a three-year-old Rottweiler that needs his exercise too! It’s harder to fit in running and swimming consistently with two young children but I try to do at least one of them each week. 


How difficult was it for you to make the transition from exercise being part of your job, to building it into your free time?

It has been hard to fit it in recently. My big issue now is time, when I was an athlete, my whole day revolved around the exercise I needed to do. Whereas now I try to fit the exercise in around my day which can be difficult. 


How do you feel physically and mentally when you're inactive for a period of time?

I tend to feel fed up or tired if I haven’t been able to exercise, which is funny as you feel like it should be the opposite, but I always feel refreshed and energised after having done some exercise.


As a former athlete is it difficult for you to find the motivation to stay fit and healthy when for so long everything you did to stay fit was with an important end goal in mind? Whether that be a big event or just making those small gains in training?

I think I’ve always been sporty and enjoyed exercise. The nice thing now is I can do a lot of things I couldn’t before as it may have impacted the specific training I needed to do or it may have had a higher risk of injury. The motivation is different now but is still there. 


A lot of athletes struggle to adapt when they retire. They're so used to that strict structure in their lives, physically and mentally how did you find that change? And did regular physical activity help that change?

I was lucky enough that I had a relatively long transition out of the sport and I was pregnant for part of that too. So, I gradually got used to doing less exercise and a change of lifestyle rather than an abrupt change. Plus, a young child keeps you distracted! 


Many athletes might be relieved at not having to train and watch what they eat and drink as much, was that the case for you?

It was nice not to be too restricted but I never really saw it as that restrictive when I was an athlete. It was definitely more of a lifestyle than sacrifice. Although I do have a sweet tooth so I’m enjoying that side of things a lot more now I am retired! 


What would be your advice to someone who has been inactive and is unsure about trying a new sport or physical activity?

Take your time and set small achievable goals. A lot of people tend to set themselves big targets and they can’t be achieved quickly. If you are inactive, something as simple as a walk is a start. Also try and go with someone if you find it hard to be motivated. Being active is always easier with company and you are more likely to do it if you are meeting someone else. 


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