New research by our partners Westfield Health suggests that more than 80% of working adults in the UK believe companies could do more to support the physical and mental wellbeing of employers. With workplace-related stress, illnesses and mental health issues becoming a bigger concern than ever, is it time for employers to be doing more?
At London Sport we do all we can to support our employees to lead an active life, such as sporting socials, lunch break runs, subsidised team sports and even a three-month sabbatical for one of our long standing employees, our Head of Marketing, Mieke Stones. Since returning back to work, Mieke took some time out to reflect on her sabbatical which took her from Holland to Portugal by bicycle.
What did you decide to do on your sabbatical?
When I got the green light to have three months off work I knew I had to do something big, to really make the most of the time I had. I’d recently got into cycling a bit more and just loved the freedom of being on my bike getting from a to b. That’s when I decided I wanted to do a bike trip, covering lots of different things I love, sport, endurance and travel. I decided to set off from Holland where I have family (and it’s conveniently flat) and head to countries in Europe I hadn’t been to before, or that I’d heard was good for cycling. After quite a few months of planning I decided on cycling from Holland to Montenegro, as well as taking in some of Italy, Spain and Portugal.
Tell us a bit about your planning
I had never been on a big bike trip before, nor had travelled for long periods of time on my own, so most of my preparation was speaking with other people who had cycled around Europe, asking them what kit they took, any difficulties they had and the like. Their advice was invaluable, in particular what kit to take and just what to expect during the bike ride itself. The main piece of advice I took on board was take a little as you can, the lighter the better!
What was it like cycling all day every day?
Complete freedom. A clear mind from all the busyness of living and working in central London. I’ve always liked endurance sports and having the freedom of being able to do as much or as little riding as I could felt incredible. It gave me the ability to push it on the days I was feeling good and take days off if there was some sight seeing to do (which there always was)! On average I was riding anywhere from 50 to 150 kilometers, so when my body needed a rest I just listened to it. One of the things I loved the most about cycling all day was how much you could see in one day, but slow enough that you are able to take it in and stop to take lots of pictures for those good moments.
Were there any really challenging moments?
It was a real challenge at times to be able to replace the calories I had lost and to also stay hydrated. Whilst my colleagues were surviving one of the hottest summers in London, I too was battling similar intense heat. I had sacrificed my second water bottle holder for space for one of my bags, so was often on the hunt for refills where I could. I was also camping occasionally and woke up to a bunch of nasty bites including one on my eyelid which meant my eye was shut for a day, not great when you wear contact lenses!
Some countries like Bosnia and Herzegovina and Italy had some very challenging roads, either non existent tarmac or roads that were in far worse condition than London and if you’re a cyclist reading this, you’ll know our roads can be a challenge! All in all the challenges I faced were manageable and never life threatening, I felt particularly safe being mostly in Europe as could mostly communicate well with others if I needed help!
What about the highlights?
I can honestly say that I have at least one highlight in every country I cycled in so it’s difficult to sum it up in a few. Despite not being prepared for the big climbs I was very excited to be cycling for the first time in a place I had once skied, the Tirol Alps in Austria. After what felt like hours of endless climbing I cycled past a huge blog of ice stuck in the rock. You could see from afar that the peaks had small patches of snow on, but I was surprised to be up high enough to cycle past melting ice. I took the time to have a break, take some photos and refill my water bottles and obviously it tasted so good!
Another highlight was Montenegro and specifically Kotor Bay. Montenegro was my most southern point I cycled to before then crossing over to Italy and it did not disappoint. I’d heard of a popular ride called the Serpentine, from Kotor Bay up into the Lovcen national park. The road has 25 hair pin bends and is around a 8% incline all the way. Knowing it was popular I set off really early to avoid any motorists and it paid off. The views were breathtaking and the ride was phenomenal, something I will never forget.
How has this trip helped you in your work life?
In more ways that I had imagined. It’s given me fresh thinking, energy and more confidence. I feel very privileged to have been given the opportunity by my employer to even consider a trip of a lifetime. It has humbled me enormously and provided me with an even greater perspective of the power of sport on myself, physical and mental.
Find out more about Mieke’s journey in her blog www.powered-by-me.com.