For Maximum Movement

Samantha Sullivan

At just 23 years old, and with only four years in the sport, Sprint Canoeist Samantha Sullivan was already forging a path to success when the Covid-19 pandemic struck, and all competitions were cancelled. This impacted her funding and Samantha was suddenly facing working from home full time, in addition to her elite training.

Photography: Christopher Cornwell

A Balancing Act

Being an elite athlete comes with challenges but the cut in my funding in March 2021 was a blow. I was fortunate to receive an Athlete Performance Award when I started in 2017 with British Canoeing, and this meant I only needed to work one day a week, allowing me to focus on my training. The pandemic meant that the funding had been extended to allow us to compete, but as none of the events happened, I was suddenly facing the prospect of having to work full time and potentially put my training in jeopardy.

By some kind of miracle, a job came up at British Canoeing in their membership department, which meant it would be much easier to balance my training alongside working. What I didn’t expect was that I would still be working from home months later!

Prepare and Plan

My tip for training/exercising around a full-time job would be to get it done first thing in the morning. I know not everyone is an early bird (I definitely am not!) but getting the exercise done in the morning allows you to relax in the evenings. After a big day at work, the last thing most people want to do is go hit the gym.

Meal prep/planning is also a key thing for me. On a Sunday, my boyfriend and I prepare all our lunches for the week. This makes the evenings so much easier as you don’t have to worry about making your lunch for the following day. You can meal prep your dinners too. Finally, I would say don’t be too hard on yourself if you miss one session. If you have had a tough day at work, take the evening off and hit the session hard the next day. I know how it can feel when you have to train knowing you have no energy and no motivation – it’s awful.

Make it Count

I think it’s important to find out what motivates you and use it to drive you on. The support from my family is what motivates me. I love being able to tell my family, and my boyfriend that I have hit a personal best and listening to how proud I make them. My coaches (water and strength/conditioning) are a key part in helping me balance work and training. My manager at work is also very supportive of my training so is always checking on how I’m feeling, and is up for discussions about how we can fit training and work around each other as she is well aware that training is very important to me.

My coaches have weekly meetings to discuss my training week, and are great at making adaptations to training if I am struggling to keep my energy levels up or if my progression is slowing.
Being an elite athlete, keeping my body in the best health is very important. With my sport being very upper-body dominated, it is important to look after my back. I also have bad posture from being tall when I was younger and constantly slouching, so my Mirra 2 Chair has really helped me develop a good posture whilst working. Having a proper workstation is also really important. This is where you will spend 8 hours of your day working, and without the right support your work will not be as productive. Making sure you have a quiet workspace, with natural lighting, is important.

“My main goal for the future is to go to the Paris 2024 and LA 2028 Olympic Games. My hope is to continue loving the training that I do and enjoy being an athlete. I have always said from day one of coming onto my programme that I was to enjoy training and have some fun whilst getting to become my best athlete self.”