Our campaign, Active at Oxford, is all about encouraging students to take part in more exercise, in order to enjoy the physical and mental health benefits associated with sports and physical activity.

However, we know that there are only so many hours in the day, which is why it’s important to be able to prioritise your workload and balance your activities and studies.

Here, triathlete Laura Fenwick looks back on her experiences, and gives her first year self some great advice for balancing sports and studies:

How I get active

“If I could go back and give one piece of advice to my first year self about balancing elite sport with Oxford’s academic demands, the most valuable thing I think I could say would be to ease yourself in.

“Don’t be too hard on yourself or panic in your first term if you haven’t managed to maintain your training to the level you could at school, even if you thought you were the most organised person on the planet.

“Don’t compare yourself to friends who are several years into their studies and seem to have it all figured out. You will figure it out too. It takes time and energy to get used to the new place, the new people, the new way of learning and the new found realisation that food shopping, cooking, cleaning and laundry need adding to your to do list.

“There are enough hours in the week in Oxford to train twice per day, be successful in your studies, have a social life and a handle on ‘general life’ and get a healthy amount of sleep… it just takes a bit of time to find them.

“Sure enough, after an overwhelming first term I gradually built things up and by my second year I was able to maintain a consistent training programme and finish my course with not only a chemistry degree but also a BUCS medal, individual Varsity win and top ten British Championships finish amongst other successes. Personal organisation was key, but I couldn’t have done it without the support network I had around me. My college friends, for example, would often carry my pre-packed bag of breakfast and clothes to morning lectures as I arrived straight from a bike ride. I never spoke much with my tutors about my sport, but they were aware that it was a big part of my life and when I got injured they were accommodating and understanding of the mental toll the injury took on me as well as the physical one.

“I immersed myself in the training and committees of several sports clubs and the enjoyment and positivity I got from being part of these and from representing the university in competitions meant my motivation to stay involved in sport at Oxford was never really in doubt. Sport incentivised me to get my work done in good time and it also opened the door to a whole new community of friends outside of the college and chemistry bubble.

“Just as the lakes, parks and hills of Oxfordshire gave me a welcome change of scenery from the lab, chemistry provided a much needed break from training pressures, and the quick thinking, problem solving skills developed by the Oxford teaching system are thoroughly transferable to the sporting world. Thus, whilst at first the simultaneous pursuit of success in both sport and academia in Oxford may sound like a ridiculous idea, the two can in fact go hand in hand very well.”

Laura Fenwick
Lady Margaret Hall, Chemistry

Read more student testimonials here.

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