Published: 10 December 2012
Photo: IJC Photography
Report: Rebecca Ransom
Team USN rider Ciara Horne successfully juggles her life as an elite track cyclist with that of a full time physiotherapy student at the University of Birmingham; but how does she fit it all in seven days each week?
Until the age of 18, Ciara had been a successful swimmer. In her late teens she also tried triathlon, combining her swimming with cycling and running. Further injury to her Achilles meant she was out of the sport for eight months. Ciara was actively interested in her own recovery and treatment received whilst in rehab, and decided to make the commitment to embark on a career in Physiotherapy.
Enrolling on her first year of Physiotherapy at the University of Birmingham, Ciara stepped away from sport, and in her own words “lived like a student”. However, Ciara couldn’t get used to not having any sport in her life – having lived an active life as a teenager.
“In my second year in Birmingham, I didn’t feel myself. I missed sport. I couldn’t swim because of my shoulder injury; I'd always been a breast stroke swimmer, which is leg dominant so I thought I’d have a go at cycling!
My first ride was with my best friend from the University to Worcester which is about 25 miles. I nearly died, I was that unfit! But I stuck at it, and haven’t looked back!”
Balancing cycling with studies is no easy task. Now in her final year, Ciara also manages her own clients and cases on her placement each week. A typical day starts at 5.30am with breakfast, followed by a ninety minute roller session then a quick shower and change to get to her placement by 8.30am.
Being one of only four University of Birmingham Gold Scholars, Ciara has benefitted from her physiotherapy placement being just fifteen minutes from her home, allowing more time for studying and training each morning. She is also able to apply for extensions on coursework due to sporting commitments and gets support with her assignments. On placement, Ciara acts as a physiotherapist managing her own clients but is always under the supervision of her mentor.
“When I get home, usually about 5.00pm, I get out on my bike straight away for about two or three hours. If I sit down, I get tired and it’s harder to get going again. I make my dinner, and try to revise at the same time, usually getting to bed around 10.30pm to make sure I have enough sleep for my body to recover.
I’m not the only student who does sport as well, but I do commit a lot of time to my sport and studies. I believe if you want something bad enough, you will fit the time in.
I have no social life! And I struggle when I can’t spend time with my friends and family, and my boyfriend Mark. I lost my Granddad earlier this year so I wish I could spend more time with my Nan, but I know he would have backed my sport. It’s part of being an elite athlete, one day it will hopefully all pay off!”
Ciara also receives support from Welsh Cycling and Sport Wales, with use of the facilities and services at the Sport Wales Institute and coaching from Welsh Cycling’s performance team. As part of Team USN, Ciara has concentrated on Team Pursuit in the UCI Track World Cups, winning Silver in Colombia with Amy Roberts and Elinor Barker and will hope to repeat the performance in Mexico in January.
“Team USN provides a great environment to train in, working well as a team. It is a fantastic opportunity to go to the Track World Cups and gain international competition experience and good to be moving forward as a team.
When I graduate next summer, I would like to be able to work a few days a week, to maintain my skill level and my HCPC registration. But cycling will take priority for the foreseeable future. I would love to get to the World Championships or Olympic games, I don’t know if that will be on the road, track or time trial, but it is definitely a goal.”
This week Welsh Cycling are giving away five packs of USN products as part of the Countdown to Christmas. To be in with a chance of winning, head over to the Team USN twitter feed.