Long time client and friend of SPEAR Physiotherapy and Sports Injury, Julie Erskine cycles for team OnForm and has used SPEAR physiotherapist, James for many years. They first met in Aberdeen University when Julie was studying for her PHD – legend has it she fed James carbohydrate drink, exercised him in a heat chamber and fed him fish and chips all in the name of science!
James recently sat down with Julie during her mid-season break and asked some questions on training, recovery, nutrition and the sort of sacrifices it takes to compete at the level Julie does! Not to mention a few anecdotes from her races around the world!
How did the cycling start off and what has your journey on the bike been like?
I got into cycling through a talent i.d. project run by Scottish Cycling called “Gold for Glasgow”, unfortunately the project was discontinued but by that time I had joined a local cycling club “Aberdeen Wheelers” and was totally bitten by the bug! My journey on the bike has been a total rollercoaster! It’s a sport that’s full of highs and lows, but I just love riding my bike, the places it takes me and the amazing people I’ve met along the way. It’s also been a steep learning curve! I’ve made mistakes in races, but that’s just an opportunity to learn from those mistakes and not do the same thing again. It’s trying to turn something that seems really negative about your performance into something positive.
Can you give a general idea of what a month in the life of Julie would be whilst in season?
The past month has been pretty crazy! We’ve had the Tour Series (8 rounds of city centre circuit races) held over 2 weeks and then National Series races on top. Basically during that time it was a case of race, recover, repeat. The rest of the season isn’t as full on as that though and generally I’d be at home during the week, working part time and training and then travelling to race around the UK at the weekend.
What are your three most important things you pack when preparing for a meet?
1.Team OnForm race kit (shorts, jersey, mitts, shoes, helmet, glasses)
Nutrition….. How many calories would you burn whilst training per day? What do you eat, how did you carry enough calories for such long days?
You can maybe burn around 1000 calories or possibly more on a long hard training ride. When I’m training I prefer to eat proper food (banana, flapjacks, bars) that provide me with quick release energy and enough calories to fuel my ride. I’ll also have energy drink to keep me fuelled and hydrated. When I’m racing I’ll use energy gels are these are easy and quick to take and also an energy bar and energy drink.
You recently left your home City of Aberdeen to chase and catch your dream. These sacrifices you made could not have been easy. What were your thoughts on this and how did you cope with the transition to another base for training?
At first I was quite homesick. Living away from home and not knowing the Essex roads took a bit of time to get used to. I was living with my team mate and her family and they made me feel so welcome, like part of the family, so the homesickness didn’t last too long. The roads were a lot flatter than what I was used to back home but my coach knew how to get round the lack of hills to still help me get up climbs in races. The great thing about living down south is the opportunity to race over the winter at closed circuit races. This provided a bit of fun and training under race conditions where it’s sometimes hard to get the same effort in training.
Being on the road and knowing the type of person you are, tell us a funny story from your cycling career to date?
There are so many stories I could tell, but probably when my car got towed away with my race bike inside on the day of my first British Championships or the time when I was driving to a National Series race and three moped riders crashed into each other right in front of me so I had to stop and lift one of the mopeds off one of the men (they’re quite heavy!!) and call an ambulance for them.
Injuries are part and parcel of training; what injuries have you had? how do you avoid, manage and prevent injuries effecting your season?
I’ve had whiplash, concussion, a broken finger, back spasm and probably the worst of all of them was rhabdomyolysis. I do strength and conditioning training twice a week over the winter and this really helps make you more robust to help with injury prevention. I also have a mobility and stretching routine that I do to help prevent injuries. When I have an injury then I’ll see my physio James (*waves at James*) and he helps manage the injury along with my coach so that I don’t do too much too soon. I need to be kept in check with this!
Who are the most interesting people you have met on your travels?
Cycling involves a lot of travelling so it’s also a time when you get to know your team mates and support staff really well. I’ve made some friends for life through cycling. You also get to meet sponsors and supporters of the team so it’s always interesting meeting new people.
On your long cycles, what has been the most compromising situation you have been in?
When I was quite new to cycling I was on a winter group ride when there was a touch of wheels and some of the guys came down. We were in the middle of nowhere so it took a while for the ambulance to get to us. A couple of the guys were in a bad way, one with a broken hip and the other with a collapsed lung and broken vertebrae. It was freezing but I just kneeled down to support his head and chatted a lot of rubbish to keep him calm.
You are one of the most positive people I know, what keeps your mindset positive, and do you have a phrase or motto that gets you through?
It’s really important to me to have a positive mindset. I’m so fortunate to be pursuing my dreams and whilst it’s not always easy, it is a big privilege and total blast! My Mum tells me to “man up”. She’s just joking really but when times get a bit tough I do just think of this and it makes me smile. I’ve also been working with a sports psychologist for the past 4 years or so and he has had a massive impact on my performance, especially my confidence and self belief. The “Honey Badger” gets me through, especially when times get tough in races.
What drives you to get up every morning and carry on when your body and mind are screaming for you to rest?
I love pushing myself to see what my limits are and what I’m capable of. When I’m tired and training is tough, I just think of my goals and aspirations and that gets me out of bed and on the bike! I just say to myself, “look if you miss this session then it will just be harder to achieve your dreams”. That tends to work. Either that or I picture my Mum telling me to “man up”!
We have a few cyclists that follow our page, what advice would you give any of the clients, that has helped with your training or any cycle hacks?
I think for me it’s the importance of rest and recovery. My coach Kenny is great at planning my training to get the most out of me and factoring in rest periods too is key! I have a tendency to do too much but as I’ve progressed in cycling I’ve realised that more is not always better and being able to recover well is such a vital part of optimal performance.
Oh and invest in a good pair of bibshorts!! You spend so much time in the saddle that you need to be comfortable otherwise you just won’t want to do it.
What’s next for our favourite road cyclist?
I’ve just moved back to Aberdeen and currently having a mid season break so no cycling for a week. This is to let me recharge mentally and physically. Then it’s back into training and focus on the last 2 rounds in the British Cycling Women’s National Road Series. I can’t wait to ride the new Bianchi Aria from Twenty3C one of the team’s sponsors.