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Don't check email on weekends for better work-life balance, says British world cycling champ

Since becoming world champion, Lizzie Armitstead says preserving her work-life balance is even more important as she's under greater pressure to perform

PUBLISHED : Monday, 23 May, 2016, 8:31pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 May, 2016, 11:21am

In this 24/7 hyperconnected world, it can be hard to maintain a work-life balance.

Lizzie Armitstead, the world champion of women's road cycling who's been torching the competition, says that she has a simple rule for keeping her work life from creeping into her personal life.

"I don't look at my emails on the weekend or after 6 o'clock in the day," the Englishwoman says. "I'm old-fashioned. I think it's really important to have that down time.

"It was just the way I was brought up as a kid," she adds. "I remember if the telephone rang after 9 o'clock in the house, my mother would say, 'Who's ringing at this time?' We just wouldn't answer the phone."

Armitstead is in good company.

Earlier this week, for example, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella said we all need to focus less on our phones and more on the real world. That means not thinking about the last email you got from work.

Armitstead, 27, who rides for the Boels-Dolmans Cycling Team, has been on a fearsome tear lately. On Sunday she won one of the biggest one-day races on the calendar, the Tour of Flanders, in an all-out drag race to the line. Earlier this year she dominated the prestigious Omloop Het Nieuwsblad and Strade Bianche.

In September Armitstead won cycling's crown jewel, the road world championships, in Richmond, Virginia, one of her greatest victories to date.

Since becoming world champion, there has been greater pressure to perform well, Armitstead says, and that has made preserving her work-life balance even more important.

Just say no

"I think I'm managing it quite well," she says. "There were times in the off-season where the balance would kind of run away from me, when I've been a little too busy off the bike, and that affected my performance.

"It's about having the ability to say no, and accepting the fact that there is that responsibility, to take [the job] seriously, especially as a female athlete. I think women's cycling is growing, so I'm constantly asked about how we can improve women's cycling, and it can be quite taxing, but I understand that I have to do it, too.

"I love being world champion," Armitstead says. "I love wearing the jersey every day, and I feel pride every time I put it on, so I'm enjoying it."

For Armitstead, friends and family come first.

"I try to make sure that I don't miss really important family occasions," she says. "I'm aware that cycling's not going to last forever, and I need those people around me when I finish cycling. They're the real supporters. I mean, fans will soon disappear once I finish cycling, I'm sure."

She adds: "Things like social media, it's become part of our jobs now as cyclists. Our profile is important to sponsors and everything else. But I try to keep my social media professional rather than personal."

Olympics in the crosshairs

Armitstead's main goal now is to win the Olympic road race on August 7 in Rio.

"That's the biggest challenge I face, I think. The course isn't ideally suited to me," she admits. "It's a climber's course, and it's pretty savage. So it's going to take all the motivation, all the energy, and all the training I've got."

You can watch Armitstead winning the world title in Virginia below: