British skier Nicole Ritchie on how to be an athlete

From year-round fitness to pure determination, this is what you need to make it to the top

At just 21, British Senior Alpine Team member Nicole Ritchie has already carved out an impressive path. She was named Scottish National Alpine Champion, Scottish Indoor Champion and Scottish Artificial Champion, earning her the third spot in the British overall female standings.

During the season, she trains almost every day in Méribel, and she has a daily cardio/gym routine during summer. Nicole has her sights set firmly on the Olympics, with hopes of representing Team GB in 2022.

Keep fit in the off-season

Don’t get complacent during the off-season. Work with your trainer to create a plan that will ensure you’re at peak fitness when the time comes for pre-season training. In April I tend to stay away from the gym. This is the most important time to build up stamina and cardio again, which is why I cycle, run and swim as often as I can. From June to July I get back into weightlifting, as by now my cardio and stamina should be top notch. I have a trainer who helps me in the gym each day and on a Saturday we run in the park.

From July to October we get back on skis, training on glaciers, so training in the gym is done in blocks. When we’re away we do fitness training too, but it isn’t as intense because we’ll be skiing the next day. When I’m not on the glaciers I’m in the gym with my trainer again.

Eat well

It’s vital to eat the right things. There’s no point in going to the gym every day if you’re going to gorge on junk food. A strict, healthy diet should be maintained – eat three meals a day, and ensure those meals are full of various nutrients. My favourite is chicken stir fry, and I also enjoy the occasional chocolate milkshake to give me a protein boost. Stay hydrated too: I try
to drink around two litres a day, so keep a water bottle handy.

Nicole’s mantra? Train hard, think positive and indulge in the occasional chocolate milkshake

Vary your training

Once we get back on skis in October, the snow is (hopefully) starting to fall around us. We train on glaciers, usually in Tignes, France. We tend to have a long day on the mountain, getting the first train up at 8.30am and coming down for lunch about 1.30pm. After lunch, we prep our skis and relax for an hour, then we’ll do some fitness work.

Sometimes we get the whole team together for a game of volleyball or football at the sports centre. Or we might have a session of fast feet (which usually includes the agility ladder) and explosive jumps. Our third option is a run around the lake, which is 3km, followed by a 20-minute session of core exercises.

Make the most of your downtime

When the season finishes in April I’m excited to travel back home to bonnie Scotland. I like to give myself a week or two to recuperate, relax and reflect on my season.

It’s important to enjoy your time away from the slopes, and not lose sight of other things that are important in life. It can be tough being away from home for long stretches of time, so I always try to make the most of my time when I’m back – I catch up with old friends, spend time with the family, and take my mind off skiing for a while. I never let myself get too comfortable, mind you – once those two weeks are over, it’s right back into training for the next season!

Show pure determination

Perhaps the most important factor in becoming an athlete is raw determination. The best athletes don’t get to where they are without giving it their all: be the first one to show up for training and the last one to leave. You will endure setbacks and failures – everyone does – but it’s important not to let those failures consume you. You have to get back up on that horse and keep moving forward. Keep a positive mindset, stay motivated and, above all, believe in yourself.