Having become a household name thanks to her ever-present smile and Olympic Gold medal win this year in the Women’s Team Pursuit, Joanna Rowsell has also found herself the body confidence inspiration of alopecia sufferers and young girls across the country … we caught up with her as training begins again to talk about health, happiness and spa treatments!
How are you getting on post-Olympics? Are you still buzzing?
It’s been crazy – I never thought I would be that busy, but I have loved it! There have been a lot of television interviews and getting up early which is hard for me! I did some presenting during the Paralympics and have had a lot of requests from schools – I am going to my local Brownies at the weekend – it’s really rewarding doing that, the kids all think it’s amazing to see a gold medal. I am also now back on my bike and training for competitions in November and next year.
You have mentioned that cycling gave you the confidence to cope with alopecia – how did it help?
I think sport in general is a great way of giving someone confidence – it gives a real sense of achievement. It is strange to think of how shy I was eight years ago – I am completely different now. Feeling fit and healthy, and the endorphins that sport gives you are all part of it, and I have been fortunate to have a lot of success as well, which without being big-headed, does a lot to boost your confidence!
You have said you were shy growing up – was that because of your own feelings or other people?
I was always generally shy – I didn’t go out with my friends a lot, I was very studious and would just come home from school and do my homework. I was nervous of social situations as I wasn’t happy with the way I looked – I wasn’t bullied, my friends didn’t treat me differently to anyone else, I was just very self conscious.
What do you think is the key to body confidence?
It’s very easy for me to say to people to just be confident in your own body having just become an Olympic champion, but I think sport is generally a very good way to feel confident. It is doing something that you know is good for you, and whatever level you are at, if you keep at it you will improve and achieve goals and see results. It is also a great thing to do with friends or a way to meet people, which all helps with confidence.
I take it there are practical reasons for not wearing your wig while competing, but what made you decide to keep it off when you were collecting your medal?
There is very little time between coming off track and going onto the podium – I didn’t have time to go back to my bag, but I knew that would be the case – at any event you don’t change between the race and going to get your medal; but being in the velodrome is like being at home for me – I feel comfortable there and I never thought about the thousands of people that might be watching on the television.
How do you feel about being a role model for young girls?
At first the publicity was overwhelming, but alopecia has always been a part of me and if I can help other girls then that’s massive. I have had emails from girls who have been bullied because of alopecia and they have said that since they saw me on the television they have felt more confident and started to ignore the bullies who have since got bored and now leave them alone. It’s a strange responsibility because I am just me doing my job and I don’t think about the impact it might have on other people’s lives. It’s weird to think I have made a difference, but it makes my day getting those emails.
What’s your idea of the perfect day of relaxation?
A good lie in! I am not a morning person! A beach holiday is the ultimate I think, but otherwise normal things – going to the cinema and the shops – I don’t get much time for that while I am training. I like going out and being a tourist, and little things like getting my nails done and being pampered.
Have you been to many spas?
No, but before the Olympics we stayed at Celtic Manor and I went to the spa to get my nails done and it smelled amazing – I wanted to go for a treatment but I didn’t have time as I had to go back to training! There were all these women walking around in their white robes while we were in our tracksuits, and I just kept thinking ‘lucky them!’
Do you have a favourite spa treatment?
I have a lot of sports massages, but I would like to try something a bit more unusual I think … what do you suggest?
Hmmm, perhaps the Herbal Steam at Celtic Manor then?
That sounds good! Yes, maybe that!
When are you at your happiest?
I do really enjoy training – especially on a hot, sunny day … but I also like spending time with family and friends – the simple things.
Do you have a beauty product you can’t live without?
Eye liner! … I also use the Simple products in my daily routine, so they come with me everywhere!
Top tip for looking and feeling your best when you have a busy schedule?
Try to eat well and never skip breakfast. I always find if I miss a meal then I end up eating rubbish and it always makes me feel rough.
You are a world champion … what’s next?
Well, I am a world champion in a team event, so now I want to target the individual events. I have the Commonwealth Games coming up, and I have never been to one of those, so that will be my target there!
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