Today it is our privilege to bring you an interview with Wheelchair Racer, 2x European Silver Medallist, World Record Holder and Paralympic Athlete, Ben Rowlings. We discuss Ben’ approach to training, his advice on getting started with sports and fitness, his goals for the future, plus much more…
Can you tell us about your journey from starting at Wheelchair racing as a beginner to competing at the highest level of the sport?
I’d always been a sporty kid growing up and originally swam a lot, but a chlorine allergy put a stop to any potential swimming career! I wanted to find a new sport and stumbled across wheelchair racing. I went to a British athletics talent identification day in 2011 where I tried lots of different events and wheelchair racing caught my eye. The chairs were so different from anything I’d seen before and the thought of going quick round a track stuck with me (despite not actually being very good or quick to begin with).
Between 2011-2013 I competed domestically and if I’m being honest, I probably wasn’t very quick, but I enjoyed it and gradually started training more and more often and eventually something clicked and my times dropped massively. I made my international debut at the European Championships in 2014 where I won a bronze medal in the T34 800m. This was my first real experience of elite; international sport and it was a lot more nerve racking than I thought it was ever going to be but pulling on the GB vest for the first time was an amazing experience.
Since 2014 I have been fortunate enough to represent Great Britain at every major championship to date (World, European Championships and Paralympic Games) winning:
- 4 European Bronze medals
- 2 European Silver medals
- European records in the T34 400,800,1500m
- World record in the T34 5000m
It’s been a steep learning curve over the last 10 years and something that I definitely didn’t expect to happen so quickly.
What are your personal stand-out moments from your career as an athlete so far?
One of the standout moments so far has to be the first race at my first Paralympic Games in Rio. I remember being led out onto the track for the heats of the 800m and the stadium just opened up in front of you. That was the moment I became a Paralympian and that’s one of the proudest moments I’ve ever had racing, it was something I’d dreamt about since I was a kid and it had come true. Looking back at it, the nerves of it being my first games probably distracted me from the actual racing and it didn’t go as well as I would have wanted, but I had become a Paralympian and that was a moment that can never be taken away.
Another stand out moment would be an 800m race in Switzerland in 2017. Like I said the Paralympics the year before didn’t go as well as I wanted so I had trained really hard for the 800m over that winter to make up for the mistakes in Rio. The races in Switzerland are as competitive as any world championships/ Paralympic Games with the best racers from around the world competing there. The race started and I decided to take the front and just sprint it. Crossing the finish line, it was a really close race where I finished just behind the gold and silver medallists from Rio and the time was 1.39.12. I’d broken the European record and gone under the old-World record knocking 6 seconds of my PB in one race. It stands outs to me because I had come back from the tough year beforehand in Rio.
What does your training schedule typically look like when preparing for a competition?
On the lead up to competition the actual training schedule stays very similar, just the types of sessions change. I’d train twice and day six days a week right up until a week before a race. This would be split over either a gym or track session in the morning and then another track session in the evenings.
Over the off season the mileage is higher (80-100 miles a week) and the gym sessions are based around heavier weights. The closer to competition I get the track sessions get shorter and the reps get a lot quicker, so I can go into the competition feeling fresh.
What advice would you give to someone who is demotivated or doesn’t know where to start with getting into sport and fitness?
My advice would be to find something you’re interested in and just give it a go. You don’t need to start with massive training sessions, build yourself into it. You can start with something as simple as a walk or one gym session week and build it up from there.
There are loads of helpful videos on Instagram, TikTok, YouTube etc that will help give you a good starting point with anything you want to do.
Once you’ve started to get in the swing of things with whichever sport/fitness activity you choose, set yourself attainable goals at the end of every month so you have something to work towards.
What’s your approach to balancing goals in different areas of your life?
My approach to balancing different life goals is to compartmentalise things and try to keep things separate. Over the last 4 years I have been balancing full time university with training and I’ve found that having something completely different to focus on has helped both my training and my university work.
When I’ve not had the best of training sessions I can go back and completely switch off as I have to focus on university deadlines and when I’m struggling with university deadlines I can go and train and completely switch off from the university work. I’ve also found it really important to know when to switch off from anything work related and just enjoy spending time with friends and family. Especially with the situation surrounding the pandemic it’s really hit home how important that downtime really is.
What advice would you give to someone who is trying to transform their passion and turn it into a successful business/ career?
I would say if you’re passionate about something and want to turn it into a career make sure you’re as prepared as possible and surround yourself with supportive people. Make sure you throw yourself into it fully and have no regrets.
What are you goals and plans for the future?
My goal within racing is to become Paralympic champion, this has been a dream since I was a child and is a target that I believe with enough hard work and sacrifice can be done.
Outside of sport I aim to finish my university degree in April and then find a job that I am passionate about. There are a few different avenues I am looking at pursuing. PE teaching and personal training are two potential occupations. I would love to get people to love and enjoy sport and exercise as much as I do because sport has changed my life. Another option would be something like public speaking. I believe there are a lot of transferable skills from the sporting world that can help improve the workplace and business world.
Interviewer: @tudge_ (Instagram)