Loren Rowney is a 28-year old former Australian cyclist. After five years in the pro peloton, Rowney retired from professional cycling, citing mental health challenges. Born in South Africa, Rowney rode for both the Orica-AIS and Velocio-SRAM teams, winning 9 stages during her career.
What led you to make the decision to retire?
It was one of those thoughts that had been lingering for some time, I was always saying things like, “If I wasn’t racing I would do this”. Or “when I finish racing I will do that”. I guess the nail in coffin, so to speak, was when my team manager started playing games with me September of last year. He was questioning my incentives to keep racing and thought I had become too complacent. It made me angry at first, then I realised he had helped me realised something I hadn’t wanted to see myself…that I was done.
What has worked best for you during your retirement, what's had the biggest positive effect on your life?
The most positive effect has been my support around me. I have the greatest group of people in my life, at any given moment I have someone to call on. The most important thing other than a good network has been keeping busy, and continuing to exercise on a regular basis. For me, exercise and being healthy is part of who I am, it’s just trying to squeeze in the time now.
What have you found most difficult about retirement?
Putting on weight, and dealing with my body which is transitioning from elite athlete to everyday person. I mean being an everyday person is fine, I’m just not comfortable with the idea of carrying more weight in certain areas. Good thing is that I have amazing people who are helping me through this. It is known in my sport that I have suffered from an eating disorder for a number of years. To this day I still struggle, however, I am actively trying to manage it better now I’m retired.
With hindsight - was there anything you wished you had done during your cycling days to better prepare you for transition?
I wish I had had something in place for when I retired. The first month or so was hell. I was so lost, I started spiralling back into depression. Again, I have been a sufferer of depression and anxiety since high school. I think I should have had someone “de-train” me, help me with my diet, give me some structure in my life. I went from a day-to-day plan to absolutely nothing, and that really messed with my head. I have an obsessive personality, and I like to be in control. So retiring felt like I actually lost all control, even though it was entirely my decision to do so.
At what stage during their sporting career do you think athletes should start preparing for life after sport?
I think you should go into sport with other interests and goals. Your whole career you should try to have something else, for yourself. That would have been key for me. Instead, I chose to just race my bike and live the lifestyle, thinking it would last forever. I don’t think you can put a timeline on it, however, when an athlete is starting to think about the future and isn’t living in the “now” so much, that is when you should actively start looking at what would interest you after sport. That very well could be within your sporting industry, or something completely different. My words of wisdom are that you should always have a bit of an idea or grasp on something you can do straight after retirement. Even if that is a holiday you have always wanted to do, but haven’t been able to.
Do you think it is possible to build an identity outside of sport whilst you're still competing? If so, how?
Yes, I think so. Now 5 months retired, I get introduced as “former pro” Loren Rowney, so the identity is still there. Which is, in fact, a good thing for now, as I’m trying to network within the industry. To be honest, in years to come I don’t mind if people bring up that, “Oh, Loren was a former pro athlete”. It has been such a huge part of my life and a part of who I am today that I don’t want to forget about that identity. In the end, we are all just people, and yes we get labelled… doctor, lawyer, athlete, cleaner… that is society. The most important thing to realise is that you who you are, regardless of the title people attach to you.
How important is it to you to invest in finding the right career path, one that suits you and one you're excited about?
Finding the right career path is something I realised could take some time. Right now, what is working for me is trying my hand at various different jobs, which is great! I’m keeping busy all the time, my mind is constantly active, and I’m learning every day. It’s really liberating for me. I spent a lot of my career
on social media, watching movies, not really doing much. With everything in life, you need to be excited about what you are doing. For athletes just retiring, you have to do something that is going to stimulate you mentally, and also something that is goal-orientated. We wouldn’t have been professional athletes if we weren’t goal-orientated people.
What are you doing now and what sort of athletes do you think would be suited to your role or industry?
I’m doing all kinds of jobs within my industry of professional cycling. I’m a blogger for different websites, a reporter for a women’s cycling broadcasting company, a tour guide for cycling tours, and a bunch of other odd jobs here and there. I have no idea where I will be in a few years to be perfectly honest. The one thing I know is that I am happy, and I made the right decision to retire.