Charlotte Dixon, World Indoor Rowing Champion from Ballymena: 'Working and the horses kept me sane'

Gail Bell asks experts and people in the public eye what keeps them going. This week: Charlotte Dixon, World Indoor Rowing Champion from Ballymena

Charlotte Dixon, World Indoor Rowing Champion from Ballymena
Gail Bell

Up and at it – what is your new morning routine? How has it changed?

Whether I wake up at 5am on a working day shift, 4pm on a working night shift or 9am on a day off, I always like to get my breakfast and then head to the gym. I'm not easily spoken to before that.


What might you eat in a typical working day for...Breakfast?

I keep it simple here: oats and fruit or else a bagel and eggs - and best believe I never skip breakfast. If I'm training early in the morning, at 5am, I'll have a snack (rice cake or banana) before my session and then breakfast afterwards. My training is so much better when I fuel my sessions.


Lunch is normally something I've meal-prepped to avoid hassle and normally as much as I can fit into one lunch box. It mainly revolves around chicken or salmon, with pasta or rice and lots of veg.

Evening meal?

I'm lucky that my mum does all the cooking for dinner. I might be biased, but she's pretty good. My evening meal is always something different, but my favourite is anything with pasta. You can't beat her spaghetti Bolognese.


Have you been able to work from home – if so, how have you found it?

I am a research and diagnostic scientist, currently working as review analyst in the Covid-19 labs at Randox, so I most definitely have not had the luxury of working from home.


Best/easiest lockdown meal?

Can I say pasta again?


Weekend treat?

I'm a sucker for going out to eat in a restaurant, but it doesn't have to be anything fancy. A weekend treat is just going out to eat 'proper' good food and have a pint at the same time.


How have you kept physically and mentally fit during lockdown?

During the first lockdown, my sister and I kept each other going with our fitness routine and I think that really helped, along with training outside in the sun. I've been lucky enough to be able to train at my gym during the most recent lockdown in order to prepare for my world championship race. Training for this race involved some of the most difficult sessions I had ever done but I loved every minute of it.


What has been your daily outdoor exercise?

I'm lucky to have my horses stabled at our own yard in front of our house, so when any opportunity arises, I go out and get them saddled up and go riding out in the fresh air. It feels so good after being stuck indoors, working.


How do you relax?

An ideal relaxing evening for me is having dinner followed by a bath, a movie and then straight to bed.


Teetotal or tipple?

If I said 'tipple' here, all my friends would know I'm lying.


What book are you currently reading?

I have never been good at reading; I don't think I even finished the book I was supposed to read for an exam in GCSE English.


Best Netflix?

I am pretty bad at watching Netflix series - I normally fall asleep - but I do love watching a good murder documentary on TV.


Most surprising thing you've learned about yourself?

Probably that I can do a lot more than I realise. The great thing about training and rowing is the more work you put in, generally speaking, the more progress you will make. I have made a huge improvement over the past year and it has given me so much motivation.


On a scale of one to 10, where have you been in relation to cabin fever and where are you now?

I've been lucky enough to avoid cabin fever, thankfully. I've been working throughout all the lockdowns which kept me sane and having both the horses and rowing to focus on has really helped.


What are the three things you missed most during the beginning of lockdown?

I hugely missed not being able to see my friends and socialise - something that I always took for granted. I also really missed being able to go out for dinner, as it really is one of my favourite things to do. Thirdly, I missed not being able to compete my horses. I was always so used to having them in competitions that it felt very strange not being able to do that.


Where will you go and what will you do when restrictions are fully lifted?

I really can't wait to get my friends together to go on a big night out somewhere. I'd also love to go skiing this winter, if restrictions allow.


Biggest gripe?

It's usually pretty difficult to annoy me, but probably when my sister steals my clothes... but surely, no one likes that?


Have your priorities in life or perspectives changed?

I think numerous lockdowns have encouraged me to prioritise my own health, both physically and mentally, and appreciate a lot more of the 'little' things in life - especially being able to see family and friends


Any new skills or hobbies?

Because there aren't indoor rowing competitions during the summer, I've had the time to practise my gymnastics skills in the gym and have surprised myself at how much they've improved. I definitely find throwing heavy weights about comes a lot more naturally to me, but it's so rewarding to work on your weaknesses.


What would you like to see change for good when this is all over?

No hugs.


Has coronavirus changed your attitude towards your own mortality?

I don't think coronavirus has changed my mind much - I still very much believe that whatever will be, will be regarding my own mortality. I think, if anything, it has made me more protective of my own family and friends who have been most at risk during the pandemic. I find thinking about that more scary than thinking about my own mortality.

Rower Charlotte Dixon (23) was recently crowned Indoor Rowing World Champion in the women's U23 500m sprint, beating experienced competitors from Denmark, Egypt and Europe. She is also a medal-winning equestrian and was recently named a Boost sport ambassador.

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