'It's easy to take health for granted'
Attending the Simplyhealth 'Connected Health' reception in Central London was an inspiring opportunity to meet people interested in the health and wellbeing of the population. The event, held at OXO2 on the southern banks of the River Thames, was a starting point for Simplyhealth to invite others, from clients and charitable partners to health opinion formers and media, to join them in creating a better future of health provision, through funding, delivery and guidance, be it via the NHS, charities or private medical options.
As an athlete, health is at the fore of what I do. Without my health, I can't compete at the highest level and as I am almost halfway through my 25th year as an international athlete, I thank my lucky stars everyday that my health has stood almost two decades of fierce competition.
Within the sporting world it's easy to take prime form and health for granted - you get so used to being physically fit and able to train hard day in day out, and it's usually only after retirement or serious injury that many athletes will realise just what they enjoyed. Prevention is better than cure in our line of work, so athletes are cautious over many tiny details so as not to risk their fragile immune systems.
Hand gel, seats away from sneezing passengers, bottled water when abroad, no ice in drinks, avoiding touching door handles in public places, wiping down tables on trains or planes and many other actions many people would not think twice over, are just a few behaviours showing the lengths an athlete may go to.
Sport and injury are commonplace, so when an athlete is inevitably out of action, the support they require to be patient and make the right decisions for recovery should never be overlooked. Injuries will always occur at inconvenient times and I have my own experience of this when I broke my collarbone a week before the 2007 World Track Champs.
My desire not to let my Chinese opposition win the 3000m Individual Pursuit title, the year before the Beijing Games, couldn't have been higher and I found a way to limit my losses of not being able to start well and rode the event anyway! It was a risk worth taking and paid off when I won the World title!
Since winning four gold medals in London 2012, I have had another incredible experience, that of being pregnant, and having my now nearly three year old daughter. Health takes on a whole new meaning with a little person to look after and when coaxing your stretched body back to World Championship form!
Another change for me and my husband is to create our own cycling club and professional women's cycling team. Both of these promote the work of the charity Boot Out Breast Cancer, with the club taking the charity name. Importantly the club is for everyone and anyone as a way to encourage more people in to a fit and healthy lifestyle.
Sport is a catalyst for change in so many fields but is vital on the health agenda and we hope our efforts contribute to the many others who are also creating opportunities to build a healthy society.