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“Don’t be something that happened to you, be something you choose to become.”
As a serving soldier for 18 years in the Royal Signal Regiment, Vicki Ross, knows all too well how crippling mental health issues can be.
To others Vicki is seen as a wife, mum, friend and soldier. However, Vicki views herself very differently, as someone who is physically, mentally and emotionally lost and lonely. Once a top athlete in multiple sports, an outstanding soldier, confident and outgoing, Vicki’s unseen injuries have turned her life upside-down to a point where she felt physically and mentally unrecognisable.
Like fellow Elliot Brown ambassador James Stride, Vicki was due to compete in the Invictus Games Hague 2020 which was postponed to next year following the Covid-19 pandemic. Over the years Vicki’s determination to physically compete with male colleagues in the Army has resulted in a number of injuries, such as nerve damage in her feet, a shoulder impingement and knee surgery. Despite her mental health and physical issues Vicki’s strength and fortitude was rewarded when she was selected to compete in not one but six sports in the Games and made Captain of the Sitting Volleyball team. The Invictus Games was to play a major part of her journey of rediscovery, to help her gain confidence in her sporting abilities and give her focus and a sense of purpose.
How did it feel when the news broke that the Games had been rescheduled and how have you adapted during lockdown?
“It was a hard pill to swallow as everybody in the team had been making great progress in terms of recovery. It’s actually bittersweet in terms of the delay because it now means we get to spend another year training together, building friendships, getting fitter and stronger and bolstering recovery. The key is trying to keep a positive mindset and to try and keep pushing forward with training and recovery.”
So, you’re competing in six sports in the Invictus Games in total, these being sitting volleyball, wheelchair rugby, wheelchair basketball, rowing, archery and power lifting. What has training looked like for you in Lockdown?
“Physical activity has always been a huge part of my life in every aspect, social, family and sporting life and it’s a great leveller to negate my anxiety. I’ve been training around six days a week as I’m fortunate enough to have a selection of various pieces of equipment at home (rowing machine/spin bike) so I can carry on with my training programme. My improvement in physical fitness in my legs since my operation over two years ago has now allowed me to ride my bike again. I try and go out on my road bike for two long rides every week and I also go out with my family mountain biking most days to try and keep us all fit and active. Training with Team UK is done virtually via Zoom sessions such as pilates, core, strength and conditioning, rowing and cycling. I try to attend them all.”
As a mum how have you juggled work as a soldier and home schooling?
“It has been incredibly hectic to say the least, I have a 10-year-old son and a soon to be teenage daughter so their stages of education are very different. At first I put myself under a lot of pressure to make sure I fully supported them, cooked nutritious food every day, fulfilled my work commitments with my usual sense of diligence, carried out physical activity and also, as of last week, completed a BSc(Hons) degree. I soon learnt there was not enough hours in the day to do things in the way I wanted so I’ve adapted by batch cooking and encouraging my children to learn problem solving skills e.g. to attempt work before they ask for help and just generally prioritise what is important.”
You used to play several sports, was volleyball always one of your favourites?
“I have always played sport throughout my life with my first love being football. Before I joined the Army I played for Manchester City Ladies. I never really played volleyball before, I just have a natural ability in the sporting arena, so when I applied for the Invictus Games I think I ticked to try all the team sports including wheelchair basketball and wheelchair rugby. I really enjoy Sitting Volleyball, so much so that before lockdown I would travel to Portsmouth to train with a team, in a similar way I travel to Warwickshire twice a week for basketball and Bristol for rugby. As you can probably tell I don’t do things by halves!”
What does your average weekly food diary look like? What's your go-to treat?
During lockdown I decided to try the Keto diet as I didn’t want to lose all the gains I had made during training with Team UK. When lockdown is over I will go back to a more balanced diet, one high in protein and good carbs. I have to be careful with the food I eat as I have coeliac disease so I eat a gluten free diet anyway. A go-to treat would be Chinese food (if I can find a gluten free one) or any form of lemon cake/dessert!”
You’ve got a go-getter attitude and keen on getting out and about whenever you can. If volleyball is top what’s your second favourite sport – mountain biking perhaps?
“Asking me to choose between my favourite adaptive sport is almost like asking me to choose my favourite child. I simply love all things active and have ventured more into the outdoor arena as my injuries pushed me out of the traditional sporting environment. I went on honeymoon to Bali where I learnt to surf, wake board and also kite surf, it was a great challenge as I have a bit of a fear of water. Subsequently, my knees have significantly deteriorated and I struggle to be physically capable of doing this anymore. Out of the three team sports I play I like them all for different reasons. Sitting Volleyball is a new skill for me to master and I love a challenge, whereas I enjoy the intensity and fast pace of wheelchair rugby and basketball.”
Do you have any motivational tips for others who were due to compete in an event but are no longer able to?
“Don’t forget the reason why you started on this journey. Recovery is more than just a single event, it is a lifelong process. Think positively and set yourself small goals that will lead to your larger aspirations. A setback is just another challenge that is there to be conquered, it will allow you to grow as a person, to make you stronger than before. Don’t be something that happened to you, be something you choose to become.”
Why Elliot Brown? What watch do you wear and are you enjoying putting it to the test?
"Being in the Royal Signals I was alerted to the centenary project watch Elliot Brown is producing and wanted to know more about the company behind the watch. Looking through the website I was drawn to the brand’s ethos of attention to detail, fit for purpose, engineering quality and versatility. Recently I have always worn a tech style watch, my mindset soon changed as I browsed the Elliot Brown website. Initially I wanted something with a bit of class I could wear on formal occasions, in the mess etc… but the more I read the more I realised how durable and versatile the watches are and suitability for literally any occasion.
I am wearing a watch from the Kimmeridge collection. When it arrived… “What can I say”?! Every aspect of the watch and the packaging/branding left me with the ‘wow’ factor. I fell in love with it straight away and have not taken it off since! I have worn it in many environments, from road biking, mountain biking, rowing and weight training to everyday use as a mum. There is nothing more to say other than it is perfect and my “other watch” is redundant.”
Invictus UK is delivered by a partnership between Help for Heroes, The Royal British Legion and Ministry of Defence.