Episode 38: Isla Short

Updated: Jul 19, 2019

“If I can inspire anything through my racing, I want it to be honesty. I’ve always been an open person; I talk about my feelings as soon as I feel them, but when I was in the midst of that dark period recently, I discovered how social media can suffocate you and push you to present a skewed, false image of yourself.”

This week we hear from the amazing pro mountain biker Isla Short, who has been through more than a fair share of highs and difficult lows in life and career so far.

Isla has amassed impressive titles in racing, and she is still just 22 years old. She was Scottish champion in both mountain bike and cyclo-cross for two years running, before becoming Elite British Mountain Bike Series champion in 2016.

And then a date with the Commonwealth Games called. She competed on the Gold Coast in 2018, placing an amazing 5th. In a career best, she also placed fourth in the Mountain Bike World Cup that year.

But this girl has worked hard to understand her self-worth, which is so much more than a list of race results. Her racing career has brought painful lows; two traumatic accidents, both involving a broken back and collarbone; experiencing PTSD and depression; and disordered eating and food restriction.

Isla is in a sport where women of all shapes and sizes compete – and she still had to work very hard not to be taken down by obsession around weight, size and restriction. We talked about how challenging it is to get the balance right between fuelling, enjoying food and having the satisfaction and energy to compete to your potential, and the dangers of tipping over into a control mindset over nutrition, weight and body aesthetic.

“There is no point in getting caught up in what other athletes look like. You have to be good technically, happy and tactically-aware; there is so much more to it that what you weigh”

We also talked about:

  • What the crashes were like for Isla and how her perspective on the injuries has changed over time; cementing her motivations and who she is as an athlete

  • Accepting the risk and fear involved in downhill mountain biking and how this changed through injury

  • Returning to the sport, regaining confidence and learning to practice self-compassion

  • Her experience of PTSD after the accidents; the symptoms and learning to accept help

  • Her Commonwealth Games experience

  • The dangers of striving for perfection in training

  • The need for more support of pro athletes to develop rounded lives with plan Bs behind them, to avoid self-worth connecting too much to performance

As usual, find it from Friday 8am on Soundcloud, iTunes, Stitcher, TuneIn and the others.

A huge shout out of thanks to Ross Brannigan for introducing me to Isla.

Share with a friend today! Love to you all for listening.

Show notes

Between the tape: Isla’s blog

My relationship status with food: it’s complicated

Quick guide to sustainable and healthy eating in sport

Commonwealth Games Gold Coast 2018

Isla Short on Team Scotland

Scotsman article

Isla on Instagram

Isla on Twitter

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