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Annika Sjöström: I really love my life with all things that are in it and all what I do

Let’s start with the basics: this website was conceived and created to convey two fundamental messages:
cross country skiing is good for your body i.e. makes you stronger & healthier.
cross country skiing is good for your soul i.e makes you happier and more content with life.

This is a theory – but, like every theory, it needs a proof. More of real-life proof and stronger the examples – more reason for you to believe that all that hard training you do is a for a reason – and to spread the word to uninitiated.

Here’s a story of a young woman who could teach us all a great deal about achieving that perfect but elusive work-life-doing sport balance.

Annika Sjöström is 29, she lives, works and trains ( mostly) in Larsmo, located on the Finnish shore of the Gulf of Bothnia.

Ms Sjöström is an engineer with a prestigious diploma and complicated, but challenging full time job & career. She’s also an elite skier and biathlete who trains 600+ hours per year and competes nationally. She is happily in a relationship (“ Besides his skiing career, he runs his own company and he’s much tougher than I’m” ) – and in-between all that she somehow manages to find time for her other passion – her motorboat.

In this story we shall let Annika do most of the talking & explaining how she successfully juggles career, sport and personal life. Annika is a real pleasure to listen – and very convincing in her positive attitude to life. We hope it shows – еnjoy the read!

Sport & training:
I train about 15h/week on a training season.. and with regular intervals I have so called “rest weeks” about 7h of easy training. On my summer vacations I often do training camps. All in all I manage to train about 600h/year
My current goal is Top 10 in Finnish biathlon championships, I feel that I have taken another step in the right direction to improve my shooting and skiing, stay healty, train smart, eat and rest well, so that I can compete all winter without any unwanted breaks.

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Job
– I am a software engineer at Valmet, Finnish developer and supplier of technologies, automation and services for the pulp, paper and energy industries.
I do new and maintain software programs that control pulp and paper factories and their processes as well hardware installations. I have many different projects around the country. Mostly my work is on pulp factories but also on power plants. Actually, my latest project was a new abrasive paper machine that is controlled by our system.

How do you manage all that?
I wake up 5:30 AM( On weekends a bit later, about 6:30-7AM) Eat and train. Depends of what I’m training but mostly 1-1,5h. Shower, change clothes, eat and off to work, 8h work day and directly after work I do training number 2. Then it is almost evening, around 6-7PM. Then I eat dinner and relaxing with some mobility/stretch training. Off to bed by 9:30 PM
I eat 6 times/day. In average 3500kcal. If I have long, 4-5 hours training sessions I add more food. Never pre-packaged food or fast food. I make every meal from scratch and it contains everything: good fats, high proteins and carbs. It is important for me that I know what I’m eating, and knowing that it is enough for me. I mostly skip snacks/candy and stuff like that but sometimes I take a piece of dark chocolate with a coffee.
I have to eat a lot during the day when I’m at work of course, otherwise I should not be able to do a training right after work. This concept work really fine, but it requires good planning and a lot of food making in advance – but of course this is just during summer and autumn. During race season the amount of training is a lot less…but i compete almost every weekend during winter so the energy level is quite low when April arrives.

How did you arrive to what & who you’re today?
– I started with skiing as many others do when I was a couple of years old, I did my first competition when I was 5years old. And after that it just continued year after year, and it was incredible fun.
However, when I was about 16 years old I wanted a break, I guess, I was a little bit tired of just skiing every weekend on the winter and train all summer..and I wanted to do someting else as well. I took a break from competing. In the years when I didn’t compete I got my degree as an automation assembler and after that I continued to study engineering.
Then I started to miss the competing again, and when you want someting you should do it. And here I am today. Back in racing and I am so happy. Since I like challenges I did add biathlon to my life about 1,5 years ago. That has gone very well and I have manage some great results in national competitions.

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What would you change and improve, be it up to you?

– Here where I live cross country skiing has always been quite big but also here you can see less and less kids that want to begin with xc skiing. I think more of these “driving spirits” has to be found, those who love skiing and want to maintain different training sessions in skiing clubs year after year.
Also – stop selecting young talents and make “elite groups” of 15 yearsold kids. Those who are not teenage stars perhaps quit when they don’t get a place in the group even if they later could be stars. Without these groups you get a large group of skiers and bigger opportunities to get many elite skiiers that become idols for kids.. And the kids start skiing because they want to be like their idols.
Another aspect is that 12years olds should not be needing 10 pairs of skis and o huge amount of skiwax to compete at 2km distances. Not every parent has the possibility to buy all that stuff and the kids don’t want to do skiing when the others have several pair of skis and all the latest stuff. It has to be fun and not taken too seriously in that age.

Thoughs, ideas, observations:
– I have always chosen my own way and done things that makes me happy. Often just the opposite way to what others have done.

– The life I live, it requires self-discipline. But that it just who i am. Always been. And quite stubborn as well

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– I really wish to all the people that they should do whatever they want to do. Don’t bother what others think about you. You can never satisfy everybody, no matter how bad you want to. Put your energy on yourself and on those who support you.

– People that don’t know me or just not into cross country skiing often react on me in two different ways: either they think I’m stupid and have to relax a little bit – or they are really impressed. I try to inspire both of those groups to do the same if they have something that they really want to do.

– I really love my life with all things that are in it and all what I do. As a person I know very quickly what I want and what I don’t. Things that I don’t like I stop doing and the things I want – I work to make it happen – till I got what I wanted.

– People who are skeptical are allowed to be that and I don’t judge them – instead I try to make them do the same with their dreams. I think that the people who put their energy into being skeptical about others’ performances, they have their own unfulfilled goals.

– Now when I look back I’m totally happy with all the things I’ve already have achieved and do not regret any choices I made. You don’t have to take the same road as everyone else.

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