Matt Heath

Matt Heath

From fridges to full time study

As a refrigeration engineer it wasn’t unheard of to be working 60+ hour weeks in the height of summer when I would rather be out in the hills or training for an event. So, I decided to leave my job and head off travelling around the world to get my outdoors fix, first stop the Himalayas of Nepal where I trekked and travelled up and over 5000m for 6 weeks. Later on my travels, in a mountain hut above 2000m, I spoke with a group leader about his role during a multi activity trip and knew that was what I wanted to do with my life.

After 18 months, I returned home and slipped back in to my old job and was hit with the news of my father being diagnosed with cancer and shortly after that my mother too. I returned to the family home to help them through their treatments and after care - driving them to the hospital in the morning and helping where I could to make daily living as easy as possible.

It was on a train journey back home after a visit to my friend in London that I read about a degree course offering all that I wanted to do in the outdoors - leading and guiding and outdoor sports with a science background. In my situation at the time, I thought about the “not knowing what’s around the corner” and decided to leave my time-consuming London job and pursue my dream to have a job doing what I enjoyed and enrolled on to the BSc Sport and Exercise Science (Outdoor Fitness Pathway) course at the University of Wales Trinity St David.

Arriving at UWTSD and unloading the car in to my room in halls it didn’t feel real. Re-entering in to full-time education after almost 20 years was daunting yet exciting, I had become a full-time mature student chasing a dream. Year one started with gusto - getting outdoors on a Monday for the Green Exercise module trail running, open water sea swimming, mountain biking and learning fundamental skills which we would develop throughout the year.

Back in the classroom we learnt the sciences - Anatomy and Physiology. I’m not going to lie, it was hard work learning again. For me the Green exercise and Anatomy/ Physiology were my favourite lectures and I enjoyed applying what I was learning in the classroom to how my body was responding during the various activities. First year was not without disaster. Within the first month, my Mum passed away soon followed by my grandmother and a little while later my grandfather also.

These were extremely hard times but the support from my tutors and course mates and flat mates were second to none when I was missing my network of family and friends and partner. I knew why I was there and knew mum wouldn’t want me to miss out so I hung in there and applied myself and finished with a respectable 2:1 which gave me a good base line to start in year 2.

Throughout the first and second year I developed an interest in the sciences more than I expected and really enjoyed the Exercise Physiology module - applying the science to my preferred sports, cycling and triathlon. With some encouragement from my course tutor, Geraint Forster, I signed up for an Ironman triathlon and applied that to elements of my assignments such as my biomechanics and nutrition modules.

I have not forgotten my dream job in the mountains but I have found a new interest in human science and I’m happy to continue down this new avenue of interest. The location of UWTSD is ideal for the course too with the stunning Pembrokeshire coastline offering crystal clear waters for sea swimming and the amazing coastal path for tough yet enjoyable trail running.

Closer to campus the challenging rolling hills of the Towy valley offer up great cycling routes for all abilities and the nearby forestries deliver the goods for the off-road enthusiast. These areas which I have mentioned were our classrooms for many lectures and beat a PowerPoint lecture hands down. Both years were ended with a course trip away.

Year 1 was a trip to France to get some final training for the Swansea triathlon which we all entered so we spent a week riding through the historic countryside of Normandy, river swimming by our chalet and trail running through woodland, did I mention the wine and great food? The second-year trip was spent in Murcia in southern Spain, again a multi-sport trip with cycling being the focus with sea swimming available and nice seafront running perfect for those training for long distance events. This trip gave me invaluable hours on my bike for my training clocking my first 100-mile ride and a nice end to a full-on year.

The time has flown by like I never would have imagined, would I rather be fixing fridges? Not a chance. With 1 more year to go I can’t wait to get stuck into my dissertation and start applying my new knowledge in a new job which I will enjoy.

 

Believe in yourself and never stop learning.