Looking back I feel like I spent a lifetime making excuses.
I have hypermobility syndrome and get a lot of joint pain – this can be exacerbated by exercise and I always felt that being active hurt.
Being inactive lead to me becoming overweight and so I was self-conscious and avoided exercise for fear of being judged. I became very involved in my work and never found the time to be more active. Looking back I feel like I spent a lifetime making excuses.
A few Christmases ago, I remember being on my sofa at home, facing another night in with chocolate and alcohol and realising that I wasn’t especially happy. I realised that actually, I like being outside, I wasn’t getting any younger and that the only person who could change things was me. I started to research bikes because I remembered cycling as a child and student and that I didn’t particularly remember it giving me pain but I just couldn’t get the nerve up to try it.
Then, my MD challenged the company to enter the Great Notts Bike Ride. My employer would pay the entry fee and we would go for food afterwards, again with my employer footing the bill. I’ll do anything for free food!
This gave me the impetus and on a whim I agreed to take part. I didn’t even own a bike! I dashed to the bike shop, ordered what was, on reflection, a completely unsuitable bike, arranged some Bikeability training and just jumped into it. It was hard, really hard.
The first time I rode my new bike, I had literally forgotten how and couldn’t balance! I thought I was going to have a heart attack. But I didn’t. And actually – I loved it!
42 days after getting the bike I completed 25 miles in the GNBR which was a MASSIVE achievement for me. It was the slowest 25 miles anyone has ever done but I still cycled 25 miles. Just 6 weeks before when I picked up my bike I had no idea that I could do that. I joined British Cycling’s guided rides whenever I could. I rode after work. I rode to and from work. I rode to the shops. It was brilliant!
The February after I started I applied to take part in a This Girl Can campaign for Nottingham City Council. I was selected and took part in an advert and a documentary film. I became a This Girl Can ambassador in the city. When the documentary premiered, a friend and I were talking about how there were cycle clubs but nothing for women like us who just wanted to ride socially (Breeze was non-existent in Nottingham at the time).
So we decided to make something and created Nottingham Girls Cycle, which now has almost 400 members. I started to casually lead bike rides. British Cycling heard what we were doing and I was asked to become a Breeze champion so I trained in June 2016. I coerced lots of my friends to train too and we lead Couch to 20k groups. In 2017 I became Breeze Area Co-ordinator for the East Midlands and in 2019 I have joined the British Cycling Regional Board for the East Midlands with a portfolio for recreation. Cycling has changed my life!
If I don’t plan my bike rides in, they don’t happen! I usually plan about 3 months in advance. I book in the rides I am going to lead and book myself onto other rides. I still ride alone in the evenings and sometimes at weekends. I still need to cycle to work more!
I am also now looking at other ways of becoming more active and using the Her Spirit community to help give me ideas and motivate me!