Taking their turn

I am delighted to hear that Sport England recently launched the next phase of #thisgirlcan campaign with a focus on women aged over 40. The original campaign was aimed at ages 14-40 and got over 1.6 million women exercising. It was well-received but I felt the campaign missed many women ouside of its original target age group.

“This Girl Can is a celebration of active women who are doing their thing no matter how well they do it, how they look or even how red their face gets. Developed by Sport England, we want to help women overcome the fear of judgement that is stopping too many women and girls from joining in.”
– Sport England.

Last autumn I set about planning a series of group cycling development sessions for women. As a Breeze leader, I became increasingly aware of a large number of ladies who wanted to join a cycling club and go on a Sunday club ride. When quizzed (over cake) on why these secret ambitions hadn’t become a reality the common response was “I’m not good enough” or “I’ll never keep up.”

Having experienced these doubts as a new cyclist before my first club ride, I got the bit between my teeth and set up some coaching sessions. My friend and fellow Breeze leader, Emma Barraclough suggested using The Family Cycling Centre (the old Whitchurch running track) in south Bristol as a safe and traffic free venue. Emma and I used Facebook and Twitter to invite female cyclists across Bristol to the sessions and in early November the running track came to life with the chatter of women on bikes.

I was inspired by the energy and enthusiasm of the group in tackling each drill and activity. The group worked together to improve their skills and practise new techniques, challenging themselves and supporting each other. They asked me lots of questions and showed an eagerness to understand everything, giving me the opportunity to learn and reflect on my knowledge as a coach.

On signing up for the course, riders were asked to complete questions about their goals and reasons for taking part. The overwhelming reason for participating was to build or boost confidence. Well, there was confidence aplenty by the last session! Clear hand signals, shouts of “passing on your right” and “last rider” as they whizzed around the track communicating manouveres assertively.

Many of these women found cycling later in life and more than half of the group were aged over 40. Several women have already made it out on their first group ride so look out for them soon in your local club!

If you’re interested in learning more about group riding, join me at the ‘Where it Begins’ event at the Specialized Concept Store in Bristol on 28th March – you can book your place here.