Cycling continues to be one of the leading recreational activities within the UK and with the arrival of the Women’s Tour Northamptonshire, what a great time to not only head out and support, but also to dust off the old two-wheels and get out there yourself!
Since 2012, more than 100,000 people in the UK are cycling regularly, according to Sport England’s latest Active People Survey, and that number is still on the rise.
As an avid cyclist myself, I know how lucky we are in Northamptonshire to have some of the most beautiful countryside roads and a good cycling network to get around. Now don’t get me wrong, quite a few of the busier cycle lanes need improvement, but today we will not go there, and instead let’s head out into the rolling hills a bit more and smell that fresh air shall we?
Last week I caught up with local girl Hannah Barnes, who will be competing in the Women’s Tour this year. Having represented England at the Commonwealth Games, she told me how she got involved in cycling, saying: “It all started with myself and my family cycling around Pitsford Reservoir when I was younger and I just loved it. Dad took us to a couple of races and that was pretty much it! School came second and I knew I wanted to do it as a career.
“For me the freedom of cycling is amazing. Travelling is great and you go to some pretty amazing places. You meet a lot of friends through it too and there’s no age cap. I know people who have turned professional at 30 if that’s what you’re looking to do.
“It’s brilliant to be home as the support from everyone means so much and I’m not home very often. I think last year, many of us couldn’t quite believe just how many people came out to see us and it really makes a difference when so many people are cheering us on.
“I was at my old cycling club, Team Milton Keynes, recently and saw these little girls who asked for my picture and things. They just seemed so happy that I was there and I like to think I’m inspiring more people to get on their bikes.”
Speaking with Hannah, I couldn’t help but get sucked in to the conversation, as the passion for her sport is evident. She is also the perfect example of what can happen when you simply try a new activity.
There’s plenty of ways to get involved in cycling around the county. Check out the local women’s Breeze rides, which cater for beginner to expert. The qualified cycle leaders will encourage and support you on your new cycling journey and it’s a great way of meeting like-minded ladies.
Want some expert advice or just want to hire and go? Northampton benefits from the Cycle Connect service, which means you can hire one of 50 bikes anytime and just go for it.
Or you can head up to one of my favourites, Pitsford Cycles, where the team are more than happy to find you your perfect two-wheeled companion. They also hire out bikes, so like Hannah, you can go for a ride around Pitsford Reservoir very easily.
Keep sending me your stories big and small to email@example.com or tweet me @Adrianne_Hill and don’t forget to tweet your Women’s Tour pictures using the hashtag #AvivaWT2015
Hannah Barnes’ Top 5 Cycling Essentials
Waterproof (because you never know when it’s going to rain)
Plenty of drinks/snacks
Spare tube and pump
WOMEN IN SPORT: June 11 column
Embrace the positive effect sport provides
Last week I was asked to go on to a national radio station to talk about – or what I thought was talk to about – women in sport week and how to get girls and women more active.
Unfortunately, in the pre-lude to my interview I could hear the radio output and it was completely different to what had originally been said.
The instant “what do I do? Do I hang up?” came in to my head, but no I held strong and listened as the presenter went into a story about a husband who had told his wife that he didn’t find her attractive anymore because she had become too fat.
Subsequently a doctor came on talking about the effects of obesity on today’s society and the presenter kept on asking “should we be more honest with ourselves?”
As I could hear myself being introduced, the basis of the opening question was if I had been in this other woman’s shoes, would I be offended?
My honest answer…no. Absolutely not. And why? Because there comes a point where we all have to be honest with ourselves and also realise that just because someone says something, it doesn’t mean that it’s true and the only thing that counts is how you as the individual feels.
Despite the negative leading questions, I kept bringing my answers round to the importance of sport and positive influences for young girls and women goes a long way, but if stories like the above keep going around, it is just going to get harder and harder for women to enjoy sport and everything it can give.
The Youth Sport Trust have issued findings from a pilot study, where they took 12 schools and put in place a framework to tackle young girls’ attitude towards PE, the negative attitude towards their bodies and making sport more relevant to girls’ lives.
In my eyes, unsurprisingly the girls who were happy with the way their body looked doubled from 25 per cent to 56 per cent, 73 per cent ‘like the way they feel’ after physical activity and most importantly for me, the percentage of girls that felt positive about school rose from 24 per cent to 78 per cent.
It proves that sport can have a positive effect beyond the playing field and filter into our everyday lives.
So let’s ignore these negative stories about weight loss and calorie counting and start enjoying the journey of discovering what our bodies can actually do and what we can achieve.
If you have any stories, big and small, please do get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet me @Adrianne_Hill