Cycling for Billie, sailing & skiing – Pam Hart
I am thrilled to welcome Pam Hart to the HH50 community. Pam & I were introduced by Anne Hunt, whom I met on Twitter. I had been following Anne and the Tribute to Billie Fleming (who in 1938 cycled 29,604 miles promoting cycling for women for health and fitness) for some time and was hugely inspired by the commitment and community the project had created. I was so happy to speak to her and then be introduced to Pam.
In between her sailing, yoga and cycling, Pam kindly shared her story with us:
Which sports do you enjoy?
Sailing – cruising offshore and dinghy racing plus organising a junior sailing club.
Cycling – during 2015 I helped Anne Hunt with the administration of “Tribute to Billie” and took part in several of the rides. For more information about the Tribute to Billie please see: www.tributetobillie.co.uk.
Yoga: I also do Iyengar yoga but don’t consider this as a sport.
Have you always been sporty or is this new to you?
I liked sport as a child and teenager and into my 20s (hockey in particular and later squash). Although competitive (and I am still a competitive sailor), I was mediocre at games like hockey and squash. While I like games, I have always liked outdoor activities more.
I started sailing in my 20s. I enjoyed horse riding and took lessons from my late 30s until my early 50s. I skied regularly for many years and I am going skiing for the first time for 12 years this year.
I loved riding my bike as a child but had a scary experience on the road when I was in my 30s so restricted my rides to off road. I ventured back onto the roads this year because of my participation in the Billie cycle tribute.
If you were sporty when you were younger & then stopped, why did you stop?
I have always done something, usually the dinghy racing. The road cycling stopped after I had a frightening experience with a lorry on the road.
Who or what motivated you to start again?
Cycling: I have only ever cycled for leisure. I like going into the countryside. Late in 2014, Anne Hunt encouraged me to sign up for a couple of off road Breeze rides. I realised that I still enjoyed cycling and when I agreed to help her with the admin for the “Billie” rides, I decided that I wanted to do some of the rides myself, which meant getting out on the road. I got some new high visibility cycle kit and lights for my bike and Anne took me to Tring from Hemel Hempstead on the road. This gave me confidence. My next ride was quite adventurous. We had no one to cycle on one of Billie’s routes one day so I took my bike over to Hitchen by car and followed Billie’s route as far as I could. I was quite pleased to have done 20 miles, on my own, in winter.
How often do you take part each week and do you do it as part of a team, with friends or on your own?
Sailing: I race dinghies most Sundays with my husband and on Wednesday evening in the summer with a female friend. I belong to a club called Broadwater Sailing Club near Denham. I organise the children’s club, which runs from May to October and a Fun Week in July.
Cycling: On average last year I went out on my bike about once every three weeks. I would like to increase this to at least once a fortnight. I like to cycle with other people, as long as they are prepared to go slowly and are patient but I also like to cycle on my own. Through the “Billie” project, I have made friends on line with like-minded women cyclists. I like to share my rides with them and read all about their rides. I have found this very encouraging. I have met some of the women and want to cycle with them. I will probably go on some of their Breeze rides. (To find out more about Breeze or Twitter @BreezeNetwork).
How do you feel when you are doing it?
How has exercise enhanced your life?
It has helped me retain my stamina, helped with strength and helped me to stay flexible. Before I retired, sport helped me to relax. I have a lot of friends and acquaintances because of sailing and now cycling.
What are your biggest motivations?
Staying active is a big motivator. I would like to lose weight but sport has never helped me with this. I have taken medication for blood pressure since I was 40 and sport has helped me to regulate my blood pressure. I had cancer 15 years ago and walking and getting back into sailing was an important part of my recovery. I like to challenge myself but not with anything too worrying. I think that some of the sports and activities I do help with muscle and bone strength, something that is very important post menopause.
What were or are your biggest obstacles to taking part regularly and how do you overcome them? Myself. I am not great at getting out of bed but my husband always gets me up for sailing on Sunday. When I worked, I would not have had time to do much cycling. Now I can go out for the whole day. When I said I would go out on a “Billie” ride, I was committed to this whatever the weather. I hope I can still motivate myself now the “Billie” year is ended. I think Breeze and the friends I made through the event will help me here.
Who inspires you & why?
I have explained how Anne motivated me. Some of the other “Billie” cyclists were inspiring such as Gill Harker who rode 198 miles in one day and is not much younger than me, Judy Robinson who is considerably older than me and Nadjie Butler who completed a long charity ride not long after having treatment for breast cancer. Other cyclists encouraged me by praising my efforts and commenting on my new bike. I loved having the “Billie” shirt and feeling part of an on-line community of women cyclists. I liked the fact that the cyclists were a diverse group in terms of age, experience, average mileage per ride, speed, cultural and social background etc.
What has been your greatest achievement so far?
Winning a dinghy race is fun. The fact that I am still dinghy racing over 40 years from when I started is a cause for celebration. Walking the Tour de Mont Blanc in my late 30s was up there as was sailing from the Azores to the UK.
Getting back on the bike on the road was a huge achievement and so was feeling that I had played my part in the Billie year-long event Seeing the “Billie” year through to the end was fantastic. Every day for a whole year, we motivated women to get on their bikes in tribute to a phenomenal record breaking woman who was a great advert for cycling as a means of keeping fit and healthy. The objective of our event was not to raise money or win races, though some of our cyclists did dedicate sponsored rides or races to Billie. It didn’t matter how far you cycled as all mileage was welcome.
What are your next goals?
Carry on dinghy sailing and cycling. Keep up the yoga. Discover I can still ski.
What are the 3 best things you love about your sport?
Sailing and cycling: Best:
- being outdoors
- being at one with the elements and enjoying nature
- being friends with a like-minded community of people
Launching your boat in muddy weather
- Going up a hill and thinking you are not going to make it
- Being at the mercy of other road users
Do you track your fitness & has this enhanced your enjoyment? What do you use & would you recommend it?
Endomondo. I would recommend it. I can look back at rides and walks I have done. (Not useful for sailing but I don’t think any of the trackers would be.)
What’s your favourite piece of kit?
- My sailing dry suit
- My Billie shirt
- My new Trek Neko bike
What’s your favourite song you train to?
I like to listen to nature. I hate training indoors and have always loathed the gym.
Do you have a favourite website related to your sport?
If someone was thinking about taking up a new sport but doubted herself or felt unsure about being judged or made to feel welcome, what would you say to them?
- Being in contact with other people via social media and the internet is important as it makes you aware that you can do the sport at whatever level you like.
- Find a group who will be delighted that you enjoy their sport as they do.
- You needn’t feel intimidated about not having the perfect shape because if you make contact with lots of other people who do the sport – their encouragement will be more important to you than your worries about what you look like.
- Find a sympathetic group like Breeze leaders who will look after you when you participate in the sport.
If someone was interested in taking up cycling or sailing, what practical tips would you suggest they do next?
Cycling – join a Breeze ride.
Sailing – go to the nearest club when sailing is going on or contact the RYA – The Royal Yachting Association.
Do you have a sporting or life motto?
No – I just get on with it.
Finally, this blog & community is called HealthyHappy50. With the lessons you have learned over the years, what would you tell your 20 year old self or 20 year old friends/relatives about health & happiness?
I wouldn’t. There is no point. People have to take their own paths.
I have passed my sailing knowledge on to many young people over the years and I hope my encouragement and obvious enjoyment of my sport has motivated them.
Thank you so much for sharing your story with us Pam! We are really grateful for all the tips and inspiration you have given us. Thank you too to Anne for introducing us and huge congratulations on your amazing Tribute to Billie.
Do you have a sport or exercise you would like to share with us? Please do get in touch – we love hearing and sharing stories of women over 50, whatever your sport, experience or ability! Please email healthyhappyfifty(@)yahoo(dot)com or chat on Twitter or Instagram @healthyhappy50.
All photos courtesy and property of Pam Hart.
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