I am thrilled to welcome Freya Rodger, the inspiration behind Freyathlon – 1 woman, 41 Olympic sports – to HealthyHappy50. I read about her huge Olympic sized challenge on Twitter and asked her to tell us more!
Hello Freya! Please can you tell us about Freyathlon and what it includes?
Freyathlon is a sporting challenge I set for myself in June 2015 when I decided to try my hand at every Olympic sport women were due to compete in at Rio2016. That’s 41 sports!
The only one women don’t compete and men do is Greco Roman wrestling – I’m pretty happy I didn’t have to try that! And I’m sure everyone else will be happy about that too!
What was the inspiration for it?
I was listening to a radio programme and they had a segment on barriers to women getting and staying involved in sport. A lot of discussion resonated with me because I pretty much stopped doing any organised sport when I left school.
And I also thought about when I hadn’t been able to be active. I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin lymphoma in 2012 and underwent six months of gruelling chemotherapy. When I finished treatment I was surprised how weak I’d become (even though my medical team had warned me). Rebuilding my health and fitness became a priority.
So all of this was going round in my head while I was listening to the radio and I thought ‘The Olympic Games are next year. Wouldn’t it be great to have a go at every sport women are competing in?’
And that’s how Freyathlon started.
Then I had to find out how many Olympic sports I’d be doing, and what they all are!
I understand you are raising money for charity too?
I started Freyathlon as a personal sporting challenge.
People asked if they could sponsor me so I decided to fundraise for two organisations who’ve helped me over the past few years: Bloodwise and Macmillan Cancer Support.
Have you always been sporty/were you sporty before this?
I’m probably typical of plenty of women my age. I did some sport at school but I didn’t really enjoy it.
But I love walking and cycling. It always feels like I’m setting out on an adventure as soon as I leave the house.
Which Olympic sports have been the most fun or challenging?
I’ve had a blast trying all the sports!
Freyathlon has given me the chance to have a go at sports that didn’t exist when I was growing up, mountain biking, sports I’ve always wondered about, modern pentathlon, and sports that have really tested me, marathon swimming.
I loved BMX cycling, archery, and table tennis but I’ve surprised by how much I enjoyed the triathlon! I’d always thought that was a sport for very fit people but it turns out people like me can do it.
In January this year I’d never swum a stroke of front crawl so learning to swim, building up my stamina so I could swim 750m, learning to swim in a wetsuit and in open water has been full of challenges and fun. I’m already thinking of more swimming events for this year and next.
How have you found organising the challenge itself?
I live in SE London and I decided I wanted to complete as many sports as possible in/around SE London to demonstrate what was available.
I also wanted to complete them for no/low cost. I don’t believe being active has to break the bank.
That meant I had to contact individual groups or clubs, explain what I was doing, and ask whether they’d be happy to help me. Sometimes I didn’t get a response, sometimes people said they couldn’t help me.
But most of the time people were really enthusiastic and keen to help me.
Once someone had agreed to help me, I then had to arrange a time to join a session that suited everyone.
And after I’d completed the event, I had to write it up, sort out the photos, upload everything to my blog, and promote it all.
I’ve loved finding out what sports are available locally and it’s been great discovering how many can be done without spending a lot of money.
And I’ve even been able to suggest clubs and groups people can join if they want to try a particular sport or activity.
What have you learned about yourself, sport & women in sport as a result?
Many of the Olympic sports I’ve tried have been keen to encourage more women, of all ages, to get involved.
I’d like to see more women getting involved in sport – as participants, coaches, volunteers.
And I’d like to see activity used more for people recovering from long-term illness.
When I was in early remission, no one suggested being active might help me. I had to figure what I could and couldn’t do.
Having tried all these sports I can see how some of them (eg taekwondo, table tennis) would have helped me rebuild my health and fitness.
I’ve learned a lot about which activities work for me and suit my body. It’s been great discovering which activities and sports I can do.
Do you think you will continue to be as active after the challenge? Which sports do you think you will continue with?
YES! Cycling, swimming, triathlons, weightlifting, rowing are some of the sports I’m keen to continue with. And I hope I’ll be able to fit in a spot of sailing and tennis.
You’ve had some wonderful publicity! What has been the response in the media and amongst people you meet, who are inspired by your challenge?
I’ve loved meeting people and getting the chance to share the Freyathlon story, in print and online, in Australia, Canada, England, Scotland, and elsewhere!
And I’m happy to keep on sharing it!
I’ve got plenty to say about the participation of women and people recovering from long-term illness in sport and activities.
A couple of people have contacted me to say they’re going to try a new activity or go back to one they used to enjoy as a result of hearing me on radio or reading about me.
I love hearing those stories because it inspires me when I need a boost.
If a woman was thinking about starting to exercise, but doubted herself, maybe thought she was too old or would be judged, what would you say to her?
- Talk to someone who’s done or doing the activity you’d like to do. There’s plenty of us out here.
- Wear clothes you feel comfortable in.
- Turn up, walk through the door, have fun.
What advice would you give your 20 year old self about health and happiness?
Keep moving and keep laughing!
Do you have a life or sporting motto/quote that you live by?
Give it a go!
Thank you so much for sharing your Olympic size challenge story with us Freya. I am sure everyone will be as impressed and inspired by Freyathlon as I am.
Huge congratulations on your achievement! We look forward to reading about what you do next!
To follow Freya on Twitter, look for @freyathlon or Freyathlon
To find out more about Bloodwise go to www.bloodwise.org.uk & Macmillan Cancer Support go to www.macmillan.org.uk
All photos courtesy of and belonging to Freya Rodger/Freyathlon
Would you like to share your story? We’d love to hear from you! Please get in touch!
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