20th September 2016

Getting stronger with the WI! A celebration of the Women’s Institute 1st Sports Week!

Enjoying nature & capturing the seasons! Enjoying nature & capturing the seasons!

On Monday 12th September the Women’s Institute began its very first WI Sports Week. This was perfect timing. After a summer of success for Team GB at the Olympics and Paralympics in Rio, it was a great way to build upon the inspiration the athletes have created.

Many of us also have that ‘fresh start to the new school year’ feeling. September is a super time to learn a new skill or begin a challenge to keep us motivated through the dark nights and winter months ahead.

Womens Institute WI Sports Week

Federation Newsletter!

When the North Yorkshire West Federation Newsletter popped through my door in June, I was so excited to see what was on offer. From Aquafit to Zumba, bowling to salsa, fencing to Tai Chi, there was a sport for everyone. Unfortunately, I wasn’t sure that ‘everyone’ included me.

Having been active in the last 3 years (I completed a rowing challenge & an outdoor swim in Lake Windermere for Macmillan Cancer Support), I had fallen & injured my knee in early spring. I was waiting for an MRI. The consultant had advised careful walking, yoga and indoor cycling until we knew the results.

As a personal interest, I write my blog HealthyHappy50.com sharing stories of women over 50 who enjoy sport & yet I really wasn’t able to do much myself.

I’d lost my self confidence and belief that I would be able to be active again.

It looked like I was going to have to cheer from the sidelines rather than take part in the WI Sports Week 2016.

The fabulous programme of events with NYWFWI

The fabulous programme of events with NYWFWI

But then again…

If there is one thing I have learned from the kind, funny and brave women of my local WI, it is that there is always a way. Where there is a challenge, there is  a solution. I just needed to find one.

After a bit of thought, I decided to do two things:

a) I booked myself onto the massage course the NYWFWI had kindly arranged (more on that later!)


b) I used Sports Week 2016 as the inspiration for a new personal challenge that would make me stronger and fitter ready for Sports Week 2017.

Women's Institute Sports Week

#RainOrShine30 – Inspired by WI Sports Week

Very simply, I decided to set myself a goal of exercising in the fresh air for 30 minutes a day, every day for a year starting in September to coincide with WI SportsWeek.

I have called it #RainOrShine30 because whatever the weather, rain or shine, I’m committed. Best of all, I was able to kick off  with the walking the consultant had said was OK.

As Dame Kelly Holmes says in her WI Life interview with Susan Gray, breaking down her own training schedule into weekly stepping stones was really important.

“Because,” she said, “I can’t just wake up in the morning and decide to go for a run.”

A daily challenge for me will be just the same. My goal is to make it part of my routine, not something I have to make a decision about – albeit at a very different level than Dame Kelly Holmes!

Dame Kelly Holmes in WI Life

Dame Kelly Holmes in WI Life

Dame Kelly also explained the importance of finding a way for “sport to become a normal part of family life” so that women’s participation (1.7m fewer women than men take part in a sport each year) would increase.

Again, my family now know that rain or shine, I’ll be spending half an hour each day outside exercising in the fresh air.

Many reports also indicate that exercising outdoors is really beneficial for us physically, mentally and emotionally.

Enjoying the September sunshine! What will it be like in November?

Enjoying the September sunshine! What will it be like in November?

I’m taking photos of what I do and see as the seasons change. I’ll be sharing them on my Twitter and Instagram accounts with the hashtag #RainOrShine30 in the hope over time other women might want to join in too.

Thankfully I’ve been told I don’t need an operation – but I do need to get stronger with exercise & physiotherapy. So I’ll add cycling and in the summer, swimming in our wonderful local lido. I have bought an indoor rowing machine from a colleague to use outside too. I also want to try Nordic Walking and stand up paddle boarding. Any other suggestions are gratefully received!

Without the deadline of September’s WI Sports Week I don’t think I would have committed to the challenge. I am really grateful for the focus it gave me and for Dame Kelly Holmes’ & Joy Jordan’s interviews in WI Life.

Inspiration from Olympian Joy Jordan in WI Life on keeping fit at any age

Inspiration from Olympian Joy Jordan in WI Life on keeping fit at any age

And the massage course? Well, that was wonderful! 4 of us, all from different WI groups in North Yorkshire met in Knaresborough for a really interesting and informative evening. It was kindly organised and hosted by Rebecca Hartley of SpaSweethearts in Harrogate at the Castle Clinic.

Osteopath Seb Contreras from the clinic shared two hours of tips, lessons and practical, hands on teaching. Very generously, we were also given a bottle of Weleda Arnica Massage Balm to bring home. It was quite simply an evening of laughter, learning and relaxation.

Womens Institute Sports Week

Feeling relaxed after our WI massage course with Seb Contreras from Castle Clinic

I’m really looking forward to continuing the #RainOrShine30 challenge.

We have our Hobbies Evening in October and I look forward to talking about it then. It would be wonderful if some of the other members decide to join me.

By Sports Week 2017 it should mean I can happily sign up for fencing and Zumba!

However, after such a fantastic massage course, I think I will put my name down for another evening there too!

Thank you so much to everyone who organised the week, and especially Michelle Gracey at NYWFI and Rebecca Hartley from Spa Sweethearts, for giving me the nudge I needed! I am so grateful.

Jo xx

All photos belong to me, so please do ask if you would like to use them. Thank you!

Ps My Twitter & Instagram name is @healthyhappy50. If you have any questions my email is healthyhappyfifty@yahoo.com. I would love to hear from you! 



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