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Andréa Childs spoke to four women who have discovered their own fitness passion.
Patricia Carswell, 48, suffers from mental and physical fatigue caused by the neurological illness ME. She blogs at sportyoverforty.com:
'Much of my thirties was wiped out by post-viral ME, which I developed after having flu in 2000. It was four years before I began to feel more human but I couldn’t walk two miles without having to lie down afterwards. At the end of 2007, I turned 40. I knew getting fitter would help my recovery and it felt like now or never, so I booked a personal trainer. I tried tennis, bootcamp and Zumba, then I hit on rowing.
‘I joined a rowing club in 2010 and I’ve never looked back. I began with gentle sculling and now I train three times a week. Rowing is demanding and I’m fitter than I’ve ever been. I’m strong and have a mental resilience I didn’t have before. I’ve also learnt to spot the signs that mean I need to take a break.
‘Rowing is an escape. It’s a technical sport that needs 100% concentration, so I can’t worry about anything else when I’m on the water.
‘I’m an ordinary fortysomething dealing with a job, housework, kids, parents, bills, but fitness has become as much a part of my life as breathing or sleeping. If I can do it, anyone can.'
Want to get out on to the water? Find a club with British Rowing, britishrowing.org.
Copywriter and lecturer Katherine Wildman, 42, lives in Tynemouth:
'I took the decision when I was 40 to stop saying no to experiences. I was divorced in 2013 and moved from Singapore, where I’d been living with my partner, back to Newcastle, where I grew up. When my friend Alison suggested we go for a bike ride, I dug out my horrible ladies’ shopper. I puffed along behind her for the three-mile pedal to a nearby lighthouse but I loved it. Since then, we’ve set aside Tuesday mornings to go out on our bikes and that time is sacrosanct.
‘I sold my car last year due to financial constraints but I bought a decent bike instead and cycling has become my default transport. In 12 months, I’ve lost two and a half stone and two dress sizes, my belly has gone, there’s definition in my legs and arms, and I sleep better. I find I’m more conscious about what I eat, too, as I don’t want to sabotage my good work and fill my body with rubbish.
‘Cycling is a mood enhancer; you get into a flow and it’s almost like hypnosis. It’s one of the happiest points of my entire week.’
Inspired to get on your bike? Find a local cycling club at britishcycling.org.uk.
Kelly Stevens, 44, began running after having breast cancer:
'I was 38 when I was diagnosed with breast cancer and 40 when my treatment ended. I had a mastectomy and reconstruction that involved moving muscle from my back to my bust. I had problems with healing and my illness left me with very low self-esteem about my body. A few months later I went to an exercise class for people with cancer. I sobbed as I just couldn’t do it.
‘As I was struggling, my husband Daniel was having a different experience. He’d joined Falmouth Road Runners and would come home with glowing cheeks and mud-splattered legs, smelling of fresh air and glowing with happiness. When he mentioned the club was starting a zero to three miles course for couch potatoes like me, I nervously signed up. The course was an eye opener. I loved running outdoors and the friendliness of the team. I decided I would make 2015 my year of running.
‘With my friend Marie, I signed up for the Cornwall Road Running Grand Prix, a series of 15 races, of which you must complete eight to receive a trophy. As I finished my eighth race, I thought about my cancer and the mastectomy and burst into tears as my clubmates cheered me across the line. Since then, I’ve completed a half-marathon, raising £700 for Cornwall Hospice Care. Running is simple; you just turn up and put one foot in front of the other. But you never know where it will take you.’
Find a running club with runengland.org.
Kath Lambert, 45, runs a stall at a farmer’s market and lives in Shoreham-by-Sea:
'I watched my daughter climbing at a local indoor centre and it looked so much fun I decided to give it a go. I loved the challenge of trying the routes, which are graded according to difficulty. Different personalities are revealed on the wall. I surprised myself with my drive to reach the top and the euphoria I felt when I achieved it.
‘I began to climb each week but opted for bouldering, where the walls are lower and you climb without ropes, as it’s more accessible. It’s not competitive, you meet people of all ages at the centre, and you have climbing in common.
‘I’ve always enjoyed exercise but this is different. Climbing requires thinking, balance and flow. It’s like yoga, but with more aggression. Learning a new skill has made me feel strong and capable.
‘Climbing has given me a sense of identity. No one brings me here; it’s my thing. I’ve found a passion, and it’s great to feel strongly about something beyond the love I have for my family.’
Find a climbing centre at thebmc.co.uk.