I was looking for something different. I needed greater variety, change or simply to get away from it all. But, as much as I talked about it, I didn’t act on it until it was put in my path.
It was 2013 when “it” was put in my path.
I had started running a few years prior, dabbled in some organized outdoor fitness challenges, and belonged to a gym. With this increased fitness, I found myself less fearful, more adventurous, and more empowered.
So when I learned about the Great Ocean Road Walk, a five-day hike along the Australian coast, I decided to take it on.
Letting others know about my intention, eleven other women came forward to join me on this journey. They didn’t know each other, but we formed a cohesive group as we planned and trained for the 110km hike.
As we worked together, I started realizing that this was what I wanted to be doing with my life.
Over the previous seven years, I worked with women in leadership, fitness, and weight loss coaching capacities. I understood the balance women seek, the lives they juggle, the worries that consume them, the stress they feel, and for some, the guilt that can consume their lives when they fall short. But on this trip the women were “in the moment”; they felt empowered, did things they don’t normally do, and were able to focus on themselves.
And after it was said and done, these women asked me what and when the next trip was. I came home from the Great Ocean Road Walk and started Women’s Fitness Adventures.
In the organization, we do smaller day hikes and mountain climbs, and we take on full week-long adventures around Australia. At the root of every adventure, the purpose is to encourage women.
For example, one of our more challenging activities was climbing Mt Barney, the second highest peak in Queensland. The trail climbs this 1,300-metre mountain over 1.3km, giving the ascent a 28% gradient. On top of this physical challenge, two others faced us: scrambling up the exposed side of the mountain and holding ourselves together during the last few kilometres back.
We knew we were in for a challenging full day, but our minds were determined to face the challenge and move forward. After training for the summit and reaching it, all nine of the ladies who participated felt empowered; they had completed something that they never thought they could do.
Working with women on our adventures helped me discover something important: whilst women may have the desire to get fit, without a specific goal, their motivation wanes. However, by putting an adventure goal in their view — using it as motivation to help them reach their desire — the elements of getting fit come as a a byproduct of the goal. Motivation stays high. Even better, when combined with a community of supporters, fitness improves because of the encouragement from the friendships that are formed.
And the outdoors clarifies it all for them. About 90% of our adventures are outdoors, taking us from areas in the national and forest parks close to Brisbane City, to exploring further afield. Our playgrounds can be rugged and remote: towering granite mountains to freshwater creeks; unspoiled coastline with sandstone stacks and oceans flanked by grass trees; desert plains of endless earthy colours; and sweeping skies covering us both day and night.
I’ve discovered something else, but on a personal level: Many years ago I wrote down what my ideal day would look like: morning exercise, work until breaking for lunch with friends, continue working in the afternoon followed by more outdoor activity, and ending with family dinner.
Starting this business has given me my ideal day. Many of my days are spent with a group of women, exploring the beautiful country that surrounds us. And since I make my own schedule, I have the flexibility to attend to personal commitments when I want.
This is not to say it’s always easy; I am learning all the time, and there are skills that still need developing. I am working on being bolder, asking for more of what I want, and promoting myself and the business more widely. There are days of doubt and questioning.
Yet, when I head out on an adventure with other women, everything connects. I read the feedback and testimonials of the members who belong to Women’s Fitness Adventures and I feel honoured to be a part of a journey that gets them outdoors and feeling alive.
It would have been the easy choice to step into another job and hike for a hobby instead of starting my own business. But when I looked for opportunities outside of myself, nothing excited me like the concept of what I am doing now.
In a world filled with uncertainty, I backed myself and blazed my own trail.
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About the author:
Yvonne Shepherd says, “Being outdoors means relaxation time — time to really be in the moment and let my mind empty. It also means exercise, peacefulness and meditation. It de-stresses me (my remedial masseuse reminds me to go to that mind space whenever I feel stressed as she sees an immediate relaxation in my body!). I make a point of taking my shoes off after a hike and connecting my feet with the earth .Every outdoor opportunity makes me feel refreshed — something about connecting with the earth makes me feel renewed.”
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