I can’t wait to share this interview with you; it’s one of my favourites. Vickie just decided she wanted to make a change, she stubbed out her last cigarette and just got on with it. Here she tells her story and shares lots of great advice for those who want to make a change too.
Tell us a bit about yourself Vickie.
I’m a 37 year old dentist living in Cardiff. I’m married and have an 11 year old son. I came to sport late in life, having found sport at school to be ritual humiliation and avoided at all costs! You can find me on twitter @vickiewoodsford, on Instagram @vickie_woodsford or on my blog; One Endurance Event at a Time
When did you decide to start exercising regularly and why was that?
When I hit 30, I was struggling to maintain my weight without trying and work stress meant I was smoking more than ever. My (already very fit) husband got fed up of my moaning and said “do something about it, decide who you want to be”. That might sound a little harsh and I hasten to add, it wasn’t said unkindly, but it was the push I needed. I didn’t want to be an unhealthy smoker, I didn’t want that to be what my son saw as he grew up. I went to university in London and had watched the marathon every year. I doubt there’s a more inspirational day anywhere in the world, so I decided that’s what I would do. I would give up smoking and run a marathon. I secured a charity place and downloaded a plan off the internet. We had a holiday booked for the week after New Year, I decided that I would smoke my last cigarette in Geneva airport on the way home and then never smoke again. That was January 10th 2010. I’ve never looked back. I don’t think anyone really believed me, least of all me!
What activities have you tried and what’s your favourite?
I started out running, did a few marathons and a couple of 50 mile ultras. I’ve always had a fascination with Mount Everest so off I went to run the Everest Marathon – that was an amazing trip. Then my husband took up triathlon so I found myself having a bash at that. I’m a horrible swimmer but turns out I’m not too shabby on a bike and I’ve found the sport for me. I took it up in 2014 and I think I’ll do it forever. I fell in love with triathlon, after I had already accepted a place to run the 2015 Marathon des Sables so I briefly returned to ultra running to do that. Straight back to Tri a couple of days after getting home led to my biggest challenge to date – I raced Ironman Wales in Sept 2016. That was terrifying and utterly brilliant. I am a triathlete again!
What has been the biggest barrier you’ve had to overcome in your fitness journey?
My biggest barrier is me. I struggle with self belief, self confidence and often body image. I cry on the start line of big events and become increasingly difficult to live with in the weeks leading up to them. I keep waiting for the event that will make me believe I can do the next one, or finally feel I’m a “real runner”, I’ll let you know when I find it! I am incredibly lucky to have a hugely supportive family and amazing group of friends who’ve helped me every step of the way. They’ve learnt to spot when I’m knocking myself and intervene, which helps enormously.
Have you had any negative comments and how have you dealt with them?
I really haven’t had any major negativity. The odd comment here and there but for the most part, I’ve found triathlon to be the most welcoming community I have ever become a part of. Its unusual at my age to make new, really very best friends, but I have made several through Tri, people I know will be part of my life forever. If that’s not a brilliant reason to have a go, I don’t know what is!
What goals have you set and have you reached any of them yet?
I’ve recently achieved my biggest goal of completing Ironman Wales so I’m having a bit of a quieter year for 2017. After the Marathon Des Sables and Ironman training back to back, I was very tired and starting to lose my enjoyment for training, so I decided to take it back a step and do some shorter stuff. This year will be a couple of Half Ironman events. One day, I’ll need to have another bash at a standalone marathon to get my ideal time, but not this year.
What benefits has being active brought you?
There are so many benefits, I hardly know where to begin! I feel better, I’ve made loads of new friends, I’m healthier and happier. I have a very stressful job, am a born worrier and sleep badly. I 100% believe that my sport helps me deal with my stress. Be it a long slow run where I can mull things over, undisturbed and figure out a solution, or a hard session where I can’t think of anything but how much I’m hurting so work stress melts away; it all helps! An added benefit I’d never foreseen is that I’ve become someone my son can be proud of, I hear him say “My mum ran across the Sahara Desert you know?” and my day is made!
What advice would you give to other women who want to start exercising?
I could go on about this forever but here’s a few things. You have to make a decision to get started, you have to want to and then you can do anything you put your mind to. There’s no two ways about it the hardest part is getting started but once you do, making it routine/habit gets easier and easier by the day. Look around for people to support you, they are there, I promise. I’ve found twitter to be a very helpful place for seeking advice and encouragement from complete strangers. Have a plan and trust in it. For my first marathon, I printed a free, generic plan off the internet and taped it to the fridge. I had a big red marker and took great joy in crossing off each and every run, it was a brilliant visual aid that showed me how far I’d come. Don’t be too hard on yourself! That’s a big one – starting from nothing is hard and there will be some bad days along the way. You will have great days where you feel a million dollars too, focus on them, forget the others. Tell people your goal, I think Parkrun is completely brilliant place to start, tell your family and friends that you’re going to do 5km in X amount of weeks, make yourself accountable to them and ask for their support.
I’m only a tweet away and there’s plenty out there like me, who are only too glad to help if we can. I don’t know everything about health and fitness, I’m no expert on running or triathlon but I can tell you what’s worked or not for me.
If there’s anything I’d like people to take away from my story its this – I’m not anything extraordinary, I have little to no natural sporting ability, I’m just someone who decided to have a go. If I can do it, you can too.