Rekindling a sense of adventure is one transformational experience. It was a highlight for city girl Helen Croydon who joined a running club and completely changed her lifestyle. Going from a glamorous world of cocktail parties and designer fashion to cross country races and cycling gear showed Helen just how strong she really is.
Helen’s mission is to inspire more women to get into sports, regardless of their background, and discover a whole new side to themselves. She shared her story in her latest book, This Girl Ran: Tales of a Party Girl Turned Triathlete, and talked with us on Tough Girl Challenges about her learning experiences during this journey.
From party girl to GB age-group triathlete, Helen shares the lessons she learned that changed her life beyond anything she could imagine.
1. Rediscover the Outdoors
While Helen was a full-fledged city girl in her twenties, she had a rather sporty past as a child with a love of the outdoors and a particular fondness for horses. Helen noticed that, like her, many of us lose interest in sports when we become adults. When we’re kids, we don’t worry about getting dirty or having helmet hair. The late teens seem to sweep us up into a consumer society, wanting shiny things, and working out only to stay slim.
Joining a running club was how Helen rediscovered her love of sports. With all this additional time spent outside, Helen saw how therapeutic it was for her. Suddenly, fitness wasn’t a chore. It was a chance to see what her mind and body could do.
In her first cross country race, Helen began with the other runners standing in a puddle in a muddy field. She cringed at getting her feet soaking wet and the mud that splashed her entire body, but that quickly became a moment of liberation. Helen realised nothing bad happened in this new, previously uncomfortable environment. Slowly, she began to do tougher and tougher things that put her out of her comfort zone.
2. Embrace New Circles
Helen’s motivation for joining a running club in the first place was to find new friends. Determined to fit in with this new group of people and make the commitment, Helen set off to run with the group taking the longest route of 10 miles.
With her lack of experience, she found she couldn’t keep up after 5 miles, but she still felt a sense of achievement and survival that nulled the loneliness she’d felt before. That was what Helen was looking for all along, a way to forget the pains of a difficult time.
As she spent more and more time at the running club, Helen found herself mixing with a new type of people. They were wholesome and outdoorsy, much unlike the scene she used to frequent. There was a stark absence of materialism as her weekends changed from brunches and pointless dates to cross country races.
While it can be intimidating to join a new group and mix with people who seem so totally different from you, it can also bring great learning experiences and important new perspectives to your life.
3. Take on New Challenges
You could find Helen at a race every Saturday as she made an effort to fill her weekends and make new friends. Soon she had a new confidence in her fitness and her ability to prepare logistically, so she set some of her own challenges like running her first half marathon and going on a triathlon training holiday.
With each new challenge, Helen was a little paranoid about being exposed as a girly girl and making rookie mistakes. She reminded herself that this was just an adventure and she was determined to succeed no matter what.
Helen is always looking for the next challenge. Once she’s conquered one sport, she’s ready to feel that same sense of exertion again. This keeps her moving forward and pushing herself in new ways.
4. Reconnect with the Past
Intending to connect with new friends, Helen was surprised at what joining the running club really brought her. She discovered the joys of getting stronger and gaining a confidence-boosting lifestyle but found that her true friends were still those from her past.
What Helen got most from the running scene wasn’t social connections, but deeper things like a stronger mental attitude, resilience, and a new perspective on materialism.
Helen discovered there was a lot in her old life that was worth rekindling. Although she’d felt like she was losing her friends before, Helen realised it may have been her own party lifestyle that was pushing people away. In running, she found the joy of simply hanging out and found the desire to reconnect with her true friends.
5. Find Your Why and Try
Helen’s number one piece of advice for those diving into a new challenge is to have a reason why. Helen pushed herself with the drive to not go back to an empty period in her life. That’s what kept her going. Whatever you’re doing, identify why. You might want something more in your life or not want something in your life at all. There’s no way to push yourself when you’re tired if there isn’t a reason.
Lastly, Helen reminds, don’t be intimidated. Helen used to think of sporty scenes full of people who’ve done it all their lives, but found that there’s a real mix. Helen said, “You will find like-minded people and other beginners. Give it a try!”
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