Tuesday 21 February 2017
In October 2016, Get Yourself Active invited Paralympic Torchbearer Laura Turner to write a personal experience blog for us about how ‘Non-disabled people can learn from us‘. Since then Laura has taken up a new activity – para-cycling! Read what she’s been up to below!
By Laura Turner
I was born with congenital coloboma, micropthalmia and nystagmus in both eyes. I trained with my first guide dog, Hester in 2013 and just like me she likes to get out and get active!
As a youngster I wasn’t allowed to take part in PE lessons or after school sport activity because of ‘health and safety’.
In June 2016 I stumbled across a news feed on the British Blind Sport website on behalf of British Cycling. Entitled Track2Tokyo I opened the link to read that they would be launching a Talent ID programme following Rio to help find the next generation of GB para-cyclists.
At the time I was looking to get back into sport so my immediate reaction was ‘WOW, now that sounds exciting’! But my immediate concerns were that I have no real experience of cycling and would my age go against me? Keen to find out some answers I emailed British Cycling Para-Cycling team, to which their response was positive. The next day I submitted my application to be considered.
The next step was to find the love for a bike! As it can be more difficult for a visually impaired person to get out, I decided that the only way I could achieve this whilst getting fit, was to go along to regular spin classes at my gym.
In August 2016 I went along to my very first para-cycling track session at Derby Arena, where I met my pilot, Emily, an experienced cyclist and student at Loughborough University. Straight away we clicked and I felt so confident, which is so important when riding a tandem.
Encouraged by British Cycling coaches, in September I then went along to my first Disability Hub session. These sessions are supported by Sport England and were introduced to allow those with disabilities to enjoy cycling outdoors in a safe environment, whether that be for leisure or for those who want to compete in road races.
Was it worth it? Yes, absolutely! At the first Track2Tokyo track day back in November one thing the coaches encouraged us to do was to enter the HSBC British National Track Championships. Yes, it did cross my mind that I had only been cycling for 3 months with very little track experience but, I have competed previously in other sports, I had a confident and experienced pilot and in my mind this is what I wanted to do. There’s a first for everything and we all have to start somewhere!
The National Championships were incredible! It was great to see the para-cycling events amongst other events, giving spectators the opportunity to understand and appreciate disability in sport. Everyone was so supportive and encouraging, which as a disabled person makes you feel really included, allowing you to forget your disability and put all your focus on your ability to cycle at speed round a track!
Our aim was to enjoy the experience and do our best. We did and came away with not 1, not 2 but 3 PBs! Onward and upward…
Taking part in any sport is not just about keeping fit or standing on the podium, it is great for your mental wellbeing too. Just 1 hour in the gym or attendance at a fitness class each week could get you meeting so many people.
For me personally, it’s a focus, a goal, an achievement and, when road cycling, an opportunity to clear my head whilst improving my endurance.
Any tips I would recommend? Don’t knock a bike or a tandem until you’ve tried it! Cycling really is so much fun. I couldn’t think of any better way to keep fit and socialise at the same time! All the coaches are so supportive and treat everyone as individuals. Same for spin classes. Yes it’s tough but, don’t give up! It’s just about finding what works for you. The bike won’t go anywhere and it doesn’t matter if at first you aren’t as quick as everyone else. In time you will be!
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