Bus driver Sharon Randle used to be a self-confessed couch potato before she discovered the pleasure of cycling and embarked on the Swindon Sky Rides.
The 42-year-old, from Rodbourne, didn’t do any exercise until last year, when a cycle enthusiast friend persuaded her to buy a bike and give it a try.
Sharon has since shed one and a half stone, dropping two dress sizes, through regular cycling and running. Putting her new cycling skills to the test, she has already taken part in one of the Swindon Sky Rides, which are free for everyone, and plans to do many more over the summer.
She said: “I had a fantastic time and have now persuaded three of my colleagues at Thamesdown Transport – Aziz, Mo and Sarah, to have a go too. Cycling is a brilliant way to kick start a healthier lifestyle because you can take it steady at first and build up your stamina. I’ve really got the fitness bug – it’s hard to believe how inactive I was before.”
Sharon began trying to lose weight by dieting, but soon realised that regular exercise also held the key to sustained success.
“It didn’t take long to figure out that the more active I became, the easier and quicker it was for the weight to come off. So I started to take it a bit more seriously and enrolled on a personal training programme called Couch to 5K, which builds you up from running for 90 seconds to more than half an hour over nine weeks,” she said.
“I love setting myself challenges, so I started doing the three-mile runs at Lydiard Park on Saturday. I signed up for a Sky Ride with a friend and we had a ball, so we’re going to do a few more of them. But first I’ve got a duathlon at Bowood. It’s all go and I’m so much fitter.”
Besides being much healthier, Sharon’s self-confidence has also been boosted.
“Friends who haven’t seen me for a while say, ‘wow – look at you!’ It’s a great feeling and I’ve been able to invest in a new wardrobe and wear things I wouldn’t have been comfortable in before,” she said.
Sharon’s colleagues have been keen to know the secret to her wellbeing and weight loss.
“They noticed the difference in me and wanted to know how I did it. I’ve been encouraging them to try cycling as it’s not too strenuous and you don’t need any fancy sports equipment. I’ve also told them about the Sky Rides and quite a few are signing up now too,” she said.
“I’m proof that you can go from doing absolutely nothing to lots of exercise in quite a short space of time. The results speak for themselves; I feel so much better and am having loads more fun. So why not set yourself a physical challenge and go for it – I did and haven’t looked back.”
The Sky Rides, which began in June and continue until September, are funded by Sport England and organised by Swindon Borough Council in partnership with British Cycling and Sky. Held on Sundays, they vary in level of difficulty and distance, starting from four miles.
Cllr Keith Williams, Cabinet Member for Corporate and Leisure Services, said: “We’re delighted that the Sky Rides are proving so popular in Swindon. Sharon’s story shows just how beneficial cycling and generally being more active can be. I hope it helps inspires others, who may not have the confidence, to just give it a try. All the rides have specially trained leaders who will provide plenty of encouragement and practical support along the way.”
Besides being an opportunity to get some exercise, they are also a great way to meet new people and discover hidden beauty spots in the Borough. Budding and keen cyclists alike can sign up by going online at www.goskyride.com/swindon
Paul Jenkins, Managing Director of Thamesdown Transport, said: “Sharon is always ready for a challenge and over the years she has also raised a lot of money for charity thanks to this proactive attitude. We’re delighted to see this enthusiasm spread among Thamesdown colleagues – she has certainly set a standard for others to aim for.”
Find out more about cycling opportunities in Swindon online at www.leisureinswindon.co.uk/cycling