Yvonne Shepherd is the wonderful brain & body behind the Women’s Fitness Adventures that steps out of Brisbane, my old home town. If you’re a Queenslander near Brissy then YOU are in luck. (unless you’re male in this particular instance).
Yvonne took a soul change and left the corporatocracy for the finer life of roaming in the natural environment for a crust. She started her own business for adventurous women in 2013 and it was featured in Outdoor Womens’ Alliance.
She’ll agree that exactly one hundred years ago, I approached her for an interview which she so kindly (and quickly) responded to. These are her answers now (which I’ve dusted off – hey that’s life – what can I say?) and she is one inspiring wonderful woman who can take you out of your slippers and into the wilds in your best hiking boots! Do it and don’t delay!
I sent the very patient Yvonne a bunch of questions and these are her takes on women and ageing and getting out there instead of being couch potatoes – my second natural habitat.
Hello Yvonne – let’s cut to the chase – how old are you?
I am 48 and will turn 49 in a few months. (Editor – I’ve been so long in getting this to air that she’s probably turned 49 already – so send her birthday greetings in the comments below PLEASE!)
When you were a corporate person how much exercise did you do per day, per week etc – what type of activity did you do?
At various stages I would join a gym or get up every morning and go for a walk. So I would probably average 30 minutes of basic to moderate activity per day.
However as I progressed in my career and the stress became greater, I turned to exercise as my way of relieving that stress.
What was your relationship with your body like during the corporate years?
I have always been mindful of what I eat – everything in moderation. I tend not to have too much fluctuation in my weight, which I am thankful for.
Did you feel that your body changed after having children?
Indeed. My first child, Laura, was born 3 months premature and 28 weeks and with my son, second child, I got gestational diabetes.
Between both pregnancies I realised what an amazing thing the human body is, but you do have to look after it.
As for the diabetes, well it took a good few years for my sugar levels to go down and I now have a tenfold increase of getting Type 2 diabetes in later life. So I make sure that I keep active daily and am still mindful of what I eat. It is harder to keep “belly fat” away as you get older.
When you went on the Great Ocean Road hike how far did you walk each day? Was it a surprise to you that your body could handle such a distance on a daily basis for a week?
When we did the walk, we hiked 110km in 5 days. Our shortest walk was about 16km, and our longest 29km. As the scenery and company was spectacular, you are really in the moment, so you don’t take too much notice of how your body is feeling, unless it really starts to hurt. There were a few blisters, but we checked these off every morning. We had also trained regularly for about 7 months beforehand.
You mentioned stress – do you have anything like depression or anxiety and if so does the walking help you to get a big picture of situations?
No, I don’t have depression however I have been known to get anxious at times. I find that being out on a hike in bushland really gets me back to basics.
It is about just being me, with nothing else to really focus on. It grounds you and I learn a lot from nature.
I started running to relieve my stress & the distances got longer and longer (I did my first marathon last year). Now I like nothing better than a trail run – teaches me about myself.
Can you describe that actual moment when you finally committed to your new business of women’s outdoor adventures – what was it like? How did you go about planning adventures?
The actual moment was May 28 2014. I came back from Great Ocean Road and registered the domain. It felt right and I was passionate about it. I had done the research and had the feedback.
The adventure planning was/is the fun stuff. Activities are based on fitness, travel and adventures and are custom made for our group.
What responsibilities do you have for the group that prove daunting?
Nothing is really daunting as we have so much fun. It is really making sure that all our women are having fun, their expectations are being met and that they are challenging themselves in a safe environment (this can be a physical, social or emotional challenge).
What is the age range of women who join your adventures? Do you get many active senior ladies?
Our average age is 50. We have some mums who bring their adult daughters. Our ages range from 21 up to 65.
What was your mother’s attitude to exercise?
In our early years, we did a lot of hiking and bushwalking, often going to remote places. My dad had an accident when I was 11 and was not able to walk all that well afterwards, so we took up four wheel driving. That kind of limited the bushwalking days for us all. My mum encouraged us all to try out as many new and different activities as we could.
And her mother’s?
I am not sure, she died of an anuerism at 50, Mum was only 24 and I was not yet born.
Do you ever feel invisible as an older woman?
It is starting to happen. I know from one of my previous job roles, that a lot of women over 50 used to mention that as soon as you turn 50 you become invisible.
My own understanding from walking over 800 ks in Spain last year is that, as we age our bodies get stronger – and are actually workhorses – which goes against the media line that we get old and feeble.
What is your opinion on this? What do you personally experience about your body as it ages? Do you feel strong and vital like a good wine?
Well done, what an achievement! I would agree. However I think that as you get older you have some choices to make. You make a conscious choice to get stronger and healthier, or you don’t make that choice. This could be as simple as making a slight change to routine and just being consistent about it.
The older you get, the more time you have (that is if you retire or work part time) to devote to yourself – what you do with that time is your choice.
Age is just a number and there are plenty of people who are old and feeble & this is what the media love to focus on.
From my personal perspective, I feel great about my body and myself right now – a combination of being in a happy place physically, emotionally and socially and having a job that is so much fun.
We spend a lot of time being sedentary – how do you feel about this?
You have to work hard to be active in today’s world. Everything is designed so that we don’t really have to move – from remote controls to driving and sitting in front of computer.
It is hard when you have a full time job to fit exercise in and I encourage my members to get up every hour or so if they can and take a stair break (walk up and down the stairwell) or fresh air break. Not always easy.
I also think that some people have forgotten what it is like to feel “great”. We get so busy that we put up with feeling mediocre. When you feel great, you do great things, which has a pay it forward effect. Now, if we could just get the world to think like this…..
What would you say is a vital key to ageing well?
It is not about being thin or giving up the things you love to eat (or drink!). It is about being as fit, strong and healthy as you can. It is also about being connected to a community that wants to do the things you do – this applies to couples and singles – there are a lot of lonely people wanting to connect.
It is also about being fearless! As we get older, we tend to become more conservative, less willing to try new things and our world becomes routine and smaller. If we challenge ourselves everyday and expand our boundaries just a little, then our world becomes bigger and we become stronger.
She also does big Oz adventures – there’s a Blue Mountains Addie coming up soon in September
Yvonne can also be found at these sites below:
Whatever you do, however old you are and if you are within the normal range of bodily health, your body needs you to work it – it is a workhorse – even though I’m a lazy person, that’s the most vital thing I learned on my Camino – we are STRONG as we age!