Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Badass Women Series- Fiona Bateson

Badass women series is back. This time, I am bringing you another hell of a badass lady, Fiona Bateson! I got to know Fi through work and over the years she has inspired me so many times with her attitude to life and insatiable adventure spirit that I had to share her stories with you. 

cover photo courtesy of @anna_paxton_

Why is she badass? 
First time I found out about Fi and what she is like was when I heard that she skied to work, as all of the roads were closed during heavily snowfall. The last time I have randomly bumped into her was in a cafe in Hathersage a few months back. She was there with her daughter Esme. They have just been swimming in Hathersage outdoor pool a few days before. It was January. This describes what she is like in a nutshell. Up for crazy (and cold) adventures whilst sharing it with her family. 

The thing that I love the most about Fiona is the fact that for her, adventure is so intertwined in her life that she doesn't think that it is anything special. She is a busy mum, working full time and her adventures happen in between everything else.  It is a lot easier to sack everything off, live in a van with no commitments and get out there all day long, but what if you can't or don't want to do that?  So often after having kids, adventures go on a back burner. Not for Fi though. She is a proof that you can have a relatively modern life and incorporate what you want to do into it. As I am getting older and the question of kids is starting to emerge, watching women like Fi being an inspiration to her kids by pushing her own limit definitely inspires me and makes me feel that perhaps, not all is lost after you have kids:) and actually, half of the fun is to introduce them to the world you love so much. 

So what is her secret recipe to combing adventures with her life? Get your family involved! Swim wherever you can, even in the winter! Ski to work! Run home! And chill afterwards...

 How did you get into Adventure? 

         Walking is such a good way to get into adventure as it is easily accessible for most people

As a kid I always swam, we were lucky enough to have an outdoor pool at school and I discovered I could quite easily swim nonstop for long periods of time, just like in Forest Gump where he ‘keeps on running’, I kept on swimming! I also learnt to ice skate when I was three years old and whilst my sister was learning to do dance moves, I just wanted to whizz round really fast and be a speed skater (I still do). I always walked four miles to and from school every day, my family didn’t own a car and so exercise wasn't really seen as 'exercise' but just something you did, in order to get from A to B. During my teens and 20’s when it was either ‘not cool’ or I was too busy socialising, I had a hiatus from sport. By my early 30’s I was unfit. I went to the Pyrenees with some friends for a month, I rediscovered my love for the outdoors and that was it, I haven’t looked back since. 

What is your thing, (things) ?

Fi in her element

Swimming! Swimming in lakes in the summer, winter, autumn and spring, swimming in warm water, cold water, freezing water. During the summer I swim every day at Hathersage outdoor pool. I also cold water swim here every weekend during the winter. I also volunteer there and my son became a lifeguard here last year. I plan on doing my lifeguard training when I retire (or maybe before). The sense of switching off and just moving in the water is something that I am completely addicted to. It is quite meditative and I can easily swim for 2 hours, which most people find bonkers, but I feel is quite normal! I’m pretty good at ‘spotting’ (seeing where you are going in the water) but I am always conscious that anything could go wrong in the middle of a great big lake so my husband Chris is happy to provide my support. One lake I swim in in France has poisonous snakes, which I was told usually stay by the edges, however Chris recently told me he’d seen one happily swimming alongside me for a while a couple of years ago! 

                           This lady is definitely not afraid of getting cold! 

I also love running. I used to do a bit of cross country at school but never ran outside of school.  You just didn’t see girls doing that in the 1970’s. I started running just before I got pregnant with my 1st child (who is now 20), when I was 33, just to get a bit fitter. I didn’t run in pregnancy purely because I had only just got into it, but I’m also super clumsy and fall over (a lot) so I picked it up again a few weeks after the birth of my daughter. This was just half an hour at the end of the day. A friend told me about the Race for Life and I did my 1st 5k when Esme, my daughter, was 4 months old. Two years later after the birth of my son Finn , I did my 1st half marathon when he was 11 months old.

The other thing’s I dabble in are walking, cross-country skiing, cycling, yoga, and I like to mix it up a bit by doing some of these at night with a head torch.

Describe your ideal day

              Happiness pretty much equals the outdoors and any kind of physical activity

My ideal day would either start with a run, or a long cross country ski with my swimming stuff packed in a ruck sack. I’d run off the road for about 8 to 10 miles taking in the fresh air and colours of the hills. Recently,  Highland cattle have been grazing over the Houndkirk Moors and I regularly come in contact with these gorgeous animals. I’ll stop and have a little natter with them. I then find a swimming spot, usually Hathersage pool and swim for a couple of miles. If I am away somewhere I’ll find a lake, I have been known to break the ice on a lake before dipping in for a quick swim! If it’s warm, then I’ll probably swim to the other side and back. Buttermere is wonderful, you can easily run around it and swim across it or end to end for a fun day out. 

      Because as you know, food and drink tastes so much better after a long day in the hills! 

I’d probably then sneak into a café or pub for a quick drink before coming home and relaxing in a candlelit bath. It would then be a question of either cooking for friends or going out for a lovely meal and drinking some good wine! Perfect!

What impact does sport and adventure have on your life?

When the road is blocked- ski to wherever you need to get to. photo courtesy of @anna_paxton_

It has a massive impact on my life. I do quite a sedentary job and I would go mad if I didn’t get out there and have adventures. There have been a few times when I haven’t been able to do sport and one bad year when I was badly injured ( I told you I fall over a lot), I couldn’t run or swim. I most definitely became low and I didn’t get the endorphins that getting out and about gives you. Once I started to recover physically, the impact it had on me emotionally was quite stark, I hadn’t realised it up until that point how important it is for me to be outdoors.

It is also about embracing any season. I love the winter and the dark nights, which people can’t understand. I’m quite literally obsessed with snow, I live and breathe the weather forecast from October to March waiting for that big snowfall. I‘m a big kid and I love the cold on my skin, the way the world becomes quiet and the fact that if you want to get anywhere, you have to get there under your own steam! In December of 2010 when Sheffield had had its biggest snow fall ever, all the roads were blocked, all the schools closed, but the Students ‘ Union where I work was open and the only option was to walk. I had recently acquired a pair of cross country skis from a woman on a bus ( that’s a whole new story) and so I thought, oh well let’s give it a go, and I skied all the way to work! It was brill. 

                    Fiona recreating the 'ski to work' commute for everyone in the office

I also love the feeling of coming home from a dark cold run, lighting the fire, and being cosy. It feels so much more enjoyable if you have gone out and got cold and wet first!

What is the best Adventure you have ever had? 

                        What's better than sharing your adventures with your loved ones? 

Ooo lots! Eek have I got to choose one? I’m lucky enough to be able to spend my summers in France and since the kids learnt to walk we have been taking them on mountain hut to hut treks. As they got stronger we increased the distance we walk and I think the best one was last year! We walked and stopped by beautiful mountain lakes, we’d stop at mountain huts and camp wild. No phones, no tv, just walking and chatting. You never know if it is going to be the last time they want to do this with their funny old parents so each year is special!

How do you make time for Adventures

             Family run - good way to get the exercise in whilst spending quality time together 

I work full time. When my kids were babies I would run in the evening when they had gone to bed, but I would also put them on my back and take them with me! I’m not kidding, but my daughter Esme climbed Scafell Pike in the Lake District when she was 20 months old! She would not be carried! I don’t think it was a conscious decision but I’m so glad she has seen her mum doing active stuff. For me it has always been about having fun. As the kids got older and I had more time, I joined a running group for a while. This was a women’s only group and I joined the fell running section. Fell running has been very male-dominated and quite ‘serious’. We on the other hand, just entered anything and everything. Some of us were fast and gave the men a run for their money ( ha ha no pun intended ) and some came last (oo was that me ?? ). Now I fit it in before work or on the way to work. I swim at 6.30am twice a week and run in the Peaks at 6.30 am twice a week . In the winter this involves wearing a head torch and ice grippers on the snow. I just love starting my day like this. I’ll never forget a sunrise in February when I was running over drifts of snow and as the sun rose, the snow started turning pink, amazing! 

                      Buddying up with people who are in the same boat can help massively

I run with 2 girlfriends who both have difficult jobs and children slightly younger than mine and this is when we can fit it in. We run, but boy do we talk as well, and laugh! We put the world to right and I’m not saying it is easy to get out there, but I never ever regret when I do, but I do if I don’t . Last year we did the Snowdonia Challenge- a 3 day, 100k walk. In 2016 we went to Iceland and ran the midnight sun half marathon, as well as gone speedboat whale watching, taking photos of men with beards and going slightly bonkers in 24 hour daylight.

                                          Game face is ON! 

I‘ll also mix up cycling and running to work. It is great that we now have a new cycle hub at the University with showers. I also started a Runch Club at work (Running at Lunch) where I have a small but dedicated following which is growing each week and it is another way to fit some feel good time into your day.

What does the outdoors mean to you? 

Leave your watch at home. There is no pressure 

 Everything! Even though I have done a few races, they are not really my thing, I am not at all competitive. I don’t even wear a watch. I’ve no idea what time I do things in. I’m just not interested.  I just like being outdoors! I equally love cold weather and warm weather, I love the rain on my face, the sun on my skin, the sting of cold weather and wind blowing me all over the place! I love the colours I can see when I am outside in the Peak District. I love the feeling of being part of something really big. 

                                      Get out there and be part of something bigger 

In the summer I spend most of my time outdoors. Walking all day, finding an amazing place to camp by a lake, watching the sun set and rise, looking at the stars in the sky, cooking, eating , sleeping outside.

Who inspires you?

                                How can you not be inspired by a place like this? 

Lynn Cox- Long Distance Open water swimmer Cox is perhaps best known for swimming 2 hour 5 minutes in the Bering Strait on 7 August 1987, (which just happened to be my 23rd birthday) from the island of Little Diomede in Alaska to Big Diomede, then part of the Soviet Union, where the water temperature averaged around 6 to 7 °C). At the time people living on the Diomede Islands, only 3.7 km apart, were not permitted to travel between them, although the Inuit communities there had been closely linked. Her accomplishment a few years before the end of the Cold War earned praise from both US President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

Another inspiration is Lewis Pugh- endurance swimmer and ocean advocate. He frequently swims in vulnerable ecosystems to draw attention to their plight. And finally Sarah and Lisa, my running and walking buddies. They just make me laugh, nonstop, running and laughing is so good for your soul.

What other things are important to you outside of your Adventures? 

                   Cold water swimming has many benefits including improving mental health 

The environment, mental health and disability in sport. I have a degree in Natural Environmental Science and I have always tried to think about my impact on the environment. We drive to Europe in the summer for our holidays and if I do fly I think carefully about how often and if the journey can be done differently. I am a big fan of the Man in seat 61 which is website to show how journeys can be made by train and boat. The journey should be part of the holiday! 

I also worked as a mental health nurse in the 1990’s and I am so sad to see such a rise in mental health problems, particularly in the young people. Although separate, both of these interests naturally link to my outdoor passion and I love to introduce people to trying new things. For example, cold water swimming has recently been proven to help people with depression and improve their mood long term, without the need for antidepressants. Finding natural ways to improve quality of life is important. Finally, last year I trained to be a guide runner for visually impaired triathletes as well as a guide at Parkrun. I learned how to pilot a tandem, but I was way out of my comfort zone!  However, guiding in open water I was in my element. I had to swim in unison with my VI. She went from learning front crawl in a pool to open water swimming with me in Windermere in a weekend, how cool is that!

Do you have any advice for girls who are interested in getting out into the outdoors?

''My advice to young mothers is to get out there with your kids, show your daughters that it is about having fun!''

It’s different for everyone but I feel there are too many pressures on young people these days, so my mantra is that you don’t have to be competitive or fast or the best, you just have to enjoy it. Don’t wear a watch, go out in all weathers. There has also never been a better time to take advantage of what the outdoors has to offer. Think outside the box, if you think that you haven’t got time, make the adventure part of your journey. Don’t worry about what you look like, grab a friend and go together if you are scared about going your own. Don’t be afraid to let your daughters go and explore for themselves! My advice to young mothers is to get out there with your kids, show your daughters that it is about having fun! It gives you time to talk (with no phones) too.

Why do you do what you do? 

                                                     No swimming pool? No problem!

Freedom! Fitness! Fun! 

Do you have any plans for the Future?  

                   Swimming is just one way to have an adventure. There is so many more things! 

Yes! Loads! In the summer I am once again going away with Sarah and Lisa, this time we are doing the Yorkshire 3 Peaks. I am also planning on walking the Tour of the Vanoise which is a 10-day hut to hut trek in the French Alps with Chris. I am doing a 5k swim with Sarah in April.

In the future, I want to buy a camper van with a log burning stove and go on a tour of Scandinavia, Iceland and Greenland, to wild swim everywhere! I also really want to try Moon Skating, which is skating on frozen lakes in Sweden under the moon and stars! How awesome would that be! You have to skate with a couple of ice picks around your neck in case you fall in!

I think my roots of being brought up without a car installed a continued desire to get from A to B under my own steam, So I also plan to make up an adventure that incorporates running, swimming, cross country skiing, walking, skating, and canoeing, watch this space…….

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