As you know, I was really excited about interviewing Dame Sarah Storey. I love my sport and especially cycling. I used to race when I was younger (off-road, cyclo-cross, road and track) and still love my cycling. After I had my first child, I lost my way with fitness and cycling. So I was particularly intrigued to see that Sarah (and other famous sportswomen such as Paula Radcliffe, Jessica Ennis and Jo Pavey) is back at the top elite level of her sport.
Sarah (we’re on first name terms now … ) was back in training just six weeks after the birth of her first daughter, Louisa, almost 9 months ago. That in itself – and after an emergency caesarean – is pretty amazing. She does have fantastic support from her husband and from her parents. She is currently training for the World Hour Record at the end of February. WOW! In cycling terms, that is like conquering Mount Everest. It really is the pinnacle of a cyclist’s career – it’s the romantic blue ribbon event, that in some ways is quite pointless. Many try and few succeed. It was all over the news when the very popular German Jens Voigt attempted and beat the men’s World Hour Record last year. Make no mistake – an attempt on the Hour Record is going to be seriously painful. And I don’t get the impression that Sarah has underestimated what’s involved. However I do believe she absolutely has the strength of character and determination to achieve it.
What caught my eye in last week’s article in The Guardian is that Sarah is still breastfeeding. You may not know that I am an NCT breastfeeding counsellor in my “spare time”. I don’t like to call it my spare time – I do it as a volunteer and because I love doing it. I love supporting women to make strong confident decisions; feeding your baby is part of that. However my eyes lit up – wow, she’s still breastfeeding, she’s happy to openly talk about it, AND the journalist has seen fit to include in the article.
As the interview started, we chatted for a few minutes before we went live. Straight away I got a really good strong feeling from Sarah. A very positive vibe. And even though I felt a little anxious (after all she’s one of my sporting idols), she’s so easy to talk to. Yes we started the conversation with cycling and her Paralympic efforts. We talked about her own sporting hero – a swimmer Sarah Hardcastle, and the current Women’s World Hour Record Holder. I recalled how I had watched Graeme Obree at Herne Hill Velodrome – I thought watching an attempt on the Hour would be boring – a cyclist going round and round and round the track for a whole hour. I was SO wrong. Herne Hill is an open air velodrome therefore the cyclist is much more prone to the weather on the day. Sadly he didn’t make it (too much wind that day) however it was one of the most exciting sporting events I had ever watched.
Then I asked Sarah about being a mum – the best bits, the challenges, and so much more. Like most of us, during pregnancy, Sarah read lots of parenting books and came to the conclusion that co-sleeping, gentle parenting, baby wearing, breastfeeding, baby-led weaning … is the right way to parent their child, ESPECIALLY given the high level of international travel for training and racing. Wow this was wonderful – music to my ears. What is interesting is that Sarah talks about a baby (or toddler) needing to be with her mum at night is a “life necessity”. She dismisses the myth of self-soothing as just that – a myth. With so much international travel, different hotels, different rooms, different beds, sometimes many changes in one week, the one consistency in Louisa’s life is always having mum, hence the necessity to co-sleep. And Sarah uses that word “necessity”. My admiration for this international athlete has sky rocketed! What impressed me most though, is the way that Sarah is right now at the forefront of improving the culture within British sports teams. She recognises that she is a pioneer in that there are very few women at her elite international level who are also mothers. and therefore for some teams, this is the first time that they have had to deal with a mum insisting on her child’s “life necessity” of being with mum at night. And that means staying separately from the rest of the British team.
Sarah also talks about her ambitions once she’s retired from cycling. Sarah truly is the The Confident Mother. She strikes me has having an inner strength and confidence. To know what she (and her family) needs and wants, and to then make sure that she gets it. But without tantrums. With assertiveness.
Truly impressed … this is one interview you must listen to. If you thought, nah, not interested in sport. This is not an interview about sport or sporting achievements. This is an interview with the epitome The Confident Mother.