Hey, can you tell everybody where you are based and what you do!
Hi there! My name is Sharon Western, I’m based in the Cowal peninsula and I am a local doctor!
How long has the outdoors been a part of your life?
I would love to say that it has always been, but that would be a lie! As a child, my father in particular certainly tried to encourage us to be outside because he had such a love for it being a hill runner, but if I’m honest it’s only really been in the last 3 years that I have really discovered how essential the outdoors is for my wellbeing.
I had started walking a little prior to lockdown, but my husband and I really started to explore our surroundings by foot during those early times of the pandemic, and as both he and I were still working pretty intensively it became an essential thing in the evenings and the weekends to be outside more, and to walk. We explored forestry tracks behind our house, the extent of which we had been unaware of, and when we were allowed to travel in Scotland I met up with my parents outside to walk also. That feeling of connection, both with my family, but also with the outdoors, was very much a part of keeping grounded during difficult times.
In addition, I bought a bike and we started to cycle regularly to explore, and then as things opened up booked an open water swimming lesson, loved it, and started swimming regularly in the sea and local loch with a couple of groups of friends. There’s a group of 4 of us who continued right the way through winter and I now own a wetsuit (or 2) which is definitely not something I would have foreseen 3 years ago. My husband and I also took up kayaking this year, and spending much of our free time outside now forms an integral part of our life evenings, weekends and holidays, as much as we can. It is difficult to emphasise how big a change that is for us. We live in a beautiful place but previously were blinkered to the wonders around us.
What’s been your favourite trip or adventure?
Difficult choice actually: I love all of the adventures we’ve had. Walking the West Highland Way after we had come out of lockdown was the first long distance multi-day trip we achieved so it will always hold a special place in my heart. It clearly started something though- as we’ve since done the Rob Roy Way, Loch Lomond and Cowal Way, the West Island Way, the Cateran Trail and Southern Upland Way, and next plan is the Hebridean Way.
How do you find a balance between being active and life’s other responsibilities i.e. work and family?
It can be difficult at times, but I’ve started commuting to work on my bike a couple of days a week. I think people are a bit bemused by me appearing on house visits on my bike but active travel is definitely helpful for trying to fit the outdoors into my day. I also find that I never regret going outdoors to do something, even if Im initially reluctant because of rain/cold/etc, I always feel better for it after (although sometimes that’s when I’m back and warm and dry!!)
Is there anyone who inspired your love of the outdoors?
My husband very much inspired my love of the outdoors, and we’ve had some fabulous experiences together as we’ve learnt how important it is to us both. Which is strange when you consider that most of these interests and love of the outdoors have developed after 15 years of marriage, but support and encouragement on both sides has meant that the outdoors is now a constant in our lives. I should also say my parents- my father (a keen hill runner and cyclist) has always been keen for us to engage more with the outdoors- it just took me a while!!!! He and my mother have also done long distance walks over previous years which have inspired us to know that it was possible for us.
Do you find that being outside has a positive impact on your wellbeing and mental health?
Without a doubt, it is now noticeable if part of any day I have not managed to get outside, even for 20 minutes.
When did you discover FINDRA?
Last year I was looking at increasing our cycling, but knew that I wanted cycling clothing that was more local in origin, and more transferrable for me to off bike as well as on and I stumbled on the Findra website. Since then my Findra pieces have travelled with me on many adventures- walking, cycling, kayaking, swimming, yoga and just chilling out! To the Arctic circle, and to Ireland, and in the back garden- I love how versatile the pieces are. My husband may also have got some for Christmas…
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
It’s a cliche but the best advice I’ve ever been given is ‘This too shall pass’. It is both applicable in good times and bad.
On writing this blog, what do you feel is the key motivational or inspirational message you would like to highlight to our followers that would inspire them to get outdoors more.
It is never too late, even if you don’t think you’re ‘an outdoorsy person’ there is so much to explore. Don’t be limited by what you think isn’t for you, or images we have of who we need to be to be outdoors. Give it a go, you might find something you love.
You’re Dead to Me Podcast on BBC Sounds. It's a great historical podcast with lots of humour mixed in, and we often listen as we travel to the start of adventures.
On a crazy road trip in the U.S. some years ago, we drove towards Monument Valley in Arizona in a convertible Mustang with the top down and this song came on, slowly building until we could see the Mittens clearly as the sun was starting to set. I associate it with being astounded by nature.