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Inspiration: Naomi Freireich

Edinburgh based Naomi Freireich, a Digital Health IT manager and endurance cyclist, takes time to discuss balancing family commitments with a life outdoors and the benefits of cycling for physical and mental wellbeing.

 

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Hi Naomi, and to start, can you introduce yourself and tell us where you live and what you do?

Hey, I’m Naomi Freireich. I’m an IT Project Manager from Edinburgh specialising in Virtual Reality in Digital Health. I’m also an endurance cyclist, with a penchant for 24 hour mountain biking and long distance bike packing.

 

How long has the great outdoors been a part of your life? 

I grew up in the countryside in Ayrshire, where my mum ran an organic market garden and food cooperative, with the first veg box scheme in Scotland. We were always outside, either in the garden or the local woods and holidays would usually be camping or youth hostelling, so being outdoors has always been a huge part of my life.

 

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What has been your favourite trip or adventure?

In September last year, in between lockdowns and restrictions, I was delighted to ride a route called An Turas Mór, right here in Scotland. It wasn’t my most exotic trip, nor the furthest, but it definitely ranks up there as my favourite for a number of reasons.

 

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The first of these is, it’s in Scotland. I’ve lived here all my life bar my very first year (I was born in Hull), and yet there are still bits that I’ve never visited in my 46 revolutions of the sun. An Turas Mór uses hydro access roads, old military and drove roads and minor roads to navigate its way from Scotland’s largest city, Glasgow all the way to the furthest point on the north west coast, the Cape Wrath lighthouse.

You ride through places that you couldn’t otherwise easily reach and through the most stunning, remote and varied landscape. Add to that my own personal epiphany which was being able to ride a route for personal challenge and not for being the first or fastest and it became a journey of growth for me.

 

How do you make find a balance between being active and life’s other responsibilities i.e. work and family?

I’ve always been an evangelist for mothers making time for themselves. Obviously everyone’s ability to do so differs, but I make it a goal to not feel guilty for the time I take for myself. It makes me happier and more able to deal with life and therefore increases what I am able to give to others as a result, my family especially. That said, working full time and having 4 teenage kids and 2 demanding dogs means I have to be cunning with my training and have a very understanding family!

I try my hardest to do longer rides the weeks my kids are with their dad, which helps, and I’ve been training more at home so that I can be around. It used to be that I could do my midweek training on commute rides, but now I work from home I still try to ride at the same time in the evening so that it has less impact on life. Ultimately though, a lot of it is down to self discipline and finding the time in your day, so I am always looking for efficiencies.

 

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Is there anyone who inspired your love of the outdoors?

My love of the outdoors really stems from my childhood. I have so many memories of family time spent outside, or of playing with my friends in the woods. When I’m outside I don’t feel the same life pressures or modern day adult worries. I am able to just engage with whatever I’m doing. I have my mum to thank for that.

 

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Do you find that being outside has a positive impact on your wellbeing and mental health?

I started cycling after a very traumatic relationship breakup. I’d been living with coercive control for almost 10 years, which ended ultimately in violence. By the time I left I was barely recognisable as the person I am today.

The outdoors helped me deal with the massive damage this relationship had done to my mental wellbeing, but it also nurtured the side of me that had been eroded and allowed me to return to the strong independent women I had been before. Without cycling, I’m not sure I would have recovered the way I have or been able to look back on that period of my past as being just that; over.

 

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What is it about riding specifically that you love?

Cycling allows me to focus on the present. Almost as soon as I get on my bike my mind clears and all that matters is the task of riding. But in that flow state I have often resolved many issues without thinking about them. It’s like being able to switch off gives my mind space to do the thinking without me. With my training and the type of riding I do, I have really learned to understand and appreciate my body. I think we’re often blinded by the image of what a perfect body should be like, but for me, perfect is being able to do the things I love and coping with the things I ask of it. I’m no size 0 waif; I love my body for being strong and letting me do what I love.

 

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When did you discover FINDRA?

I remember hearing about FINDRA when I had the good fortune to ride with Ed Shoot a number of years ago. Marion had been an early ambassador for FINDRA and I was blown away by their ability to fit in adventuring round their real life, even more so now with a young family.

Then, and still now, FINDRA felt like a really wholesome company, with the right balance of work and play and with a focus on producing gear that works well (and looks gorgeous), tested by real world adventurers.

 

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What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

I feel like right now there are a lot of people losing motivation. Lockdown has been tough on many, and having the drive to get outside is tough when the weather is cold, nights are long and we can’t visit the places we’d like. I’ve struggled myself a little but have found this a good piece of advice: Action leads to Motivation. If we’re waiting for the motivation to get out there, we could be in for a long wait right now. But if you take that first step yourself and get outside; go for a walk, take that bike ride or run, then I can guarantee that you’ll come back feeling better and more motivated to do it again.

I can’t think of a time I’ve ever felt worse for having been outside. Often all that’s needed is to take the first step. Just put on your running shoes or biking gear and see how that feels. Head out with no pressure, even just with the goal of doing 10 minutes. Once you’re out, staying outside is easy. It’s taking that first step that is the hard part.

 

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Thanks Naomi for taking the time share your thoughts with us. It’s very much appreciated!

 


BOOK OF THE WEEK

All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

All The Light We Cannot See

 

I’ve been listening to audio books on a lot of my rides recently. I love the escapism of being inside a story. It’s a great distraction if I’m doing a particularly tough session on the bike. I’ve listened to so many good books as a result, but one that really stuck with me was All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr.

There is so much beauty and hope in the relationships formed in the book, despite it being set in such a dark period of recent history. I read it all in a weekend, and smiled and cried in equal measure.

 


TRAIL OF THE WEEK

An Turas Mór – Glasgow to Cape Wrath

As mentioned by Niomi the An Turas Mór (The Long Journey) is a mountain/gravel bike route that uses a mixture of minor roads, old military and drove roads along with newer forestry or hydro access roads.

 

An Turas Mor offroad cycle route map

 

The 354 mile long route winds through mountains and over numerous passes on its way north from Glasgow to Cape Wrath at the very northern tip of Scotland. Long and remote in many places, it requires fitness (much accent) and good planning for resupply and overnight stops, however the route is not technical making it accessible to riders with intermediate off road / mountain bike skills.

Discover more about he trail on An Turas Mór website to plan your journey – or use the route map to work out shorter sections of the route.

 


QUOTE OF THE WEEK

John Muir

Isn’t John Muir so effortlessly quotable. Here’s a favourite of mine that, I think, echoes my sentiment about just getting outside.

 

 

“Few places in this world are more dangerous than home. Fear not therefore, to try the mountain passes. They will kill care, save you from deadly apathy, set you free and call forth every faculty into vigorous, enthusiastic action.”


MUSIC OF THE WEEK

Waiting for Superman by the The Flaming Lips 

It may not be inspiring per c’est, but I just love The Flaming Lips Waiting for Superman. It’s a song written about the singer, Wayne, checking in on his brother as their father is dying.

The song is about the fact that some things really can be overwhelming, too much to deal with, but if you hold on, you’ll get through it. And it’s beautiful too.

 

Waiting for Superman by The Flaming Lips