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We need some more girls in here...

This week is Women’s Sport Week 2017, a campaign to celebrate and raise the profile of women in sport across the UK; whether that is as a sportswoman, a volunteer, organiser or spectator of sport.

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Jane Bedford McLaren is part of the specialist personal injury team. She is passionate about cycling and has used her insight as a cyclist and in depth knowledge of this area of law to specialise in helping people who have been injured whilst riding their bikes.
The campaign is run by Women in Sport whose mission is to bring about “gender equality through and within sport; empowering women and girls through sport and the sport sector.”
 
Women in Sport have identified that less women and girls participate in sport than boys and men. They have focussed on exploring how sport can be better integrated into women’s lives and developing strategies to encourage girls to continue in sport as they grow up.
 
There are other inspiring campaings which all aim to accomplish the same end goal – getting more women into sports.
 
Since 2014 British Cycling has been working to change the culture of cycling and to get one million more women on bikes before 2020.
 
Over the first 2 years of this campaign they managed to encourage 254,000 women to take up cycling. The HSBC Breeze Campaign has also seen over 100,000 women participating in their cycle rides since these groups were launched five years ago.
 
British Cycling has recorded a 70% increase in female coaches since the launch of their campaign, which can only perpetuate the engagement of women in cycling.
 
Those statistics from British Cycling underline the need for Women in Sport and other campaigns like This Girl Can; there is clearly an appetite for women to engage in sport with the right encouragement.
 
Speaking from personal experience, I spent the majority of my twenties feeling unable to get back into sport through a combination of self-consciousness,  lack of fitness and self-belief.
 
I was sporty as a child. I would cycle or walk everywhere; this was just my family’s mode of transport as we didn’t have a car.
 
All our main summer family holidays from the age of about 10 to about 15 involved cycling and camping in France or Spain; carrying all our kit on our bikes. There were regular bike rides, camping trips, walks; I started swimming classes at 4 years old and trampolining in my early teens.
 
As I hit adolescence I became pretty self-conscious and insecure… swimming and trampolining were no longer the carefree activities they had been and I stopped going.
 
Cycling also went by the wayside so that by the time I left university I no longer classed myself as active or someone capable of engaging in sport in any meaningful way.
 
It would not be until I reached my early thirties that I started regularly cycling again and began to be more active generally.
 
Cycling massively improved my quality of life both physically and mentally and gave me the confidence to try new things.
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I learnt to ski 5 years ago and now go every year. Cycling enabled me to do this both in terms of being physically fit enough and believing that I could do it.
 
I have insecurities, as is probably the case for most people, and I felt that these would prevent me from living my life to the full.
 
In 2010 I suffered a pulmonary embolism from which I almost died. It was a long road to recovery as the clot in my left lung had damaged the lung lining and I contracted pleurisy too.
 
The lesson I took from this is that life is unpredictable and can be too short for many so I decided to make some changes. This is an on-going process, which has been made a lot easier by campaigns like Women’s Sport Week and This Girl Can as they reinforce the message of self-belief.
 
The first campaign video released by the This Girl Can had an unexpected profound emotional impact as it was the first time I had seen other women who look like me being portrayed as sporty, powerful women. I must have replayed it about a dozen times.
 
This portrayal of women in sport is why I am really pleased that Leigh Day is a sponsor for The Adventure Syndicate.
 
This is a group of women who describe themselves as “female endurance cyclists, whose aim is to increase levels of self-belief and confidence in others (especially in women and girls) by telling inspiring stories, creating an encouraging community and delivering enabling workshops and training.
 
We do this because we love the way adventuring by bike makes us feel and we passionately believe we are all capable of so much more than we think we are.”
 
I was lucky enough to meet some of these inspiring women at the Spin Cycle Festival in London in May 2017, which saw the launch of their race team called The Quad; made up of Lee Craigie, Emily Chappell, Paula Regener and Rickie Cotter.
 
They arrived at the festival straight from the Scottish Highlands where they had taken a group of local girls on a cycling tour to build their self-belief and confidence.
 
These campaigns are so important for women and girls in terms of empowering them to achieve their goals, giving them self-belief and confidence. This can only serve to improve their lives in other aspects such as work and education.
 
Women’s Sport Week encourages women and girls to get involved in various fundraising events.  Some of these are intended to be light hearted and easily accessible, such as, “Wear Your Sports Kit to Work / School” on 23 June 2017 or highlighting the social side of sport, such as, organising a tournament with friends with the emphasis on having fun. They’re also suggesting women take on sponsored challenges across the week; such as, cycling the length of Hadrian’s Wall at 83.8 miles or swimming the length of Loch Ness at 22.5 miles.
 
I challenge you all to get involved this week in some shape or form.
 
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