To this day, I’m grateful to my dad for inspiring me to be active. Whether it was cycling, skiing or swimming, from a very young age, my brother, sister and I were always out there with him doing some kind of activity.
Now, at 44, I’m an avid cross-country skier and cyclist. Ten years ago, I joined a cycling club in my hometown of St-Lazare, west of Montreal near the Ontario border. During the warm months, we meet three times a week and cycle up to 100 kilometres each time. I’ve made many good friends within the club who, like me, just aren’t indoor-gym people. Eventually, a small group of us decided to form a cross-country ski group as a way to stay active during the long winter months.
Our group of 10 women, all in our mid to late 40s, has been meeting every Tuesday night for three years. We are all working mothers with teenagers who require constant taxi service, but we agreed to reserve that one night for ourselves. We meet at the local cross-country ski centre, which has trails of varying lengths, and do the same loop twice for a total of 25 kilometres.
Cycling and skiing definitely keep me fit, but the bonus is they are great stress relievers, too. I come home revived and relaxed. And they help me be creative; as a teacher, I need to come up with activities for my class, and while I’m skiing I have the best brainstorming sessions with myself!
I have to admit, cross-country skiing at night adds an element of excitement, even though some people might think we’re crazy. Yes, it can be pitch-black, but we wear headlamps. And when we are skiing under a full moon and the stars are out, it makes the outing spectacular.
We have found that the biggest benefit of cross-country skiing as a group is that it motivates us to get out there even when it’s -20 degrees, and we push each other to improve our individual times. The women who finish first always stay outside to encourage the others during their final sprint. We’ve also developed close friendships; after our ski, we go into the chalet for hot chocolate, and use the time to catch up and talk about our hectic lives. The bond we have has grown stronger every year and now we’re also planning a weekend away to cross-country ski.
Pictured: Sandra Sylvestre (right) and friend Guylaine Coté make each cross-country ski outing about improving their endurance.
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