Jo Moseley of 'Healthy Happy 50'
One of the best things about ageing is the growing contentment with who we are. However time and time again we are bombarded by the notion that we must not grow old resulting in a whole generation of women who can find themselves feeling invisible.
Having worked hard to battle through the insecurities of our younger years, finally reaching that harmony of self belief, a new challenge soon reaches us!
Here we speak with Jo Moseley, creator of ‘Healthy Happy 50’, about her journey of rediscovering how to move and love life again… in turn, and more importantly, learning to love herself again.
Tell us a little bit about yourself & your journey so far with 'Healthy Happy 50'...
Hello! My name is Jo & I’m a 53 year old Mum of two sons, 21 & 18, living on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales.
My HealthyHappy50 journey began with me sobbing in the biscuit aisle of our local supermarket 5 years ago! Both my parents were going through chemotherapy at the time and I was a busy working Mum flying solo with my boys. I wasn’t sleeping, was anxious and overwhelmed by life.
A friend lent me an old rowing machine suggesting regular exercise might help me sleep. Until that point I really hadn’t been active since my twenties.
Within a couple of weeks I was sleeping and life began to feel brighter. My Mum died at Christmas that year and a few months later I began a huge rowing and fundraising challenge for Macmillan Cancer Support in her memory. I rowed a million metres & marathon and we raised £10,000.
I realised at that point how much I loved being active and I’ve not looked back. I’ve rediscovered sea swimming, snorkelling & bodyboarding. I was given a stand up paddleboard for my 52nd birthday and a 3 day surf camp at Surf Snowdonia for my 53rd. For 4 glorious seconds I actually rode a wave this summer. I screamed with joy the whole way! I’ve qualified as a Pool Lifeguard and an Aquafit Coach this year too, both a complete joy.
I took up running at 52 and particularly enjoy Plogging – running & picking up litter. It gives me a sense of purpose and belonging, looking after the beautiful hills and beaches where I run.
What would you say is your biggest motivation for being active and getting outdoors?
How it makes me feel! The joy, mental clarity, confidence, feeling of peace and being absorbed fully in the moment. The sense of possibility, gratitude, happiness from new friendships, strength, purpose with my Plogging and belonging to the landscape in which I live. It’s always about how being active in the fresh air makes me feel!
You are a big advocate for promoting body confidence and an active lifestyle, particularly in those over 50, is this something where you have encountered your own personal challenges?
Yes, it is. Growing up I struggled with my body image and self confidence. I have been at both ends of the BMI height/weight charts in my life and personally, was not happy at either.
I think for many women our confidence grows as we get older and we are less concerned about what other people think of our appearance. We’ve learned how the media can manipulate images to make us feel insecure. We’ve also realised how amazing our bodies are if we’ve had children or been through an illness and healed.
However, in our 50s, with the onset of the menopause and the ageing process, we can become anxious about the many changes that happen. We can initially lose that hard won wisdom and be overwhelmed by hot flushes, mood swings and lack of energy. When the media and social media are so youth obsessed these feelings are reinforced. Many women feel invisible to society in their 50s and our confidence can diminish.
I’ve felt like this (all those times I was sobbing in the supermarket!).
Being active has helped me manage my menopausal symptoms hugely – the physical & mental benefits really can’t be overestimated. I also feel that by going on all these lovely little adventures, like surfing, running in the hills and swimming in the sea, I’ve come to inhabit my body more. We are friends again and I am grateful for the joyful moments ‘we’ share.
I’ve known how hard it is when you don’t like your body and feel ashamed of how you look. I would love to show other women my age how they might find body confidence by being active. It’s not about changing how they look through exercise so that they then become body confident. It’s about tiny, joyful adventures, celebrating who they are and all they can do right now just as they are.
Image from Prima Magazine
Have there been any particular highs or lows which stand out since the start of your 'Healthy Happy 50' journey?
Ooh highs: completing the million metres and marathon was definitely one. Riding the wave was amazing – even just for 4 seconds as I have always dreamed of surfing. Completing my first 5k run will always be special as I had always thought running was for other people. It made think what other things I had assumed weren’t for me but which I might be able to do.
It is also wonderful when I’m asked to speak about my tiny adventures. Leading a workshop at the Women’s Adventure Expo in Bristol this year was such an honour and I am looking forward to being part of the FINDRA panel on Everyday Adventures at Kendal Mountain Festival soon.
One of the biggest highs is when I receive messages from other women saying they bought a pair of trainers or a wetsuit because they saw me talking about the joy being outside brings. That really is a something very special to read.
Lows? Injury! I fell (in a bathroom) injuring my knee and have had problems with my shoulders (frozen shoulder). That is always a frustrating and painful time. However, it is an excellent lesson in patience, gratitude and dream building for when I’m healed.
Jo catching her first wave & with Erik Ahlstrom who started the Plogging concept, At Love Trails Festival.
What do you feel are the biggest challenges that women have when looking to improve their fitness / health / mental well-being?
I think for women of my generation it is 1) memories of school PE lessons which can be so grim and 2) the idea that looking after our health needs is seen as selfish. Particularly as mothers, we have been taught to put ourselves at the bottom of the list. It is the fear of judgement, both of how we might look and perform and that we are simply putting our needs as a higher priority.
I’d like to show how much joy being active is and encourage more women to give themselves the opportunity to bring that joy into their lives.
Image from Prima Magazine
What advice or tips do you have for women who maybe feel that the outdoors are not for them - for reasons such as health, age, ability, experience etc?
My advice is: start where you are, start small and start today. Do what you can with what you have. A five minute walk in the park, a short bike ride, joining an Aquafit class or twenty minutes in the pool. Then build upon that. Download the Couch 2 5k app and go to a Parkrun. Join a social bike ride group. Find out if there is a local outdoor pool or group who swim in the river or sea if you live nearby. Small steps that lead to bigger goals.
I would also say building a supportive network around you, like Wonderful Wild Women, is a great way to increase your enjoyment and confidence. Twitter and Instagram are fabulous for finding like minded women who are doing things you want to do and will cheer you on. It is brilliant seeing someone your age hiking or climbing and thinking, “Ooh, maybe I could do that one day!”.
Also, if you want to try something like paddleboarding or mountain biking and need some technical skill and equipment, invest in yourself! Again it comes back to believing that your health and needs are worth it, which many of us struggle with. But it is absolutely worth it to make the most of the experience and see if it is for you.
What exciting ventures are you most looking forward to in the near future?
I’m really looking forward to building upon everything I have done in 2018. More time in the sea on my different boards, river swimming (which I don’t feel so confident about) and trail running through the winter. I set myself a goal to run 1000km this year and I have a way to go!
For my 54th birthday at Christmas I am planning a longer run along the cliffs picking up litter. I would also like to create a local plogging group and raise money to buy a 2 Minute Litter Pick board. Oh and I have also set myself a goal to do a headstand on my paddleboard in the sea on my 54th birthday – I better keep practising that!
Image from Prima Magazine