Did you manage to spend lots of time outdoors this week? I really hope that the weekly interview posts featuring some of my GetOutside Champion friends are encouraging and inspiring you to head out of your own front door to spend more time in the fresh air.
This week I’m very pleased to feature the really rather wonderful Emily Thompson, who very aptly added “life is about finding the moments that make you fee free” as her subject line. I like it already!
The GetOutside Interviews | Emily Thompson
Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you? Where are you based? What do you do (the day job)? What’s for dinner tonight?
I’m Emily Thompson, I’m a director at Yorkshire based charity Groundwork – an organisation which helps people to tackle the environmental and social issues in their communities. This includes helping people to gain skills and get back into work, and helping communities to transform their shared green spaces into community assets. This all sounds fantastic and worthy, but my job as a director is mostly sat in front of a computer staring a tenders, funding bids and project spreadsheets and if I’m lucky going out to meetings – I don’t get to deliver the practical activities outside nor see the benefits of the work we do.
Outside of my day job I run Tinkadventures, delivering navigational training courses, leading Duke of Edinburgh training and assessments, and helping people to achieve their aspirations for adventures – including leading groups on challenge walks, such as climbing Snowdon or completing the Yorkshire 3 Peaks. Being able to work directly with people and help them to build their skills and confidence to be outdoors on their own really gives me a massive buzz.
I’m also Secretary and an Assistant Leader of my local Mountain Rescue team, so I spend a lot of my free time outside training and dealing with the search and rescue of people in our area of West Yorkshire. I love being part of this group, being able to give something back to my local community and also the amazing friends I’ve gained from being part of the team. Being in West Yorkshire we often get the quip that ‘there’s no mountains here’ but Mountain Rescue is so much more than this – most of our call outs are via the Ambulance Service to help them access difficult to reach casualties or the Police Service to find missing people.
I’ve been a GetOutside champion for Ordnance survey for 18 months now and love being part of this campaign. It really chimes with my personal feelings of how the outdoors, in whatever way you enjoy it, can make a massive difference to your personal wellbeing. My day job can leave me very stressed – from completing work to deadlines, but also having to juggle the ever-decreasing funding available in the charity sector with delivering a service and funding the staff we have. This pressure can leave me feeling drained and occasionally emotionally wrecked – so being able to escape to the outdoors allows me to feel freedom from these pressures and mentally reset.
Where and how did you spend time outdoors today?
I’ve had a relatively steady week at work so I’ve managed to get out running around my local hills in Marsden, West Yorkshire after work this week. I’m planning on trying to get a longer run in tonight as I’m supposed to be doing the Snowdon half Marathon next month and I feel very under-prepared!
Tell us about your favourite outdoor activities.
I used to just spend my time hiking as my form of escape, but these days my activities are more varied and tend to focus on challenging myself a lot more.
I love rock climbing – though I do have to be in the right frame of mind for this as I’m still at the stage that leading routes is stressful so I struggle with it even more if I’ve had a stressful week at work! I particularly love big mountain routes which give me a means to get up a mountain by a more adventurous route.
I’ve become a trail running addict too. I’m not fast by any stretch of the imagination and if there’s a hill I’ll walk up hill, but I love the feeling of freedom that running gives – whether that’s down my local canal or over the moors and mountains. I also like the challenge of races – I never enter with the intention of trying to win, but I love challenging myself.
I’ve also recently had a go at open water swimming – which I love! I’m not good at swimming and I can’t front crawl which is a bit of a barrier to being fast but I love being outside in the water – I’ve never progressed with my swimming due to hating pools and the feeling of doing laps in lanes with lots of faster people behind me. Being outdoors its more about relaxation and seeing places from new angles. I recently swam in Bassenthwaite and Derwent water and seeing the Lake District from the Lakes themselves was fantastic.
I like to set myself challenges in order to motivate myself – its not about proclaiming how good I am at something as I’m not fast or strong, but challenges encourage me to keep at activities through the energy slumps and stresses when I might otherwise give up.
So this year, I’m aiming to climb in 25 new places – I’ve achieved five so far, three of them being close to home so its been great to get out and see new places, even if they’re on my doorstep.
Having swum in two of the lakes in the Lake District I’d also like to swim in all of the major lakes there – I’ve already booked myself on the Windermere Swim in July – which might be a mistake as I’m not sure I can swim fast enough to be in a race!
Of course, I’m also participating in a few trail races too. I allowed myself earlier in the year to be talked into entering the White Rose Ultra, despite having only ever run a half marathon distance. That’s in November so I’ve got some other trail races around the Peak District booked between now and then to ensure that I keep motivated and building my distance up. I might have bitten off more than I can chew with that challenge though!!
As part of being a mountain leader and running Tinkadventures I’m currently working towards my Winter Mountain Leader qualification, which feels like a huge challenge for me. I love the winter and being outside in the snow in the mountains, but leading others is a different challenge and a massive responsibility. I’m planning on my assessment in March 2019 so fingers crossed I pass!
I also like overseas adventures to so as I write this I’m preparing for a trip to the Bernese Oberland to rock climb and alpine climb. The weather conditions aren’t always kind there but if it goes our way me and my partner are hoping to climb the Jungfrau and the Monch. There’s been talk of the easy route up the Eiger but that might still be a bit hard for me!
With all the pressures of normal life, how do you make sure you find the time for outdoors adventure?
I try to build outdoor activities into my life everyday and I’m not someone who pretends to be an adventurer, so gardening for a few hours after work definitely counts for me!
I try to go rock climbing at least once a week and trail running two evenings. My weekends are always busy, with either quick trips to the lake District or Snowdonia for activities, or around my local area for longer runs or climbing. In the summer months my weekends can also be busy with running activities through Tinkadventures, which doesn’t feel like work. That said I always need to find time for myself too.
I tend to have a couple of big adventures overseas each year, usually somewhere Alpine with opportunities to tick off bigger objectives. These trips are still goal orientated but I also love exploring new places so for me its as important to feel like I’ve really been somewhere and not just whizzed in to climb and mountain and left.
As you are a GetOutside Champion it goes without saying that you want to encourage others to spend time in the great outdoors. Why do you feel this is important?
There’s so much out there on social media which can be ‘adventure bragging’ that I think its important that small adventures and activities easier for people to get involved in are promoted. In my day job I come across so many people who are inactive, through lack of time or lifestyle or knowledge; so its important that ways for people to get outside are promoted.
I’m really proud to be a GetOutside Champion; its humbling to be part of such an amazing group of people who are doing amazing adventures and changing people’s lives. Being able to get outside means everything to me, its freedom, it’s a space to feel calm and relaxed, it’s the place I challenge myself and learn about my own abilities and resilience. If I can share that passion with others in a small way then it makes me feel like I’ve achieved a lot.
Thank you to Emily for taking part in the GetOutside Interviews. You are one very busy lady, I’m super impressed with how you make time for all the outdoors activities in-between a very busy day job and volunteering for Mountain Rescue.
And for more information about the Ordnance Survey GetOutside campaign, you need to be here.
If you are feeling inspired by my friends, please drop us a line to let us know – sharing the love is always good.