Our Everyday Heroes: Helen Ryder

As 2017 drew to a close, one of the GA reps, Samantha Hall, introduced Our Everyday Heroes: a new blog feature to recognise and celebrate everyday female/trans women who have done something worth talking about. As Samantha mentioned, any contributions or ideas of who you think is worthy of celebration can be tweeted or emailed to us! We aspire to celebrate women from all walks of life.

I’m going to be talking about a woman who has shaped her local community, aided vulnerability to recovery and changed people’s lifestyles for the better.

Helen Ryder, from Bournemouth, Dorset, is my everyday hero. It wasn’t until she was around 40 years old that she found her love of exercise spontaneously leading to  running taking over her extra time. I interviewed her for this post:

How did your passion for an active lifestyle arise?

“I was always reasonably active growing up, but I got into exercise seriously when I was about 39. After a break up, I decided I could either go back to 20 cigarettes a day and feel sorry for myself or do something more positive! A health visitor told me about a local ‘legs, bums and tums’ class for people on low incomes so I decided to go. I also wanted to aim for something and around the same time my sister was diagnosed with cancer so I decided to run the race for life. I did that 3 miles without stopping and felt so proud. When I eventually completed my first marathon in memory of my family friend, Nigel, it gave me an overwhelming sense of achievement and gave me the confidence that I could do anything if I put my mind to it.”

Can you give a brief overview of how you started and the workthat you do now?  

“After that first marathon, I wanted to make a difference in other people’s lives too. I also wanted my two daughters to see me doing these things as a good example. I started as a volunteer in 2002 when I did my first qualification in fitness. I built up my project from then doing more courses. I did two classes a week to 16 hours. Now, I also do talks and workshops in recovery centres and children centres, outings and outdoor activities whilst offering advice when needed”.

Why did you want to get involved with this kind of work?

“I wanted to promote physical, mental and social wellbeing, making exercise accessible for everyone regardless of their social, personal or financial issues e.g. past substance and/or alcohol abuse, low self-esteem and/or confidence, those suffering from depression, single parents, isolated individuals etc.”

Helen is self-employed, which allows her to have an individualised commitment to work. Yet, it is evident that she goes above and beyond to make the participants of her class feel connected, inspired and motivated:

I have so much to say about her – such a strong and empathetic woman who endlessly helps others through her exercise classes in more ways than ‘just exercise’”

“She is always there for a listening ear, organising lots of activities which for me has kept me motivated and busy!” 

“Helen encourages and has inspired me throughout. I am very lucky to have her as an instructor and as a friend. I admire her and if I could ever be as half as strong as she is in mind and body then I’ve achieved”

Throughout the years, I have met numerous amounts of people who have been inspired by Helen. From experiencing her classes myself, I know that she will push her participants to be the best they can be, which gives a sense of ultimate achievement and fulfilment after an activity – just like she felt after that first running event she partook in.

Exercise is a wonderful tool to combat difficulties. Releasing endorphins, feeling social and part of a supportive team are just a few of the attributes of Helen’s activities. I could not recommend it more to anyone and I cannot put into words the wonders of the programme Helen has created.

Now, the reason that I am writing about this particular woman is because I know truly that she puts her life into her job and making others feel worthy. Alongside her numerous efforts within her community, she has single-handily raised two daughters, one of which received a First-Class Honours degree in Events Management whilst I am currently studying at one of the country’s top Drama Schools.

She has also run over one hundred marathons, including extreme events such as

a 24 Hour running festival! More recently, she has used her love of running to fundraise (mostly in fancy dress!) for The Bike Experience – a non-profit organisation that helps injured victims of bike accidents to get back on theirbikes.

However, Helen never asks for any recognition, praise or reward for doing this. She is truly an unsung hero and deserves to be recognised.

Mum, this one’s for you. From your daughter, Meg x


Written by Megan Ryder-Maki (@ixxmcmxl on Twitter).