It is often said that we make the time for the things that are the most important. And how many of us put ourselves at the top of that list?
Finding the time and space to prioritize yourself isn’t easy, yet the reward for doing so reverberates throughout your life and your community.
Photography by Dylan Sherrard
Dana Heyman, cofounder of the Dirt Chix, a women’s mountain biking group based in Kamloops BC, embodies this idea, teaching women, through mountain biking, that by putting themselves first, for a least a few hours each week, they are better in all other aspects of their lives.
Dana grew up on a hay and cattle farm, in Kamloops, British Columbia, riding horses and downhill skiing. It was only after moving to Vancouver, BC and then back “home” to Kamloops, that she began to explore her hometown trails on a mountain bike.
Dana found freedom and strength on the trails, but was confronted with the challenge of balancing the demands of life, including being a mother to two young boys, with finding the time to ride. She struggled to “make time for herself” and although she and three friends had intentions of riding together each week, life got in the way. That was until they put their weekly Thursday night ride on the calendar - and made it a priority. These four women, all mothers to children under the age of ten, held one another accountable and empowered each other to prioritize themselves, for a few hours each Thursday evening.
“The permission to put themselves first – even if it’s just for two hours per week on the Dirt Chix Ride, is so important, when life is so busy for everyone these days and I think especially for women.” - Dana Heyman, founder of Dirt Chix
Dana and her riding buddies bought matching jerseys and started riding every week. They looked like an official “group” and often met people on the trail, mostly men, who would ask if their wives, girlfriends, and partners could join. The answer was a resounding “YES”.
Dana and her friends began to collect names and emails, and invited other women to join them each Thursday night and thus, the Dirt Chix was born. 16 years later, the Dirt Chix, still meet each Thursday night at 6pm to ride trails just outside Kamloops. Membership has grown to more than 200 members, 17 ride leaders and it is not uncommon to have 80 women riding on a given Thursday.
The success of the Dirt Chix is rooted in the supportive and inclusive environment Dana and the ride leaders inject into each of their rides. Membership in the Dirt Chix creates a sense of belonging, of confidence, and of solidarity.
“We can show you trails, teach you skills, help you gain fitness and confidence on the bike, but it’s that network of support and the sense of camaraderie that we help women discover that I think is truly special.”
Through the early years of the Dirt Chix, Dana learned the importance of prioritizing her own mental and physical health, and finding equilibrium between soul-filling time on single-track and all her other roles and responsibilities. She learned that if she put herself first, she had more to give in all other areas of her life. She now empowers other women to prioritize self-care, encouraging them to take time for themselves, to ride with others, with conviction and pride, and without guilt.
"I am committed to helping other women put themselves first – for better health and happiness."