Sharon Leeming loves guiding other women as a coach, helping them reach a distance milestone or personal best.
“I feel a great sense of achievement when I get feedback from women.. that they are feeling stronger or faster, or what seemed hard a while ago is now easy,” she says. “I am motivated by other people succeeding and realizing how much they can achieve.”
She is a coach for an online community called Her Spirit, leading a weekly class along with social Zwift rides that encourage women to believe in themselves. (They also have a Zwift club!)
“Zwift enables this, as it can be used around a busy schedule from the comfort and safety of your own home,” says Leeming. “I find it is harder to get women together in real life because they are often juggling so many things. This is where online groups work so well.”
Leeming herself is an experienced triathlete. The sport skews heavily male, but she says she has still found support and encouragement in its community.
“I feel empowered when I am riding my bike – indoors or out,” she says. “I have found the cycling community in general is supportive towards me.”
Old And New Loves
“Cycling has been in my blood since I was young,” says Leeming. “My father was a keen cyclist and I used to tag along as a young girl, but as I grew, bikes got forgotten.”
By 2014, Leeming was an adult in her mid-30s and a mother of two. While looking for ways to get fitter, she spotted a local sprint triathlon and thought she’d give it a shot.
She had 9 months to learn how to swim, start running, and get back on the bike after more than 20 years. And that’s exactly what she did!
Leeming participated in three sprint triathlons that year and built up to a standard-distance triathlon over the next year. At first, she stuck to competing in small events close to Harrogate in Yorkshire, where she lives. Her confidence grew as she began to do well in local age group category races. That motivated her to train harder and enter bigger events.
In 2018, Leeming entered the Southport Triathlon. This race happened to be a Great Britain Age-Group Qualifying event, which allows racers to represent Great Britain at world and European championships. Her performance qualified her for the European Sprint Championships in Kazan, Russia.
That’s when a friend offered to coach her, and she decided to use Zwift as a training platform.
“My training had to step up so I could represent my country with pride,” Leeming says. “I used Zwift to hone my training and fit around my schedule with a busy job and two young children.”
While using Zwift, Leeming didn’t have to worry about childcare. Her kids would often watch her ride and shout encouragement. She found it hard to go outside for longer rides, but indoors she could fit them in early in the morning or later at night without sacrificing family time.
Coaching And Community
Leeming says she loves the variety of virtual courses – including her own hometown! In 2019, the same roads she had cycled in Harrogate came to Zwift as part of the Yorkshire world.
As Leeming began Zwifting more and more, she became a regular attendee of Her Spirit’s group rides.
“I joined and immediately felt part of a supportive community that I had not known before,” she says. “It wasn’t competitive. It was supportive and encouraging, and most of all, inclusive.”
Her Spirit is an app and community that includes daily live sessions in cycling, strength, yoga, and Pilates, along with health and fitness advice. Leeming heard about it from a friend who was a coach. When she became a regular attendee of their group rides on Zwift, she was soon asked to coach for them. This led to Leeming becoming a British Triathlon coach.
She found it a natural fit, combining her professional work as a teacher with her passion for cycling and triathlon. She loves helping other women enjoy and get better at their sport.
“For women starting out, it can be daunting as there is so much to think about,” says Leeming. “If you have access to indoor cycling, then joining a women’s group online can be great for building confidence. There are lots of women-only groups in Zwift where you can ride together.”
Joining a community, whether it’s in person or online, is a great way to feel comfortable and learn from others who want to help.
“I have made some close friends through the app and through Zwift because of our love of cycling,” she says. “We might be geographically miles apart, but Zwift brings you closer.”