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Katey riding her bike over bridge.

Stepping outside the comfort zone

As we explore various pathways to social inclusion, we had a conversation with Katey Elding, Head of Social at ACH Group.

Katey is an advocate for people connecting socially in their communities and is keen on exploring the correlation between health and happiness stemming from social connections and quality relationships.

In this interview, Katey talks about the initial challenging steps people often encounter when trying new experiences. Furthermore, we discuss Katey’s personal journey, highlighting instances where she had to step outside her comfort zone to ultimately reap the rewards of a newfound sense of belonging within a community.

Katey, tell us a bit about yourself…

Hi, I’m Katey, Head of Social at ACH Group. I’ve been a part of ACH Group’s journey for some time now, 7 years, to be exact.

For those of you who are familiar with me, you know about my passion for Latin dancing. It combines many of my life’s greatest joys: music, exercise, socialising, learning, challenges, and achieving personal goals. Latin dancing has created a network of friends and opportunities for me, starting with one friend who paid for a term of classes I wasn’t initially interested in. However, I quickly fell in love with it after experiencing the joy it brought into my life.

Almost two years ago, with lots of support and encouragement from my husband, Dave, I took up cycling – almost the complete opposite sport to dance. I’d always ridden bikes in the gym, but I had never been brave enough to ride on the road. The first time we went riding together, I was expecting to head out for an hour, four hours later we arrived home, and I was completely exhausted.

Social inclusion starts with breaking through the different barriers

There’s been many more hours of bike riding since then, lots more exhaustion along the way and a few painful falls. The hills never seem to get easier. There’s also been great joy in learning how to ride, slowly building confidence, getting stronger, exploring country trails, bike packing and being part of community through bike events.

I like to have a goal to work towards. Something that makes me keep riding even when it’s a cold dark morning, at the end of a long day or when the car seems like an easy way out. A few weeks ago, I signed up for RADL GRVL at Santos Tour Down Under. Included is a 130km gravel course around McLaren Vale in January. I’m still a learning rider and need to build more skills for gravel. I do this with my husband when I can, but he works in Melbourne and there’s lots of times where I’m finding myself riding on my own. I decided that to give myself every chance of getting to the end of the 130km (in one piece), I needed to join some bike groups and start riding with others.

Taking action is not easy

It’s so much easier telling someone else to connect into something new (i.e. my job everyday), than to give yourself the same advice and act on it. Joining my first bike group, organised by Graveller, a few weeks ago reminded me about how difficult I find joining a new group.

I was full of questions. Maps and directions are not a strength of mine. Would I be able to find the group’s starting point in Kuipto Forrest? Would I be wearing the right clothes? Would I be able to keep up with the group or would I be the one everyone has to wait for? Would anyone talk to me? Most importantly, would I be able to keep rubber side down and stay on the bike and not completely embarrass myself?

I knew the questions were pretty ridiculous (even more so now that I’ve written them down), but it reminded me about how difficult it is for me to join something new, especially something that’s outside my comfort zone.

Social inclusion starts with me breaking through the barriers of questions and taking the first tentative step to be included. It would quickly fail though if it wasn’t for all the groups in the community, who generously send out the invitation and make newbies like me, with our ridiculous questions, who are better at dance than cycling, feel so welcome.

And the result of riding with this group? I found the group, the clothes didn’t matter, the people in the group were all super welcoming. I had the best of mornings. Based on the group’s recommendations, I joined a different group for a Halloween ride, costumes, and all, and a 6am group with Contour on Wednesday mornings. I had the same ridiculous list of questions to work through again before joining these groups and woke up at 2am in the morning on one occasion – full of ridiculous nervous anxiety. No matter how social you are, the uncertainty of something new can be daunting.

Importantly, I’m a few steps closer to avoiding the sack truck and making it to the end of RADL GRVL. My husband had what he calls one of the weirdest experiences when I introduced him to MY bike crew at Bicycle SA’s La Grande Gita 2023, a gravel bike event in the beautiful Barossa run a couple of weeks ago.

Optimism and belonging contribute to a sense of connection

Optimism revolves around feeling hopeful about the future, while belonging entails feeling happy and comfortable in a particular place or group, providing a sense of purpose and meaning. Often, just one person can encourage us to make a change and try something new.

Connecting with community feels good

Regardless of your age, trying something is not always easy. The social team at ACH Group understands how challenging it can be to join a group and try something new. We offer a wide range of experiences for people to try. All experiences come with a load of encouragement, and support, that is welcoming of everyone.

We want people to feel they can take on new challenges and build new friendships. Ultimately, we hope they find their own version of dance or bike ride that combines their greatest joys, serving as a turning point toward a joyful, fulfilled life.

I have the privilege of hearing stories everyday about people who have taken that first step and never looked back.

Connect, collaborate & celebrate

This article was published as part of Social Inclusion Week, aiming to help all Australians feel included and valued, and giving everyone the opportunity to participate in society. Learn more how you can connect, collaborate & celebrate for social inclusion at ACH Group.

Discover & Explore experiences

ACH Group offers social experiences for people to connect with friends or meet new ones while explore an exciting destination or experience in South Australia.

Our offering includes day tours, getaways, and experiences in categories across art and culture, sport and recreation, entertainment and technology. See all Discover & Explore experiences.

Looking for more information?

Enquire about social experiences: call 1300 22 44 77 or email [email protected], or via contact us form

About ACH

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