Pruitt, Dena Williams
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Women’s lives have typically been examined in terms of their family roles, their career development, or the constraints involved in negotiating the two. An area of women’s lives that has often been overlooked in the research is leisure, specifically the opportunities for learning and self-development that exist in that arena. The purpose of this study was to examine how women acquire informal learning and experience selfdevelopment within a specific leisure context, the Bicycle Ride Across Georgia (BRAG). This was a basic qualitative study, and data collection involved interviewing ten female BRAG participants about their learning and self-development in that setting. Research questions centered around motivation for participating in the event, what learning occurred and how it occurred, women’s self-development as it pertained to BRAG, and how the BRAG experience transfers to other contexts of women’s lives. Motivating factors included the healthy physical challenge that BRAG offers, the appeal of adventure and the outdoors, and the social nature of the event. Women reported learning how to maximize the experience through equipment, diet and riding strategies, and support, as well as their own mental and physical strengths. Their learning occurred through trial and error, from listening to their bodies, and by interacting with others. Self-development was accomplished through participating in BRAG because it fostered confidence in women’s physical abilities, provided them an arena for honing their social skills, and allowed them to expand their previously held notions of traditional age/gender roles. Finally, learning and development acquired in the context of BRAG were found to transfer to participants’ daily lives in the areas of diet/health, relationships, and work/career. Three conclusions emerged from this study. The first conclusion was that BRAG is a context that provides for women’s informal learning, opportunities for challenge, and a sense of accomplishment. The second conclusion was that BRAG provides women an opportunity for identity formation and empowerment. The final conclusion was that learning and development acquired through participation in BRAG are fostered through various levels of connectedness, to other people, to the event itself, and to women’s multiple selves.