IT was pouring with rain, they were covered in mud and someone even cracked a rib but our Fit Factor Active 8 still came out smiling when they trained with Novocastrians women’s rugby football team in Newcastle.
The group are being given three fitness sessions a week as part of their 12-week challenge but last Wednesday’s fun activity was something new for most of them.
“It was absolutely horrendous weather so I didn’t know if they’d be up for it, but they absolutely loved it,” says fitness instructor David Fairlamb who is mentoring the group throughout. “They worked far harder than they realised, which is often the best way.”
Emma Roberts, 22, from South Shields, discovered a real hidden talent for rugby. The care worker played football as a youngster but stopped exercising when she left school and piled on the weight.
But the professional darts player rediscovered her love of exercise when she was given the chance to try rugby. “I loved it,” says Emma. “It was definitely my thing. I didn’t have a clue but they showed me what to do. They said I was really good so I was happy with that because I’d never played before.
“I was asked to join the team and I told them I’d think about it, but now I’ve decided I’ll do it next season. It’s great getting back into sport.”
Port of Tyne director Ian Gibson was the unlucky one who cracked a rib during the training session. “People don’t realise how tough those girls are,” says the 45-year-old from Wardley, Gateshead. “It’s about 26 years since I played rugby and I’m about 10 stone heavier since then but I think I forgot for a moment and thought I was in the old days. When I got home in pain and covered in mud, my wife was laughing at me. She laughed even more when I said I’d cracked a rib!
“This could have been a setback but I haven’t let it put me off. I’ve been back in the gym doing lots of cardio work instead.”
Police officer Daniel Henderson, 37, from Windy Nook, Gateshead, used to play football for Marden Bay in Whitley Bay so he relished the chance to get back on a muddy field. “I have a few friends who play rugby and they’re always trying to get me to go but I thought I was too old and I was worried about injuries, but I really enjoyed it,” he says.
NHS admin co-ordinator Dawn Roe also had a great time. The 40-year-old from Pelton, County Durham, says: “I thoroughly enjoyed it even though my boots were too small so I had blisters and my toes were bleeding!”
Only one member of the group, dad-of-two Nick Cotterill from North Shields, had played before. The 40-year-old project manager says: “The rugby was with the ladies team at my old club. It was a good run around. It was pretty muddy and everybody mucked in and enjoyed it.”
Novocastrians ladies team captain Janette Shaw, who is also manager of the England women’s rugby team says: “Rugby is a game for all shapes and sizes and we have a range of body types so nobody feels self-conscious. “Running forward and passing back is a hard skill to develop but they all did really well. The weather didn’t seem to faze them and it was a nice atmosphere as we mixed them all up with the Novos girls.”
Last week we told how the group lost eight and a half stones between them in their first two weeks. “The visible difference in all of them is staggering, especially Nick,” says David Fairlamb. “However, it’s their confidence, not just the weight loss, that I’m encouraged by. It’s the way they hold themselves and their posture with their head up, rather than down.
“After last week’s results I was worried they would become a little bit complacent but nobody has wavered at all. The last session in the gym was the best collectively they’ve done so far.”
The level of intensity really moved up a notch when the group were given a combination of short sprints and circuits as well as running while pulling a sledge laden with 20k weights.
At the end of the mammoth session, the fittest member of the group, Daniel Henderson, had to run two miles as fast as possible on the treadmill while the rest of the group took turns keeping up on one machine. “I was really impressed that Daniel did two miles in 15 minutes at the end of a really tough sessions, and Jacqui never stopped running all night,” says David.
Although Steve Mountain missed several sessions last week as his wife Eve had an operation for a rare kind of cancer, the 32-year-old security officer from Redcar is determined to carry on. Thankfully the operation went well and Eve is now back at home, although she may need further chemotherapy.
“Having not done much for a week it was hard but it was good to get back in the swing of it,” he says.
Spending much of the week in hospital, Steve admits he’s been mainly living off fruit. And unfortunately he started smoking again after his grandad died last week. “I couldn’t give up on the diet but I couldn’t manage to do both,” he says. “I’ll quit once things settle down a bit.”
For Dawn Roe it’s been an achievement hitting her first goal – to be able to use the Wii Fit Board. Before the challenge started her weight was off the scale and wouldn’t register, but after shedding 9.5lb in the first two weeks she can now exercise on the Wii at home.
However she still misses certain foods. “I had Sunday dinner with beef and veg but I would have killed for Yorkshire puddings or roasties and I didn’t really enjoy it because it was dry with no gravy,” she says. “However I’ve been experimenting with healthy versions of chilli and curry, although of course you can’t have the rice or the naan bread.”
Support from family and work colleagues has also given our Fit Factor group a major boost. “I’ve had a lot of support from our family,” says Nick Cotterill, who’s married to physiotherapist Catherine and has two children Jonny, four, and Charlotte, 20 months. “They have been very encouraging. With having two kids and my wife sometimes works in the evening, we’ve relied on their help and so far it’s worked well and I’ve made it to all of the sessions. I’m pleased with my progress so far.”
Daniel Henderson has also praised his wife Julie, a travel agent and dance teacher. “She has been fantastic and really supportive,” he says. “But she’s going to benefit from it too as she’ll get back the body she married!”
Several of the group have also started doing exercise on their own, outside the allotted sessions.
Daniel Henderson was so eager for his next session that he attended a 6.45am beach bootcamp on one of his rest days! “I’m getting to the point where I want to do something every day but I know I need to get rest days as I don’t want to burn out,” he says.
And business manager Claire Hancock, 40, from Billingham, says: “I went for a half-mile run on my own last night. I’d like to have lost a stone and a half by the end of May.”
Next week the group will have their second weigh-in after four weeks. They’ll also be given a lesson in nutrition on Sunday from Dr Amelia Lake at David Fairlamb’s gym in North Tyneside.
“They were given the option to have next Monday off because we’ve switched the gym session to Sunday after Amelia’s talk so they don’t have to travel twice,” explains David. “However, not one of them wanted the day off. That’s motivation for you.”