WITH no more weigh-ins until the Fit Factor finale, our Active8 have learning lots of core body exercises that they can do themselves at home.
This week they were given a masterclass by Joel Brannigan, head of strength and conditioning at Team Northumbria.
His outdoor session on Tuesday featured functional compound exercises using their own body weight to improve overall body strength with minimal equipment such as resistance bands and medicine balls.
After Joel’s session, the group weren’t off the hook as they also trained for a further 35 minutes with David Fairlamb in the gym.Related content
“The key thing is the movements and the intensity, rather than the equipment,” says Joel. “You don’t need a lot of equipment – just a bit of knowledge and time.
“It was quite short and sharp but quite intense with rest sections so they were working to their maximum ability.
“I was incredibly surprised by the group. They were all fantastic and putting so much effort into it. It just shows you that it doesn’t take long doing consistent exercise to get fit.
“For some it’s completely changed their outlook and what they thought they were capable of doing.”
Dad-of-two Nick Cotterill, 40, from North Shields, says: “It was a really short, sharp and tough session with Joel. We were working at five different workstations with running in between. It was a hard session but I’m starting to enjoy this kind of challenge.
“I completed three five-mile runs over the past week and am looking at doing eight miles this Sunday to prove to myself I can do it.”
The project manager adds: “I really feel I need to make 100% effort over the final two weeks of Fit Factor. I’m starting to look at how I am going to continue once it finishes. The rugby club start pre-season training in late June so I’m going to start doing some of that.
“I’m going to continue my running in preparation for the Great North 10K and the Great North Run and continue to attend Beach Bootcamp on a regular basis.”
One of the fittest members – 37-year-old police officer Daniel Henderson from Windy Nook, Gateshead – also found the session useful. “It just showed another example of how you can spend 45 minutes doing a good all-round session without gym equipment,” he says.
He’s also been getting ahead at the beach boot camp sessions. “There were 50 or 60 people there and I was way out in front of them all,” he says. “I got to the front and didn’t want to let anyone pass. That’s my competitive streak coming out. I’m determined I’m still going to do as many beach bootcamps as I can.”
Daniel has already returned to Felling Harriers and vows to run with them twice a week after Fit Factor ends. He’s also been playing squash with work colleagues and wants to get back into football.
And he’s already reassessing his original 14-stone target. “Now I’m thinking once I’ve hit that maybe I could get another stone off,” he says. “You have to go off body shape rather than weight though.”
He also admits he’s getting emotional thinking about the end of Fit Factor. “Everyone’s got different strengths and different stories and different abilities, but everyone has been successful in their own particular journey,” he says. “I don’t think you could’ve got a better group.”
Both Dawnn Roe and Steve Mountain found Joel’s session tougher than they imagined. “I could hardly walk afterwards but I really enjoyed it,” says 40-year-old NHS admin worker Dawnn. “It was the running that was the hardest. Normally we’re running at a sedate pace but he had us sprinting.”
On Monday night Dawnn and fellow Fit Factor member Claire Hancock were pulling a 30kg sledge around the astro turf perimeter – a stark contrast to the start of the challenge when they could barely jog the same distance. “It felt like one of them was jumping on the back!” Dawnn explains.
She’s also managed to avoid the office cakes for a recent 40th birthday and is helping colleagues get active in the workplace by organising spinning and Nordic walking sessions. “I’m getting really sad on the nights I’m supposed to have a night off,” she admits.
Having been used to longer sessions, service chemist Steve Mountain from Redcar was surprised by how tough Joel’s relatively short session was. “As Dave always says, the shorter the session, the harder the work!,” he says. “It was good because it was timed so we could set our own targets, trying to do more each time.”
The 32-year-old, who has been training virtually every day and jogging in between Fit Factor sessions, feels he’s come a long way. “On the very first training session we did, we had to jog the length of the astro turf and walk the width,” he explains. “I could just about run one length and I was gasping. But last week we were doing presses and curls and actually running as a recovery to that so I was actually looking forward to the jogging as a rest!”
Support and account manager Jacqui Fahey, 36, from West Denton, Newcastle, says: “The body conditioning was harder than it sounded. We did a lot of short and sharp sessions and worked really hard. We still went back into the gym after the session so I don’t know if that’s commitment or craziness!
The mum-of-two added: “In general I’m feeling much fitter than I ever have. I’m trying really hard not to think about the amount of time we have left together as the Active 8 as it only makes me sad.”
Three of the group members – Port of Tyne director Ian Gibson, care assistant Emma Roberts and business manager Claire Hancock – missed this week’s session due to work commitments. However all have been keeping the pace up.
Ian Gibson’s thoughts have been turning to how he will continue his fantastic progress having lost an incredible 22lbs at the last fortnightly weigh-in.
“I am feeling absolutely great and now feel I can see a difference in the way I look, as others have mentioned,” says the 46-year-old dad-of-one.
“I am now doing six sessions at the gym a week and plan to continue with the exercise regime and same healthy eating habits for another nine weeks at least up to the Great North Run.”
Emma Roberts, 22, from South Shields is also looking ahead. “I can’t believe we’re nearly at the end,” she says. “I’m signed up to do the Great North Run and training for that is going well. I’m joining the rugby team we trained with a few weeks back as I enjoyed it so much and that starts next month.”
Fit Factor mentor David Fairlamb says the group are becoming quite a talking point at his gym. “Everyone’s seen how well they’ve been training and they’re continuing to inspire other people,” he says. “Believe me, Joel doesn’t give compliments easily and he couldn’t believe these were Fit Factor people.”
He adds: “Now the hard work will start once Fit Factor finishes. They’ve got the Great North 10k and the Great North Run, and every one of them has fitness plans in place.
“We might continue to have one session a week together as well. The Journal will be revisiting them in future so they can’t afford to put all the weight back on.”
For those who’ve been inspired by the Active8, Joel Brannigan has the following advice. “The key thing is to not think about starting – just get into it,” he says. “The confidence to start puts people off.
“It’s just that first step of getting started and into a routine. Until you try it, you’re just wasting time. But there’s no shame in trying something and having to scale it back a bit.”
l It’s just two weeks until the Fit Factor 12-week challenge finishes and the Active8 have their final weigh-in. The Fit Factor winner will be announced on Real Radio Breakfast with Gary & Lisa during a live broadcast from the roof of Hotel Indigo on Friday, June 29, with full coverage in The Journal on Saturday, June 30.