Fit Factor team push their limits with rugby training as they head into final week of competition

Health Reporter Helen Rae catches up with the Fit Factor team as they head into the final week of the competition

Journal Fit Factor members, who were put through their paces at Novos RFC in Benton
Journal Fit Factor members, who were put through their paces at Novos RFC in Benton.

It has been a busy week for our Fit Factor team as they’ve taken part in a number of fun sports sessions as the competition finishing line nears.

The group have been up to their eyes in mud and water in the past seven days as they have pushed themselves to the limit in their quest to shed the pounds.

Ladies from the Novocastrians Rugby Football Club in Newcastle firstly put the participants through their paces as they gave the team an intense outdoor workout.

The Fit Factor group lifted big tyres in pairs, frog hopped straight into press-ups and pushed bags with their shoulders across the grass.

One of the smallest is Gemma Robson, 30, a civil servant, and she was keen to get stuck into the rugby session.


The mother-of-two, from Gateshead, said: “The rugby session with some of Novos women’s team was great.

“I’ll admit that it’s not the kind of sport I thought we’d be doing during the Fit Factor but I was really looking forward to it, until I saw the weather forecast. Diving around on a muddy field didn’t appeal to me much, but luckily the weather held off.

“The women from the team demonstrated their usual warm up. We got stuck in immediately. After the warm up we were introduced to the circuit training the team complete, sometimes up to four times a session.

“I really enjoyed the variation of the exercises. My favourite part of the training was ‘running the gauntlet’ and our session ended with this.

“We each took turns to run through the rest of the group who were all armed with training pads. The group had to use all their force and strength to keep the individual from reaching the end of ‘the gauntlet’.”

Rugby training is a great physical activity as it includes both running and lifting exercises, so the body is given a full workout.

Bride-to-be Lisa Embleton, 35, of Kingston Park, Newcastle, admitted that she was not looking forward to the rugby training session, yet found she actually enjoyed it.

The NVQ assessor said: “We met the lovely players and coach at the rugby club. I was not looking forward to this session, however I was wrong and we had a great training session with a lot of laughs.

“I particularly enjoyed doing the last task we did, when each of us ran through the other players while we were trying to stop them and we could see how the team players also do it. The Novos were very encouraging and they joined in to help us get the most out of our session.”

For Ashley Cuniff, 30, of South Shields, playing rugby was a blast from the past as he used to be a key player in a rugby team until he fractured his back taking part in a training session with younger players.

His accident was in June 2012 and the injury brought an abrupt end to his rugby playing days. This was a key reason as to why his weight gradually increased.

The fire service engineer said: “This last week has been non-stop but it has been amazing. The rugby at Novos was good and it was nice to have the rugby ball back in my hands again. It felt good hitting the pads, and on the plus side we got to rough our Fit Factor trainer Dave up a little bit too.

“Every session we have a laugh and we also get quite competitive, but the last 11 weeks have been amazing, very hard but amazing. I would like to wish everyone good luck for the final push.”

Next week we will find out who is crowned our Fit Factor 2014 winner as the three-month competition comes to a conclusion.

Each participant is doing their best to lose as much weight as possible in the final week and they are trying activities that they would not normally do.

On Saturday the Fit Factor team met up with former Olympic swimmer Chris Cook as he gave them a swimming master class.

Putting on a swimming costume is something that would have been daunting for some of our participants before they began to lose weight.

Lisa was happy to take the plunge as her confidence has grown since she has slimmed down.

She said: “Saturday was one of the best days so far. We started the day at bootcamp which was dry and Fit Factor trainer Dave made sure we were put through our paces before we got to meet a great man, Chris Cook, who gave us all a lot of techniques we can use when swimming.

“I was never able to breathe when doing breast stroke but after the training session I can now do this, but I still need a little practise. I love swimming and was great to get tips from an Olympic swimmer who also got in the pool and showed us how it should be done.

“This session was the one I was most looking forward to and Chris did not disappoint. I can not thank him enough for the time he spent with us to help us.

“I think that this week has been the best so far and thanks to Dave I have tried activities I would have otherwise not had the opportunity to do.

“I am still working hard during the training sessions and can’t wait to see the final results.

“I will be very sad that the Fit Factor will be at the end and will miss our trainings sessions. I am still determined that I’ll keep up the new routine once it is finished and I’m still hoping to go to bootcamp and hope that as a team we still meet up.”

Craig Barbour, 27, of Newcastle Quayside, was this year’s largest participant as he started the competition tipping the scales at 23st 7lbs.

The Port of Tyne assistant operations manager said: “We went to Darlington to meet Chris for a swim session. What can I say - the man is a legend. He is one of the nicest, genuine, inspiring individual’s I have ever met. It was a true honour to be in the pool with him and thoroughly enjoyed the time with Chris.”

Carl Martin, 32, a surveyor, of Gateshead, is not one of the strongest swimmers and he only recently got back in to the pool to swim with his young children for the first time.

The father-of-two said: “We were honoured to be coached in the pool by Olympian Chris Cook. What a really enthusiastic, motivating person he is. He tried to help me so much with my breathing. I still did not really get the hang of it but will keep trying.

“The rugby and swimming were on top of our normal gym sessions and bootcamp. All in all it was a tough, busy, but great week.

“I am gutted that Fit Factor is nearing the end. I would imagine it’s similar to rehab, being left to your own devices is daunting. I feel the other contestants and I are a team, we work well together. I will miss seeing them as often in the gym. Hopefully we can arrange something so we can keep it going in some form.

“When I was interviewed for the Fit Factor the experience was likened to a bubble, this is so true. The bubble is going to pop and we all individually need to react and put into practice what we have been taught.”

Former Olympian Chris competed for Great Britain for nearly 10 years before retiring from international swimming in 2009. After a career which saw him rise to being double Commonwealth champion, British record holder, Commonwealth record holder, World medallist, European medallist and Olympic finalist, Chris now uses his experience to help others to achieve their goals.

He said: “It was really good to meet the team as they gave 100% to the session and not one complained or moaned. They were brilliant and it was a honour to meet them.

“The Fit Factor groups get better and better each year and I would like to think that one or two of the finalists will continue swimming.”

Fit Factor trainer David Fairlamb has worked with the team for the past 11 weeks and said he is extremely pleased that the group has already collectively lost more than 13 stones.

He said: “It is a fantastic team and I am really proud of all they have achieved. They have worked very hard and they look and feel so much better than before the competition.

“This week has been jam-packed with activities and there has been some tough training sessions. Yet the group has coped really well and the finalists’ fitness levels have clearly increased.”

On Wednesday, June 4, The Journal editor Brian Aitken will reveal which of our Fit Factor entrants has come out on top at an event at the Hilton Hotel in Gateshead. The evening will begin with Mr Aitken talking about why he joined the Fit Factor group this year, his 12-week experience and why he backed the project from the beginning.

He will then announce the winner followed by a live question-and-answer session with the Fit Factor finalists.

Fit Factor trainer David Fairlamb will then give a motivational speech.

David will also reveal the secrets behind weight control and share his extensive 18 years of knowledge for the first time to a live audience.

Anyone who would like to attend should email Kerry Robertson at stating your name, contact telephone details and number of seats required.

Tickets are limited and only those who have pre-registered will be able to attend. There will be an admission charge of £10 per person on the door.

The arrival time for the event is at 6pm to 6.15pm for a prompt start time of 6.30pm.

Refreshments will be available.


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
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