Fit Factor team take on their toughest training session

Our Fit Factor finalists have had one of their toughest exercise sessions to date. Health Reporter Helen Rae catches up with the team

The Journal Fit Factor contestants go to bootcamp at Tynemouth
The Journal Fit Factor contestants go to bootcamp at Tynemouth

Before they started Fit Factor, this year’s finalists could never have imagined the intensity of exercise that they would be able to achieve.

But now the team can run along Tynemouth beach for more than a mile and climb hundreds of coastal steps at King Edward’s Bay without too much trouble, as they proved in a beach training session.

Week five of Fit Factor has pushed our participants to their limits both physically and mentally as we near the halfway point of the three-month competition.

Fit Factor trainer David Fairlamb did not go easy on the group at a beach bootcamp session as he was keen to see what the group could do.

“Week five has been the toughest so far,” explained David. “The beach, ramp, and stairs sessions had the finalists in new territory both physically and mentally but they all rose to the challenge.

“After completing their first outside run they now know how big a challenge they face in September when they will all line up for the Great North Run. They are fitter, stronger, leaner and happier.”

Together the seven have so far clocked up an impressive weight loss of 10st 3lbs as they’ve ditched takeaways and sugary foods for a healthier, balanced diet.

And while many of us may have been taking it easy over the Easter Bank Holiday, the Fit Factor finalists were continuing with their exercise and weight loss regime.

Grandmother-of-nine Carol Sijakovic, of North Shields, found the beach session difficult as she is currently suffering with shin splints. Yet the 51-year-old knows all the sweat and pain will be worthwhile and she has soldiered on regardless.

Carol, who has shed 13lbs, said: “The beach bootcamp was really, really hard but I enjoyed it and my fitness levels have increased. We had to run along the beach for a mile and a half, when before Fit Factor I could not even run to the shops and back.

“In the last two weeks I have felt different in every way. My sleeping pattern is much better, I don’t have as much back pain or pain in my hips. My energy levels are also through the roof and I’m more determined than ever to lose the weight.”

The Bupa Great North is a challenge that our Fit Factor finalists will aim to complete in September as their running ability goes from strength to strength.

Each year thousands pound the North East streets for 13.1 miles and to have our team of seven on the start line this year will be a fantastic achievement.

For mother-of-two Gemma Robson, 30, of Gateshead, running has been an exercise that she has disliked, although that is not the case any more.

The civil servant, who has lost 18.5lbs, said: “Never in my wildest dreams would I have thought that I’d say ‘yes’ to doing the Great North Run half-marathon.

“I used to enjoy cross-country at school and then my exams and university got in the way, and I hadn’t gone for a run since I was about 14 years old.

“I can run for a lot longer now than I used to be able to. During the beach bootcamp I totally zone out and although it’s difficult at the time you forget about the worst bits as the adrenaline keeps you going.”

Gemma’s sister Zoe, 22, also took part in the beach training session as she too wants to get fit and active and was keen to give her sister support and encouragement.

“My sister doesn’t need to lose weight but she wants to keep fit, and Zoe really enjoyed the training session,” said Gemma “It was nice to train with her as it’s something different to do together.”

Finding the energy and motivation to lose weight can be difficult, however for Carl Martin, of Gateshead, the change in his body shape since his dramatic weight loss of 27lbs has been enough to spur the father-of-two on. The surveyor has dropped from a shirt size XXL to L.

He said: “It is really great to see how my shape has changed and I have even had to buy some new shirts and pants as my clothes are getting too big.

“The amount of weight I’ve lost is a huge motivation for me as I can see how far I’ve come. If I ever want to eat some chocolate or anything like that I stop myself. For me the beach bootcamp was great fun as I enjoy running. I had joined a running club before I started Fit Factor and could already run up to half an hour.

“Exercising outdoors is really nice as it’s good to have a change of scenery as it takes your mind off how difficult the exercises are.

“I’m really looking forward to doing the Great North Run and my aim is to run all the way around the course without stopping or walking.”

It has been a life-changing five weeks for Lisa Embleton, 35, of Kingston Park, Newcastle, as she has achieved more than she could ever have imagined in such a short space of time.

The NVQ assessor has already lost 19lbs in weight and her attitude towards food has totally altered as she no longer relies on junk food such as pizza and garlic bread.

Lisa said: “The Fit Factor has definitely been life-changing as I know that I can do without unhealthy foods and I feel much more confident to ask for changes to be made to a restaurant meal. For example, if the menu says chips then I feel confident to ask for something healthy in place of the chips.

“Every training session I do I can see a difference in my fitness levels. When I think back to the first session I struggled to get through it, whereas now the sessions don’t feel as long. Five weeks ago I would never have been able to do the range of exercises that I can now.”

Last year’s Fit Factor winner John Thompson, 40, of Ashington, Northumberland, joined the finalists during the beach training session to give them his support.

Before John started the competition last year he tipped the scales at 22st 11lbs due to his bad eating habits and lack of exercise. His weight affected his health and he needed to have an operation on his knee. But after taking part in Fit Factor the mental health nurse lost more than five stone and continues to slim down.

Fire service engineer Ashley Cuniff, 30, of South Shields, who has lost 26lbs, was delighted to get the encouragement of John.

He said: “It was the first time that I’ve spoken to John properly and he was saying that he can see the difference in us in just five weeks as everyone is looking good.

“John also said it was important to grab the opportunity of Fit Factor with both hands and that’s exactly what I am doing.”

Craig Barbour, of Newcastle Quayside, has lost the most weight so far at 27.5lbs and the Port of Tyne assistant operations manager is enjoying the experience. The 27-year-old even recently joined a gym to ensure that he continues to lose the weight once Fit Factor has finished.

He said: “I’m really happy with how the Fit Factor is going and there should be more people like David Fairlamb as his enthusiasm for fitness is infectious.

“I have joined gyms in the past but I will make sure that I go two to three times a week once Fit Factor has finished.”


David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer