FIT, healthy and raring to go, it was sabres at the ready as the Active 8 took on a fencing challenge.
Offering a workout for both the body and mind, the group were put through their paces when they joined fencing expert Iain Aberdeen for a session.
Fitness instructor and Fit Factor mentor David Fairlamb says: “They’ve had another brilliant week. Last week’s weigh-in really boosted them to push on again.
“The fencing was great. I think everyone really enjoyed themselves.
“The Active 8 have also been in the gym and at the beach boot camp and have been doing extra training afterwards, running up and down 150 stairs four or five times. Last night they trained collectively the best I’ve ever seen.
“I’ve been putting them in pairs and it’s really helping them to push on. They’re all going for personal bests. The results we’ve had even in the first four weeks passed what I thought they would do in 12 weeks.”
For the Active 8, the opportunity to try new fitness activities like fencing has helped keep the group motivated.
“The opportunity to focus on doing loads of exercise has been great,” says dad-of-two Nick Cotterill, 40, from North Shields.
“My fitness levels have gone through the roof. I can achieve so much more and we are only half-way through. I really want to keep pushing myself and see what I can achieve by week 12. I feel as though I’m fitter now than I have been for the majority of my life.
“The support from all the Active 8 has been great. We really help push each other to achieve more. They are a really nice bunch of people and we can all relate to the other person’s position and the experience we are going through.”
Dawnn Roe, from Pelton, County Durham, also enjoyed the fencing experience.
The 40-year-old NHS admin co-ordinator said: “It was really good. I was surprised at how out of breath I was.
“Iain was showing us how to stand, he had us running to different points and doing fencing moves. It was hilarious getting into the equipment. We had to wear big plastic Madonna bras and masks.
“Iain was really strict. He taught us all the rules like you can’t take the mask off or pick up the sword without putting the mask on first. I really enjoyed it.”
Dawnn was joined by fellow Fit Factor girls Jacqui and Claire at Hardwick Park in Sedgefield for a fun run.
“I did 3km and they did 5km,” says Dawnn. “I even dragged my mam along with us.
“When we did the run at the Quayside a few weeks ago, I was really emotional but this time I was just so chuffed when I crossed the finish line. I would never have done anything like that in the past.”
Mum-of-two Jacqui Fahey, 36, from West Denton, Newcastle, said: “The fencing was far better than I expected and the instructors were fantastic. It was really enjoyable.
“I did end up with bruises in some very odd places though.
“I don’t feel like I’m on a diet at all, just a healthy eating plan, and the exercise has gone up a notch. I ran a 5k on Sunday with the Fit Factor girls and I’m planning to do another tomorrow night. I just want to keep getting fitter.”
Steve Mountain, a 32-year-old security officer from Redcar, said: “I loved the fencing. Once I’m a bit closer to my goal weight I’m going to join a class for a hobby. It was so much fun but also quite a good workout too.”
Police officer Daniel Henderson, 37, from Windy Nook, Gateshead, said: “The fencing was really good. It’s harder than it looks.”
Iain Aberdeen, who runs Let’s Fence coaching, has been teaching the sport for 12 years and was impressed with the Active 8.
“They all tried really hard,” he says. “They picked it up and put a lot of effort into it. The point was to try something new and challenge themselves a bit. I don’t think they realised how intensive fencing can be.
“I brought along Andrew Dixon from the GB Under 20s Fencing Squad to show them the realistic speed of fencing.
“People have this misconception that fencing is just stepping backwards and forwards slowly but it’s actually very fast, agile and tactical.
“We showed the group the position of standing en garde, then moving backward and forward, to give them an idea of the different positions, then we let them have a bit of a competition at the end.
“They all tried really hard, but Steve in particular really showed a competitive edge. Rather than just trying to move out of the way, he was committing to actually trying to hit people.”
Now for mentor David Fairlamb, the most important thing is for the group to keep up their commitment.
This week the group started thinking about their fitness regime after the competition ends and some have already decided to do the Great North Run.
“It’s good because it gives them a focus for after Fit Factor finishes,” says David.
“I want them to continue to be 100 per cent focused and not become complacent.”
HOW TO GET INVOLVED
Iain Aberdeen, Let’s Fence, 07960 363485 or visit www.letsfence.co.uk
Kids’ Let’s Fence, for children aged 4-11, takes place at Gosforth Academy on Wednesdays from 5 to 6pm.
Newcastle Fencing Club meets on Monday and Thursday at Gosforth Academy from 7 to 9.30pm. People of all abilities are welcome.
Wheelchair fencing coaching can be provided for individuals or groups.
Let’s Fence can provide fencing tuition and coaching one-on-one or in schools, universities, clubs and community projects through out the North East.
For more information, contact Iain Aberdeen on 07960 363485 or visit www.letsfence.co.uk