This month has seen our first ever This Girl Can Festivals – celebrating the power of women in sport and physical activity by hosting 4 events across Essex . To continue this celebration of active women our February One in a Million is Paula – a Level 2 This Girl Can Essex ambassador.
As a child Paula took inspiration from famous Olympic achievements.
I was an 80’s kid and had a life size poster of Sebastian Coe on my bedroom wall ! I remember being inspired by the Olympics of 1980 and 1984 as we were blessed with brilliant athletes like Sharon Davies, Fatima Whitbread, Daley Thompson & Tessa Sanderson. As for favourite moments, I cried my eyes out for Kelly Holmes when she won that 800M Gold in the 2004 Olympic Games! I will never forget that look of goggle-eyed incredulity when she looked up at the scoreboard and realised she had just won the 800 Meters Gold medal.
Paula was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2016, and despite completing her treatment struggled to complete basic tasks such as climbing the stairs
I became active out of desperation really. I was over a stone overweight and felt shattered just climbing the stairs. My husband suggested we try running, and I just raised my eyebrows at him, seriously? Exercising was the absolutely last thing I felt like doing, but nothing else was working. I hadn’t run since my school days and that was over 30 years ago!! Anyway, we started the Couch2-5 K app, on 1St May last year and from the very first session I felt like something in my head and body had clicked.
It was clear that being more physically active was helping Paula, fuelling her desires to take on more and more challenges
I keep saying it – but it really has changed my life. My goals and dreams have widened and I thank my lucky stars everyday for feeling well and fit. Being active has become a way of life and a priority for me and I’m incredibly lucky to have a supportive husband, family and the company I work for have been fantastic. My new found energy has enabled me to want to try new things with my family like Kayaking, Trampolining, Zip Wiring & Climbing. Pushing myself through sport has given me new depths of determination, grit and confidence in my own abilities, I really feel ready to face each day, whatever challenges life may throw at me. My body and mind feel strong and capable. It’s an incredible feeling.
This has led to Paula having a packed weekly schedule getting involved in lots of varied activities every week!
Monday – Ladies Kickboxing Class – With a Martial Arts Club
Tuesday – Swimming
Wednesday – Running with Running Club (effort/track session)
Thursday – Dance Fit/ Pilates class with a Dance instructor
Saturday Family swim and try and get at least half mile swim in
Sunday – Long Run with Running Club (anywhere from 5-10miles)
However it’s not always easy to be so busy all of the time. This is when Paula draws on her network for inspiration – including our This Girl Can Essex campaign, where Paula is an ambassador.
I am inspired daily on Facebook and Instagram with women and groups who are out there getting sport done. I love reading about somebody’s first ever 5K or a friend who may have childcare issues, but gets out there anyway. I love seeing people placing new challenges for themselves and working towards achieving them. Women being empowered by physical activity inspires me every day.
The TGC community is amazing and the support and sheer encouragement is inspiring. There is just so many new events and activities near and far, it’s fantastic to see the barriers towards women and sport coming down and it’s amazing to be part of it.
Being an ambassador means so much to me, I truly like and enjoy people, and am here to help. You never need to worry about being a beginner at something, arriving on your own or feel out of your comfort zone, you don’t need to feel body conscious with a TGC Ambassador around !
I am passionate about ‘keeping it real’ and helping other women find their activity Mojos. I feel very very proud to encourage and support other women who are in sport, want to get into sport, or have never done any before. One small step is all it takes to get someone on a new path to a healthier, more active lifestyle. Sport really is for everyone.
Ever ambitious Paula has set some challenging goals for the year ahead
I really want to push myself and find out what I am capable of. This year I have my heart set on becoming a Half- Marathoner, a Triathlete and an Ultra-marathoner!
Long term I would like to continue to feel fit and well, try new sports each year and carry on meeting incredible women who are on a fitness journey. I believe that sport has no barriers for women, age, ability, size and religion, it is available to us all, we are one huge community and I would love to support, encourage and inspire other women into sport and help them find their best ever selves through being more active.
Our chat with Paula finished with the following advice for any of you in Essex looking to dip your toe into physical activity soon
Just take the plunge! Do something, no matter how small, and build up. Get an activity tracker, and watch your progress. Join some Facebook forums about health and fitness, surround yourself supporting & encouraging people. Join some classes and clubs, which are a fantastic way to meet people and it’s always easier doing this stuff with friends, and try new things!
After hearing Paula’s ambitious approach to sport and physical activity it’s impossible to not feel inspired to try new sporting challenges, and to go from Couch to 5k’er to Ultra Marathoner (hopefully!) over 2 years is proof that anybody can do it. We would like to thank Paula for sharing her story and you can follow her training and adventures on her Instagram account @Thisgirlcanambassador.