Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Fitness: Us Girls, Show your support!


Today I’m going to talk about a subject and an organisation that is close to my heart. If you know me or have been reading my blog for a while you will know that sport and getting women and girl involved in exercise is something very close to my heart.

We all know from the facts that less young women and girls take part in exercise compared to men. In 2011 British Heart Foundation conducted research that found only 52% of 16-25 females took part in the recommend amount of exercise compared to the 83% of men. The stats alone are shocking that why I got involved with Us girls,a national programme designed by StreetGames to increase and sustain young women's participation in sport, fitness and exercise in some of the nation’s most disadvantaged communities.

Us Girls main target audience is women and girls from deprived areas of the community, I’ve lived in Benwell which is one of Newcastles most deprived areas for around 18 years and sport was the one thing that kept me off the streets as a young teenager. So you can imagine what I thought when this program was launched in Newcastle. I first got involved by going along to a multi-sport session at my local sport centre, the session was £1 and everyone was there to have fun which is what made me go back every week. Now I help run the Newcastle College Us Girls program that has around 30-40 young women involved in sport at least once a week with many of them doing 2 or 3 different sessions a week.

Us Girls uses the key message #funfitnessfriends to eliminate some of the barriers that stop local young women from taking part in sport in their community.

The way that Us girls has done that is by doing female-only sessions, using lifestyle role models, reward schemes, wellbeing and confidence inspiring activities, opportunities to lead and attend Us Girls Rocks festivals and events (These events are great btw).



In the last 12 months Us Girls have got over 65,000 females engaged in the programme. These hubs will be places for young women and girls to be able to get the most out of the Us Girls program by encouraging collaboration between Us Girls projects and local activity providers so the benefits can be spread to as many young women and girsl as possible.
Us Girls is up for nomination in the National Inspiring Initiative by Women’s Sports Trust #BeAGameChanger Awards 2016. These awards are to raise the visibility and increasing the impact of women’s sport. Us Girls are up against two strong projects: Aviva Women's Tour and Park Run UK.

Below you can read about how one young ladies story about how Us Girls has helped her.


Michelle Monk from Cowgate (Newcastle) has been able to learn first-hand what Us Girls can do for young women in Newcastle. Michelle was already a keen footballer and got some sporting qualification through her local college. Michelle decided to do some volunteering for her local sporting project Hat-trick and then got involved with the Newcastle Us Girls Hub. I asked Michelle a few question about Us Girls so you can read about how it’s benefited her.

Q. Michelle, why did you first get involved with Us Girls?
I found that there weren’t many girls groups in my local area and when I found out that there was one I knew, this was a chance to join something new. I also wanted to meet new people and build some new relationships with other people that had the same interests as me.
Q. What’s the main reason why you go to your local Us Girls project?
 One of the main reasons why I go to the Us Girls project is because I wanted to increase my wellbeing and do this somewhere where I knew that I wouldn’t get judged. Keeping fit and doing sports that I love was another reason for going along and with the incentive scheme you get rewarded for going along to sessions which is an another bonus.

Q. What have been the best benefits to come out of being involved in your local Us Girls project?
 While going along to Us Girls I have not just built up my confidence, my self-esteem has improved as well. I’ve made new relationships with other like-minded young women and I’ve become an Us Girls Ambassador which involves me helping engage other young women to participate in sport and exercise.


 As you can tell from Michelle Monk’s story that Us Girls is not only about getting young women and girls involved in sport it’s about their wellbeing and helping them to interact with other young people without judgement. Many young women and girls like Michelle would be missing out on opportunities to get involved in sport if it wasn’t for the Us Girls projects around the country.

 Like I said earlier Us Girls is up for National Inspiring Initiative by Women’s Sports Trust #BeAGameChanger Awards 2016. Us Girls works with thousands of young women and girls and from reading about Michelle’s story about how Us Girls has helped her you can see the work that they do is important to many young women and girls in the UK.

 Voting Closes at midnight on the Sunday 1st May and I would love if you could help by using the link below to vote.
Here is the link 

Hope that this gives you a little bit of insight in the types of organisation that work in the North East and are trying to help increase participation of young girls and women. I've left all the different social media pages that the Us Girls have so you can see what work there doing across the country for yourself.

Us Girls Facebook/ Us Girls Twitter / Us Girls Website

Photography was by Debbie Cable, check out her website here
Why not leave a comment of what your favourite sport or do you wish you had been involved with an organisation like this?

I hope to hear from you soon

Love Melissa xx


Monday, 18 April 2016

Fitness: Walking, it’s just that simple!

I hear people talk about wanting to get fit or lose weight all the time. Some people think you have to make massive changes to get fit, but sometimes little changes are just as good and even sometimes, simpler. One of those little changes you can make is to WALK MORE. I have to say I do walk quite a bit; I don’t have a car at the moment so even walking to the bus stop is better than nothing.

With spring just starting and the weather picking up, I thought this would be a great time to talk about making little steps that can help you start of your fitness journey.

I was looking through the #NEbloggers hash tag on twitter and found a blog post by Samantha from North East Family Fun (link) about how she was adding a 20-minute walk into day mainly on her lunch break to help her get fit (blog post here).  This got me thinking, as I said I already walk quite a bit what could I do extra, then it came to me DOG WALKING.

Everyone knows that walking for a certain amount of time or doing 10,000 steps a day can be beneficial but what can walking actually do for you?

Well here are 6 benefits of walking:

1.       Can strengthen your heart: Walking is a form of cardio exercise and it’s a great form it can lower levels of LDL which is bad cholesterol which then increases your HDL which is your good cholesterol.

2.       Lowers risk of disease: if you do regular walks you can slashes the risks of type 2 diabetes by around 60%.

3.       Can help you lose weight: if you walk for around 30 minutes at a pace of 2mph you can burn 75 calories or if you walk 4mph for 30 minutes that is 150 calories (that is 3 Jaffa cakes and a jam doughnut) you can burn.

4.       Boosts Vitamin D: A lot of people in the UK have a vitamin D deficient which can have an effect on things like your bone health or even your immune system. How do you increase you vitamin D, by being outside and what better way to be outside than walking.

5.       Can boost your energy: Walking is a natural energiser and the best one there is. Walking boosts your circulation and increases your oxygen supply. It also can make your feel more alert and just feel motivated.

6.       It just makes you feel happier: In case you didn’t know exercise can boost your mood and studies have shown that a simple walk is just as effective as anti-depressants in mild to moderate cases of depression as your body releases feel-good endorphins.

So how am I going to add more dog walking into weekly/daily routine, well anyone who knows me know I’m in love with my dog Oscar (King Charles Cavalier) and he is definitely one of the most important living things in my life. We already walk him for around 20/30 minutes a day at our local Park but I wanted to do more. I’ve decided that at least once a week I will be taking Oscar away from are normal walking routes around the park and go further a field and explore.

For the last 3 weekends in we have been to 3 different places, these places are Newburn (with my mam), Jesmond Dene (with Euan) and Tynemouth Beach (with Euan and his family). I thought I would do a new little series on my blog all about the dog walking routes that we are doing. Some weekend it might not be so exciting and just been walking through the local dene but I’m excited to get out more and get to explore some places we might have never been to before.

First walk will be up to Newburn and hopefully it will be up on Thursday, expect a lot of dog pictures and some pretty scenery.

I hope you have enjoyed this post. Why don't you leave you comment where you think your favourite place to go walking? or Do you walk a lot and if you do how far do you walk?

I hope to see you soon,
Love Melissa xx


Monday, 4 April 2016

Fitness: My Running Story: The Great North Run

Have you ever signed up for something and dreaded it straight after? Well that was me last year, when I signed up to do the Great North Run and had never ran more than 1 mile in my life. CRAZY - I know. For some reason, I had always hated running as a form of exercise and was more of  a sport game person or just going to the gym kid of girl. I needed a new challenge in my life and running was the new challenge for me in 2015.

When I signed up I think my first thought was that I needed to get out there and build up my miles. I think these thoughts go through everyone's mind when they sign up for something totally out of their comfort zone like the Great North Run. Here is a little story of my journey to the Great North Run. 

January 2015 – RUNNING ALONE

When I signed up for the Great North Run I decided to start the couch the 5k which meant that in 10 weeks I would be able to run 3 miles which is a small amount of miles compared to the actually 13.1 you have to do on the day. I think for the first 6/7 weeks I was really motivated to go out running and felt a real change in my body. I really enjoyed running by myself listening to music really helped to de-stress as work was getting hard. I felt more comfortable being able to run the small distance I couldn't run in January. I kept running at least twice a week but wasn't really getting much further than 2/3 miles. In March, which was when my job started getting a bit more crazy with working 2 job meaning a lot of early morning and a lot of late nights. That was when I lost my motivation trying to get out of bed early was not happening and going for run at 9 pm after a long day at work wasn’t happening either. I started to not enjoying going for runs even tho afterwards I would feel great I just didn't have the motivation to push myself any more.

June 2015 – WHAT TO DO NEXT?

In between trying to go out and run which was only happening about once a week or once in maybe 2 week and there wasn't long until the Great North Run. I wasn't getting that far with miles I was still only at about 4 miles which is nowhere near enough if I wanted to get a good personal best. As I work as an activity instructor for Active Newcastle one of my colleagues kept asking if I wanted to help out at the social running groups she was running through Active Newcastle. I said no for a long time as I thought I couldn't run far enough after some time I decided to go along and help out, I joined the beginners running club on a Monday evening that started in the centre of Newcastle, they had just finished the 10 week running program so they were able to run around 3 miles comfortably.


In July 2015, I decided to go along to one of Active Newcastle running groups which are aren’t like your normal running groups, which you learn straight away and which is why I most likely go back every week. When I started there was around 15 to 20 women in the group and  these women are all about making improvements to there fitness and running technique but it is also about able to come along to a group and being able to have a chat while having a run. I personally found that this group started to build my motivation for running again and made me want to get out again. I was still only running around the 4 mile mark but my pace has increased and I didn’t have to stop so I knew that I could go further if I wanted to. At this point there was around 12 weeks til the Great North Run. I was really pushing myself in the running group sessions but I was only going to 1 session a week which to me wasn’t enough so I decided to go along to the Tuesday night session which I knew did an extra mile on top so I knew I would be hitting around the 4.5/5 mile mark. I loved every moment of being part of the group as I loved the social side and having women around me that all enjoyed being out in all weathers. There was just one issue, I wasn't getting enough miles in.

August 2015 – UPPING UP MY GAME!

With only around 6 weeks til the run, I had to up my running game this is when I tried to do runs by myself as well as running with the group. Running by myself was the runs where I had to put the miles in. I will say I never ran more than 7 miles before I ran the Great North Run, I had been told that being able to run 9 miles comfortable would be enough to get me through the race. I ran 7 miles maybe around 3 or 4 times before the race which I could run comfortable.  I knew that I would definitely be able to run around 9 miles fine. My cardio was at the best it could before racing and I was still doing the shorter runs on a Monday night.

September 2015 – RACE MONTH/DAY

September came racing around (see what I done there) and next thing I knew it was the day of the run. I loved every moment of the Great North Run. I ran the first 9 miles comfortable with only a few stops here and there mainly for toilet breaks or to get water. 10 mile was where I had problems, at around mile 8 my hip started to get a pain but I pushed through as you do to reach the end but by mile 10 I was having the same pain in my knee which by mile 11 had travelled down to my ankle. I jogged and walked the best I could til the end part. Let me tell you that last 800m is horrible and people tell you that beforehand but oh my it was hard but I made it all the way to the end. I and my sister ran the race in 2 hours 50 minutes and I will say it was one of the proudest moments of 2015. There is things you get told when you tell people you’ve signed up for the Great North Run, one is that the atmosphere from the side lines will pull you through. There is not one point of that run where you won’t see crowds of people cheering you on, passing you sweets (it’s a good job I liked jelly babies)  and entrainment the whole away long.  

I’ve made this blog post to show that anyone can run the Great North Run if they put their mind to it. The GNR raises millions for charities every year. If your thinking of trying to get a place for this year your best bet is with a charity as all ballot places have been taken. I ran for the Guide Dogs last year and my sister ran for Mind. 

I don't really know what I wanted you to get from this post but thought it was something I needed to tell as this years GNR is not that far away.

Are you signed up for the GNR or maybe just a 5k? Why not tell me about it or if you have some advice incase I decide to do a different half marathon in the future.

I hope to hear from you soon,
See you later,
Love Melissa Marshall

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