Fitness levels reach new heights

A group of eight volunteers who want to improve their fitness have been trying out a range of activities at the Sportspark at the University of East Anglia. EMMA LEE finds out how they got on with archery, table tennis and their biggest challenge – the climbing wall.

Earlier this year the Sportspark at the University of East Anglia recruited eight volunteers with one thing in common – their new year's resolution was to get active.

To help them keep their good intentions the Sportspark gave them the opportunity to try out some of the dozens of activities on offer at the flagship leisure centre. Celebrating 10 years at the heart of sport in the community, the Sportspark offers fantastic facilities such as its 50-metre swimming pool and badminton centre.

During the 10-week course the volunteers tried out a range of fun and sociable sports, including volleyball, swimming, yoga and badminton.

Exercise benefits the body and the mind. But one of the biggest barriers to getting active is getting motivated – and you're much more likely to want to get active if you find something enjoyable.

The hope was that during the course the volunteers, who range in age from 23-66 and have a variety of reasons for wanting to incorporate exercise into their lives, would find an activity they enjoy and will keep doing it.

In week one they had an induction at the Sportspark's state-of-the-art fitness centre, which aimed to show them that gyms aren't necessarily scary places frequented by the super fit and body beautifuls. They have also played badminton and volleyball, the latter of which was a surprise hit, have been swimming and have tried yoga.

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This week we find out what they thought of fencing, archery, aerobics, table tennis and climbing.

Fencing at the Sportspark is organised through the Norfolk Fencing Club, which trains there. Sportspark offers archery courses, which are usually six weeks long, and are open to both Sportspark members and non-members.

Nichola Ansett, 26, signed up for the taster course to help her get back in to exercise after being ill for a number of years. 'I used to be a really sporty person prior to developing glandular fever and then consequently chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS),' she explains.

'Due to these illnesses I have not exercised for best part of seven to 10 years. Now I am starting to get the CFS under control, I decided to sign up as getting back into exercise is exactly what I needed to do!'

When you haven't exercised for a while, the idea of going in to a big, busy leisure centre where it seems that everyone else knows the ropes can be daunting.

Nichola says that she found the programme useful as it not only has given her a gentle introduction back in to exercise, but she has got to know her way around the Sportspark and find out what it has to offer.

'Exercise is always a scary thing when you haven't done it for ages so this has been a great way to build confidence, especially being around people in similar positions,' she says.

'Also, the Sportspark was always a very intimidating place, but now I have been in and met some of the trainers and used some equipment I feel I would have much more confidence to join it later,' she says.

Nichola enjoyed the archery.

'I loved the archery, it was fun. I didn't have to be doing well to be enjoying it. It is something I would definitely do again, however as you don't break a sweat doing it, I feel I would need to balance it out with a cardio sport too.

'I have met some lovely people, made some friends and have found exercise buddies. My favourite activity was climbing because it is exciting, hard work and it is scary in a good way and not something you can usually get to do,' she says.

Exercising in a group can be a great motivator – and there is a tremendous range of classes on offer at the Sportspark, from step classes to the latest craze Zumba, which combines aerobics and dance.

And a fast-moving game of table tennis is a fun way of getting your heart rate going and improving your co-ordination.

Mother of two Vanessa Norris, 38, signed up to the course because she wanted to get back into sport and to take some all-important 'me' time. Vanessa was very sporty when she was younger – she was a champion cross country runner – and she says that taking part in the course has changed her attitude to exercise.

'I would never in a million years have thought that I would have liked archery. It's such a stressbuster,' she says.

And Norfolk might be famous for being flat – but you can still go mountaineering. The Sportspark at the University of East Anglia has the biggest climbing wall in the county.

Climbing is both physically and mentally challenging. Your arms have to lift your bodyweight and your brain has to co-ordinate where your arms and legs should go. It's also good for team building.

The climbing wall at the Sportspark is designed for all abilities – from complete beginners to advanced climbers – and a variety of courses and taster sessions are on offer. Many members of the group were climbing novices and, under instruction from Juliet Scott, they were given a safety briefing and strapped into their harnesses before tackling the wall.

With climbing you go at your own pace and the volunteers climbed as high as they felt comfortable, with the others offering their encouragement from the ground.

Martyn Wicks said that not only did he enjoy trying new activities, but he also enjoyed the social aspect of the course. 'I've tried a lot of activities that I would never have tried. I loved the course and all the new friends I've made,' he says.

Judith Marles agrees, saying: 'I have always enjoyed badminton so that was really good, but then I also enjoyed the table tennis, volleyball, archery and the aerobics class.'

To find out more about activities on offer at the Sportspark phone 01603 592398 or visit

For more information about fencing at the Sportspark visit the Norfolk Fencing Club website at

If you missed the first part of the Sportspark's fitness challenge you can read it here by clicking the link at the top of the right hand column.