Blog post

Staff members share how they get active

By This Derby Girl Can - 7 March 2024

As part of This Derby Girl Can some of the University's staff members share their stories on how they like to get active and how it helps them. 

Lucy Kenworthy- Sport and Physical Activity Coordinator

I have been active and playing sports since I was two, but never felt like I had found the right sport for me until I reached secondary school. I first found my love for badminton by attending an after school social club which was run by my biology teacher! I really enjoyed the atmosphere and social aspect of badminton so I then joined a local club where I met lots of new people all of whom I still see regularly now almost 12 years later! 

I have always used badminton to help me to improve my mental health and well-being, and to boost my mood during harder times. Unfortunately, in February 2023 I had a bad sporting injury and couldn't play, so I had to find other forms of activity which gave me the same release. I have now found a love for the outdoors and simply walking with friends in the fresh air has helped to keep me sane! A message I would love to share is ‘to just try to start moving more in any way you feel you can! And to carry on until you find the activity for you. It is worth it!' 

Ceri Heldreich - Technical Team Leader

My favourite hobbies are running and Pilates. I started running nearly 35 years ago when I took up rowing.

Running was an important part of our rowing fitness training, but when I started running, I really didn't enjoy it. Over the years I have learnt to love running. I no longer row now, but I still get out three times a week for a run, come rain or shine.

It's great to run either on your own, with a friend or as part of a group or running club.

I do a Pilates session before I go for a run, which has helped my strength and flexibility and my running efficiency. Running around Allestree Park or Markeaton Park helps to improve my mood and it’s fantastic to get outside in the fresh air and enjoy nature whilst you're trotting along.

It's never too late to start being active and there are some fantastic apps that can help you go from couch to 5km and support your running journey.

Rebecca Griffiths - Union Squash Club President

My thing is squash. I love playing!

When I was younger, my mum used to encourage me to try out lots of sports. They had recently refurbished my local squash and racketball club so I went there with a friend to try out squash and really enjoyed it!

I’ve been playing it for nearly 12 years now and have represented my secondary school, local squash club and the University in many tournaments and matches all over England. Last year I represented the University as part of the women’s BUCS team but this year we were unable to enter a team due to a lack of female players. Regardless, I still get involved as much as I can and officiate the home games that the men’s 1st and 2nd teams play. I also currently train three to five times per week and play in events whenever I can. One of our Uni club goals for next year is to have a women’s team back in BUCS again which I’m looking forward to. 

There are many benefits to playing squash such as physical and mental health benefits, its affordability, and the social aspect of playing with someone else, or as part of a club. Plus it can be played all year round!

Personally, I like playing squash for the following reasons:

Sophie Brown - Sport and Physical Activity Coordinator 

I’ve always loved playing sports. I’m super competitive but also like to play team sports because I love the social side and the friendships you can create... so, of course, I’m a netballer!

I’ve played netball since primary school and have been with the same club since I was 14 (over ten years!). I love to be active as it gives me that feel-good factor. Just playing with my friends gives me such a boost and makes life that bit better! Most importantly I’ve created long-lasting friendships that have remained the same despite going to University three hours away from my home.

Netball has also helped support my mental health when life has thrown me a curve ball. Knowing you’re part of a team can help when things are tough. There are plenty of social things that also add to the fun including evenings out, and weekend trips away that all add to the joy of being active! 

Kate Haresnape - Web and Digital Content Officer 

As the daughter of a former professional basketball player who once represented England, it was, no doubt, somewhat disappointing for my father that I didn't quite follow the high standards of athleticism he had set in our family. In school, I was fine at sports but it wasn't my passion like it was for him. 

I tried swimming, boxing, ballet and running but it wasn't until my mid-twenties that I found an activity that really worked for me. I took up yoga thinking it was probably just going to help me stretch out some muscles that felt a bit tight. However, as anyone who's attended an Ashtanga yoga class will confirm, it's much more than that and it's not always easy! 

Ultimately, it is the go-to activity if you don't have a group to hand or lots of money. All you need is yourself and a space in which to be able to move around, you don't even really need a mat. Yoga has encouraged me to think differently and more positively about my body.

After years of running up and down a court, my dad now has arthritis in his knees (although typical of a true sportsperson he still gets plenty of exercise through walking!) I consider this when training and have moved away from a strict(ish) routine to a more flexible practice that I dip in and out of when it suits me. Yoga has taught me to better listen to my body's needs and to understand its connection to my mind. 

Cathy Hastie - Associate Academic 

About ten years ago, I started to feel exhausted all the time and had pain in my joints and bones. Some days it was a real struggle to get out of bed, let alone exercise. I was diagnosed with a Parathyroid tumour, hypothyroidism and perimenopause alongside endometriosis. In other words, my endocrine system was a mess! 

Each condition was eventually managed, and I realised that exercise was an important part of proactively managing both my physical and mental health. Making a start felt like a big hill to climb, so I started with Pilates to build my muscles and flexibility back up. From there I moved to functional strength training to improve everyday movements, like walking up and down stairs, plus a bit of cardio. 

There are still times when I struggle. If I get a virus it wipes me out, but I know now that starting with Pilates and building up gradually is the way to go. I use Pilates to manage my endometriosis pain and exercise helps me to increase my energy levels and stay strong. 

Now I teach Pilates and get such a great sense of achievement helping people who have concerns about their health. Exercise has changed my life in such a positive way.

Caitlin Dolby - Fitness Wellbeing Advisor

I have been very active since a young age; growing up I swam weekly, danced, and participated in gymnastics and athletics. After 10 years of dancing, I decided to switch to the gym at 16 and have loved it ever since. After having my daughter and carrying a baby all day every day, I realised how much strength I had lost and began taking weightlifting seriously which massively benefitted my day-to-day life. I qualified as a personal trainer during my degree and have loved helping other women see the benefits of getting stronger during my job.

Weightlifting has taught me; that I am strong and determined and has built a confidence in me that I never felt growing up. It is something I hope to instil in my five year-old daughter. She sees me being active and loves doing her own sports because of this. I hope she, along with other young girls, grows up knowing women are powerful. A message I would love to share is “Be active in front of your children, and beside them, and they will learn to love it too”.

Kate Nelson - Sports Development Officer 

The two activities I've done consistently since my 20s have been walking and running. They get me out of the house into the countryside and fresh air and help me find a balance. I really struggle mentally if I can't. When I walk or run, I feel I am much more able to tackle life – both the challenges of doing a full-time job and the everyday, mundane, time-consuming stuff we all encounter on life's little hamster wheel.

I try to walk and/or run every day - whether that's just a quick plod round the block before or after work, or a longer jaunt in the Peak District at the weekend. I’ve been hiking hills since I was at school thanks to a dad who regularly got me walking the lake district fells (with a chocolate bribe of course!) and experienced the enjoyment of walking in over 14 countries. Until a few years ago I also participated in running events and races from local 10ks to the London Marathon but I now just run for fitness. 

Walking and running have been my health and wellbeing peacekeeper for 35+ years.

So go on – find your ‘thing’. It doesn’t matter what it is, how small or big it is. You don’t have to be a Paula Radcliffe or Cheryl Strayed (who at 26 famously made the impulsive decision to walk eleven-hundred miles of the west coast of America alone!).  If it makes you feel good, it IS good. 

Simply remember that every step you take, is one step further toward your goal.

Staff and students can get active this Women's History Month at the 'This Derby Girl Can' event taking place at the Sports Centre on 13 March (3pm-7pm), where The Sports and Activity Team will be running a variety of activities you can get involved in (e.g. netball, yoga, badminton, hip hop dance, box-fit, stretch ‘n flex).

Plus some fun-based challenges (like hula-hooping, netball shots, maybe even a Pole Fitness ‘hang’). We will also be providing a chill-out and relax zone on the balcony with an affirmations board and refreshments. 

Book your place at This Derby Girl Can

About the author

black female running along promenade with sea in background

This Derby Girl Can
Sports and activities

This Derby Girl Can in March celebrates active women across our University community. We run several activities for female (and those identifying as female) students and staff, supporting more women to be active in a safe and comfortable environment and encouraging them to "do their thing".