Leeds Girls Can – Couch to 5k – Kirkstall Abbey

Leeds girls can logo

Kirsty Midgley

No amount of planning could have prepared us for the overwhelming response to our first LGC Couch to 5k session at Kirkstall Abbey on the 20th of May. 116 enthusiastic, motivated ladies turned up to week one day one and we’ve consistently maintained 70 plus ladies per session since then.

Run leaders Natasha Hamlet and Leanne Lane lead the Thursday night session and Kirsty Midgley leads the Tuesday night session along with a handful of volunteer run leaders from clubs around Leeds.

Originally, we were worried that, while we were offering two lead sessions per week, one session would need to be run over the weekend in their own time. We were unsure if they would stick to this, thus putting the programme in jeopardy, our fears however were unfounded as the ladies arrange meet ups on Saturday and Sundays in various parks through the closed Facebook group.

I began my own running journey with the couch to 5k programme and I really wanted to help other ladies fall in love with running. I’ve gained so much confidence and benefits from running, I hope I can pass on just a fraction of this to each one of the ladies.

One of the biggest learning curves for me so far has been to watch each person and ensure we are giving them enough to encouragement and indeed enough of a challenge to keep them motivated and coming back week on week. For the faster ladies who sprint their runs we’ve brought in a pacemaker to teach them to pace their runs and control their breathing. For the slower ladies, we’ve started a buddy system to keep them motivated on their run.

By far the best part of running the group is the feedback from the ladies – their daily posts in the facebook group and seeing them struggle on day one of the run to comfortably running day three of the same run is inspiring.



Leeds Disability Sport News – September 2016

After a fantastic month of disability sport see below for some highlights and forthcoming events in Leeds and beyond:

In Leeds

  • Many congratulations to all the Leeds and Yorkshire Paralympic athletes who competed in Rio 2016. Celebrate what was a truly spectacular and memorable Olympic and Paralympic Games at the Yorkshire Athletes Homecoming Parade on Wednesday 28th September, from 5.15pm in Leeds City Centre.




  • BID Services New Youth Club has just started, suitable for deaf and hard of hearing children and young people aged 8-18 years plus siblings. Held every Thursday from 6pm to 8pm this takes place at the First Floor Venue, St. Peter’s Square in Leeds. For further information contact: legallienne@bid.org.uk


  • Visually Impaired Bowls Sessions will begin at the John Charles Centre indoor bowls centre from the 4th JCCS are working with Pennine Bowling Club to run these sessions every Tuesday from 12 noon until 2.00pm, with an introductory price of £3.20. For further information please telephone John Palmer on 01422 321771.


  • Wheelpower Feel Inspired Primary Sports Camp is taking place at the John Charles Centre for Sport on Tuesday 11th This is a great way for children aged 6-11 with a disability to discover sport in a friendly and completely inclusive environment. For more information contact the Feel Inspired Event Officer on: ed.pearse@wheelpower.org.uk or 07922 736196.




  • Leeds Disability Sports Camp will next be taking place on the week beginning 24th October, during half term. There will be four venues across the city alongside a free additional adapted cycling event at Middleton Park Bike Hub. These camps are open to disabled children and young people aged 8-18 plus non-disabled siblings and friends.


  • Learning Disability Tennis Camp is taking place at the John Charles Centre for Sport indoor tennis centre on Saturday 12th Run in conjunction with the Tennis Foundation, this is suitable for beginners/those new to sport or looking to develop their skills. The one day camp is being led by experienced tennis coaches from JCCS.

Outside Leeds

  • RYA Sailability would like disabled sailors or boaters to complete their new questionnaire. They would like to hear from people about what attracted them to sailing in the first place, whether a friend, family or by chance, and how easy and accessible they found it to get started. The aim is to try and fully understand more about people’s experiences and perceptions about sailing as an activity for people with a disability, and is open until the 1st October.


  • Disability Football Development Officer vacancy is currently being advertised through the West Riding County FA. As well as supporting the delivery of the National Game Strategy in West Riding and specifically the Disability Workforce Plan, this is a fantastic opportunity to be part of a vibrant, enthusiastic and committed team at the County FA. Closing date is Wednesday 12th


If the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games have inspired you to take up a sport or become a little bit more active, check out all the regular disability sport opportunities available in the city with the comprehensive Leeds Disability Sport Programme.

Leeds Disability Sport News – August 2016

As an exciting summer of sport continues with the start of the Rio 2016 Paralympic Games less than two weeks away, please see below for the latest local disability sport news:

In Leeds

  • Leeds 2 Rio- Disability Sport Day is taking place on Saturday 10th September on Millennium Square. Come along to try out a range of Paralympic sports for free and watch live big screen Paralympic Games action! If you can’t make it there is also an opportunity to try disability sports from Monday 12th to Friday 16th September from 5pm to 7pm again on Millennium Square.
  • Walk, Guide, Run gives a real life experience of guide running in Leeds and how you can get involved too.
  • Leeds Disability Sport Forum is next taking place on Monday 26th September at the John Charles Centre for Sport. To attend or for further information about the forum please contact me on: bibby@leeds.gov.uk
  • Carers Leeds Bat & Chat sessions are taking place every Friday from 11am to 1pm at Carers Leeds. Table tennis can be enjoyed by individuals of any age; it is a low impact exercise and good for fitness. Recreational games take place, which provide the opportunity to meet new people for some banter and rallies. No skill or previous experience necessary. Bat and Chat is open to carers and the person they care for, and also takes place across 16 other community settings in the city.


Outside Leeds

  • National Blind and Visually Impaired Tennis Championships are being held once again at the National Tennis Centre in Roehampton from Saturday 15 to Sunday 16 October.  Players must have competed in a minimum of one regional tournament in 2016 in order to enter (wild cards may be issued at the tournament organiser’s discretion). The National Visually Impaired Tennis Awards have also been launched. The awards are a way of celebrating the game of VI tennis for those who are blind or partially sighted and the people who help drive this game forward – volunteers, coaches and contributors to the game.
  • Push2Podium is the new drive from the Tennis Foundation to discover the future stars of wheelchair tennis and get more people playing the game.


Finally, we wish all the Great Britain Paralympic athletes (especially those from Leeds and Yorkshire) the best of luck in the Paralympic Games which begin on Wednesday 7th September in Rio!

Go Tri Something New at Fearnville Leisure Centre

On June 2nd 2016 Fearnville Leisure Centre hosted its first Go-Tri event, a multi-sport activity for beginner triathletes. Put on in partnership between Leeds City Council and British Triathlon the event brought together people from across Leeds on what was a beautiful summers evening to take part in a 200m swim, a 2.5km cycle and a 1km run, one after the other in the style of a real triathlon.

Participants were welcomed by Francis Riley and Matt Paxton from Leeds Bradford Triathlon Club. The two explained to the curious but enthusiastic group of men and women the layout of the professionally devised course before the group embarked on what was, for many of them, their first experience of triathlon. Fearnville is a very natural fitting for such activities. The route and transitions, despite the distances not quite matching those of an Olympic triathlon gave participants a really good sense of how the sport works.

Everyone achieved great things, both finishing with very admirable times but more importantly turning up and taking part. It’s never easy to subject yourself to such intense exercise but everyone who took part in Go-Tri Something New @ Fearnville did so with smiles on their faces. Well done guys, we’ll keep you posted with upcoming events and hope to see you competing at bigger events in the future.

Go Tri - Fearnville

Julie’s Story

My name is Julie and I am 53 years old. In 2004 I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes.

I have always carried a lot of weight from being very young and had suffered bullying at school. I spent a lot of my younger years attending dieting classes – my first class was when I was 9. I can remember taking my piece of fruit and going with my younger sister who was 6 at the time. That’s was the start of some horrendous years.

In my early twenties I lost 7 stone on the Slimming World diet and was one of ten people in the country invited to go to a hotel to celebrate our weight loss, but I could never keep it off.  My weight yo-yoed up and down through my twenties, then at age 28 my son Luke came along and I put on 4 stone. In 1993 I had my daughter Eve by Caesarean and had been warned then that I was susceptible to Diabetes as I had developed Gestational Diabetes. After Eve was born things went back to normal; I guess I just put it out of my mind and continued on the same path of dieting then putting the weight back on. I think at my largest I weighed about 20 stone.

In 2004 I had an emergency back operation as two discs were sticking into my spinal cord and I was told I might end up in a wheelchair. I spent 6 months off work and had to learn to walk again but I bounced back and went back to work. However in 2007 the same thing happened again and two discs at the same level on the other side crumbled. I had a 7 hour operation to put 6 bolts and titanium caging in my back and again I had 6 months off work and had to learn to walk again, so I have faced some difficult times which had made me a bit sedentary.

As time has gone on at each diabetic appointment I have lost some weight, got a reprieve, then put some back on. In November 2015 the nurse told me that I was heading towards insulin so I lost a bit of weight again but then over the next few months it gradually crept back on. In January 2016 I was just under 17 stone. I felt totally lost and became very depressed, disillusioned and not sure what to do. I was put on antidepressants.

Sometime in January 2016 I went home one day to find a letter from my GP practice offering me an eight week Weight Management Course. I knew this was my lifeline so I rang up and asked to do the course. I was advised that the course was a discussion with a dietician and then exercise at one of a number of venues, however a few dieticians had left so I was asked if I still wanted to continue. To be honest the exercise was what I needed so I confirmed I wanted to go ahead and that I would like to attend the gym at John Smeaton Leisure Centre. I was given Carole’s telephone number and worked out a start date of the 5 February 2016. I discussed leaving work early on Friday’s with my Manager, who was very supportive and agreed. In conjunction with the weight management course I also received a letter offering me assistance from a dietician; I now see Jon at Halton Clinic every six weeks.

I felt so much better as I knew I had made the first step towards a change in my life.

Julie_good news story

I have now finished the eight weeks and I’m feeling on top of the world! I have lost around a stone in weight but more importantly I feel so much healthier. I have joined Bodyline and use the gym three times a week. In between gym visits I have a Wii which I use to top up my exercise. For Mother’s Day my family bought me a Fitbit which tells me how many steps, miles and calories I have done each day. At the beginning I only did about 6000 steps but I am now on 27,000 steps a day, which is 14 miles a day. I try to do this most days, which can be hard as I work in an office so I’m at my desk all day, but I am determined to keep this up as I feel so much fitter. I now also have a grandson and he spurs me on as I want to see him grow up and be able to play with him. Next week I start Zumba classes with Carole too.

My life has changed immeasurably and this has impacted on my work life too as I feel so much better in myself; I volunteer for things I would never have done before, such as joining a group in our office who are doing a step challenge set by Leeds Beckett University. When I told my Manager (our team leader) how many steps I was doing a day he actually said he was glad I was on his team which made me feel fantastic – I thought I might be the weak link but I’m actually doing more steps than quite a few other people!

My life is changing for the better and having had my latest diabetic appointment, which was going to be a discussion about me going on insulin, I have now been given a reprieve for three months as the nurse could see I had lost weight.

All of this change could not have happened had it not been for the letter that arrived and the help I have had from Carole, who has really been my saviour. She has been so patient with me and without her guidance and knowledge I could not have done this, she has given me the confidence I needed to walk into a gym on my own and not worry about what other people think of me and for this I cannot thank her enough. I am really looking forward to doing Zumba with her.

I would also like to thank Tzon at John Smeaton too as he wrote me a full exercise programme and talked me through the various equipment. This has really helped me as I would never have envisaged that I would be leaving work to call at the gym on my way home – I was a bit of a couch potato. My energy levels are now so high and I am always planning in my head what I can do next and how I will fit my exercise in and make the most of my Bodyline membership.

I still have a long way to go but my determination has never been so high and my Manager who has known me 28 years says he has never seen me so focused. My friend even asked what I had done with Julie!

I would recommend the Weigh Ahead programme to anyone who is offered it as it’s a lifeline to better quality of life…

Thank you to Carole, Jon (Dietician) and Tzon.



Gemma’s Story

Have you ever got to that point where enough is enough and you know something has to change? I got to that point at the start of last year. I have been overweight all my life and I have struggled to find a way to manage it effectively. I had recently started a new job and I was fed up of having to make excuses as to why I couldn’t take the stairs or keep up with people when going to meetings. I decided to go to my doctor and ask to be referred to weight management. At the same time I was given a blood test and told that I was extremely close to a diagnosis of Type 2 Diabetes. That scared me as I knew it runs in the family and it is something I really wanted to avoid.

Walking into my first Weigh Ahead session at the John Charles Centre for Sport was the best decision I ever made. I was supported from day 1 and I was actually fearful of what would happen after I had completed my 8 week classroom and gym sessions. I was worried I would slip into old habits like I had done before. I was so relieved when I heard about the Moving On programme, knowing that the support wouldn’t  just disappear.

Gemma_good news story

Over this last year I have worked really hard and I can’t believe how far I have come. I now go to the gym at least 3 days a week and aqua aerobics once a week. I can keep up with friends and don’t feel like I am holding others back any more. In fact I am usually the one saying we should take the stairs instead of the lift.

Physically my health is much better. I have lost a total of 6st 2lb in just 12 months. I have also had a recent blood test and I am back in the normal ranges, meaning I am no longer at immediate risk of Type 2 Diabetes, although I will still have to have annual checks to monitor this. I feel like I have been given a new shot at life.

For those of you who have been following my progress you will know I did a 10km charity walk back in August. Now I want to push myself further and feel it only fitting that Diabetes UK should be my charity of choice. I have seen loved ones battle with this disease, both type 1 and type 2. There isn’t a day goes by that you can forget you are Diabetic, yet they never let it hold them back. They are my inspiration and help push me forward.

Because of this I have set myself a huge challenge, both personal and financial. On Saturday 7th May I will be completing a 50km challenge at the John  Charles Centre for Sport, where it all began for me. Over the course of between 3 and 4 hours I will cycle and use the crosstrainer to complete a distance further than a marathon. Never did I think I would be excited of that prospect, but I am.

To show your support please visit my just giving page at www.justgiving.com/gemma4diabetesuk or text GEMB62 and your donation amount to 70070. Every penny means more to me than you will know, as I never thought a year ago I could, or I would, ever be able to do something like this. Now I believe anything is possible.

Thank you each and every one of you for your support, financial and emotional. It is this that helps push me further, to become a better, lighter and healthier me.


Leeds Disability Sport News- March 2016

In Leeds

  • Leeds Disability Sports Camp will next be taking place in the Easter holiday from Monday 11th to Friday 15th Suitable for disabled children and young people aged 8 to 18, plus non-disabled siblings and friends, the camp takes place across five sporting venues across the city.
  • Active Schools Leeds and partners are running a number of disability school sport competitions over the next few months. Leeds disability aqua festival is taking place on Wednesday 20th April, Leeds Boccia, New Age Kurling and Table cricket event on the 6th May and an outdoor activities festival on the 11th For details of the annual Leeds Inclusion Calendar click here.
  • SOS Club celebrates its 15th birthday in April. The Sport on Saturday Club at St Mary’s School, Menston, provides young disabled people with a wide range of both physical and learning disabilities, with the opportunity to participate in sport.  Age is no barrier and some have been members since the Club’s inception in 2001.
  • Northern Ballet’s “In Motion” is a unique dance programme for self-propelling wheelchair users and people with mobility issues. Suitable for ages 8 to 19, regular classes are held on Sundays in central Leeds. A free taster session is taking place on Sunday 8th May, 1pm to 3pm and will give you a chance to explore different ways of moving and see if the course is right for you. To register your place or for more information please contact Jo Dean on 0113 220 8000.
  • Sense are running a sports day on Monday 9th May at the University of Leeds. Sense are the national charity that works with people who experience sight and hearing impairments. Suitable for people aged 14+, a range of fun activities and inclusive sports will be on offer. Parents and carers are welcome to come along and join in too from 10am to 4pm. Booking is essential, for more information or to request a booking form contact Callan Barber: barber@sense.org.uk or call 07813 825571.
  • Leeds Let’s Get Active (LLGA) scheme is being funded to continue until at least November thanks to additional funding. LLGA has been running since September 2013, providing free access to leisure centre and community sports and activities in a supportive and welcoming environment. With options as varied as dance and cycling, as well as health walks and mums and babies sessions, there has been an enthusiastic reception for the healthy lifestyles support being offered, with almost one in ten people in the city registered with LLGA.

Outside Leeds

  • #Track2Tokyo is looking for Para-cycling stars of the future to compete in track and road cycling with the potential to become part of the Great Britain Para-cycling team.
  • B1 Tennis Coaching CPD is taking place on 28th April at Northumberland Tennis Academy, Newcastle. This three hour workshop costs £50 and is designed to develop the knowledge and skills of coaches and volunteers who deliver visually impaired tennis sessions.

Please forward this information to anyone who may be interested in it. If you would like to be taken off the mailing list please just reply with REMOVE in the subject line.

Finally, feel free to check out our new Leeds City Council Sport & Active Lifestyles website