It is strange to think that nearly a whole year has passed since we were all working on campus together. I remember the last day working in the office as we had a quick team picture, not knowing when we would see each other again. I promised myself at the time that I would change the negative situation (and moving into the unknown) into a positive by using my time wisely. I would be saving three hours a day from my commute and a lot of money on petrol. Immediately I thought that this would be my chance to get fit again and have a better diet utilising the extra time I now had. Several months later, after Christmas, there I was, really disappointed at putting on a lot of weight and not following a routine that should’ve been easy. Why had I failed and not used this opportunity? I needed a bigger push, someone to challenge me.

Adopting a healthier lifestyle

My weight and I have always been at loggerheads. Up until the age of 18 I was very skinny and was bullied because of it. At this time in my life I was always playing football, often up to three games a week. I played for the school and county above my age level but one day I just stopped. The pressure got too much, I was expected to sign for decent clubs, but I walked away and barely played in almost two years, leading to weight gain. I started to play socially again at weekends, enjoying the lack of pressure and competition, before breaking my leg playing in 2002. After weeks in plaster I was told I may never walk again and might lose my foot. It dawned on me that I had been ambling through life and shying away from any pressure situations. 

Early in 2006, my brother pulled me aside and told me things I didn’t want to hear about my life and weight. He challenged me to change my life by Christmas and that we’d have a competition to see who would weigh the least on Christmas Day. It brought back that competitive nature I once had from football and I relished the challenge. I began training and taking more notice of what I ate and drank, losing four stone and changing my life for the better. I didn’t win the challenge, but it was the push I needed in the right direction to a healthier life.

Improving my fitness in 2021

Trinity Wellbeing gave me that similar push recently, with two people in particular holding me accountable at the start of 2021. Sports Development Officer Sheila King has always got me and many other staff members involved in sport and physical activity. Before lockdown, I was playing badminton regularly, as well as staff football on a Friday. She invited me to participate in the January 900 challenge through Trinity Wellbeing; a challenge set up to encourage staff members to keep active throughout January – committing to 300 minutes per week over three weeks. She kept checking up on me, motivating me to do more and didn’t let me use the bad weather as an excuse for my lack of minutes. The other person was my office colleague, Lucy Chaplin. In our Monday team meetings, Lucy and I would share how many minutes we had completed, with Lucy joking how far ahead she was after week two of three. After two weeks I had only done a total of 391 minutes, less than half of Lucy’s total. Some friendly banter and me beginning to tease her on social media reignited that competitive nature within me. I really needed it and for the last week it spurred me on to do 1003 minutes.

Feeling a sense of accomplishment

On Monday 1 February, our team meeting was a little different. Lucy announced her total of 1373 minutes and I then proudly (yes, I was gloating) said my total was 1394. I can’t deny that I loved winning our friendly duel but what really put a smile on my face was knowing that I could use this as a starting point again to challenge myself. I did of course reward myself with a double cheeseburger that day. 

I know that I have not been the only one to benefit from the Trinity Wellbeing programme that is brilliantly run by Lucy, Elisabeth Holdsworth, Michelle Wall and Darren Worsnop. And it is not just the exercise element that has been effective. I miss being on campus and especially our small team, but the wellbeing programme has kept us together through fun and supportive online opportunities that our families have also been able to participate in. 

For me, Trinity Wellbeing is everything the University stands for and has helped keep us together in the tight knit community we have always thrived on. It gave me a well needed push in the right direction too. Hopefully by the time we can return to campus I’ll be ready and fit for staff football on a Friday and return to beating Sheila at badminton.


Brett Arnall is Alumni Relations Officer at Leeds Trinity University.


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