Ali Yates shares her story on how windsurfing helped her get back in shape and competing on the international circuit
It seems that every time I open my Facebook page, a magazine or turnon the TV at the moment someone is telling me how to get my perfectbeach body and how I’ve got to start working on it now. But did youknow that a great way to get in shape is windsurfing? Heading to thegym might not be everyone’s cup of tea so how about heading outside,getting on the water with the wind in your hair while toning up andslimming down (and having great fun)?
We caught up with Ali Yates who did just that and used windsurfing to get back in shape…. this is her story.
Ali has been a windsurfing fanatic for as long as she can rememberbut after gaining 5 stone she packed up her board and thought it was theend of her windsurfing days. However…. after losing 2 stone shegingerly stepped back on board. Now five stone lighter Ali is competingon the international circuit and her love affair with windsurfing hasbeen reborn.
I’ve been windsurfing for a long time. It started when I was savingup my paper round money to go see Bros (the boy band of the 80's!) andended up buying my very first board instead!
In 2000 I found myself running a Watersports centre, AstburySailsports in Congleton in the North West. At the same time I had justleft home so being busy and not being able to cook I began to gainweight. It was just too easy to pop to the Indian restaurant, join theother instructors at Subway or McDonalds or to eat at the pub afterwork.
I have always loved to teach windsurfing whatever my size but as myweight gained I became self-conscious out on the water. I startedcoaching from a powerboat rather than from a board and although I alwayshad great enthusiasm for the sport, I did stop enjoying windsurfing asmy hobby and began to believe that I couldn't do it anymore.
Now I know I was simply underpowered because of the weight I wascarrying. At this point I had gained five stone so of course I wasgoing to need more sail to be able to plane! One positive is that I nowunderstand the growing pains of the kids in my race squads and I alwaysencourage them to get onto the right sail size as soon as possible.
As my own personal windsurfing declined so did any kind of exercise.The Watersports centre grew bigger and busier and I spent all my timerunning the business rather than being out on the water teaching.Unfortunately I was also losing the enthusiasm for my sport and as Ipacked away the windsurfing kit that had kept me active for so long, Ifailed to noticed how unfit I had become. I even started looking foranother career thinking it was over and that I was too old. How wrongcould I have been!
I finally realised something had to change so I joined a SlimmingWorld group and we started talking about "Body Magic" awards. Thisencouraged me to start to gradually build activity back into my lifewith 15 minute walks from my house, Zumba classes and fun socialexercise with my friends.
Initially windsurfing wasn’t in my plan as fitness as I still wasn’tswitched back onto it but I will never forget the day that I hopped backon a board and had the sail of my life. I was on holiday in Dahab andat this point I had lost two and a half stone. That first sail back waslike being reborn. I remembered that wonderful feeling of well-beingthat windsurfing gives you and I absolutely loved it. I was back!
The next thing I knew I was entering the World Championships inHolland thanks to encouragement from coaches and the parents and kids Icoached in the RYA Zone Squad. It seemed a crazy idea to go and enterthe open fleet, well in fact it was it was crazy, but it turned out tobe a fantastic experience.
Windsurfing was now giving me something to train for and once again Ifelt I had a goal and a focus. I had to start practice what I had beenpreaching to the kids for the past nine years. I was even known to gofor the odd run which would have been unheard of before-unless a car wascoming!
I achieved my Slimming World 5 stone award in May 2012. It wasactually a double celebration as it was just in time for the NationalConsultant Slimmer of the year awards and I had reached the NationalSemi-finals. The Slimming World journey is still a big part of how Icoach sailing and windsurfing today and I believe we all needencouragement in whatever mountains we are climbing, whether it belosing weight or winning a medal at the world championships.
I gave up running the Watersports centre and became a part timefreelance coach alongside running my own Slimming World group. After mylife had changed so dramatically, I loved helping others achieve dreamstoo and this was my plan for a career change.
Recently I have given the Slimming World group up as amazingopportunities have arisen in my coaching career including coordinatingevents for Team15 in the West. I’m hoping to see more youngstersfollowing the RYA Pathway and becoming involved with the nationwidewindsurfing community.
Thanks to last year’s crazy entry to the Worlds Championships, thisyear I was also asked by the Techno Class Association (TCA) to go backto Poland as the TCA head coach. We had an amazing time with one of thegirls coming home with a medal for Team GBR.
My advice for people who are aiming to lose weight is that you haveto want to do it for yourself. There is a big difference between"needing" to do something and "wanting" to make the changes to live ahealthy and active lifestyle.
Windsurfing itself is great exercise all round and so much fun! I’mnot one for spending hours in a gym as I prefer to be outside and afloatwhenever I can. Aside from the physical aspect, it also clears mymind. My focus is now making andenjoying healthy food choices and continuing to improve my fitness soI can make the most of the days I spend out on the water.
TOP FACT Olympic Medallist Nick Dempsey is believed to have the aerobic fitness similar to that of a marathon runner