Ali Yates shares her story on how windsurfing helped her get back in shape and competing on the international circuit
Windsurfing for weight loss
It seems that every time I open my Facebook page, a magazine or turn
on the TV at the moment someone is telling me how to get my perfect
beach body and how I’ve got to start working on it now. But did you
know that a great way to get in shape is windsurfing? Heading to the
gym 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 and
slimming 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 remember
but after gaining 5 stone she packed up her board and thought it was the
end of her windsurfing days. However…. after losing 2 stone she
gingerly stepped back on board. Now five stone lighter Ali is competing
on the international circuit and her love affair with windsurfing has
I’ve been windsurfing for a long time. It started when I was saving
up my paper round money to go see Bros (the boy band of the 80's!) and
ended up buying my very first board instead!
In 2000 I found myself running a Watersports centre, Astbury
Sailsports in Congleton in the North West. At the same time I had just
left home so being busy and not being able to cook I began to gain
weight. It was just too easy to pop to the Indian restaurant, join the
other instructors at Subway or McDonalds or to eat at the pub after
I have always loved to teach windsurfing whatever my size but as my
weight gained I became self-conscious out on the water. I started
coaching from a powerboat rather than from a board and although I always
had great enthusiasm for the sport, I did stop enjoying windsurfing as
my hobby and began to believe that I couldn't do it anymore.
Now I know I was simply underpowered because of the weight I was
carrying. At this point I had gained five stone so of course I was
going to need more sail to be able to plane! One positive is that I now
understand the growing pains of the kids in my race squads and I always
encourage 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 time
running the business rather than being out on the water teaching.
Unfortunately I was also losing the enthusiasm for my sport and as I
packed away the windsurfing kit that had kept me active for so long, I
failed to noticed how unfit I had become. I even started looking for
another career thinking it was over and that I was too old. How wrong
could I have been!
I finally realised something had to change so I joined a Slimming
World group and we started talking about "Body Magic" awards. This
encouraged me to start to gradually build activity back into my life
with 15 minute walks from my house, Zumba classes and fun social
exercise with my friends.
Initially windsurfing wasn’t in my plan as fitness as I still wasn’t
switched back onto it but I will never forget the day that I hopped back
on a board and had the sail of my life. I was on holiday in Dahab and
at this point I had lost two and a half stone. That first sail back was
like being reborn. I remembered that wonderful feeling of well-being
that windsurfing gives you and I absolutely loved it. I was back!
The next thing I knew I was entering the World Championships in
Holland thanks to encouragement from coaches and the parents and kids I
coached in the RYA Zone Squad. It seemed a crazy idea to go and enter
the open fleet, well in fact it was it was crazy, but it turned out to
be a fantastic experience.
Windsurfing was now giving me something to train for and once again I
felt I had a goal and a focus. I had to start practice what I had been
preaching to the kids for the past nine years. I was even known to go
for the odd run which would have been unheard of before-unless a car was
I achieved my Slimming World 5 stone award in May 2012. It was
actually a double celebration as it was just in time for the National
Consultant Slimmer of the year awards and I had reached the National
Semi-finals. The Slimming World journey is still a big part of how I
coach sailing and windsurfing today and I believe we all need
encouragement in whatever mountains we are climbing, whether it be
losing weight or winning a medal at the world championships.
I gave up running the Watersports centre and became a part time
freelance coach alongside running my own Slimming World group. After my
life had changed so dramatically, I loved helping others achieve dreams
too and this was my plan for a career change.
Recently I have given the Slimming World group up as amazing
opportunities have arisen in my coaching career including coordinating
events for Team15 in the West. I’m hoping to see more youngsters
following the RYA Pathway and becoming involved with the nationwide
Thanks to last year’s crazy entry to the Worlds Championships, this
year I was also asked by the Techno Class Association (TCA) to go back
to Poland as the TCA head coach. We had an amazing time with one of the
girls coming home with a medal for Team GBR.
My advice for people who are aiming to lose weight is that you have
to want to do it for yourself. There is a big difference between
"needing" to do something and "wanting" to make the changes to live a
healthy and active lifestyle.
Windsurfing itself is great exercise all round and so much fun! I’m
not one for spending hours in a gym as I prefer to be outside and afloat
whenever I can. Aside from the physical aspect, it also clears my
mind. My focus is now making and
enjoying healthy food choices and continuing to improve my fitness so
I can make the most of the days I spend out on the water.
Windsurfing Fitness Facts
- Windsurfing uses all of your main muscle groups, especially gluts,
hamstrings and quads. By windsurfing you will tone your back, your arms,
your legs, and last but not least, your stomach – kiss goodbye to your
- Learning to balance on the board builds your
'core stability', engaging your deep postural muscles, strengthening the
muscles that give you the definition of a waist!
you fall in while learning, don't be disheartened, falling off the board
means you are constantly pulling yourself out of the water which works
your arms and increases your calorie output, while toning your arms!!
- The average recreational windsurfer burns around 500 calories an hour, with an average a heart rate range of 110-175 bpm.
TOP FACT Olympic Medallist Nick Dempsey is believed to have the aerobic fitness similar to that of a marathon runner
Want to find out more? Check out RYA Windsurfing courses
information about Ali Yates visit www.aliyates.com
Find out more about
Team15 at www.team15.org.uk
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