Olympic semi-final canoeist Lizzie Neave wins the British Open and pays tribute to a local fitness programme

Neave in action

Lizzie Neave praised Pegasus Fitness programme

First published in Sport by

An Olympic canoeist was victorious at the British Open held at Lee Valley White Water centre last Sunday – and she has put her success down to a local fitness programme.

Neave, who was disappointed to be knocked out at the semi-final stage of the kayak K1 event at London 2012, came back in style to beat the rest of field and claim the British Open crown.

Racing in four runs over two days, Neave got off to a shaky start in her first run on Saturday but recovered in her second with a time of 100.04 to lead the competition after day one.

A solid time of 103.65 in her first race on Sunday then put Neave in the lead by more than four seconds and despite going slower in her second attempt, the rest of the field were unable to catch up.

Neave said: “For me, this was an opportunity to go out and prove what I am capable of, after a disappointing result at the Olympics.

“This means I’ve won six out of the last seven races I’ve done at Lee Valley - it’s a shame the only bad race I had was the one which counted most, but it was good to go back this weekend and do what I know I’m capable of.

“I’ll always be disappointed with my result this summer, but I’m moving forward, and am excited about making some good improvements this winter ready for next season.”

Neave took a break after London 2012 but after returning to action she joined Pegasus Fitness Programme, a boot camp based in Chingford, to get herself back into shape.

And the Team GB star says she is delighted with the results.

“At first I was just looking for something a bit different to get a bit of variety in my training this winter after the break after the Olympics,” Neave said.

“I started going along to the sessions and I really enjoyed it – I found it a great work out and they’re brilliant at catering for people who haven’t done exercise for a long time too – people who want to get fit, or lose weight.

“I’ve noticed big gains in my fitness and I want to continue these sessions throughout the winter and beyond.”

The fitness programme is run by Simon Tuley and Barry Watkins, who both have a background in fitness, albeit from different angles.

In the past Tuley was a sergeant in the Pathfinders Airborne Forces Unit where he trained recruits, while Watkins is a blackbelt in kick boxing and has studied Martial Arts.

Together the pair put on three, hour-long, sessions every week in a way that caters for all ages and capabilities – from those who have been out of exercise for a long time to Olympic athletes like Neave.

Watkins said: “Whether you’re Mrs jones in her forties looking to maintain a little bit of fitness or someone like Lizzie, a member of Team GB, we don’t categorise people into fit and unfit we run everyone together and we structure the sessions to people’s needs.

“We value determination more than current fitness levels.”

Combining various elements including stretching, running, weights and kick boxing, the sessions are run on Tuesday and Thursday nights from 7pm and Saturday mornings at 9am.

First sessions are free and then cost £5 per session from then on.

Watkins insists people can notice a real difference within a couple of weeks and hopes the reasonable price – and the lure of training with an Olympic athlete – will encourage people to give the programme a try.

“Physical exercise shouldn’t be about how much you earn – if you’ve got five pounds come down and train with us – we want to make it accessible for everyone.

“It’s very rewarding for us to have an Olympian coming along every week, it gives us a real buzz and gives everyone around her a buzz too.

“Lizzie’s such a nice and modest person, everyone likes to push themselves that little bit harder because they’re training with her – every session is an Olympic session really.”

For more information on how to join the programme visit the website www.pegasusmilitaryfitness.com or call Barry Watkins on 0786 665 8735.

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