From Leeds Girl CAN’T To Leeds Girl CAN!

Dani Penney

Lisa, mum to 6 year old Jasmine, is a full time student undertaking a Childhood Studies degree at Leeds University. She lives in Beeston (Leeds) with husband John. She is a green belt in Karate and loves to go on camping holidays. Lisa isn’t a particularly confident character and it’s her journey from her life just six months ago to now which inspired me to write this case study.


In February 2016, Lisa attended my first Leeds Girls Can (LGC) session which was a beginner running group in Middleton. She was shy and nervous with a stern look on her face. Although she enjoys exercise, she has never been a sporty person and had only come along due to her friends dragging her with them. As the weeks went by she became a very familiar face, challenging herself to run a bit faster or a bit longer at each session. She soon became one of the front runners in the group.


As we approached summer, I started up a cycling group and regular rounders session in Middleton Park. When it came to rounders, Lisa gave it a go along with her friends. Not only was she nervous (as she’d not played since school) but the fact she was the only “leftie” of the group made her feel singled out. It took a while for me to realise she wasn’t giving up. I was certain after the emotion she showed throughout the session that rounders wasn’t for her – boy was I wrong! She is now pushing herself to play in organised matches. As a self-confessed non-competitive person, she would agree that this would have been a struggle to admit in the past.


A week later came the cycle ride and there she was, requesting to borrow a bike and helmet. I’d assumed by this point she just really liked the exercise but to my shock, she’d not been on a bike in over ten years and was absolutely terrified. She battled through the first ride and her attitude went from:


I’m never doing that again


To turning up on the next one saying:


I’m determined to conquer my fear


A few weeks ago Lisa was on a camping trip in the lakes when I received a text from her:


Hey, I just wanted to drop you a message to tell you we’ve hired bikes this morning – without your sessions there is no way I would have even considered it


I feel really proud that Leeds Girls Can and my role as an activator is having such an impact on peoples’ lives.


Lisa continues to come to the running group and is about to complete the Leader in Running Fitness Course. A training qualification that will allow her to become a leader of the group. As a person who doesn’t like to be centre of attention, she still feels anxious to do it but knows she has a support network around her with the women in the LGC sessions. Our face to face and online support networks foster encouragement and confidence for both the participant and the volunteer.


Lisa’s passion for LGC shows immensely, she’s constantly talking and sharing with others all the good that taking part in these activities can bring. She has helped out with events to engage more women and shares her stories to motivate the many women who encounter a barrier when taking part in physical activity.


Lisa is now one of the first women to join the LGC Ambassador scheme, becoming a role model for other women to sweat it out through any form of exercise. Her persistence to get better at various activities has boosted her confidence levels to the point where she’s achieving things she wouldn’t have believed she could just a year ago.


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