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SPL fans train with club coaches

Football fans prepare to train with Kilmarnock

SPL fans train with club coaches

By Paul Bradley

An initiative from the Scottish Premier League Trust aims to address the health problems of Scotland's unfit males.

About 75% of men aged between 35 and 65 in Scotland are overweight or obese and have a poorer lifespan than women.

SPL clubs are inviting fans to take part in a lifestyle programme called Football Fans in Training or FFIT.

I'm a producer in the sport department at BBC Scotland. Over the next 12 weeks I will be taking part in the scheme and sharing our experiences.

Like many of my compatriots, I've tried unsuccessfully to lose weight over the years: I'm 44 years old, 23 stone and just over 6ft tall, and someone that the doctors refer to as morbidly obese.

In football fans' parlance, I'd be called something completely different, probably involving pies. However, I'll spare your blushes.

"Morbidly obese": those are strong words and perhaps more hurtful and certainly scarier than the vernacular version.

The prognosis for my future is not good; I've potentially got heart problems, diabetes and many other health issues to tackle.

I've decided that I owe it to my family and friends to do my best to get fit.

BBC Scotland producer Paul Bradley
Paul with his traditional 'Glasgow salad'

So why haven't I done something about this before and where has it all gone wrong?

If I'm completely honest with myself, I've spent too long watching sport and not enough time participating. I eat too much of the wrong stuff, and let's not mention the pints of beer during weekends.

Like many before me, I've tried taking part in slimming clubs but really don't feel comfortable among a group dominated by females and I'm not exactly ready to zoom into zumba.

Call it a feeble weakness, but it's one that's shared by many of the men that I've encountered in the past few weeks.

One man I spoke to has already done a FFIT course. Tom Smith, a Kilmarnock fan, agreed with the point about slimming groups but added that he also "felt out of place going to a gym filled with people who didn't look as though they needed to be there"!

I know how he feels.

The FFIT programme, backed by a donation of £250,000 from the Football Pools and with additional support from the Scottish Government, is spread over 12 weeks and aims to alleviate some of these concerns.

Each week the team of coaches and experts take the delegates through various aspects of a healthy lifestyle, with the sessions split between the classroom and gym.

Those taking part are issued with club kit and are trained by community coaches in club facilities.

Previous candidates say they feel this common interest shared by fellow fans is the key to its success.

Kevin Mitchell, lifestyle development officer for men's health at East Ayrshire Council, stresses during the induction meeting of a new intake at Kilmarnock, that the course is not a diet.

However, he says there will be lessons about portion sizes.

"One man in the last course, when shown what a portion of cheese was, said that a bit that size was what he usually cut off the block to eat while he made his roasted cheese," said Mitchell.

Which I gather to mean cheese on toast. Anyone care to admit to buttering the toast first?

No longer for me. In fact, I think it's safe to say that roasted anything might be off the Bradley menu, for a while at least.

Over the next three months I'll be visiting the SPL clubs taking part and sharing some of these tips and the efforts of their fans in training.

Who knows, I may even encourage some of you to join future courses in your area.

This week has really all been about introductions and explaining what we'll be doing, though we did get issued with a pedometer and over the next few days I'll wear it in order to get a "base count" of my average daily steps.

The plan will be to increase this over the weeks and months. I'll be swapping petrol for shoe leather, by the sound of things.

Next time we'll be looking at those portion sizes. I wonder if a buffet-sized pie is OK?

see also
Figures show 'obesity epidemic'
29 Nov 09 |  Scotland
Confessions of a weight-loss cyclist
11 Apr 09 |  Health

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