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Setting targets is helping Ali and her group stay on track

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“I realised lockdown could go one way or the other. I could either eat too much, drink too much and put on a stone. Or I could use the time as a good opportunity to get fitter and lose a stone.”

Ali Yates, 45, decided on the latter and, together with a group of friends who attend Slimming World in Bethesda, has taken on the challenge of walking, cycling or running the distance of Land’s End to John O’Groats.

It is no mean feat. The women are either relatively new to exercise or a little rusty. The route is 1,083 miles long and the friends have opted to try and complete it in 10 weeks. 


“That’s a collective 108 miles, 19 miles a day. Some are walking, some are cycling or both,” she explains. Ali is a size 20 and says she struggled with her weight in recent years. An outdoor instructor for 20 years, her activity levels dropped when she took on a desk-based role of Operations Manager at Plas Menai, the National Outdoor Centre for Wales. 

“I joined Slimming World and they are all such a nice, supportive group. I guess this all started when one of the girls was going through a really tough time. Her 12-year-old son was undergoing a liver transplant so we decided to set ourselves a fundraising challenge to help out.”

In January, Ali suggested they brave the Menai Straits on Stand Up Paddle Boards, supported by the team at Plas Menai:


“We set off from Plas Menai and went to Caernarfon and back. It was such a big achievement, especially when you consider that many of the women were nervous about pulling on a wetsuit. But because we were all doing it together, it was such a good laugh. We were all buzzing and wanted to do more.”

They headed indoors for their next exercise fix:

“We decided to have a go at Aquadance. One woman had lost six stone and hadn’t been swimming for 35 years. Another couldn’t swim and had recovered from breast cancer. We even had a go at waterpolo and kayaking. It was brilliant.”

The spread of Coronavirus however has forced Plas Menai to close its doors. Not to be deterred, Ali dusted off her bike and came up with the idea of the Land’s End to John O’Groats challenge:

“The first time I went on my bike, I did 3.5 miles and I felt really unfit but since then I have really improved. I’ve been following an online Couch to 30 miles programme, invested in some decent kit and I actually did 20k in two weeks. 


“There are eight of us doing it and we are all roping in our families to join us in our daily exercise. The plan is to complete the route in 10 weeks. We would love to do the final three miles together but we’ll have to wait and see if the social distancing restrictions have been lifted. 

Plas Menai has also been supporting people to get back on their bikes safely by posting tips on its Facebook page:

“Simple things like not knowing how to fix a puncture can be a real barrier to people getting on their bikes. But cycling is a great way to keep fit as long as you do it safely and within the Welsh Government social distancing guidelines.

“It feels as if we are all doing something positive rather than waiting around to hear the next instalment of bad news. It’s been a good distraction.”

The Welsh Government guidance around cycling during lockdown has recently been updated. You are expected to only cycle alone or with members of your household, on routes you know well, and that are well within your ability level. Cyclists on shared paths should be considerate of walkers, runners and other people cycling: they should stay two metres from others, slow their pace and stop to let people pass as appropriate. More details here.

For cycling tips and more, visit the Plas Menai Facebook page here.