BetterPoints' Programme Engagement Manager Kerri used to be pretty sedentary. Now she’s not only very active but she spends her working life encouraging other people to be active too. We had a chat with Kerri to find out more about her story.
Kerri, I know you as someone who is full of energy and always on the go. Have you always been active?
As a child I was very active, always on the move. I used to love sport, I was a chunkier child and often didn’t get picked in teams, but I loved to take part. I found a love of dancing and did a lot of Ballroom and Latin, both training and competing. But then, as so often happens with girls, I became sedentary in my mid to late teens, around the time I was doing my A Levels. I think I became much more self-conscious and didn’t have the confidence to exercise. I gained weight and that continued for quite a few years – right through my 20s.
So, what changed?
Well, after becoming a mum to two children I had continued to gain weight and was inactive. I suddenly became aware that I couldn’t run around with my kids as much as I wanted and was unhappy about that. I’d also been through a few things personally which had left me feeling down. I wanted to make a change. I decided to give up smoking and I also wanted to start exercising but I didn’t feel confident enough to go to an exercise class, I didn’t think I was fit enough to take part and I was embarrassed. Then a friend told me about Couch to 5k. She said it would be the perfect thing for me because I could do it on my own, without anyone watching. In fact I actually used to go out in the dark and literally run lamppost to lamppost – one step at a time!
Then some school mum friends wanted to do a 5k run and persuaded me to join them, so I set myself the challenge. It was actually in the dark – a Halloween night time fun run, so it was perfect for me! And I did it – I couldn’t believe it!
Well done, amazing! So if I know you, you didn’t stop once you’d achieved you goal?
You’re right! I had really noticed how much better I felt for being active. Not only was I fitter, more able to walk without getting out of breath, able to chase the kids round the park and be less self-conscious but I also felt happier, brighter and generally better in myself. I didn’t want to lose those benefits.
A friend suggested I try parkrun – she said I knew I could run 5k so why not do it. Of course that wasn’t in the dark and I was so nervous. I thought everyone would laugh at me, I’d be last, I’d fall over – you name it, I worried about it!
But none of those things happened! I did finish, I didn’t fall over and I wasn’t even last! I absolutely loved the buzz I got, the sense of achievement I felt from finishing was fantastic. And it was every week, it was regular so I could keep going and keep being active. But even more than that I found a community, friends – a sense of belonging. I went back week after week and eventually I got involved and ended up setting up a parkrun local to me.
Wow, so you started to help others too?
Yes – I set up my local parkrun and was an Event Director for four years and I’m currently a parkrun ambassador, looking after Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire. I also got involved with This Girl Can, a national organisation all about helping women to feel confident exercising in public – something very close to my own heart as you can imagine! I like to think that seeing me, a very normal mum, not a gym bunny, having changed my life and become active helped encourage other people, especially women, to do the same. I still love it and volunteer at my local parkrun most weekends. I’ve recently managed to encourage my very unfit son to start running too – I’m so proud of him.
Eventually I realised I wanted to do this more than just at weekends and so when I saw the job with BetterPoints it seemed like the perfect opportunity to put all that I’d experienced and learned into practice.
How has your own experience influenced how you do your job of encouraging others to be active?
I think knowing what it’s like to be inactive, with all that it entails, makes a big difference. I needed motivation to get going and to keep going and I know many of the people in BetterPoints programmes are the same. I know the value of rewards, encouraging messages and challenges and I put all these things into action in my engagement work. If I can do it – anyone can! I absolutely love hearing from people all over the country who have used the BetterPoints app and become more active – it’s so inspiring! Getting active helped me to re-find myself, both physically and emotionally and I love being able to use the energy to help others.