Carolyn, 53, melts our chocolate gym challenge!

This Easter we organised a very special gym challenge at Andover Leisure Centre – The Easter Chocolate Challenge. The challenge didn’t actually involve eating the chocolate (unfortunately) but rather burning it off.

Five Easter choccies were  chosen, all with various calorie values. The challenge was simple: burn off the calories of all five chocolates and win some cinema tickets. Okay…sounds simple…but its not.


Out of everyone who entered the challenge, one came out on top. Carolyn Lane, 53, a member at Andover Leisure Centre was our only member who completed this tough challenge.

It was Carolyn’s first ever gym challenge and she managed to burn off a whopping 2064 calories to complete it and win the cinema tickets. With support from her friends and Ryan and Al from the gym team, Carolyn peddled and ran her way through our chocolate challenge board and proved that she could do it.

From all of us at Valley Leisure, congratulations on this awesome achievement – enjoy your movie!

The challenge may be over in our gym, but you can still give it a go for yourself!

  • Thornton’s Easter egg: 829 (Carolyn completed this in two parts, 429  + 402)
  • Milky Bar Easter egg: 404
  • Mini eggs: 444 (This was Carolyn’s toughest challenge which she completed on the treadmill)
  • Cadbury’s Crème Egg: 177
  • Lindt Gold Bunny: 210

Yoga – An effective stress relief for a modern world


One of our Valley Leisure members had a chat with us about how yoga has changed his life – read his story below:

Five years ago I became totally overwhelmed by pressures at work, more so than ever before. I had suffered from bouts of excessive stress in my working life before and they had manifested themselves as IBS, anxiety and mild depression but never to such an intensity as this.

Over a matter of weeks the challenges of the past seemed to come crashing through my barriers and I collapsed completely. My hair began to fall out, I couldn’t sleep, I shook uncontrollably at night, lost my appetite, cried a lot and all manner of other strange symptoms took over.

I sought help from a number of support groups and my wife bought me a six week subscription at the local sports centre. I tried a lot of different classes but once I started yoga; for the first time in a long while I found I looked forward to something. Yoga can be so much more than just an exercise class.

I had always been fascinated by Eastern philosophy and this seemed to bring together their ideas into a physical practice.

I had at last found a small place of peace in my mind and, over time I learned to relax again.  The spiritual side, discipline and postures did far more than just exercise my muscles; they freed me from my worries and helped calm the raging elephants that were stampeding around in my head.

Yoga was not the only tool I found that helped me create some level of peace but it was and continues to be a major component in my tool kit that I regularly use to create space in the ongoing pressures of life.

I cannot adequately thank the teachers that helped me over the last few years for taking the time to listen to me, support me and share their experience, practice and enthusiasm.

Yoga is a path I now choose to walk upon.  As I travel through my life, I may loose my way again but I know that the path is there.  I have learned to recognise when I’ve strayed and to return to the path before I become lost.

To all of you who are suffering I suggest you try yoga.  It was the right path for me to follow and it may be for you too.

For information about our yoga classes and to view our timetables for Romsey Rapids Sports Complex and Andover Leisure Centre, please visit:

Autistic Boy is Swim School Superstar

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Our second instalment from our stories from the past 25 years. Today we revisit the story of nine-year-old Conor  Bryceland who in early 2014 shone like a star through swimming.

A young boy with autism has been transformed through learning to swim and has collected a haul of glinting medals at his very first swimming competition. Conor medals

Nine-year-old Conor Bryceland from Chandlers Ford was diagnosed on the autistic spectrum about a year ago, although he has had the condition all his life. Autism and its related conditions have many upsides, such as giving clarity of thought and original thinking. But it often means that doing new things makes the person very anxious.

It normally takes Conor longer than most to become confident in a new skill and when it came to learning to swim, it took him three years…but he never gave up. As a reward, he picked up three medals – two bronze and a gold – in his very first swimming gala at Romsey Rapids Sports Complex and earned himself the fantastic feeling of enormous satisfaction.

His mum Lorraine said: “Learning to swim has transformed him. It’s hard to believe that the little boy who, only a couple of years ago, clung limpet-like to the side of the pool, too scared to let go is the same child who now leaps, grinning happily, into a 3m pool then takes off underwater without a second thought.

“The patience showed by Ann Bartholomew, his swimming teacher at The Rapids, was a huge factor.”

Conor won prizes in front crawl, back crawl and breast stroke. He delighted everyone around him.

Sue Perkins, swimming coordinator at The Rapids, said: “We are really, really proud of Conor. He’s worked so hard and overcome lots of challenges. He is a star and we’re delighted for him.”

Keep up to date with all of our 25 year celebrations, follow us on twitter and like us on Facebook.

Raising the bar: Meet our powerlifting champions

What better way to see in July than the BPU (British Powerlifting Union) British Championships this weekend [4th & 5th July] at Andover Leisure Centre! The event will showcase talent from across the UK who after years of training are now looking to break already outstanding records set by their powerlifting peers. Two of the competitors who have qualified for the BPU British Championships are locals to our leisure centre; we caught up with them to see how they are feeling before the big weekend.

Name: Clifford RichardsClifford Richards

Age: 36 From: Andover

Key Fact: Clifford is ranked within the top three powerlifters in the country for his body weight! (82.5kg)

Clifford has been training since 1995 when he was just 17 years old, but has been competing at a professional level for 11 years. He is currently the BPU British Record holder for raw benchpress lifting an amazing 190kg; the current world record stands at 210kg which Clifford aims to match or beat at the championships. Clifford also benched an easy 200kg benchpress at the Andover Leisure Centre Fitness Expo which you can read about here.

How often are you in the gym? Recently I have been training five times a week, usually for an hour and a half. I’ve been adding a lot more assistance to my supportive muscle groups in an attempt to further push my squat, bench and deadlift.

Are there any classes, machines or staff members in particular that you have found particularly helpful? Currently there are no powerlifting classes offered at Andover Leisure Centre, but there is a growing number of talented individuals who are always willing to help others. Staff member Robyn Brown (a 10x world champion) is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to strength based training – whether it be bodybuilding or powerlifting.

Are you finding the preparation particularly tough? Not really, I have been training so long that it is simply part of everyday life for me now.

You are going for the world record on Benchpress, how do you feel about that? I feel genuinely excited that I am close to achieving a lifelong goal of mine, but the work doesn’t stop there as there always more to achieve. I will also be aiming to take the British Squat record which is currently 240kg.

What is the difference between ‘Equipped Powerlifting’ and ‘Raw Powerlifting’? Equipped powerlifting allows the lifter to wear supportive equipment during their lifts, this can give leverage and mechanical advantages during the lift. The equipment was originally designed to protect lifters from serious injuries but can also add exceptional amounts of weight during a lift. During my equipped lifting days I was able to get an extra 120kg on my squat wearing a squat suit. Raw lifting is basically man vs weight but with the allowance of a weight belt.

Name: Mitch RavenscroftMitch 1

Age: 26 From: Andover

Key Fact: Mitch is hoping to qualify for the world powerlifting championships in Portugal this November!

Mitch currently holds the BPU British record for benchpress and is hoping to claim the squat record at this competition.

How long have you been powerlifting for? I have been powerlifting since I was 17 and trained for two months before entering my first equipped competition. After two years of competing I sustained a back injury; coupled with university I didn’t have the time to put in the training. In late 2013 I decided to make a plan to compete in 2015.

Have you taken part in anything like this before? Yes, I competed in 2007, 2008 and again in 2012.

What are your thoughts as we approach the event? I’m feeling excited and nervous. Once I have a successful lift in each, I will be fine.

How often do you train and how? I follow a method known as 5:3 and train three times once for each lift and then repeat every five days. I will be coached under Eric Lilliebridge after this competition in preparation for the world championships.

Why did you decide to powerlift? I used to play a lot of rugby and after starting at the gym, I was told by my powerlifting friends that I had strong legs and should give it a go…so I did and haven’t stopped since!

The BPU British Powerlifting Championships are happening on Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th July at Andover Leisure Centre.

Give a little, help a lot: Matt’s Story.

If there is one thing that is important in this life, it is to give and help others. In 2007, Matt Bungay, a father from Andover, had his world turned upside down with the sudden loss of his baby son, Kallum. One of the things that helped him and his wife, Charlotte, though this tragedy was the kindness of the Lullaby Charity…and now, Matt wants to give back.


“In 2007, my son Kallum passed away to cot death. This is a reason without explanation, it makes it hard gain closure or ‘deal’ with what’s happened when you have no answers / reasons. The Lullaby Trust (formally FSID) was there for my wife, myself and for our one year old Ronnie when we needed the extra support.

They provided family days out at attractions, someone to talk to and most of all advice and support when we had our third baby Jude. This should be the most amazing time with a new life…it was anything but. To be too scared to sleep or leave him alone or with others was impossible. A little cold and we were at the doctors, both a bag of nerves and riddled with fear.

We were given help through the ‘Care of Next Infant’ scheme that The Lullaby Trust introduced to GP surgeries. Through this the young baby / toddler is seen as an emergency which helps to ease your worries.”

After this tragedy, Matt’s weight went up and he became more reliant on food and drink. Now he is back at his fittest and, with the help of his two sons, has completed some huge challenges including Man vs Mountain, Tough Mudder, Grim and River Rat. Earlier in March, Matt ran 26 miles on a treadmill in Andover’s town centre, raising £240 for The Lullaby Trust – but he wants to raise more.

“It is my goal to one day prevent any parent or sibling feeling the pain my wife and I do. I do not wish anyone to have to bury their baby. It is this that drives me to raise money for The Lullaby Trust to help them with their work and research.”

At 10am on Saturday 28th March, Matt is holding a fun run in memory of his son Kallum. The event is being held at Charlton Lakeside and there are three distances for people to choose from; the 3k which is ideal for families, the 5k and the 10k. A donation is needed to take part which will help towards Matt’s £1750 goal. On Saturday there will also be a raffle at 50p per ticket; prizes include:

  • Signed Southampton FC Home Shirt
  • VIP meal for 2 at London Street Brasserie – Reading
  • x2 Muscle Food lean meat hamper (worth £113 each)
  • M&S luxury hamper
  • Champagne
  • x2 London Opera House tickets for ‘Carmen’ Final dress rehearsal
  • Black and Decker sander
  • Plus lots more!

For more information and for all updates, ‘like’ Matt’s page on Facebook, or for any more questions, you can email Matt on

Treking the ‘Triple Crown’: A challenge by Kris Bickerton

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As part of our look back over the past 25 years, we are celebrating the great stories and achievements from the customer that have come through our doors. Kris Bickerton, Andover, successfully completed the ‘Triple Crown’ in Ecuador. Read her incredible before and after story below. Preparing for a challenge? Become a member like Kris today with our introductory offer of £25. Find out more by calling 01264 347100 (Andover Leisure Centre) or 01794 830333 (Romsey Rapids Sports Complex).

kris 2

Kris Bickerton, 32, from Andover – originally Loughborough – about a rather unique challenge that she has just completed. Kris successfully completed the ‘Triple Crown’ in Ecuador. This 16 day trek involved climbing three volcanoes: Cayambe (5790m), Cotopaxi (5895m) and Chimborazo (6310m). The summit of Cayambe is the highest point on the equator and the summit of Chimborazo is the furthest point from the centre of the Earth.

We had a chat with her before the challenge to see how she was preparing:

  • Why have you chosen this challenge?

I enjoy the challenge of high altitude mountaineering and want to challenge myself again

  • You are leaving in a few days, how are you currently feeling?

I am scared of failure to be honest as weather can play a major part in success even if you’ve trained and prepared well.

  • How have you been preparing for this challenge? Are there any in-particular exercises/pieces of equipment that you have been doing / using in preparation?

I have been attending Body Step and Body Combat for cardio as well as a 10km road run each week. I have also been doing 1 hour on the stepper with a weighted backpack and step-ups with a weighted bar.

  • How many times a week have you been training and for how long?

5 times a week and usually for at least an hour at a time.

  • What do your family think about you taking on the challenge?

Baffled as usual when I come up with new goals but also very supportive.

Kris 1

We are happy to say that she completed her challenge, and as you can see from her photos, it looked like Kris was taken on an amazing journey. We chatted to her again following her challenge to see how she got on.

  • What was your favourite part of your challenge?

The end! The feeling of success of having bagged all three peaks successfully and safely.

  • Out of the three peaks, did you have a favourite?

Chimborazo – nobody can resist a great fact like standing on the point the furthest away from the centre of the earth! It was also the only one with clear weather so I could actually see the view and surrounding volcanoes. I could actually see Cotopaxi that I had climbed a few days earlier in the distance.

  • What was it like being away for 16 days?

It’s pretty normal for me to be honest.

  • At any point did you face any in particularly tough challenges?

All of the climbs were incredibly physically challenging but the few hours cramponing up a sheer snow slope on Cotopaxi was memorable, as was some scrambling on rock still wearing crampons (a traction device used to improve mobility on snow and ice during ice climbing). I do have a bit of an issue with heights so didn’t enjoy the sheer drop below me!

  • What is your overall feeling after completing this trek?

Relief and pride at not having given up when I really wanted to!

  • Were there any stand out moments?

Standing on any summit is memorable but actually climbing Chimborazo in the moonlight, being able to see the glacier, snow fields and rock bands without a head torch was beautiful.

We are intrigued to find out what Kris’ next challenge is, or if you have any challenges that you want to contact us about. If you are feeling motivated but are not sure how to get started, why not contact us by filling out our enquiry sheet HERE.

Catherine Griffiths: 64 Lanes Later.

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Earlier this year we caught up with Catherine Griffiths, one of our swimming regulars who broke a personal goal of hers – swimming 1 mile in the pool. Catherine swam her goal – 64 lanes to raise money for a charity very close to her heart: Enham Trust. Read her brilliant story below.

Remember, as part of our 25 year celebrations, you can claim a free 7 day pass HERE.

IMG_0239Fitness challenges are tough for everyone, and if you have a disability these challenges can sometimes become even harder…that wasn’t the case for Catherine Griffiths. Catherine has learning difficulties, is hard of hearing and also suffers from mobility problems after breaking her leg; but none of that stops her from partaking in her favourite sport – swimming.

Last year, Catherine set herself her own personal goal of swimming one mile (an equivalent of 64 lengths) in the pool at Andover Leisure Centre all in aid of raising money for a cause close to her heart: Enham Trust. Enham’s mission is to maximise opportunities for disabled people to choose how they live their lives.swimThis isn’t the first swimming challenge that she has set herself, Catherine was involved in the ‘Twin Swim’ competition a few years ago with her sister Sarah who she lives with in their Enham bungalow. This challenge saw the two of them swim 30 lengths each (the same amount that Catherine swims for each training session!)

“Swimming is a great form of exercise, and I just really enjoy being in the water”

In total, Catherine has raised over £300 which will go towards the building of ten new bungalows for Weston Court residential homes so that others who share similar disabilities can live an independent life just like her and her sister, Sarah currently do.

It was a pleasure meeting and talking to Catherine, we look forward to seeing what her next challenge will be!