by Bianca Ohannessian
On the banks of Bray Lake, This Girl Can Festival brought dancing, stand-up paddle boarding and a BBQ to Monkey Island in Windsor. The third festival of its kind organised by 4Motion Dance teacher Elaine Macey, it invited girls of all ages (whether that be 16 or 61 years old) to get some fresh air, make new friends and get fit in the process.
If anyone can show how easy (and fun) it is to break the stereotype and reverse the trend that suggests boys are more athletic than girls, then these girls can; and they did.
Photo source: 4Motion Dance Theatre
I first met Elaine when we braved the choppy waters of the Solent as part of Swim2Bestival when we – yes, you guessed it – swam to Bestival together. The charity swim to the music festival on the Isle of Wight was one of several physical challenges Elaine had set herself that year. She now runs her own dance and yoga classes in Windsor, encouraging others to get active too.
If you’re not familiar with This Girl Can, or maybe you’ve seen the posters at bus stops but are not sure what it is, here’s a quick summary. It’s a national campaign created by Sport England, in collaboration with a few famous brands, to celebrate women being active up and down the country. It encourages girls to get outdoors, get fit and try new things.
Elaine explains, when This Girl Can approached her about running the festival, she thought to herself, “This is what we do! This is what we love to do!”
So that’s how we, the Rockskippers team, came to find ourselves kitted out in athleisure wear by the lake on Monkey Island one Saturday morning. There were no monkeys around, but here’s what went down.
The day kicked off with a waterside warm-up in the sunshine, as windsurfers glided by behind us and a group of wild swimmers jumped into the lake. Then we were split into groups and we started our schedule of activities with a dance class. The aerobic routines to upbeat dance tracks were geared for all levels, so everyone could join in together. It got our adrenaline pumping ready for the rest of the day.
Next up was SUP yoga. Practicing yoga on top of a floating paddle board is great for core strength as it makes your muscles work even harder than usual to balance. I’ve only ever done SUP yoga in the sea before, but the tranquil lake and lack of waves made it a really relaxing experience. With the gentle sway of the lake and the birds singing in the trees, everyone went away feeling very calm. And, surprisingly, we only witnessed one person falling off their board.
Stand-up Paddle Boarding
Our last activity of the day was some classic SUP action in a pretty, leafy corner of the lake. There were instructors on hand to help beginners get going (congrats to Alice for standing up on her board for the first time in true This Girl Can style). They also offered advice to help people master new moves, like step back turns. And all this while a family of swans watched on. You could tell they wanted to have a go too.
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