In an effort to keep everyone together during the COVID-19 lockdown, the Northern Panthers Women’s team are running their second, virtual 6-week fitness challenge.
Organised by the team’s Head Coach, Silei Poluleuligaga, the challenge boasts a membership base of 20 participants ranging from past and present players to the club’s most loyal supporters and dedicated volunteers who come together in their private Facebook page to upload their workouts and share their meal plans.
Whilst some joined the challenge to achieve personal weight goals, others signed up to maintain their fitness during the off season. Regardless of their initial motivations, all participants reportedly experienced positive physical and mental changes brought on by this new, healthier lifestyle.
The first instalment deemed a huge success, so much so that they begged Silei to run another.
“Everyone lost weight at the end of the [first] challenge and learned about achieving healthy nutrition and maintaining active lifestyles which was new too many of us” says Liana Pritchard, challenge participant and Northern Panthers 10.
But these results come as no shock to Liana, as she describes the gruelling weekly fitness plans.
“They usually comprise of 2 days of cardio which can be anything from repetitive sprinting or long distance running, such as running 100m twenty times (total of 2km) to 2 days of strength and core which could be a circuit focusing on the whole body or a set of exercises with a certain number of repetitions,” said Liana.
“And the last session is normally a bonus session which is optional. This could be either strength or cardio, but a lot of our workouts are made in accordance to what we’d do on the rugby field. For instance, we do a lot of burpees or sprawls and a lot of up downs are included in our cardio sessions.”
Halfway through their second challenge, the women remain motivated and continue to strive towards their individual goals.
Checking in on each participant and how they are tracking, Silei often asks the women how they are feeling, what their nutrition is like and how their energy levels are, prioritising the women’s’ health and wellbeing above all else.
Liana credits Silei wholeheartedly for their new found outlook on health and fitness.
“We can’t thank our coach enough for helping us reach our goals that at one point seemed unachievable,” said Liana.
"It’s not just Silei who offers participants support, the team care for one and other and cheering each other on week in, week out."
Every Sunday, Silei posts the weekly training session plan and then asks the participants to video themselves doing the exercises and upload it to their closed Facebook page.
“The content sharing not only helps to keep ourselves accountable but also motivates others to get up and get going," said Liana.
"Once you see one person going out to get it done, it pushes you to get up off the couch.”
Desperately missing playing rugby and the camaraderie of trainings, the challenge has brought the team back together and has ensured that they stayed connected, albeit virtually, during this unprecedented time of no community rugby in Victoria.
“Normally we’d train twice a week and play on Saturdays, so you get a lot of contact time with the team," said Liana.
"I think in lockdown I really started to miss that environment, especially the laughs.
“This challenge has helped us immensely with dealing with isolation. It has definitely reminded us of what it felt like when all of us come together to achieve a common goal. Last year it was wanting to win the cup, this year it’s wanting to be the healthiest version of ourselves.”
Proud of their efforts, both individually and but also collectively, Liana reflects on the challenges.
“It’s amazing to see the effort the women put in week in and week out," Liana said.
"It’s almost like a rugby game - you see someone putting in the hard yards on the field it makes you want to work harder for your sister.”
Anxiously anticipating the 6th and final week, in just 3 weeks’ time, the participants will come together on zoom one last time to reveal their individual mental and physical transformations, where Silei will crown the challenge winner.
Last season, the Northern Panthers were crowned runners up in the 2019 Lindroth Cup competition, being narrowly defeated by Power House. Are these 6-week challenges the motivation the Panthers need to go one better in 2021? Only time will tell…