Last in the series we have Founder of AFA and Team Leader of the LAFA’s Nakita. Don’t forget to follow her on social media, check out the links below;
“I think the word for the last few weeks has been ‘organisation’”. For Nakita being organised when off duty with everything she is doing so she does not become bored and snack on everything as entertainment! Being accountable for her actions and a better visual of what she wants to achieve to make sure she is still putting in the training to maintain her strength and cardio.
“Slowly I feel like I am now too busy! I am trying once again to fit too much into my days. Maybe I am one of those people that work better under pressure? I just want to make the most of my time, even though I am incredibly guilty of an hour or two disappearing watching god knows what on TV! I have actually banned myself from watching boxsets during lockdown as it was far too easy to binge; before you realise, I’ve spent the whole day sat on the sofa! Not good.”
When Nakita went back to work about 4 days off it was always a bit overwhelming for the first few hours. Seeing people, talking to them face to face. Isolation can do funny things to you mentally; but it was something she got used to over time. She’s even back to enjoying my time on her own again like she used to.
“It’s always lovely if I get the chance to see any of the London team, I regularly have Nikki come over to drive the appliance I am in charge of. One day she was over and we had grand plans of doing a great gym circuit together. We had just managed to do some bench press and then the bells went down. We had been mobilised to a specialist incident which required urban search and rescue. After assessing the scene, I devised a plan. As a non-USAR operative, Nikki was brilliant, helping with everything she could! We didn’t get back to the station until around midnight. Was lovely to spend that time together.”
Nikki seems to be the route of all things fitness as she also nominated the whole team to run 5km for the NHS. Nakita had been really getting into her running, and had only recently run done her first 10km in years. So she was excited to get out, see how well she would do. She enjoyed it so much that she started running more and more. One day she even ended up running just over 10 miles which made her extremely proud and happy. As ever there was something to put a stopper in the improvement and Nakita rolled her ankle, breaking scar tissue on ligaments she had previously torn over 8 years ago.
This was the worst time to get an injury for, not only does she live on her own, but it meant she was also unable to go to work. To see any form of human contact was going to be extremely difficult. In addition to that, keeping fit was a big part of helping maintain her mental fitness too. Although she felt overwhelmed she knew she had to deal with it head-on. Firstly she had to give herself a chance to heal. Secondly staying happy and motivated was going to be key. Setting up a routine, not lying in bed, eating at regular times and actually not spending all day in my pj’s. Even better she could use this time to work on her press-ups! Silver linings and all that.
The team as always helped out and reminded her not to push herself and take her time. It paid off. After a week of rehabilitation Nakita was back to work.
Taking it easy to get back into training and being extremely cautious doing any long rungs but as far was she was concerned she was back out there and that was great.
“I don’t think I have trained so much, so i am grateful for lockdown. It has made me make the most of my time and stop thinking of tomorrow and start making the most of the present.”
Beci is next up, she has been balancing, being a mum and exercise over the last few months and none of us envy the home schooling…!
Lockdown has been really heavily focused on ensuring the children keep on top of their schoolwork and that the whole family get exercise. Often Beci would tyre pull while Matt runs and the kids were on their bikes. She also found she needed to ensure she stayed on top of the housework more so than ever; that meant sharing the space much more than usual. For Beci a messy house has a really negatively impact on her mental health.
“We’ve managed some socially distanced bike rides and walks with friends and family which has been amazing for us all. I also LOVED the cake ultra and getting to see the other WAFAs.
I treated myself to aNordic track trainer that I know will make training at home so much easier… I can even homeschool from it. Multitasking is a MUST!”
AFA training has been a huge motivator to get out and be busy even on the days Beci could happily have stayed in bed. Routine has been key, planning days and prioritising “Beci time” exercising.
“I’m in awe of the other AFAs and I don’t want to fall behind. Norway in January is getting so close and feels much more real now lockdown is easing.”
Alison is next up and her social media is one to watch;
Since lockdown started life has changed quite a lot for Alison. From suddenly being in work every day to remote working from home in the first few weeks. The first challenges she had to overcome were internet problems and the use of video conferencing for meetings. The internet and phone reception in her house has always been rubbish, and with all meetings being video conference meant it just kept dropping out or no one could hear her and sometimes not even see her! We’ve all been there right? It became very frustrating and stressful which led to arguments with her husband as Alison insisted in turning all wi-fi gadgets off when she was on VC, but that was no help. She was eventually assisted by another member of our executive leadership team who is very knowledgeable on ‘tech’ and ended up upgrading her internet and broadband service which has been a godsend.
“Another pressure was trying to keep my Mum’s spirits up as she is a widow and lives alone and also lives with cancer. Luckily with the kind weather her large gardens kept her pretty much occupied but she missed seeing all of us, her friend’s and going out which she does every day. So organising a rota of grandkids phoning and me in touch every day was a priority. We took her over a Sunday lunch each week and left it on the doorstep and it has been much easier now that we can meet in gardens in Wales.”
Quizing over Zoom became a weekly occurrence with her friends and a few late nights and sore heads the next morning! It has been great for Alison to catch up with the other Fire Angels on Zoom and keeping in touch with the world via social media too.
Like the rest of us, being in the house so much gave her a bit of time to sort through cupboards, clothes and catch up on a few things we always say ‘that can wait until next weekend’. Staying home has also made Alison think differently about the amount of clothes she owns and buys normally and the fact that some of it doesn’t come out of the wardrobe on a regular basis.
“I have bought some more training gear as some days I have been doing 3 short sessions to mix it up a bit. I seem to spend most of my day in this sort of gear.”
Alison also treated herself to a second hand track ski machine on Ebay to help with her training. On warm days she moves it out to the garden. She even skied for 2hrs 30 mins recently! To help improve her flexibility Alison has been doing three sessions of yoga a week, and as she couldn’t go to my normal gym she has been doing online sessions of high intensity training and following Nikki’s plans that she’s pulled together for the team. It seems that the whole country is getting fit as trying to find any kettlebells has been impossible online, however she did strike lucky with some dumbbells.
“Over the last month I have been in work a bit more and we have been taking it in turns to go in and we are still able to use the headquarters gym which has been great. We have to clean every item of kit we use as soon as we finish it and maintain social distance in there and everyone has complied with that.”
There has of course been tyre dragging when lockdown eased slightly in Wales but the highlight of training was Team WAFA doing the 32miles of Cake Ultra. It’s the first time Alison had trained with anyone in over three months. Lots of lessons learned from taking too much cake in her rucksack, too much water, too many clothes and wearing new trainers along with realising how important it is to fuel correctly as you go. She can’t wait to go again.
“I have found the last few months really life changing and I have liked spending more time at home with my husband. I can’t wait to see the children and the grandkids and have a barbeque in the garden with friends. Sometimes the simple things in life are the best.”
I hope you’re enjoying these little insights of the guys in lockdown because next up is Bex from Team LAFA. As always, social media links below;
Lockdown has been pretty busy for Bex!
She has spent a lot of it training, and been lucky enough to continue her weights training at the gym at work. At home she trained in the garden with Kirsty, her partner, which was great fun for both of them as they don’t often get to train together. They did a lot of circuits using all kinds of things from the garden shed!
And where would we be without some tyre dragging? Bex has been doing the tyre dragging regularly and made it to 10km. The Epsom Downs near where she was living were perfect for it with the different terrains and of course the view really helped!
Having a dog has been great company for them and also meant they got out walking. Poor George has never been walked so much! Take a look at him being carried by Bex in this picture.
“Work was quite strange over lockdown, driving around central London seemed like something from a zombie apocalypse film, it was eerily quiet. I also got put through an emergency driving course at work, which I passed, so I am now a qualified driver at work!” We are super proud of Bex for that achievement, I bet there are a lot of us reading this who would want to drive a fire engine?!
And as if all of that wasn’t enough Bex and Kirsty, and of course George, also moved house. The whole process was a slightly different feeling to normal during lockdown due to social distancing, but it still went pretty smoothly for them all.
Add in Bex and Kirsty doing a food bank collection at the start of lockdown in their village, VE day celebrations and a birthday it’s been a busy time. Check out the picture of Kirsty in their trusty van with the food ready to go.
The birthday I mentioned was Bex; “I had my birthday during lockdown which was actually lovely, I had a nice walk and then takeaway and Prosecco in the garden!” What more could you want from a lockdown birthday?
And of course, Bex joined in with the rest of us in celebrating VE Day “which was a great and fun day; socially distancing on the drive with the neighbours drinking Pimms and eating afternoon tea.” I don’t know about you but I think Bex has had a busy time in lockdown but also managed to have some lovely moments, given the crazy circumstances we find ourselves in.
Now you’ve all caught up with George and her lockdown life, next up is Nikki from the LAFA’s. I’ve put her social media links below so be sure you’re following her;
For Nikki her biggest worry at the beginning of lockdown (aside from not being able to go to the gym) was how bored she was going to get. “I can’t bear being bored; it turns me into a different person, like the less I do the less I want to do and I hate it. Its a horrible restlessness and I just stare at the walls not knowing what to do with myself!”. To prevent this Nikki puts measures in place early on, she was armed with puzzles, paint by numbers and colouring books and of course good old Harry Potter on her kindle. The irony is that actually the Antarctic training and admin has kept her so busy enough that her paint by numbers is lying only half finished in my spare room! Check it out below, I think that is pretty good progress so far.
Since lockdown has eased slightly Nikki has been visiting (all 4 of) her parents and sister to have BBQs in the garden. She of course takes her own crockery and everything to limit contact; it has been super lovely for her to see them even if she can’t have a hug just yet!
Nikki feels she has really thrived at work and genuinely cherished being able to go to the fire station. Not only does it mean that she only has to spend a maximum of 3.5 days in her flat in a row but it also means she gets to interact with human beings again whilst still feeling like she is contributing to society during the most uncertain of times. A very small victory for Nikki is that her flat is so sunny she can actually sunbathe in the lounge without going outside!
She also recently went to visit her colleague’s family farm, Nikki’s favourite part were the baby pigmy goats and in her own words “this was literally so so good for the soul”. A big thank you to Emily for letting Nikki visit, and yes, all social distancing rules were met, although not with the goats as you can see by the picture!
“Surprisingly my motivation for training hasn’t really wavered (aside from a couple of days here or there). I’ve realised just how much I use exercise for my mental health – when I train in the morning it shapes my day; makes me feel great and gives me more motivation to get productive and smash through my to-do list. It’s because of this I’ve probably been over-training and not giving my body sufficient rest, but I see it as looking after my head!”
For Nikki it’s all about having a plan to follow so she has been planning her week out and sticking to it, even working out in her lounge which she would never usually do but it seems to be working out for her!
Over the coming weeks each blog post will be a little update from each Antarctic Fire Angel all about what they have been up to over the last few months in lockdown. I don’t just mean the relentless training hours that these guys are putting in but also a little insight in to what else they’ve been up to.
First up is co-founder of the team and leader of the WAFA’s George. Don’t forget to follow her on social media, links below…click, click!
“Initially during the first stages of lockdown, the main concern was staying as safe as possible in work which in turn meant keeping my partner safe, who thankfully works from home the majority of the time anyway. It was a very uncertain time in work, no one has ever had to deal with anything like this before so decision making was dynamic to say the least. As long as I did everything I could before coming home after each shift I was happy (ish!).”
Once home, lockdown looked very different for George. She is lucky enough to live in the country and have fields and footpaths at the bottom of her garden, this meant that she was one of the few people able to keep doing normal activities during these uncertain times. Whilst adhering to the social distancing rules she managed to walk the dogs, pull her tyres, go for runs and also have room to exercise in the garden. Even though we were only allowed out once a day George made the most of it; walking the dogs and pulling the tyres became the norm and when people saw her without them they often asked where the tyres were! If you see her around don’t forget to say hello, from the correct social distance of course.
Although George has a very close family they are also very independent from each other so not seeing or speaking to them for a while is completely normal, meaning this hasn’t been such a huge change for her on top of the very bizarre world we find ourselves in at the moment.
As we know, because we all follow the team on social media right?, they are training harder than ever at the moment and taking advantage of extra time when they have it. George also managed to sell her bikes which has allowed her to buy a Garmin Fenix 5x watch, according to George this watch is a “game changer!” so she is super happy with that purchase. Training has gone very well during lockdown, lots of energy is now focused on keeping fit and less around going to meetings and schools for presentations etc. Naturally with more Zoom meetings and not so much travel time involved it means that the days have naturally become more efficient for George, as she says; “That’s me though, if I had children, that would obviously be a very different story.”
But as lockdown slowly eases there are big questions about going back to some sort of normality and how this will change up the routine each and every one of us has become used to. “One fear I have now is less focus on training and diverting that energy to other things as before, I’ve enjoyed the time I’ve had to totally focus on me, rather selfishly really but, we must divert some of that now to fundraising otherwise, what’s the point right?!”
This video from Caryn L Cox, an NHS consultant, was super early on in this journey and every now and then George watches it and reminds herself that even during the early stages the team were reaching people far and wide.
This is an adventure of a lifetime and it the teams message will reach far and wide.
As you might remember the last post was Team LAFA’s response to Jenna’s question, this time it’s Team WAFA’s turn. Enjoy!
I wanted to take a moment and say how inspiring you all are. I work in EMS and am deciding whether to do nursing or fire. I am naturally petite and honestly the idea of being a female firefighter is so amazing to me but also so intimidating. Normally that would motivate me to have to do it, but for some reason I feel myself holding back. Is there any advice or knowledge about being a female FF you could give me? Appreciate all you do! Stay safe. – Jenna
George – Ok, so first things first. We are all different but all equal. As a woman in the fire service, you will be the minority, right now that’s the reality, however, consider that the world is desperate for visible role models in every aspect of life. Be confident that you will be an inspiration to a lot of people, young and old out there who are probably feeling exactly the same as you. You are most certainly not alone in the way you feel.
I always say to people – set yourself up to succeed – do your research; meet the people you may be working with, be open minded and most of all manage your expectations. Not everyone you meet is going to be positive, there will always be those who can’t think outside their own norms but just remember that they are the ones who are missing out on the wonderful things life can show us. Someone like you smashing gender stereotypes, out there, every day, you will be one of those pioneers pushing the boundaries every day.
You CAN be a super hero AND be vulnerable too. Follow your heart and not what other people say you should be doing.
Alison – So I joined the fire service in 1995 and was the only female in the Service at that time. Below is our course photo and I thought I had better highlight where I was because I know quite a few people have found me hard to spot! I was 26 years old and quite slight.
The below photos of me shows when I recently took non uniform members of the senior management team into our hot fire training facility so that they can appreciate the conditions we sometimes have to face. I wanted to include these as wearing breathing apparatus is one of my favourite things and I still do my breathing apparatus requalification even though the likelihood of me having to go into a fire is very slim.
I worked at Cardiff Central for 9 years and it is one of the busiest stations in the whole of Wales so I was at that time pretty much wearing breathing apparatus on a at least two or three times a tour in house fires and factory fires. In those days our breathing apparatus sets were a lot heavier as the oxygen cylinders were made of steel. Sometimes we would be wandering around very large complex buildings responding to false alarms wearing these on our backs in case there was a fire in the building.
It’s amazing though that once you go from wearing it to donning the facemask and going under air that you don’t notice the weight of the kit once you are actually working at an incident. The adrenaline makes that all go away.
Beci – I decided I was going to be a firefighter when I was 2 years old. My dad was a retained firefighter (we call it on call now) and I loved visiting the fire station.
Here in the UK we have a TV show called “Fireman Sam” (it makes me sad they haven’t updated the name of the show 33 years late) anyway, I was obsessed with it as a child and wanted to grow up to be like Firefighter Penny Morris. I never diverted from that dream.
At 13 years old I was lucky enough to become a Fire Cadet at our local fire station. Not only did that experience cement my career goal, it gave me the confidence, guidance and role models I needed to apply when I was only 16 years old. Completing the tests and eventually station my whole time training course at 18 years old. I was 5”4’ and weighed 9st 4oz.
The first few shifts were terrifying. I was just out of school, only just old enough to go to the pub and now I was on a watch with some extraordinary firefighters and phenomenal leaders. I didn’t know if I’d be enough. But I got there and I adore my job. I’m as excited to get up and go to work now as I was as a toddler waving to fire engines as they went past; as excited as that fire cadet learning new skills and the 18 year old on their first shift.
The fire service is my second family. It’s allowed me more pride and happiness that I could have dreamed for. Go for it. You have nothing to lose and a lifetime of memories and friendships to gain.
As a bit of a shake up myself and the team went out on social media to see if anyone had any questions for us. A few we have answered directly but some needed a bit more detail and focus; having had a good think about their answers I’ve put some of it together for you to have a read as a mini blog. There will be more to come over the coming weeks and months but here are a few to keep you going…
Q1.In the toughest moments; what will each of you focus upon and draw upon to keep going?
Nikki – In tough moments I usually draw upon the mantra of ‘this too shall pass’. I think to myself ‘time will pass, this will end and at some point I’ll look back at this moment with pride’. It really does help!
Bex – Just knowing that I would have these moments and that I had trained 3 years for this would help me cope in those tough times. But also I would need a few moments of ‘me time’ to pull myself together, listen to a few good tunes and think about my family and how I wouldn’t want to let them down.
George – In my toughest moments, I bury myself in thoughts like; What I want today, to stop and go home, is different to what I want to achieve in the future; success and Antarctica resilience. Or I draw upon my favourite poem;
Self Pity by DH Lawrence I never saw a wild thing sorry for itself. A small bird will drop frozen dead from a bough without ever having felt sorry for itself.
Alison – In my toughest moments I will think of how lucky I am to be doing what I am doing and think of all the people less fortunate, or physically unable to take part in a challenge like ours. I often think of my father who passed just over 2 years ago and how proud he would have been to see me do this. He was always my biggest fan and encouraged me to try different things.
Beci – For me it will be the knowledge that every step forward is a step towards home. A step towards the person I want to become and the goal I want to complete. “So far you’ve survived 100% of your toughest days… you’re doing great”.
Nakita – I have been through some tough moments throughout my life. Each time I was determined not to let these negative and painful moments defeat me. I would beat this, I would come out stronger and wiser, with the knowledge to help those I saw going through similar situations.
When my brother was serving in Afghanistan it was an extremely difficult time for my family. Fear is a dangerous monster that if allowed, will consume you whole. We had given my brother a small card with a poem on to carry, to read when he needed it. I now have the exact card in a frame as I walk in the door. So what would you do if you had no fear? Me? I’m off to the Antarctic!
Don’t Quit by John Greenleaf Whittier When things go wrong as they sometimes will, When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill, When the funds are low and the debts are high And you want to smile, but you have to sigh, When care is pressing you down a bit, Rest if you must, but don’t you quit. Life is strange with its twists and turns As every one of us sometimes learns And many a failure comes about When he might have won had he stuck it out; Don’t give up though the pace seems slow— You may succeed with another blow. Success is failure turned inside out— The silver tint of the clouds of doubt, And you never can tell just how close you are, It may be near when it seems so far; So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit— It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.
Q2. What is your favourite book?
George – Johnathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach
Nikki – Harry Potter (all of them!)
Nakita – The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho
Alison – The Snowman by Jo Nesbo
Beci – I don’t have a favourite book. It’s impossible to choose just one but I am currently reading Motherhood by Tetyana Denford.
Bex – I don’t read books so don’t have one.
Q3. If you could have a superpower what would it be?
Bex – To be invisible.
George – If I told you I’d have to kill you. But probably something to do with the mind.
Alison – Being able to run at supersonic speed.
Nakita – Hmmm such a hard one! I’d like to be like Captain Marvel!
Nikki – Being able to fly.
Beci – Being able to fly but also to be totally badass with it like Captain Marvel.
Q4. What is your favourite film?
Alison – Pulp Fiction.
Nakita – The Fifth Element.
Bex – The Beach.
George – So many to chose from! Probably any Bond film or any Emily Blunt film.
Nikki – Home Alone.
Bex – It is really hard to choose just one. Can we split it into Genres? If I had to pick it would be Star Wars.
Q5. What is your guilty pleasure?
Nakita – Binge watching the Walking Dead.
Bex – Watching a place in the sun.
Alison – Watching First Dates. I love it! And my other one is Elvis.
George – Eating Turkish delight, in a oner.
Nikki – Twiglets…and most snacks!
Beci – Watching Call The Midwife. I love it; watching it feels like a hug.
Q6. How will you celebrate achieving your goal and who do you want there with you when you do and why?
Nakita – There is going to be a welcome home party which we will be having limited tickets for! Of course I want my immediate family (if possible my dogs!), my watch and close friends there and I guess Jay Morton from SAS Who Dares Wins seeing as he is trying so hard to find me on tinder…! I think eating all the foods we’ve missed and just being in something that isn’t expedition kit will be a real treat! It could possibly be the last time for a while we are all together as a team so I’d want to make the most of it, as I know after what we will have been through I will really miss them.
Alison – It would involve a day of pampering first; hair, nails and full body massage. Putting on a fabulous dress and a pair of high shoes (if my feet can take it). A party with curry and Indian food which I love. Dancing and drinking with my husband, family and friends and all those who’ve supported us. And if I could get an Elvis impersonator to sing that would be the icing on the cake….And then go and lie on a beach for two weeks.
Nikki – Obviously it’s got to be a massive party with everyone there, but I also think I’d like to follow that up with smaller dinners with just me and my loved ones, and I think my own personal celebration will be when all the hype has died down – a night all cosy in my flat with a glass of Prosecco in one hand and a tub of twiglets in the other, reflecting on what a mad journey it’s been.
George – I would want my partner there for sure in Punta Arenas and then to get back home asap to see the dogs and smother them in hugs! Party wise, yes exclusive invites from back home and of course sponsors, but considering I’m not someone who has a long list of pals, my invite list would be quite short!
Beci – I’ll want to see my husband and the kids on our return first and foremost. I think I’ll need quiet time to come back around to “normality” and do some reflection.When it comes to a celebration I’d want the other fire angels and all the wonderful people who have supported us to achieve that goal in whatever capacity at the party. And of course for there to be LOADS of food!
Rebecca – I would want a shower then to see my partner and have a beer, follow by seeing my dog! Then a party to see all my family and friends and eat the food I want and drink what I want.
We hope you enjoyed a little insight into the minds of our Antarctic Fire Angels with the above questions and a big thank you to those who asked then. There will be lots more to come so make sure you keep coming back!
To finish off, here is a little video treat from Nakita all about lockdown and what she is doing to help herself through it. Click on the picture to view.
Remember; stay in, protect the NHS and save lives.