Fancy getting fit the fun way?

IF you saw the fun of Spring Into Summer last year and would have loved to take part - now's your chance! The Evening Star's 12-week activity programme is back for 2006, led by features editor TRACEY SPARLING.

By Tracey Sparling

IF you saw the fun of Spring Into Summer last year and would have loved to take part - now's your chance! The Evening Star's 12-week activity programme is back for 2006, led by features editor TRACEY SPARLING.

DO you want to get fit, but have fun at the same time?

After the success of Spring Into Summer in 2005, we are launching a bigger and better version this year for people who usually steer well clear of the gym!

The Evening Star's 12-week sports programme - in association with the Swallow Belstead Brook Hotel and Ipswich Borough Council - will run from March to June.

The aim is to give you not just the chance to lose weight - it is to offer people who would never otherwise sign up for a gym, the chance to try new sports to inspire a healthy lifestyle. Spring Into Summer will bring an event every week, for the lucky 20 readers who are chosen to be in the squad.

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The events remain a closely-guarded secret, only to be revealed on the day. Last year they included orienteering, aqua aerobics, archery, the high wire forest challenge at Go Ape! in Thetford Forest, running and cycle speedway. Some of the most popular activities from last year will be included this time, plus a host of new surprises.

All the events are designed for beginners, and will be held in the evenings and on some weekend mornings, so that people who work fulltime can take part.

There will be tips and support from the experts, and the camaraderie of a squad of others in the same situation.

Fitness instructors from the leisure club at Swallow Belstead Brook Hotel will be on hand in case you have any questions throughout the course. As a bonus this year, the hotel is also giving every squad member a voucher for a free swim every week, so they can keep fit between sessions.

Leisure club manager John Moody said: "Our team is looking forward to springing into summer with the Evening Star's squad. It will be a lot of fun, and hopefully give the people involved an incentive to continue on the road to a healthier lifestyle."

Our other partner for the programme is Ipswich Borough Council which will host events at sports centres across Ipswich. Head of sport Steve Kemp said: “We are delighted to be involved in the Spring into Summer promotion again. Our aim is to try and get more people active, and this promotion offers people an opportunity to try a variety of sports that they enjoy, and encourages them to participate more regularly leading to a healthier lifestyle.”

Today's launch comes as the Evening Star continues to feature Everyday Sport, Sport England's project to get people to add extra activity in to their daily lives which is also being championed by the council.

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Anyone over 18, from any walk of life is invited to apply for Spring Into Summer, including anyone who took part last year and loved it so much you'd sign up again, or missed out last year.

If you would like to take part, please fill in this form and return it to Tracey Sparling by February 20.

The 20 squad members chosen by a panel including Star editor Nigel Pickover, will be notified by February 24. All we ask is that if you win a place, you do your best to attend all the sessions because ongoing team spirit is what makes this programme special.

Rest assured that if you are not successful this time, you will find tips on you can try the activities our squad tests out, in our weekly reports.

Many said it provided the kick start they needed to get fit

Weight loss for many

One took up running and applied for London Marathon

One joined a netball team after trying basketball

About half joined a gym

Two took up weekly swimming

“Spring into Summer more than exceeded my expectations. It was more than that. The challenges were well beyond my wildest dreams.

“I cannot express enough what this has done for me; more than 20 loyal friends, my weight loss has been steady and my fitness has improved. Without the team's support I don't think I would have succeeded as well,” said Tina White, from Vicarage Road, Felixstowe, squad winner in 2005 who won a year's membership to Swallow Leisure Club.

“I had the time of my life doing Spring Into Summer, doing things I never dreamed I would do, and was thrilled - although apprehensive at the time! - to be lucky enough to be chosen” said Gwen Steele, from Tattingstone.

“I didn't know what to expect but I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. It's given me a kick start to getting fit. It has encouraged me and my wife to try an introductory period at the gym,” said David Jones from Ranelagh Road, Ipswich.

“I didn't realise there were so many fitness activities available - all of which I had never tried,” Dawn Baker, from Coral Drive, Ipswich.

“It was well organised, with a variety of exercises, activities and venues. I have started to lose weight and now have a routine of exercising twice a week and have met a great bunch of people. I think Spring Into Summer has a good formula,” said Lorinda Hall from Faulkeners Way, Trimley St Mary.

This year the programme will be bigger and better, because there will be a focus on food as well as fitness.

We have a team of dietitians from Ipswich Hospital giving advice.

Kathryn Sutton and Angela Street will give talks and tips on how to improve your diet, and together with colleagues they will analyse your food diaries to point out your pitfalls.

Chief community dietitian Kathryn said: “Diet and physical activity go hand in hand as part of a healthy lifestyle. Making changes to your diet which include having regular meals, eating more fruits and vegetables and drinking more water will help you to have the energy you need to become more active."

She added: “You only need to eat an extra 100 kcals per day for five weeks to gain 1lb of fat!”

The team will teach our squad why they eat certain things and how to change for the better, how can to compare different versions of the same food by their labels, and how to balance your food intake to your energy needs.

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