Rugby League’s Sporting Star

George Milton Rugby

George Milton has recently been recognised by the Talented Athlete Scholarship Scheme (TASS) at their annual Star Awards.

From over 400 nominees George was listed as one of the three finalists for the ‘Most Committed’ TASS Star. The award is given to a TASS athlete who has shown dedication to both study and/or sport. This also includes excellent time management and balancing all level of demands from sporting and academic areas. With such tough competition being named as a finalist is a great achievement. There were so many fantastic nominations of such a high standard that George had to compete against.

George is currently studying Human Physiology and playing semi-professional Rugby League with the Bradford Bulls. He manages to do this whilst also playing for the university team as well as being their Club Captain. Juggling so many different commitments easily qualified George for a TASS Star. He has constantly achieved great results whilst meeting up to so many demands. From training to competition to full time education, George was recognised for his ability to thrive on the challenges that study and sport create.

We were delighted to see George walk away with the ‘Most Committed’ Star Award after such a challenging year. Here’s to another successful year for George and Rugby League!

Athlete of the Month: July

Athlete of the month

With the summer months rolling on a few of our athletes are getting more and more active. Training and competitions don’t stop for the holidays especially not for UOLBC’s Ben Arthur. He has been keeping up the hard work in preparation for the rowing squad selection come September. Since only starting the sport last year Ben has come a long way, competing at prestigious events such as Head of the River and BUCS Regatta. We caught up with him over summer to find out more about his training regime.

What’s your sport?

I row for the University of Leeds and I am on The British Rowing World Class Start Programme.

What is your training schedule?

I row out on the water five times a week, practising boat skills and completing a certain amount of mileage. I also do four sessions on the rowing machine and another three S&C sessions each week.

What S&C do you do?

My current programme involves a full body workout with around five different exercises. We focus a lot around explosive power and on the legs. However, rowing is a full body sport so I do a bit of everything working upper and lower body in my sessions. Olympic lifting has also recently been added to my programme in the form of introductory exercises such as block clean pulls. The S&C sessions I do are always finished with core workouts as well.

What is your favourite exercise?

My favourite exercise is Bench Pull. Because you are lying face down it allows you to just focus on the pull motion, isolating your back muscles.

What is your least favourite exercise?

Bulgarian Split Squats are probably my least favourite. Putting all my weight on one leg as well as balancing with dumbbells in each hand is really difficult. There are so many other little things you have to focus on which makes the squat process a lot harder.

How do you feel S&C has helped you develop as an athlete?

S&C has improved my performance in rowing through strengthening my levers and core. Levers are your legs and arms which you use to move the boat. A stronger core has allowed me to be more balanced when in the boat and maintaining an activated core is essential when rowing. In addition the Olympic lifting training has enabled me to be more powerful and explosive when rowing.

S&C’s Ben Warman, who has been training Ben Arthur over the past year, only had praise for his development:

“I have thoroughly enjoyed overseeing Ben’s athletic development so far. He has immersed himself into his land based training with a professionalism that is normally seen in athletes far older than himself. His inquisitive attitude and relentless commitment to strength training has allowed him to progress rapidly in a short space of time. Ben’s inclusion in the GB Start Programme is well deserved, and he has a bright future ahead of him as he progresses up towards senior squad selection.”

Strength and condition like a rower

Leeds Rowing

by Ben Warman

A 1500m running race will last ~3:30 – 5:00min. Picture a typical 1500m runner; slight, wiry and quick across the ground. Conversely, a 2km rowing race lasts between ~5:20 – 7:28min. Now picture a rower; tall, with a thick trunk and very well-developed leg and back muscles. Why the differences?

Although these are both endurance events of roughly similar duration, rowing has a unique strength demand. There is a need to overcome drag in the form of air and water resistance, and subsequently propel they must boat through the water. This means that whilst the rower still needs an excellent endurance base, they must spend significantly more time developing their strength than the runner. Additionally, a good rower must be able to coordinate their body into the positions of the perfect technical model. They then also have to be robust enough to deal with the high force and velocity loading that is characteristic of rowing training. It is therefore clear that strength and conditioning is important to rowers. These factors were all considered when planning the final training phase for the Senior Men’s 8+ in the lead up to Henley Royal Regatta. Here are 5 exercises that rowers follow…

1 – Clean High Pull

As the rower moves up the slide during the stroke, they must apply force through their feet. Whilst doing this they must maintain tension through their legs and trunk. Olympic lifting variations provide a great opportunity to challenge this skill. The movements of the 1st and 2nd pull are like that of the stroke. During the S&C sessions in the lead up to Henley, the first exercise the Senior Men’s 8+ did was an Olympic lifting variation, such as a Clean High Pull.

2 – Front Squats

Rowing is a whole-body, leg and hip driven activity. The rowers’ have therefore spent significant time perfecting their ability to squat heavy loads with excellent depth and technique. For example, the boys completed 5 sets of 5 reps of Front Squats on a 2 min rolling clock. This provided them with ~90s of rest between sets and represents 10 minutes of hard work.

Start Position

End Position

3 – Bench Pull

In addition to this, whilst most of the propulsion during the stroke comes from the lower-body, rowing also requires a contribution from the upper-body pulling muscles. The sessions also include an upper-body exercise such as a Bench Pull for another 5 sets of 5 reps.

Start PositionEnd Position

4 – Bulgarian Split Squats and Pull-Ups

The next section of the workouts involved a uni-lateral (one arm or one leg) and bi-lateral (both limbs) exercise, completed in a superset fashion. For example, 6 reps of Bulgarian Split Squats and Pull-Ups for 4 sets. These exercises act as accessory work to supplement the gains made through the aforementioned primary exercises, and to prevent any muscular imbalances occurring.

Split Squat and Pull Up position

5 – Core training

Finally, the rowers tackled a trunk training section, with a 25s:20s work:rest ratio. The exercises were chosen to ensure that the rowers’ trunks are strong in all planes of motion (i.e. both flexion/extension and rotation). Sesions often involved throwing and catching medicine balls to keep things interesting! This is important because during sweeping, a rower must flex and rotate their trunk to achieve a good catch position. This work was followed by 10min of drills to ensure that the rowers possessed the mobility to hit the positions of the technical model. We often targeted the hips and thoracic spine (mid back).

Russian Twist with med ball

Hopefully this blog has provided an insight into the training demands that a competitive rower faces, highlighting how rowers must develop anaerobic strength qualities through well organised S&C sessions, alongside a significant endurance training load.


Leeds Squash

In June, five Link to Leeds student ambassadors participated in a fun-filled week of health and fitness activities, here at The Edge. Working in partnership with Link to Leeds, this project was an exciting opportunity not only for the ambassadors but also for the Sport and Physical Activity team. We wanted to show the international student community all that is on offer to them during the holidays; although the majority of students have left campus, many international students stay here in Leeds for the Summer.

Haleemah, Victor, Ahmad, Daniela and Melina experienced a variety of fitness activities including; personal training sessions, badminton, squashbasketball, football, Zumbaballet fit, P90x, spinbox fit, kung fu, climbing, body pumpbeginners yoga, and the use of the Technogym machines within our state-of-the-art fitness suite. It was a fun-filled, jam-packed week that gave the ambassadors the opportunity to experience everything that The Edge has to offer.

By the end of the week I was amazed by everything that The Edge has to offer. It’s really easy to access the classes, the facilities and get materials to play sports Melina Rodriguez.

Link to Leeds is fantastic University scheme that encourages international students to share their experiences, adventures and activities with prospect international students. Take a look at the Link to Leeds social media accounts; Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, which are filled with daily stories, videos and pictures that captured every moment of the ambassador’s energetic week. Read more about their experiences through their blogs on the Link to Leeds website.

Find out more about Edge memberships, our short term summer promotion or more general sport, health and fitness opportunities at the University of Leeds.


The Boat Club Boy’s Henley Hopes

University of Leeds Rowing

A group of eight rowers and one cox from the University of Leeds have been putting their years worth training to the test.

Henley Royal Regatta is one of the most prestigious rowing events in the world attracting thousands of visitors every year. 2018 provides no exceptions with the third highest number of entries on record competing over five days. Over 100 international crews competed beside another 454 from across the UK, all searching for victory.

As visitors descended on the small town so did UOLBC in their bid for the Temple Challenge Cup. This particular event had 55 entries, from a whole range of clubs. Competition is incredibly tough with top crews from universities, colleges and schools all fighting for one of 32 places in the main event.  

After a successful early regatta season and a win at Peterborough Regatta the senior men’s squad have been working hard all year in preparation. 

With a crew made up from medics, mathematicians and engineers the boys had to work hard to fit their training in around exams and university life. Once the semester came to an end they threw themselves into full time training. One of the boys described the training:

‘It’s like a job but more work and more fun. We have to get up early most mornings to fit in a session before lectures and things start. Normally after a full day of uni we usually fit in another 1 or 2 shorter sessions in the afternoon to build up our fitness, working rowing specific muscles and improving our cardiovascular fitness. It’s great because we get to complete all our training as a team and that means there’s never a dull moment.’

With the whole crew committed to the Henley dream the rowers had been training three times a day. Working hard over the past few months the boys aimed to get into the best physical condition possible. To prepare they had been completing training out on the water at the boathouse to work on technique as well as working in our S&C Gryphon Room to improve their strength and mobility.

On the 23rd of June the team headed down Dorney Lake for Marlow Regatta to compete against other university crews in the Accademic 8+ category. Much of the competition they faced have been rowing from a very young age. However, half of our men’s crew has been formed by individuals only in their second or third year of rowing after having learnt at university. For these individuals to be competing at such a high level and standard of rowing is an outstanding achievement. Having the boys racing against other crews with many years of experience and practice there was going to be some tough competition.

The boys powered through their time trial to place them in the B Final, narrowly missing out on A Finals. Their final proved to be an exciting battle down the two kilometre course. With only milliseconds in it the boys managed to power through to finish in 1st place.

At this point the marshals had to make a decision on letting crews pre-qualify for Henley, meaning they avoid extra time trials the week after. However, they were particularly picky this year and so the boys stepped back to their training in preparation for their next race on the 29th of June which would make or break the Henley dream.

As qualifiers crept closer the boys got more and more anxious with only a few spaces left for the taking it was all to play for. They found themselves surrounded by 34 other eager crews that arrived from across the globe. Unfortunately, as the boys set off on their time trial the nerves began to get the better of them. Crews that Leeds had beaten only a week previously and throughout the season began to creep up the leader-board which unluckily for our boys meant they missed out on a place.

However it’s not all disappointment and frowns from the team as they still managed to have an amazing season. Coach Dan was proud of his team’s progress:

‘The club have done fantastically well to get this close to Henley. We have not been anywhere near the standard over the past few years so this is a great achievement for the boys. They should all be incredibly proud of their hard work. Seeing such strong development of the club and an increase in commitment, to what can be an incredibly challenging sport, is wonderful. I’m confident in the crew to make it further in the competition next year.’       


Students and staff volunteer in South Africa

South African student on a bike

This June ten University of Leeds students from a range of degree programmes and three staff members travelled to South Africa to volunteer in primary and secondary schools.

Over two weeks the Gryphons Abroad team made an impact on nearly 200 South African students lives over two projects.

Cycle to Success

The first project took place at Mnyakanya High School, in one of the poorest regions of South Africa where the team taught 30 students, both male and female how to ride and maintain bikes.

Frankii Darko, Gryphons Abroad student said,

“The cycle to success week of the trip has been amazing. To see students who had never been on a bike cycle by themselves and know how to fix them when something went wrong after only three days of teaching is pretty unbelievable!”

Read Frankii’s full blog here.

english student teaching african student to ride a bike

The team worked with Security Services and the Sustainability Bike Hub team to ship over eighteen recycled bikes which were refurbished after being abandoned on campus last year, as well as the tools and spare parts needed to fix the bikes when needed.

By the end of the week all students could ride a bike, most of which had never been on a bike before and nine students had all the skills and knowledge of road signalling to cycle on the main road.

south african fixing bikes and smiling

The skills the students have learnt are invaluable and many of them have already used the bikes to get to and from school, which for some was previously a two hour walk each way. The South Africa school teachers also spoke about the impact of the project on the students’ motivation, confidence and desire to succeed, and how the bikes were being used in the community,

“It’s not only the school that is benefiting from these bikes, it’s also the community. Learners who have learnt these skills are now showing others how to do it at the weekend. They learn a lot doing this project, they become motivated and go on to be something outside of the community.”

Inspire through sport and leadership

The second week of the project saw 160 South African primary school children learn a range of skills based around leadership, sport and education.

south african students playing cricket

The Gryphons Abroad team each led a classroom session based around their degrees, where everything from maths to mental health was taught. They also played a range of sports throughout the week as well taking part in leadership sessions where the South African students learnt the key skills needed to be a great leader such as, communication, organisation and planning.

male english stuident teaching South African students

The week culminated in the South African children leading activities of their own and putting what they had learnt into practice.

Finally on the last day the team went to a Zulufadder Orphanage where they got to meet and play with children who had lost their parents and were being looked after by an older sibling.

The trip was a huge success and has had a huge impact on both the students from the University of Leeds as well as the students from South Africa.

Watch the video and find out how you could be involved next year on the Gryphons Abroad Webpage.

The Gryphons Abroad project is run at part of the Bambisanani Partnership Charity.

Teaching South Africans to cycle

Gryphons Abroad

It has been an absolute honour to be a part of the Gryphons Abroad project this year!

The cycle to success week of the trip has been amazing. To see students who had never been on a bike cycle by themselves and know how to fix them when something went wrong after only three days of teaching is pretty unbelievable!

The children were all really friendly and to see how determined they were to learn was very inspiring.

group of south african students and leeds students smiling with bikes

I spent the majority of my week with the beginner group and you could how much progress the kids made in such a short amount of time. Our group shrank when more and more of them advanced to the intermediate and advance groups. I asked one girl whether she wanted to take a short break from peddling practice and she said,

“No, we must carry on”!

This was definitely a highlight of my day.

The children kept us on our toes the whole time and they definitely weren’t afraid to share their culture with us mid cycle session. If they weren’t teaching us a traditional Zulu dance, they were teaching us how to count to ten in Zulu. All of which I’ll remember for life.

It’s been an amazing experience! I’m proud to say I helped teach 30 kids how to ride a bicycle in just a few days. I am however even prouder to say that a group of 30 kids have taught me more than I could have ever imagined. I discovered the perseverance the children had as well as the importance of Zulu culture in those same couple of days!

Find out more about the Gryphons Abroad project and how you could be a part of it on the Gryphons Abroad webpage.

Active staff and students have greater sense of wellbeing

woman doing yoga

In March the Sport and Physical Activity Service conducted the annual Balancing Life Survey to find out a bit more about the activity and wellbeing levels of staff and students on campus.

One of the most stand out findings from the survey was that the more active our staff and students are, the greater their sense of wellbeing.

Suzanne Glavin, Head of Sport and Physical Activity said,

“It’s great to see the steady progress and an increasing awareness across University of the role physical activity can, and does play in the health and wellbeing of all staff and students, as shown through these the Balancing Life Survey results.”

The full results showed that 74% of our student and staff population are active which means they are doing at least 2.5 hours of physical activity each week.

75% of University staff are physically active and that’s 8% higher than the average for the national working population which is great news. Although only 73% of our students are physically active which is 4% less than the average higher education population.

The results also highlighted that over half of the activity people take part in either takes place on campus or is organised by the university. This supports the importance of programmes and activities provided by the university for staff and students to take part in, and the role they play in supporting campus wellbeing. This ranges from the onsite fitness facilities at The Edge to the Get Out, Get Active programme, Social Leagues and much more.

Suzanne Glavin said,

“We are committed to continuing the work we do through valued existing and newly forming collaborations to help people become more regularly active. We also know that there is more to do as we reach out to more faculties, schools and professional departments to help us support this agenda for students and colleagues alike.”

You can read the full results of the survey online here.