Imogen is a Dental Surgery student and the captain of our kickboxing club. She also competes at an international level and is part of the University’s High Performance squad. Despite this she has made sure that the kickboxing club is an environment where you can turn up as a complete novice and learn new skills.
Imogen suffers from alopecia and blogs about her experiences. She didn’t let her hair loss get in the way of her sport and went on to win three different British titles in the latest kickboxing season.
Sport and Student Development Officer Alyx Murray-Jackman caught up with Imogen to find out more:
What inspired you to get involved in kickboxing?
When I was in primary school I absolutely loved watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer on TV. She was my female idol and I always wanted to learn martial arts because of her!
What was the first sport you got into, and were there any challenges you came across?
I've always been very into hockey and was even Captain at county level when I was 14. Although I loved the team sport atmosphere, I wanted to focus on my martial arts training.
The first martial art I did was Tae Kwon Do. My Tae Kwon Do instructor also taught kickboxing classes which I began for fitness and that ended up being my main discipline. Being so sporty at school was sometimes a challenge, but I always prioritised academics when necessary.
Do you find it hard to get up and go to training sometimes?
With studying dentistry it can be really hard to balance training and University. Sometimes after a long day in surgery I just want to rest. Saying that, I know when my body needs a rest and when I'm just being lazy. If I find myself losing motivation to train, I think up new goals.
Are there any stages at which you get nervous while you are competing?
Every single time. I've always doubted my own ability in everything I do; I feel it is more a personality trait than actually not being able to fight and win. I try and channel it. I always have an iPod or something to read at a competition so my mind is focussed on something else whilst I'm waiting to fight. Having a good music playlist is essential!
When someone asks for a training tip what do you tell them?
Train hard, fight easy!
What do you think about the This Girl Can campaign from Sport England?
It's brilliant. Sometimes being active doesn't look too 'pretty'. I think some people worry about looking red, sweaty or out of place. The campaign motivates women to get stuck into exercise, release your inhibitions and have a cracking time doing it.
Is there another way to keep active that you enjoy? And why is that so fun?
I love going to the gym. It's a chance for me to train at my own pace on areas I think need working on. After a recent foot injury my cardio fitness isn't great. I still can't run on a treadmill due to the soreness, so I'm taking it slow and using the cross trainer instead. I'd like to start CrossFit when I'm feeling stronger - I love the thought of ramping my fitness up to the next level and doing something different to achieve that.
“I love getting a sweat on; it proves to me that I’m working!”
Nobody likes doing the same boring routine on a treadmill; enjoying your exercise is key I think. I've been to a few pole dancing classes and they were great fun. Having said that, it gave me more bruises than a 3-hour sparring session. Not as easy as I had initially thought!
What is the best thing about taking part in sport and being active?
It helps me feel better in myself. Exercise, training, my team mates, competing - it's all an outlet for internal stresses. I love getting a sweat on; it proves to me that I'm working! I have also met some incredible people through my sport and been to some fantastic places to compete. However, your sport doesn't have to take you across the world; meeting like-minded individuals and making some great friends is the real winner.
Do you enjoy watching any other women’s sports?
I often catch up with kickboxing fights on YouTube. When big events, (such as athletic games, the Olympics, marathons, Wimbledon) are broadcast on TV I will always watch the women as well as the men. I don't know why anyone wouldn't.
What advice would you give to women who would like to get active but aren't sure how to start?
Do it for yourself. There's no point starting something because someone tells you to do it. Find something that interests you - whether it be walking, swimming, cycling or pole dancing! Being motivated is the first step to personal goal success.