Lizzie Wood moved to Townsville about 18 months ago, teaches Year Six at Townsville Grammar School and recently started cycling after a persistent knee injury stopped her playing touch football. But something that her students, new friends and training buddies wouldn’t realise is that Lizzie played for England’s Women’s Open Touch Football Team in 2010, and was one of the key players to see the outfit claim the European Championships and win the entire European Series that year. Lizzie still feeds her love of the sport through coaching, but has also discovered other ways to stay active and enjoy Townsville’s outdoor lifestyle, as we found out.
“We took the field as a team, stood side-by-side with Wales as we sung the national anthem, and then it was game on!”
What are you doing to stay active at the moment? I’ve taken up road cycling. It was something that I discovered last year after realising that my knee injury wasn’t going to improve and I needed to find a sport that was low impact. In addition to riding, I’ve started adult swimming classes and yoga once a week. I have really tried to embrace a different active lifestyle to what I’ve been used to in the past. In saying that, touch football is still a significant part of my life. I manage two adult teams on Monday and Wednesday nights, while also refereeing. I then coach a junior girls team on Wednesday and Friday nights.
What activity makes you the happiest and why? Touch football has always made me the happiest. I have grown up playing it from the age of nine. It’s a team sport that builds a positive sense of sportsmanship, teamwork and camaraderie; as well as a healthy sense of competitiveness.
How did you discover it? I was initially introduced to touch football through primary school sport in Year Four, as a lot of children are nowadays. Soon after, my parents then put me, as well as my siblings, into club touch on the weekends.
“Whether it’s a walk on The Strand, a bike ride, relaxing in the park, or walking the hill — anything that makes the most of the beautiful weather and can be followed by a coffee!”
Have you always been active? Yes, I have always been very active! I am one of six kids and, from a very young age, our parents gave us the opportunity to take part in whatever sports we desired. I don’t know how they kept up with all the driving around from swimming to netball, to league to touch to athletics, followed by our music lessons.
What’s your greatest fitness achievement? It is undoubtedly making the England Women’s Open Touch Football Team in 2010 [Lizzie’s surname was then Martens]. I had been living in the UK since 2006, working in a school. I coincidentally met some locals who told me about their ‘touch’ comp (I didn’t realise that touch was played in the UK).
As I got to know these people and played touch with them, I was soon invited to trial for England (you had to be a permanent resident in the country). I went through three stages of trials, before finally making the training squad in 2009, and then taking part in the 2010 European Championships hosted in Bristol, UK. It was an amazing experience!
I was training every second weekend in London (a two-hour drive from where I was living), and then, as a team, we travelled to Bristol. The England Women’s Open team were reigning champions in Europe, so the pressure was on! The comp ran over four days and included up to 10 games against the likes of Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Spain, France, Portugal and Germany.
We made it undefeated into the finals and took out the Grand Final winning 2-1 against Wales. England as a whole won the European Series that year. I remained in the squad in 2011 and was due to play in the World Cup in Scotland that year, but a few life events resulted in me not playing. Firstly, I was advised to try to ‘save’ my knee by slowing down with touch, and — secondly — my now-husband proposed so I was excitedly planning our French wedding!
Most memorable active moment? The 2010 European Championship final! I have never been so nervous in my life. We took the field as a team, stood side-by-side with Wales as we sung the national anthem, and then it was game on! I was part of the starting six, so no hiding on the sideline for me! The nerves lasted for the full game as the score remained at 1-1 until the final 10 minutes!
What activity have you always wanted to try (and what’s holding you back)? It’s a common one, but I want to skydive. What’s holding me back? Too many movies and documentaries where things just go wrong! I think I’d be one of those unlucky people!
Are you a morning or afternoon mover? I will admit that I was always more of an afternoon mover: I would train in the afternoons and play competitive matches in the evenings or on weekends. Now that I’m shifting away from playing team sport (only still coaching/reffing), I am now appreciating mornings. It feels great to get up and know that my exercise is done by 8am and I can get on with my day.
What’s your favourite thing to do on a weekend in Townsville? I just love to get outside with my husband [Freddie]. Whether it’s a walk on The Strand, a bike ride, relaxing in the park, or walking the hill — anything that makes the most of the beautiful weather and can be followed by a coffee!
Your most motivating tune? Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Everybody’s free to wear sunscreen’. This isn’t motivational because of the tune within the song, but most importantly because of the lyrics and the messages it portrays.
Motivational quote? It’s from the above-mentioned sunscreen song: “Get plenty of calcium, be kind to your knees — you’ll miss them when they’re gone!”. This song often helps me to prioritise how I’m feeling, how to deal with situations, and the actions I take.
How do you pep yourself up when you’re craving the couch? I am very good and telling myself that, if I exercise each day, then I can enjoy my glass of wine or block of choccy in the evening!
Do you prefer to get active solo, or with a buddy? I love getting active with a buddy or group of people! I thrive off conversation and exercising with others. This helps to keep me motivated and enjoy my active, outdoor lifestyle!
Most annoying fitness fad? The two-week Kellogg’s diet plan! Yes, I did take part in it once! Two out of your three daily meals need to be a bowl of cereal… then watch the weight drop off!
What’s something we don’t know about you? I am always fashionably late! I like to cram in as much as possible into any space of time.
What’s your next goal? A personal fitness goal would be to take part in a cycling tour next year with my husband. Whether that be at home or abroad, we are not sure yet. I also want to team-up and take part in a Half Ironman in 2016. Coaching wise, I have been coaching the Townsville U12 girls touch team for the past two years. Next year I am aiming to coach the next level in representative touch.
What are you doing to get there? My husband has recently taken up cycling, which is fantastic! It’s a lot easier to get out of bed in the mornings when you do it together. This means we are both cycling more frequently with friends — up to four times a week.
“Of course, as I pulled up in front of these riders, I leaned towards them to say ‘hi’, and totally forgot to clip out of my pedals…”
Most embarrassing moment on the go? It would have to be a cycling moment, particularly as it’s a new sport for me. I have invited myself along to a few different riding groups around Townsville since starting to ride. One particular Thursday morning I was rolling up along The Strand to meet with three men who I didn’t know. Of course, as I pulled up in front of these riders, I leaned towards them to say ‘hi’, and totally forgot to clip out of my pedals. So I fell straight on the floor in front of them. I’m sure they had their reservations about riding with me after that!
Who would you most like to train with (e.g. famous person, or someone you look up to)? Like the rest of North Queensland at the moment — The Cowboys! My husband and I have enjoyed being members at the club for our first two years in Townsville and hopefully there will be many more!
The training advice I wish I’d listened to was… “If you want to be able to walk and run around with your own children in 10 years time, then stop running now!”. That has been personal advice given to me to help me protect my knees, and I say it more-and-more each day to remind me! I still haven’t quite been able to abide by it yet, however.
Most treasured piece of fitness gear? This is a difficult one, as I would’ve always said my touch boots — I had the same ones for nearly 10 years! As part of trying to stop touch to help protect my knee, I finally got rid of them about four months ago, so I think that now puts my Specialized bike as my prized possession! I do still have a range of touch singlets (including my England ones) that I treasure and keep safe in the cupboard!
My best local fitness tip is… Having only lived in Townsville for 18 months I am still finding out about good fitness tips myself. So far I have definitely learnt that the earlier in the day you exercise the better.
Tell us a joke (why not?) I am so not a funny person when it comes to jokes…
Q: “Why should you never argue with an atom?”
A: “Because it makes up everything!”
(Can you tell I’m a teacher and we are learning about matter and electricity?)
Last words? Exercise and sport should be fun! If you are not enjoying it, then something isn’t right. Find the sport that suits you, and find the people in it that keep you company and make you happy!