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Our women in fitness series is a celebration of fly girls doing fly things. Meet Natalie – a former rugby player who was chosen to train for the Rio Olympics and a top runner whose journey has taken her on plenty adventures with her track team and crew, TrackMafia.

Natalie’s story

Fitness has always been a part of my lifestyle. I love sports; individuals sports like squash, tennis and athletics but also the team and squad aspects of these sports too. I truly fell in love with team sports and playing netball from my time at school.

I  felt I discovered the world of sport outside school quite late. I was 15 turning 16 when I joined my local netball Club and from there I went onto join the England Netball Talent Development Pathway and study at Loughborough University. Sounds silly now being a part of it all but at the time I really didn’t know “all of it” existed. The ambition that I could at some point become an Olympian or represent my country were thoughts built up from watching Denise Lewis in athletics and Serena and Venus Williams in tennis. The speed and tenacity were traits I admired. Sport and fitness have always given me the energy that I put into it and more. I’ve learnt so many key life skills like teamwork, discipline, grit and leadership.

During my time at University I was part of the ‘Nike Select Brand Ambassador’ programme where  my primary role was to inspire and encourage young women at my University to get active and do more in and around campus through Nike Training Club and Nike+ Run Clubs; in doing so, I was offering them a digital community through social media. I looked to motivate, encourage and engage a running and training group of girls weekly (10-70 people). I absolutely loved every moment of my time as a Select and being able to create a team and a community from nothing to something so strong, infectious and fulfilling to all: it was sweat, laughs and kicking a** while working your hardest!

Playing rugby

With training and performing at elite level Netball,  I came across ‘Power 2 Podium’ in my penultimate year of Uni. It was a talent transfer programme ran by UK Sport, the elite governing body for elite sport in the UK. They were looking for athletes with speed, power, strength and agility. The aim was to untap your “hidden” potential in a new sport to train towards the Rio Olympic Games and beyond. I loved my Netball and if you know me you know I have so much love for my teammates and a challenge. It’s in my nature to have a go and challenge myself to that next level physically and mentally. So I went through all the testing (and I’m underplaying the process here – it tested me against myself and competition physically, mentally and beyond!) and low and behold I was selected into England Women’s Rugby 7’s programme. This was a surprise to me and most of my friends and family. This was because, at the time and to a certain extent still today,  there was a certain perception of women in sport: the athleticism, stereotypes and intensity in rugby still baffle me. It’s an amazing sport where women of all shapes and sizes have a place and role to play in the game. For me, I was chosen because of my power, strength and speed. I have always loved running and with a whole rugby pitch to play on, being introduced to the sport with such great teamwork, comradery and graft were the best!

My journey in fitness from playing rugby, with the ambition to one day represent my country and Team GB spurred the fire I had inside me through training with the ups and the downs. I would say I am highly self-motivated but everyone has their days. Those are the days that you know you definitely need to do something, get out there, complete a part of your training programme , do weights, run, or whatever it may be. I believe the little wins you carry forward pay off into big rewards down the line…you can always reach your goal, but we as individuals are the ones who define how (we do this).

A common thread through my fitness journey has been running. I’ve  run for as long as I’ve known, from running at sports day at school to on the track with Shaftsbury Harriers AC, to running to get lost in the park on Hampstead Heath, through London with Run Dem Crew. I returned to the burn and satisfaction of track  with Track Mafia. I love fitness because we can all better ourselves in one way or another. I think it’s fun to embark on a quest where we can find out more about ourselves, our bodies and our minds. In doing so, this can motivate and inspire others along the way on their journey, lift each other up so we can all share and celebrate in our goals together ( and set new ones ;-).

Natalie’s fitness and health tips

The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams - Eleanor Roosevelt


However big or small we all start from a foundation where we build upon and strengthen. Fitness is a journey and a lifestyle. Believe in yourself, stick at it and enjoy the ride, it’s a beautiful place.


Music to move to: listen to Natalie’s five dope tracks

Follow Natalie’s fitness journey on her Instagram @natalie_avo.

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