Fat Bottomed Girls rocking the streets of Cambridge

Robyn Chappell has started up a walking group in Cambridge for women who hate the gym but want to get active.
DOMINICO ZAPATA/STUFF

Robyn Chappell has started up a walking group in Cambridge for women who hate the gym but want to get active.

Robyn Chappell stood in her new pair of exercise pants in front of her mirror thinking she had received the wrong size.

But they weren't and the reflection told the truth.

"I had always been very slim, but I had become a slim person in an ever increasing body," said Chappell. 

Fat Bottomed Girls' rules: No men, no children, but your dog can come.
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Fat Bottomed Girls' rules: No men, no children, but your dog can come.

Thinking she would be judged, she didn't want to join a gym.

She thought gyms were places where perky young assistants would measure each tummy tyre width and roll their eyes when another was found hidden beneath the folds.

The Cambridge businesswoman wanted to feel comfortable wearing her pyjamas pants until slim enough to fit back into her old trackies.

Ready to walk a 5km grid of Cambridge is this group of Fat Bottomed Girls.
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Ready to walk a 5km grid of Cambridge is this group of Fat Bottomed Girls.

"My goal was to morph into one of those beautiful people who prance around in their designer gym gear admiring my terrific tanned old body in the mirror."

The reality was, Chappell didn't feel comfortable with the gym thing. She took to social media to share her thoughts.

"The reaction was huge, I set up the Fat Bottomed Girls Facebook page.

Walking groups come in all shapes and sizes.
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Walking groups come in all shapes and sizes.

She organised a series of meetings with as many women she could fit into her lounge. All the girls talked about their body shapes and sizes.

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"I was hearing that women wanted to get off the couch. They were tired of being overweight, needing incentive. Others wanted to be habitual about exercising and wanting the company doing it.

"The overall consensus was none wanted to go the gym for the same reasons as me."

The women take advantage of exercise equipment in public spaces in Cambridge.
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The women take advantage of exercise equipment in public spaces in Cambridge.

Chappell's answer was to initiate a number of walking groups for the Fat Bottomed Girls.

Looking to provide motivation, she came up with the urban challenge.

"This is where the groups walk a five-kilometre grid of Cambridge.

"Eventually they will have walked up and down every street in the town."

Each leader puts the section and times they are walking online and if it suits members they'll join in on one of the groups.

Unlike other walking groups this is solely for women, no men, children, but the occasional dog is welcome.

Chappell wants the groups to keep to a minimum of five walkers to avoid cliqueyness. 

Halfway through the challenge, she is hearing amazing feedback.

"Members are achieving their short term and some long term goals already," she said.

Motivation remains a key and at times some of the girls may miss a walk for a number of reasons.

"This is when the girls rally around with encouragement and some organise a group to walk with the member to help them catch up.

"We are not focussed on weight loss, but some who joined the group were at their lowest point.

"What we have done is given them an outlet to admit they have a problem and provide the next step to do something about it."

Monday is the most popular walking day but groups walk every day.

Chappell's advice to anyone who may feel like a fair weather walker on a wet day is to "suck it up, put on your big girl pants and get out there".

There is so much to tell about the success of the group. 

She is looking at a new intake of Fat Bottomed Girls in Cambridge and expanding to other towns.

 - Stuff

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