Females in Training (FIT) began its development in 1993, and was officially incorporated in 1996.
In 2021 the club celebrated its 25th anniversary and published the FIT history, FIT from the Start, Celebrating 25 years of Females in Training Inc.
The word ‘fit’ conjures up many images: the gym workout, people running around their local track, riding a bike around the lake, sweating bodies. All of these people are striving to reach a goal, and that is to attain a desired level of fitness. But FIT now conjures up another image – Females in Training!
Mission and objectives
Robyn Barker’s mission and the mission of FIT was: ‘to provide the highest quality training and coaching environment specifically addressing the physical activity needs of women.’
The objectives in this mission were to provide a supportive, encouraging and non-threatening environment for women of all ages and abilities to assist them in reaching their physical potential. It also targeted the development of female coaches and provided a network for women to meet other like-minded women through participating in a range of physical activities.
These goals continue to be central to the ethos and spirit of FIT.
‘Participation, coaching, support’- these words have been an essential part of FIT since our very early days when Robyn Barker and Sandra Lauffenburger had the idea of an all women’s training group in the three disciplines of swimming, cycling and running. At the time Robyn and Sandra were the directors of the Oldeah Centre in Deakin.
Karen Sellman, along with clients and friends at the Oldeah Centre, contributed greatly to the early discussions with Robyn and Sandra. The name FIT emerged from numerous (and humorous) iterations such as: FIST (Females in Strength Training); FIRST (Females in Running and Swimming Training); TWIT (Training for Women in Triathlon); finally another Oldeah Centre client, Gillian Pollack, suggested the simple and all-inclusive name FIT (Females in Triathlon, later changed to Females in Training).
In late 1993 and 1994 Robyn was offering lunchtime coaching sessions in swimming at the old Deakin Health Spa and running sessions, as well as organising cycling maintenance workshops for women.
The FIT logo was designed this year by Robyn, Sandra, Jackie Hallahan and Brigid Cassells. The initial drafts were done by Matthew Berry-Smith of Jamison Berry-Smith, the advertising and graphic design group used by the Brumbies for their logo. Brigid had recommended we try them after the success of the Brumbies. The suggestions the design people gave weren’t ideal.
A considerable amount of time was spent on coming up with the wonderful design we now have: ‘We wanted it to represent something strong, and feminine, and the feline, as depicted in our logo, seemed ideal.’
In September 1994 John Armstrong, who at the time was the coordinator of cycling at the Academy of Sport, was approached by Robyn to coach a small cycling group as an informal session. These began with just four people: Robyn, Sandra, Brigid Cassells and Kerri Knowler. Both Brigid and Kerry were World Champions in rowing but quickly took to the bike under the close supervision of John. These were held at the Hyatt at 6.30am on a Friday.
The cycling group continued to grow every week. Week 2 saw Anne Gripper, FIT’s first President, and Bronwyn Snowden (who, among other things, is well known for one of our regular bike rides Brony’s loop!) as well as our 2006 coaching coordinator Karen Burgan (then Karen Tonkin) join.
FIT continued to grow with the passion and drive of Robyn and the continued support of Sandra, and the Friday cycling group, encouraged by John Armstrong, commenced training for the famous Tour de Femme. John, along with our very own MaryAnn Simpson, have run this event for 13 years.
The Tour de Femme is the largest women’s cycling event in Australia and attracts many top-level cyclists. Alison Wright was heard to say: ‘All I wanted to do was hang onto Paula Sutton’s wheel!’ Well done Paula! For those of you who don’t know, Alison Wright is now an Australian Champion Cyclist.
These were comments from the summer of 1994 newsletter:
The very popular Friday 6.30am cycle ride continues to grow. Meet in front of Parliament House. Please spread the word!
The word did spread, and the group was then divided into two. The more advanced group moving to Wednesday am, which John Armstrong took as well.
The swimming group at Deakin with Jackie Stewart met on Monday at 7pm, Wednesday at 6am and 7pm, and Friday at 7.15pm.
We ended 1994 with a few perhaps soon to be FIT traditions.
The Friday ride was Jingle Bells all the way with everyone wearing bells of some sort on their bodies or bikes. Someone even wore a cow bell! Santa Claus made an appearance, but no one wanted to sit on his lap!
Thursday’s run was wet, but 4 die-hards jingled through their 1k repeats without breaking a sweat. (but who could tell!)
With a logo and a name, the growing group of women began to feel cohesive and started to feel the need for some T-shirts. Again, Robyn and Sandra as directors of the Ouldeah Centre voted to use company funds to get some made.
While the first ones were not exactly the desired colour or design, the group had something they could proudly wear.
In 1995 we held numerous bike maintenance workshops to empower women to change flat tyres, realign wheels and keep our bicycles roadworthy.
This year we finalised the FIT logo and the first FIT T-shirt was produced. Also the first FIT ‘professional’ newsletter was produced, with Gina Hood (now Van Hest) as editor.
We held a meeting held in April 1995 to organise a women’s cycling camp; Robyn, Jacquelin Magnay, Anne Gripper, Brigid Cassells and Bronwyn Snowden attended.
In June 1995, the committee (being Robyn, Anne, Sian, Brigid, Bronwyn and Linda?) continued to have monthly meetings as it became apparent that incorporation may be required, due to the enormous response to FIT. Anne was looking into: to be or not to be, incorporated that is!
The benefits of incorporation included:
- an increased likelihood of receiving public and private sector financial support,
- the increased protection of our participants from personal liability,
- the ability to take out comprehensive insurance coverage for our participants,
- the ability to acquire, hold and dispose of property,
- having the status of a legal entity that can sue and be sued.
First FIT Cycling Camp – September 1995
In September 1995 we held the first FIT Cycling Camp at Birigai. It was attended by 75 women who gained skills and friendships over three days.
Sponsors of the camp included: The Bike Shed @ Phillip, Canberra Cycling Club and the Ouldeah Centre.
John Armstrong organised equipment for the skill sessions and Brigid followed this through with John and the Aussi Sport Unit. This is where Sian Mulholland became involved, as Brigid contacted Sian for help with the camp. We approached Cilla Ballard and Kim Palmer to give talks about their cycling experiences.
John and Sian shared the running of the Skills and Drills sessions, and Sian to this day still runs these sessions for FIT.
Special presenters at the camp included:
- Roz Penfold — Physiotherapist
- Debbie Hoare – Sports Scientist, Triathlon Coach and Elite Triathlete
- Michael and Derek Aisbett – Cycling Coach and bike experts.
- Chris Sproule – Physiotherapist and triathlete
- Cilla Bollard – Champion Veteran Cyclist
- Sian Mulholland – Cycling coach
- Graham Toohey – Cycling Coach
- John Armstrong – ACT Coaching Director and Cycling Coach
- Brian Simpson – Cycling Coach
- Jane Seaberry -Dietician and Nutritionist
Robyn Barker was awarded the ‘Outstanding Contribution’ award at the AGM of the ACT Triathlon Association in 1995. Read Robyn’s nomination here
- FIT was approached to organise the All Women’s Triathlon in March 1996
- Inaugural FIT Cross Country Ski Weekend was held in late August 1996 led by Anne Gripper
- FIT cyclists won Gold, Silver and Bronze Medals at the Australian Veterans Games in Wagga in their newly designed FIT knicks and jerseys.
- There was an 8 week Cycle Skills and Training Program
- We held the inaugural Binalong Cycling Weekend (when Rae Wells was introduced to the FIT girls!)
- We participated in 1st Triple Tri event in Canberra
- There was a cycling specific First Aid Course
- Jane Roots placed in the top 10 at the Tour de Femme and there were purple jerseys everywhere!
- The most important event of all was Cassells Cooking Corner
- The first female cycling coaches were certified.
Incorporation of FIT – 4 November 1996
Yes, it happened – FIT became an incorporated association!
A requirement of our incorporation was the appointment of a public officer to manage the administration of the association until elections are held and a committee is elected by the members.
The following FIT people were elected:
- President – Anne Gripper
- Vice President – Brigid Cassells
- Secretary – Jane Roots
- Treasurer – Bronwyn Snowden
- Coaching Director – Robyn Barker
- Public Officer – Sian Mulholland
The fees were:
- Joining / Initial Entry: $5.00
- Annual Membership: 10.00
We then had 70 members.
We held our first AGM! The committee elected for 1996-97 was:
- President: Anne Gripper
- Vice-President: Brigid Cassells
- Secretary: Jane Roots
- Treasurer: Bronwyn Snowden
- General: Karen Tonkin
- Committee: Trazel Lister and Sandy Waters
- Coaching Coordinator: Robyn Barker
- Publications: Gina Van Hest
- Public Officer: Sian Mulholland
Events for 1997:
- We held a FIT Cycling Camp in October at Bowral.
- We affiliated with Triathlon ACT and ACT Cycling Federation.
- Tour de Festival –Tuggeranong Family Bike Day – FIT entered a team in the Italian Pursuit
- Lots of FIT members participated in theCanberra Times Fun Run wearing their purple running gear.
- We designed FIT baseball caps with a black crown, green brim and logo.
- The 6th Australian Masters Games were held in Canberra and many FIT members participated.
- The World Triathlon Championships took place in Perth in November with Robyn Barker, Marie Plunkett-Cole and Liz Simpson all FIT members in the Australian Team.
- FIT ran a 6-week training programs for the All Women’s Triathlon and the Tour de Femme.
- Outfits made by Hot Design became available with orders taken for: Short Sleeve Jerseys, Long Sleeve Jerseys, Cycling Knicks and Swimmers.
- Beyond FIT –Trazel Lister Roller Blading organised by
- We developed the first FIT website.
FIT was growing… there were so many directions we could go in.
It was time to take stock of where we were going and what we wanted to achieve in the short term and for the following 3 years. A planning afternoon was organised in May, and Heather Reid, Executive Officer of Womensport Australia, guided the group through the planning process. The 1998-2001 FIT development plan was developed as a result of this planning session held at Daramalan College, Dickson.
The key areas were:
- to influence women in the general community to become physically active and provide information to women about FIT activities;
- To promote and offer three beginner novice entry-level training programs per year, including the AWT training program and the Tour de Femme training program and an additional program such as conducting monthly sessions for those who can’t currently swim, run or cycle.
Training Session Changes:
Run sessions at the AIS running track were held on Tuesdays at 12.30 pm with 400m and 200m intervals.
Cycle sessions were at Deek’s Drive, Uriarra Road on Thursdays at 12.30pm.
Both sessions were run by accredited FIT coaches.
Other notable events
Dear Dr Cec began her column in the FIT bits and pieces newsletter.
FIT Beyond – The Budawangs Bushwalking
We ran a “Crank away the Winter Blues” program with bike maintenance sessions, guest speakers on cycling, heart rate training, cogs and gears & other parts of the bike.
In 1999 FIT achieved Active Australia Provider status. This meant that as a club we were considered well managed and we had undertaken a development process of continuous improvement showing commitment to:
- increasing and enhancing lifelong participation
- assisting in the social, health and economic benefits of participation
- supporting the infrastructure, opportunities and services to support participation.
Rae Wells and Mel Hughes competed in the World Triathlon Championships in Montreal, Canada.
FIT Beyond – we organised a Mountain Bike Weekend to Mt Clear with Jane Roots.
The “Fab Four” (Helen Clarke, Susan Pover, Claire Perry andAmanda Jones) did 16 weeks on the trot from June to September in the freezing cold months.
FIT was involved in the ACT Female Coaches forum for the development of ideas and exchange of skills.
A FIT Cycling camp was held at Cooma on 14-16 April and was organised by Sian Mulholland, Sandy Waters and Annette Colonna. It was sponsored by the ACT Bureau of Sport and Recreation, Canberra Cycles, the Bike Shed and the Ouldeah Centre for the Pilates Method.
A FIT Beyond kayaking camp was held on 5-7 May.
We received an Active Australia Sport and Recreational Development Grant from the ACT Bureau of Sport and Recreation to assist in the development of female coaches in the Canberra community.
A grant from ACT Bureau of Sport and Recreation assisted in meeting the costs of running the associated All Women’s Triathlon Training Program, which led into the Canberra Cycles All Women’s Triathlon on the 4 of March.
We participated in the Centenary of Federation ‘Links in the Chain’ bike ride on the 8 of May.
FIT Development plan 2001-2004
We held a session at Calvary Hospital to develop a plan to achieve greater recognition of FIT and to ensure publicity to ACT and wider Australian community.
Our goals were to provide a diversity of activities and provide competition support for members wishing to participate in local and interstate races.
Our actions were:
- to conduct 2 FIT Beyond activities each year,
- design group coaching sessions to accommodate the needs of members who wish to be competitive,
- ensure a FIT presence at local cycling and triathlon races in which members are present,
- provide opportunities for women to gain or upgrade coaching qualifications.
We held an annual Canberra to Goulburn and return weekend on 25-26 August.
FIT members participated in the Australian Masters Games in Newcastle on 5-14 October.
Also in October, FIT was acknowledged for excellence in Sport and Recreation at the International Year of the Volunteer awards in Melbourne.
The FIT triathlon camp took place on 19-21 October at ‘The Pines’ outdoor education centre, Tuross Head.
The WTTP was organised by Rae Wells and All Women’s Triathlon took place on 10 February.
The 10th anniversary of Females in Training was in October 2006 and we celebrated with a ‘Girls night out’ on the Saturday, followed by the Family Fun Day on the Sunday.
Congratulations to Di Evans and the team for organising a fabulous 10th anniversary celebration. The dinner was a fitting way to celebrate in style and it was fabulous to see so many past and present members at the dinner, including several of the original committee – the vibe was incredible, the venue fabulous, the food excellent and the photo wall a wonderful pictorial representation of our history.
The family fun day at Weston Park was exactly that – loads of fun for those who attended and a great way to get rid of those hangovers! We started off with a treasure hunt and then Beth Peedom and Lynne Evans organised old-fashioned games such as three-legged and egg and spoon races for the children, who thoroughly enjoyed it. A sumptuous morning tea followed the fun and games.