Introducing Ms Zappula, who facilitates Sedbergh’s Hirst Centre

Ms Zappula, former Argentinian national hockey player, is Sedbergh’s talented Hirst Centre facilitator. Since it opened in 2018, the Hirst Centre has become a valued resource for the School. It provides indoor playing facilities for netball, tennis, basketball, badminton, and indoor football and hosts a well-equipped gym, hospitality suite, changing rooms and medical room.  

Ms Zappula has travelled the world playing hockey; she’s played in Argentina, the Netherlands, Canary Islands, Belgium, Australia and the United Kingdom! After she arrived in the UK, the comparatively short hockey season allowed her the time to complete qualifications in personal training and sports massage. Long days at the Hirst Centre means Ms Zappula isn’t able to fit in a lot of one-on-one personal training, but she has a small group of clients that she loves working with.

When I was about 6 or 7 I told my mum that I wanted to do skating. My grandma bought me roller blades and it was great but my mum kept encouraging me to try a team sport. So, I said, ‘OK, volleyball!’ even though my brother and sister already played hockey! Finally one day I agreed to try hockey. I don’t remember a lot about those years but apparently, I was really good for my age. But it wasn’t smooth sailing… I was bored and I didn’t want to keep playing! Then I was put in a group with the older kids – and that’s when I finally started to really enjoy hockey. I got into the county team and eventually the national team. Now, I love hockey!

My first year at Sedbergh I had an idea to get people to do more exercise and train more; I created two staff-only circuits classes. I wanted to help people that don’t know what to do in the gym. In a group class people feel more motivated and confident. People also don’t always want to have to think about what to do in the gym, they just want to get it done.

However, every day, when pupils were not using the gym, it was empty, and I wanted it to be more busy. Knowing that I was running classes, someone from town [Sedbergh village] approached me – so I opened up the circuits classes to people from the town. After I posted on the local Community Facebook page I started to get a lot of requests to join either the gym or the circuits and now it’s quite popular. I run classes on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. During summer the Wednesday class includes a river dip which is great! You feel ready for the day. It’s great to see people from town using the gym, exercising and seeing what the school is about.

The School staff are very active and good role models for other people. If I see someone going for a walk or a run when they have an hour free at lunch then I think, ‘Oh, I can do that’. It’s also good for mental health.

The biggest challenge I face with running the gym is the composition of the gym. It needs more free-weights so we’re changing that. As a start the Jacob’s ladder [machine] has been sold so that I can fit in a squat rack. A lot of girls want to do some power lifting but they prefer not to use the Weights Gym [Sedbergh’s first gym]. Another challenge is that people don’t know what to do in the gym so they get bored and lose motivation. Circuit classes are great for that because the class is different every week and you manage your own intensity. It works really well for any level.

I’ve got an idea now for a seniors’ circuit. It would complement the over 50s session that we run at the pool. Weights are massively important for older people but they don’t know how to do it – or they think it’s too hard. So, I’d like to change that and have circuits for over 50s with more basic movement.

With the pupils at Sedbergh I do some one-to-one sessions in the gym and I do a class that is similar to circuits during games. I found that pupils sometimes chose the gym as an easy option for games! So I started running circuits classes – and pupils were surprised by how much fun it was!

Another theme you’ll notice is that I feel quite a passion for helping girls to feel more confident to use the gym and to use it better. The girls think that the Weights Gym is for boys and they say they don’t want to go there because they feel intimidated or embarrassed if they don’t know how to do something. For me, because back home, strength work at the gym was included in my hockey training, I learned how to use the gym equipment. That doesn’t usually happen here so a lot of girls don’t know what to do.

Follow Sedbergh: