Garstang Walking Football Club players take up yoga to get match fit

Veteran Lancashire footballers have enrolled for yoga classes in a bid to avoid sporting injuries.

The combination of lockdown and, for some club members, an even longer absence from playing, meant that they were sustaining some minor injuries, aches and pains when playing their favourite game.

Realising they needed some help with pre-match preparation and to improve their flexibility they decided to try yoga.

After a trial lesson and a mini course with local yoga teacher Samantha Slade a special weekly Men's Yoga For Sport class has been organised.

Samantha Slade leads the men's Yoga For Sport class

So far 10 footballers have joined the new class and numbers are growing, with other sportsmen also attending as news spreads of the get fitter initiative.

Over 50s manager Eamonn Watson, who is also the club's Reds Team goalkeeper and captain first suggested yoga as a way to keep injuries at bay. He said: "I've found it brilliant, fantastic - last season I was picking up a lot of injuries. I feel about three inches taller when I come out. Since starting yoga I've had a clear run!"

Samantha who runs classes in person in Garstang, Catterall, Great Eccleston, Claughton, Cabus and also online, said: “When I was in London teaching yoga, the classes were very much more 50/50, and although there is no reason why more men shouldn’t want to practice yoga there are more women participants. So it was great to get the call from Eamonn to see if I could help them out.”

Many of her new pupils, who are in their 50s and 60s, had never tried yoga before. Samantha said: “The feedback I have had from the team has been amazing, they have really enjoyed it. The progress they have made in just four weeks was brilliant. ..They've done really well."

Yoga teacher Samantha Slade

She added: "Yoga is for all ages and abilities - you do not have to be super bendy or fit to start, that comes with the practice."

She added: “I've never done a specific group for a sports club before.It would be great to see more men practising yoga and I'm hoping by running a ‘Yoga for Men's’ class it will encourage more guys to join so they experience the benefits too. Yoga helps to improve strength, flexibility, posture, balance, breathing and relaxation.”

The Garstang Walking Football Club was set up by Phil Moore, Dave Thornhill, Ian Blundell and Dave Graham just over a year ago. Former football commentator Eamonn describes them as "unsung heroes" and said: "It's great fun - the other side of this is how well we've done in terms of mental health and everybody's wellbeing. It's absolutely been brilliant."

The club has matches on a Monday evening and Saturday and meets at Garstang Academy. At the moment the club has around 70 members with two over 50s teams, but there are plans to start an over 60s and an over-65s team.

Being put through their paces - attendees at the men's Yoga For Sport class

Eamonn added: "We want to get everybody involved - if you don't want to play competitively you can go along on Saturday morning for a kickabout."

He stressed the club is not just for Garstang and district residents but has players from Preston and Morecambe too. He said: "Everybody is welcome."

The club is affiliated to the FA (Football Association) through Garstang Football Club and will be taking part in the Walking Football Association's National Cup and North West Over 50s League this year. Eamonn said: "I think we have, let's say, a very good chance of doing well this season if we get prepared properly."

Anyone wishing to join the club, members range in age from late 40s up to 78, should email [email protected] for a registration form. For more information on the the men's yoga classes which are held at Claughton Memorial Hall see http://www.yogaspiritandstrength.co.uk or here For our report on the club's success in 2021 when, in their first season together, they became North West champions and were proud to be in the last eight teams competing in the Grand Finals of the WFA National Cup see here.

Members of the Garstang Walking Football club pictured at a training session. Over 50s manager and goalkeeper Eammon is pictured front row in black and red jacket.

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The Garstang Walking Football squad pictured at the Grand Finals of the WFA National Cup in 2021. Eammon Watson is pictured front row (centre)