Getting off the couch can be life-changing

A new TV series follows six people as they take on extreme challenges in a bid to get fit, healthy and happy


‘The message for me has always been that you don’t need to have a huge amount of money to get active,” says Teena Gates. “You just start by walking out the front door and taking a deep breath.”

Teena Gates, news editor at Dublin radio station 98FM, author and presenter of new television series Get Off The Couch!, knows all about taking that step. Chronically ill and weighing 23 stone four years ago, Gates began working towards leading a more active, healthy lifestyle.

She has since trekked to Everest base camp for charity, completed a tri-adventure challenge in Uganda for Concern and written about her story in her book One Foot in Front of the Other.

It makes Gates the ideal person to present Get Off The Couch!, a new six-part TV series on Setanta Ireland starting this Thursday, which sees six people take on some pretty extreme challenges such as lake swimming, mountain climbing, abseiling and a triathlon under the guidance of some of Ireland’s top adventure experts.

‘Voyage into unknown’
The three men and three women featured in the series range in age from 22 to 51. Not only did the participants engage in strenuous physical activities such as completing the TriAthy triathlon, scaling Carrauntouhill and kayaking on the Liffey but some of them overcame phobias such as fear of heights and water. “It was a voyage into the unknown and we weren’t sure what everyone would be able to do but everybody had a shot at everything in the end which was great,” says Gates.

Gates says the focus of Get Off The Couch! was never about weight-loss but about six people pushing themselves to become fitter and healthier individuals.

“If you’re waiting to lose weight before you go to the gym or before you get in the pool, it’s never going to happen,” she says. “Just put on a pair of runners or a swim suit and get out there and enjoy the fact of being active and the rest follows – learning new things, meeting new people and if you see a reduction in your waistline that’s a bonus.”

Having come from a place of inactivity herself, Gates says the volunteers could relate to the fact that she knew how they were feeling. “That you’re not sure you’ll make one length of the pool, or you’re getting into lycra and you’re afraid you don’t look good. Nobody else cares – they’re all too busy worrying what they look like in their own lycra to care what you look like in yours,” she laughs.

Participants bonded
She says the participants really clicked and became part of a team: “The one thing that was apparent was that they bonded and that carried them through six months of injury, pain, disappointment, heartache, setbacks, good moments, joys, tears and sorrows. It created a big heart – an engine – that pushed them through to the end.”

Having been made redundant and separated from his wife in a short space of time, participant Eamonn Waldron was looking for a bit of craic, a new challenge and the opportunity to do something inspirational for his children.

Since completing the series, Waldron has successfully re-entered the emergency services after a hiatus of many years and now works for Bray Fire Service in Wicklow. He says participating in Get Off The Couch! made him see “how large a task can be achieved by taking tiny little steps”. His advice to others thinking of making positive change in their lives is: “Don’t get hung up on the challenge, take small steps and do it bit by bit.”

Positive benefits
The other participants have also seen positive benefits. Karen Bowers overcame her fear of the water and was last week swimming in the sea in Portmarnock in north Dublin. In the programme she completes a swim of Lough Sheelin.

Damien McElligott, an unemployed father of five and a heavy smoker, has turned his life around and is now enrolled on a nursing course, while another participant, Joe Grey, has been employed by Sasta Fitness and plays American football for Ireland. Maryanne Treacy and Cathy Whyte also pushed themselves beyond their boundaries and are now inspiring friends and family to do the same.

Teena Gates says being active and becoming fitter and healthier is a “clear, definable, measure of success”. She says she hopes people watching Get Off The Couch! will see that “their door can be opened as easily as ours”.

“Don’t think ‘I can’t do that’, think ‘Maybe I can’ and give it a bash. It applies to everything – fitness, business start-ups, entrepreneurship, problems with family, creativity – don’t limit yourself. You can do so much more than you think you can. Push yourself. Have a dream and go for it.”

Get Off The Couch! starts this Thursday at 10pm on Setanta Ireland.

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