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Emotional fitness key sports stars tell students

PUBLISHED: 08:00 18 January 2020

Christine Ohuruogu after winning gold in the women's 400 metres at the National Stadium at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in China

Christine Ohuruogu after winning gold in the women's 400 metres at the National Stadium at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games in China

PA Wire/PA Images

Forget physical fitness, 2020 is the year for emotional fitness according to Newham & Essex Beagles Olympians Christine Ohuruogu MBE and Abdul Buhari.

Great Britain's Christine Ohuruogu celebrates after winning the Silver medal in the Women's 400m Final at the Olympic Stadium on day nine of the London 2012 Olympic Games.Great Britain's Christine Ohuruogu celebrates after winning the Silver medal in the Women's 400m Final at the Olympic Stadium on day nine of the London 2012 Olympic Games.

The duo have kicked off the new year, alongside fellow Olympian Samantha Murray, rugby stars Greg Bateman and Abi Chamberlain and rower Beth Bryan, by joining forces with emotional fitness app Fika to share their stories with UK university students in a bid to improve young people's emotional fitness.

Featured in the app as audio and video clips, their stories will outline how they have learnt from failure, overcome challenges and built emotional muscle in order to thrive.

The stories aim to offer students an emotional education to complement their degrees, improving their academic performance, boosting their employability and arming them with important life skills.

Each audio story in the app will be accompanied by a series of emotional workouts, designed by expert psychologists to help students learn from, reflect on and act based on the athletes' experiences.

Christine Ohuruogu receives her England Athletics hall of fame award from coach Lloyd CowanChristine Ohuruogu receives her England Athletics hall of fame award from coach Lloyd Cowan

Former Olympic 400m champion Christine Ohuruogu's story for students is about the importance of reaching out for help.

"As a 400m runner, I was programmed to be warrior-like and unfazed by competition," said Ohuruogu.

"This might have worked in the Olympic stadium - but outside of sport, it's worked against me. Learning to be more vulnerable has really strengthened my relationships. I want to encourage students to open up and reach out for help when they need it.

"Student life is tough - and just as it does for athletes, students' emotional fitness matters as much as their physical fitness," added Ohuruogu, who recently completed her law degree at Queen Mary University of London.

Discus thrower Abdul Buhari in actionDiscus thrower Abdul Buhari in action

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"There are a lot of parallels between athlete life and student life - from the similarities between training and revision, to preparing for a big athletic event and exams. Being motivated, building self-belief and working on your emotional fitness is key to succeeding.

"We see it as an investment in the future of British students to share these personal stories, and wholeheartedly encourage students to work through Fika's bespoke emotional workouts to really benefit from our experiences."

Discus thrower Buhari also represented Team GB at the London 2012 Olympics and seeks to help students manage career transitions.

He said: "People shouldn't be afraid to carve out their own paths in life. My advice to students is to find what makes you happy - something you're really passionate about - even if it means making short-term sacrifices.

"Prioritising your long-term happiness is crucial for having good mental health. And it is possible to keep one eye on the future whilst also remaining committed to the day-to-day."

Nick Bennett, chief executive and co-founder of Fika, said: "Confidence is the new six-pack. We're honoured to share Christine, Abdul, Sam, Greg, Abi and Beth's stories with the UK's students - shifting the focus from physical fitness to emotional fitness.

"Elite athletes get specialist mental fitness training to help them cope with the highs and lows of life in sport. Their stories will help students navigate the challenges of university life, build emotional muscle and learn valuable life lessons to supplement their academic education."

The Fika app is designed by scientists, psychologists and technologists based on two years of evidence, as an emotional education tool to help students thrive, at university and beyond.

Fika helps students build their emotional fitness, with a focus on seven key areas: positivity, focus, confidence, purpose, connection, stress management and motivation.

Fika's research has shown these seven ingredients are the key components contributing to students' wellbeing, continuation and attainment in their studies, and employability beyond university.

Fika launched in 2019, and is already in use by thousands of university students across more than 50 campuses UK-wide. Students using Fika have reported reduced anxiety and stress (81%), increased motivation (81%), increased confidence (79%), more control over their daily routine (87.5%), improved study (94%) and feeling more able to complete assignments (81%).


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