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A profile of... Marsha Hughes

Meno moves

Marsha Hughes has worked at the University of Warwick for over 20 years in a variety of HR roles for departments across campus. Currently HR Business Partner at WMS, Marsha has been heavily involved in our Athena SWAN activities, with a particular focus on menopause support.

Outside of work, Marsha runs two exercises classes: Meno Moves, aimed at menopausal women, and Chair Fit, for those who are less mobile. We caught up with her to find out what inspired her to launch the classes and what she most enjoys about her involvement in inclusive exercise.

How did you come to set up your exercises classes?

I’ve always loved dance and am a qualified dance teacher and fitness instructor, but it was actually my work at WMS which sparked the idea for Meno Moves. Learning more about the menopause thanks to my colleagues’ work really made me understand the challenges women can face at this time of their lives. I wanted to bring my interest in that together with my passion for dance.

In 2021 of course we had been dealing with the pandemic and lockdowns, and lots of people had been stuck in their homes and were really struggling. So I decided to create something which would bring women together again, a community where women could meet people of a similar age, exercise together and have fun.

I started the class in five communities in the Henley-in-Arden area and it really took off! Before long the ladies and I had developed a close relationship, and the social side of the class has become as important as the exercise.

There were a few women who wanted to come to the class but couldn’t manage it due to problems with their hips or their ankles, for example. I had a think and decided to set up another class that could be done entirely while sat down: Chair Fit, which is open to men as well.

What do your classes involve?

We use a lot of equipment in both classes, like resistance bands, bars, balls and ribbons. Chair Fit is a 45-minute session, all sat down, while Meno Moves involves stretch, balance, some cardio, mat work and pelvic floor work. We also make sure there’s time for a drink and chat and on Friday mornings I include a complimentary breakfast too.

I love talking to the people who come along, I took my Introduction to Counselling certificate through the Centre for Lifelong Learning and that’s helpful for my work at Warwick but also for speaking to women who come to my classes and might be struggling with their symptoms or their self-confidence. I’m also trained to be Parkinson’s and dementia aware.

What do you most enjoy about running these classes?

Seeing the difference the classes have made to people – both physically and socially. I’ve had women telling me that their pain has gone, or that they can now touch their toes and put on their shoes by themselves, which they couldn’t do before. That’s wonderful. Seeing them form friendships is so lovely too – we even have people going on holiday together who had never met before the class! It’s great to know we’ve formed a community of people who are there for eachother and who understand what the others are going through.

In addition to the classes I’ve run several social events and other activities, which I’ve really enjoyed, like wellness retreats, boot camps and bone density screenings.

I find these women so inspiring. In Meno Moves we have a lady who’s 92 who comes along and in Chair Fit we have a 97-year-old! They’re just incredible.

Have you got plans to expand your classes?

I now do a monthly disco for adults with learning and physical disabilities, and that’s something I think I’d like to do more of in the future. We have five paraplegics and their carers who join us on the dancefloor as well and are great fun. It’s fantastic to see people who might be otherwise left out of exercise taking part and enjoying it.

What does International Women’s Day mean to you?

For me International Women’s Day is a great chance to celebrate our talents and shout about what we’re good at, because most of the time many of us just don’t do that enough. I’m going to be running an event as part of Meno Moves where I’m inviting the people who come along to show off their skills. For example there’s one lady who does amazing paintings, so she’ll be bringing those in, another who makes candles, another who makes cards... I can’t wait to see what they’ve been doing and to encourage them to feel proud of their achievements.