“The battlefield is in the mind” – Esther Furlong
Halfway through her exclusive chat to TNT, Mrs Furlong mentions the above statement, and immediately I’m left second guessing if I’m speaking to a behavioural psychologist or the founder of Soca Aerobics. Moments later, I’m convinced it’s the latter, as Mrs Furlong – affectionately known as Sister Esther – says “I’ve always loved dance and expressing myself through music”.
Sister Esther, 51, is the Artistic director of Universal Connection; the pioneers of Soca Aerobics dance in Manchester. Having launched the program on 18 October 1999, Sister Esther’s self-funded scheme reached its 16th anniversary last month.
With tailored sessions running between an hour and ninety minutes depending on venue and attendance, Soca Aerobics is an active program centred around emotional fitness, exercise and fun.
The Soca music fan gets varying people of different age groups; a mixture of pre-school children to secondary school pupils. The key for her is to get families into activities and fitness programs that help them understand they can do it.
“It’s raising awareness about the different types of activities that families can do together – particularly women – breaking limitations we often put in our minds”, she said. Sister Esther is also the Ambassador of an inspiring project encouraging all that they can do it ‘This Girl Can’.
“Sometimes people say they can’t do this or that – like the gym for example. They see others’ body sizes and become dejected about their ability to achieve that too. This Girls Can is a campaign geared to raise people’s self-esteem, especially women who have had babies and are alone and cut out from socialising with a baby”
“Mothers can come with their babies to do aerobics, walking and light exercise sessions. This is not only about getting fit; it’s about socialising. Some have recovered from strokes” and the lingering issues they don’t deal with internally, she added.
Not one to have sailed through smoothly over the years, Sister Esther has had a fair amount of challenges herself; in particular financial and the fact she “couldn’t walk and even wash myself” after her car accident many years ago.
With a mental resilience and a passion for connecting people physically as well as within, Sister ploughed through and her sessions are open for all across South Manchester throughout the week.
“I would also like to add how grateful I am to all the people and organisations that have helped and supported Soca Aerobics through out the years”.
TNT Sport Yasin Chinembiri