Chichester woman makes history as navy fitness trainer

Petty Officer Physical Training Instructor Donna Chapman with members of the PT course      Picture: LA(Phot) Guy Pool
Petty Officer Physical Training Instructor Donna Chapman with members of the PT course Picture: LA(Phot) Guy Pool

BEING the Royal Navy’s number one fitness coach means being an expert in gymnastics and packing a fair bit of muscle.

And Petty Officer Donna Chapman has all that and more as she has just become the first woman to ever take up the post.

The 30-year-old has just been appointed head coach of the Royal Navy School of Physical Training’s arduous PT course – the first woman to take up the role since the Portsmouth-based school’s formation in 1888.

She is now putting 17 students through their paces on the gruelling six-month course as they strive to qualify as leading physical training instructors.

PO Chapman said: ‘I had my heart set on this role since I became a physical trainer in the Navy in 2008.

‘Becoming the number one coach is the pinnacle within our branch and I’m loving every minute of it. It’s hard work but well worth it.’

Donna’s typical working day starts at 6.30am and she does not leave the office before 10pm.

‘As well as the physical coaching of the students there’s also the planning of the lessons,’ she added.

‘You’ve got to keep on top of it – planning and preparation is everything.

‘But when you see how each student develops over the course and see how everything I teach them takes effect, it is worth all of the hard graft.’

The course involves circuit and weight training, strength and conditioning, fitness testing, sports science and diet and nutrition.

Students also cover basic coaching in a variety of sports including football, hockey, volleyball and boxing alongside topics such as event management and income generation.

PO Chapman, who lives in Chichester with her husband Thomas and their nine-year-old daughter Lauren, originally joined the navy’s warfare branch at 17.

She has taught physical training on board HMS Cornwall in the Gulf and at shore bases in Scotland and Cornwall.

Warrant Officer Class 1 Wayne O’Kell, the training officer at HMS Temeraire in Portsmouth, where the school of physical training is based, said: ‘To become a number one instructor you have to be an expert in many things such as gymnastics, rope climbing and leadership, and you have to be physically very strong.

‘Also you have to be among the top in your peer group on the Petty Officers’ PT course. Donna is proving an excellent appointment and is a credit to the branch.’

Five weeks into this year’s course, the new head coach is proving a hit with the students.

Air Engineering Technician Paul Sykes, 25, said: ‘She has a professional approach and she’s stern but fair.

‘She let’s us know when we’re doing well, but when you’ve got to improve she also makes that very clear.

‘I’ve already seen myself come a long way in just five weeks and all that is down to our number one coach.’

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