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What motivates me to pedal on....

    05 February 2021

Riding for your Mental Health

Throughout my life, sport has played a key part in maintaining not only my physical wellbeing, but my mental wellbeing as well. Before lockdown I used to play for a Netball Club up to three times a week and sailed frequently at my local club, as well as teaching sailing. However, with the outbreak of COVID-19, I had to find new ways to keep active and healthy. Having never been a huge fan of running unless it was on the netball court, I struggled to keep up the motivation to exercise since team sports had been banned. It wasn’t until I was not allowed to play sport that I realised the impact it had on not only my physical health, but my mental health.

During the first lockdown in March, I would go out running every other day to burn off some extra energy. I found this massively improved my focus in class and helped me become more motivated, but when lockdown eased and then Autumn came I became more and more reluctant to go out, especially when winter was approaching as it was always cold, dark and raining outside.

In December I completed my Gold DofE expedition which consisted of walking 100 miles in 6 days, which reminded me how much I enjoyed pushing myself physically and mentally not matter how hard it was, and decided I should start to be more active again. When the Bellevue Blitz was announced, it occurred to me that there was one thing I could do to exercise that, if I am being honest, I hadn’t tried since I was about 10… cycling!

As I didn't have my own bike (at least not one that was the correct size, and didn’t have purple flowers on), I borrowed one of my step brother’s mountain bikes and went out cycling for 40 minutes in my lunch hour. I managed to complete just over 10km on the country lanes around my house, and was very proud of myself but I knew I could do better.

So the next day I went out and managed to complete just over 27km, all going towards helping complete the Bellevue Blitz. On my best day last week I completed 45km and managed to complete 144.84km in total. I decided my mission was to beat the Headmaster! Not only this but by day 3, I had bought myself second hand road bike. Lockdown has caused my driving test to be cancelled twice (so far) so two wheels is the next best thing!

By going out every day on my bike, I felt like I was achieving more in my day, gaining motivation to complete school work, and getting fitter in the process. Even when it was really cold and my legs were aching from the day before, the sense of achievement at the end kept me motivated.

I also discovered, through talking with my mum, that the love for cycling ran in the family, as my great grandad was selected for the Olympic cycling team trials, but eventually couldn’t compete due to injury.

Like my fellow Year 13 students, I have spent almost half of my A Level course in lockdown, and with only just over a term of my school career remaining, whether or not we will be returning to school before I am off on A Level ‘exam leave’ and then leaving Sherfield, still remains somewhat uncertain.

In the absence of formal exams, those sitting both GCSEs and A Levels this year are still waiting for final confirmation from the Government as to how their hard work over the last couple of years will be assessed. I have applied to five Universities having not actually had the opportunity to physically visit them and am relying on ‘virtual open days’, my own research and student testimonials. I will make my final choice of two in next few months, still possibly without having been able to visit.

The last year has certainly been an unexpected, at times immensely stressful and demoralising experience, and a potential recipe for an incredible amount of stress and anxiety, but one which I believe has taught me a lot about myself. I consider myself incredibly fortunate in many ways.

With more and more people suffering a decline in mental health as a result of the pandemic and the lockdown we are in, it is more important than ever. Know you are not alone, and that as hard as it may seem some days, it is important to keep active and motivated.

Setting small, achievable goals and rewarding yourself when you reach them is the easiest way to stay on top of both school work and fitness, and in the long run will help you get the best out of life.

Kind Regards

Emilie, Head Girl & Year 13 Student

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