Exercise, fresh air and social interaction has become even more important for veterans after many have been self-isolating due to Covid-19. Here is a case study about the impact the Cycle Group has had for several FirstLight veterans in Gosport during this difficult time.
The FirstLight Trust team in Gosport works with Cycle UK to ensure the correct measures are in place to keep everyone safe whilst out on their rides. Veterans PG, PM, MA and NF took part in the first socially distanced bike ride, which continues each week.
On one of the first rides, FirstLight Trust colleague, RB, could see something was wrong with NF so she pulled him aside to ask if he was okay. NF was stressed and anxious about moving house, so RB invited him to join the ride in his electric wheel chair which he eventually accepted. NF interacted with the group and he thanked RB for inviting him stating, “that was just what I needed”. RB reminded NF that moving house is stressful for anyone and encouraged him to continue with his breathing exercises and to reach out if he needs help.
MA brought his own helmet and was keen to get started. He said he had been waiting for months to get together and was ready for a good ride. The group took in the landscape as they rode and chatted when they stopped for a break.
On the second week, veterans JW and MR joined. JW had a bad knee so the group took a slightly slower ride this week. JW shared that his daughter had passed away quite suddenly last month and he explained this was the first time he had been out properly. He stated that it was “just what the doctor ordered”. JW spoke to FirstLight Trust’s RB about how he is coping, and was thankful for a listening ear. The rest of the group took the time to speak to JW and make him laugh. JW decided that he wanted to become a regular member of the Cycle Club. The veterans requested longer bike rides in the future as they are starting to feel physically fitter.
The group has continued to grow and has split into two with those less confident being led by FirstLight’s colleague, SF. Gosport’s mascot Hope the Bear joins the veterans on most rides, providing a good laugh to all. On the fifth week, the more advanced group were picking up speed and with the weather improving the veterans enjoyed the ride even more. JW opened up about his daughter stating that she loved the grounds they had cycled to that day. He says that even though he misses her every day, he is learning to get on with life without her and is thankful to FirstLight Trust for all the support.
On week six, NF had a low mood and told RB that he would not be attending Cycle Club this week, however he showed up anyway. He was quiet on the ride stating that he was having a bad couple of days. He had been turned down for a walk-in shower from the GP and occupational therapist. NF received a text message telling them his application had been rejected. However, when RB asked to see the text message she was able to tell him that he had been asked to contact the number they sent through for a self-referral. NF had read the text wrong, and thanked RB for the help. PG ad PM thoroughly enjoyed the ride this week. PM stated that it’s great for his mental health and if he had never found FirstLight Trust then “god knows where I would be now”.
The Cycle Group was joined by a representative from Cycle UK on one of their rides. They cycled along the beach front and over to a beautiful garden where they stopped for a break. The group enjoyed talking to S from Cycle UK, they spoke about their time in the forces and how the Cycle Group has helped them.
The Cycle Group has become a place where veterans can come to get some exercise out in the fresh air and where they can socialise and seek support from FirstLight colleagues. This has become increasingly important given that lockdown has left many veterans feeling lonely and isolated.