on your bike

Bike & Bear

Help for Heroes Bike Rides have become a signature part of their fundraising strategy, which made me wonder what is it about a bike ride that makes it agood event for fundraising?  I suppose from a practical perspective it’s something most people can do, other than a bike (and a helmet) at it’s most basic it doesn’t need much equipment and a modest level of fitness is enough. One of the reason’s I signed up for the Bike Ride as a physical challenge in 2010 was to give me a practical target for improving my fitness. Obviously taking on a physical challenge like riding 350 miles in 6 days isn’t something you do without practice and effort but without doing the whole science bit cycling like any forms of exercise is good for you, it improves your physical fitness, and because of the way exercise releases endorphins it makes you feel good.

Help for Heroes isn’t just about supporting servicemen & women with physical injuries, the work they do with Charities like Combat Stress and The Big White Wall is about helping those whose service has impacted on their mental health. A five-year study of more than 500 reservists who served in Iraq showed they were twice as likely to get PTSD compared with regular soldiers. The report said reservists had “significantly elevated rates of common mental disorders” and warned that “rates of mental illness may continue to rise in the months and years after reservists have returned home”.  Major General Tim Cross, who served in Iraq, told the Guardian the problems faced by ex-servicemen would increase as the decade wore on. “I think we are building up. I’ve said for quite a while we [have] got a bow wave coming. PTSD on average takes about 11 years to really show,” he said. “A lot of the Falklands veterans have gone through really difficult times and they now say, I think it’s probably true, more Falklands guys have committed suicide than died during the campaign.”

With the MOD wanting to double the number of reservists to 30,000 over the next five years, Chris Simpkins, the director general of the Royal British Legion, and Commodore Andrew Cameron, chief executive of Combat Stress, said: “There is now a pressing need to seriously address the support requirements of reservists and their families.”  Unlike their colleagues in the regular forces, Reservists do not have an extended period of time surrounded by their peers when they return home from duty, and often swiftly return to their civilian role, without the opportunity to share experiences with others who have served alongside them.  That makes logical sense to me, and illustrates a point made by Ex RAF Airman Alex in his blog recently where he described his feeling of isolation since leaving the RAF.

I can understand something of how Alex feels after being medically discharged and becoming isolated from my peers and support network.  I know that my experiences are somewhat different to many of the guys I served with because I left without serving in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. If im honest I dont think of myself as a civilian, I am an ex-serviceman. One of the great things I got from doing the Bike Ride in 2010 was meeting some great people from all walks of life, many of whom I’m still in touch with and some of whom I am lucky to call friends.  Its clearly nothing like the same as military service, especially in the places where so many people have suffered physical and mental ill health, but the shared experience of completing a physical challenge and paying respect to the thousands who made the ultimate sacrifice is an experience that can bring people together and can be so rewarding.

So if cycling is good for your physical & mental health, is something most people can do and allows you to make friends and is fun its no wonder it’s one of the most popular ways for people to support Help for Heroes.

But cycling a long way for a charity isn’t the only way to show support for something you believe in.  In my post Fun versus Risk  I mentioned that one of our boys friends Max had an accident at a local skate park when he misjudged his landing after doing a quad tail whip on his scooter. Max was airlifted to hospital in London by Kent Surrey & Sussex Air Ambulance There has sometimes been some antipathy between kids who scooter and those who BMX but Max’s accident and the concern everyone has felt for him has brought both groups together. They are holding a Skate Jam on Saturday 16th March from 12noon at the seafront skatepark in Estbourne or if bad weather from 4-10 at Westskates to raise money for the air ambulance. #rideformax

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