for better mental health

Riding the pandemic

Monday, 28 September 2020 Mark

Mark blogs about how cycling has helped him cope with his coronavirus anxiety.


I started to feel overwhelmed with the coronavirus crisis so I decided to listen to the news just once a day as it was all getting too much and I was getting anxious about all sorts of uncertainties. My business, my family, finance, the future - the list goes on!

My head and mind felt like I was being sucked into a whirlwind of information, and I could feel my anxiety creep back in and wash over me.

I’ve actually named my anxiety Garth after advice from a close friend

I’ve actually named my anxiety Garth after advice from a close friend. Garth sometimes returns as a nagging reminder, tapping me on the shoulder to tell me that he’s still there.

I’ve learned to acknowledge him now and to self-regulate myself physically and emotionally and was feeling so much better till the pandemic struck.

So I decided this had to be put into perspective and put my business on hold and that I would need to focus on myself a little more. I also decided to get my bike out – I’d forgotten how much pleasure I got from cycling. I really wanted to have that person and feeling back, so I decided to take control and make that happen.

I’m fortunate to live in the countryside and have always enjoyed being amongst nature. Exercising has given me headspace to make sense of it all and helped me massively with dealing both with the anxiety and how best to move life forward.

I’m now in a much better place and am actually enjoying the slower pace of life this pandemic has brought upon us

I’m now in a much better place and am actually enjoying the slower pace of life this pandemic has brought upon us. I’ve always filled my time with activities, and wouldn’t allow myself downtime to relax because I’m of the mind-set that I should always be somewhere or doing something.

My fitness journey began a few years ago when we decided to give up our horses, which had become a strain with career and time constraints. I did, however, want to keep up my fitness so I joined the gym and became interested in cycling because I enjoyed the outdoors so much with the horse riding, and figured it would be a good alternative. Being active has had huge benefits for both my physical and mental health. Cycling, walks, and going to the gym or doing home yoga workouts has had a huge impact on my life.

I’ve always felt it’s important to set goals in life, and have learnt over time that you are the one who needs to be responsible for yourself and take those positive steps. You can’t make anyone else happy unless you are happy and well within yourself.

I now ride three to four times a week both inside and out depending on the weather, and am completing home yoga workouts which help me to acknowledge, and notice the uncertainty as it comes to mind.

Being outdoors on the bike is great thinking time. It’s the perfect opportunity to make sense of everything that is going on and clear my head of negative thoughts, whilst becoming fitter. I often stop to pause and to take in the beauty that is around us. I take pictures with my camera for my nature ride and walks and have enjoyed putting together a photo album. If you take time to breathe and really connect with your surroundings negative thoughts will pass. You don't have to respond to them. I just sit and watch them float away.

I have ridden and taken part in many rides and made some great friends along the way.

I have ridden and taken part in many rides and made some great friends along the way. I‘ve ridden From London to Paris to raise money for charity and have completed other rides such as sportive and the London Prudential charity rides. Sometimes you just need to go for it. We are all amazing humans and can inspire ourselves and others to achieve amazing things in life.

I set myself a target of 500 miles cycling to complete in May to give me an achievable goal – a focus for both my fitness and mental health. This ensured I remained motivated, fit and well during this uncertain time whilst building a strong immune system. We do need to get on with things positively, and move forward with life, and manage ourselves in the current situation as best as we can.

I managed to raise an incredible £3,000 for charity with over 175 donations from friends and family and through fundraising in the local community. I cycled more than 575 miles over 28 rides, climbing higher than Mount Everest. I felt amazing with all the support I had and regained my fitness level back too.

So if you’re thinking you need to improve your fitness and over-all well-being why not dust off that bike you have or get yourself one and get started? Cycling is a perfect way to do just that. Do one thing to make a positive change to your life, get on your bike, enjoy the great outdoors, and get your wellbeing journey started today.

Mark, who suffers from anxiety, lives in Stroud Gloucestershire, is a former businessman and now works as a youth support worker in a special needs school.

Read about Information and support

For World Mental Health Day this year, we’re encouraging everyone to do one thing for better mental health. Mark found that cycling was a simple step that he could take to improve his mental health.

Visit our webpage for more inspiration and ideas to do one thing for your own wellbeing, or to help others this World Mental Health Day.

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