“I’ve always loved sport because of the amazing way it connects and unites people together. It gives people a fun escape and a chance to be free. I was a super sporty kid specialising in football & rowing but enjoying a bit of everything really. I realised very young that I wanted to help other people to get active and improve their skills and confidence through sport so I started coaching aged 14.
Sixteen years later I’m still loving it and have coached all over the world with various charities, youth organisations and federations. I really believe sport has the power to change the world & make people happier. I set up Brave in 2016 with the mission of inspiring people to be more confident through trying sport & activities. We’re based in Bristol, UK & Arowcania, Chile. In Bristol we run a football group focusing on wellbeing, confidence and enhancing mental health. In Chile we have an adventure park which we use to help the whole community to get active outdoors and to build their confidence & step out of their comfort zones- and to have fun! One day I’d love Brave to be a worldwide charity making a huge impact on the happiness & mental health of people everywhere.
In addition to Brave I also contribute to The Global Goals World Cup. We are a collective of likeminded coaches delivering sessions to teach and inspire people to be active and activist about the UN Sustainable Development Goals. It’s an amazing cause and a very unique group of passionate trailblazers!
When I’m not coaching or running Brave, I’m happiest surfing, kitesurfing, mountain biking, SUPing or playing football with my friends & family. I hope through my work I can help other people to find what makes them buzz too!”
“I’ve not always had my disability, in fact, growing up I was extremely sporty. I did karate lessons, signed up for every event at sports day, ran charity runs and eventually even got into my county Badminton team! That was an amazing achievement for me as despite my love of sport, I never really had much aptitude for it – especially running – but hey, it’s the taking part that counts right?
As I got older I tried all sorts of exercise classes, gym workouts and developed a love for mountaineering. Indoor climbing is by far what I miss the most these days. I was diagnosed with a mild case of M.E. in my third year of university, and to be honest, I kind of ignored it. Boy did I live to regret that. You can’t beat M.E. you see, thanks to the main symptom of Post Exertional Malaise (PEM) – which basically means the more I exert myself, the more ill I am. So as I continued to work hard and exercise hard, ignoring the signals my body was sending me, and using painkillers and drugs to mask my body’s cries to stop, I just became increasingly ill.
I unfortunately now have a moderate case of M.E. which heavily restricts what I can do. Even small activities can trigger PEM. I have a perching stool in the kitchen for washing up, but I still have to spend a few hours resting afterwards as my entire upper-body will feel like I’ve been lifting weights. I recently purchased a coverless duvet because changing bed sheets left me feeling worse than that time I did a half marathon years ago. I even cut most of my hair off because of the exertion of washing and styling it. Theoretically I could still go climb a wall, but I would ‘crash’ afterwards, becoming extremely ill and bedridden for days or weeks. So traditional exercise is kind of off the table…
With M.E. you can only really talk about activity rather than exercise, because things like washing up may now be a major workout for you. However, M.E. varies a LOT in severity, so you’ll sometimes see individuals with the mildest cases still doing low impact workouts, but the most severe of us are permanently confined to bed. It’s kind of like putting pins & needles and paralysis on the same scale.
I still struggle with doing any kind of activity for activities sake, most of my limited energy is used up on day-to-day living activities. But I’m trying to get into the habit of doing something, even if it’s once or twice a week, sometimes not even that. I like to do 5 minute ‘yoga’, though it’s basically 90% child’s pose. Essentially I get a yoga mat out and do some stretches. I think this helps, as I spend so much time sat still, inactive, that I think my body just starts cramping up, but I can’t really say for sure. I do know that mentally it makes a difference, it makes me feel like I haven’t given up, like there’s still something I can do, it reminds me that I’m not being lazy, that I want to do more, it’s just not good for me.
If anyone else with M.E. reads this, I can’t give you much advice because of how varied our symptoms are. Just make sure to listen to your body. Don’t push it. I know society teaches us that we should push harder, that we shouldn’t take a day off unless we’re really ill, the whole ‘no pain no gain’ but sometimes that backfires. Sometimes your body just can’t take it and if you don’t listen you’ll only make things worse. Had I stopped and listened, maybe I would still be able to work part-time at least, do some of those low impact workouts, be able to make it up a single flight of stairs without stopping to rest.
So that’s my story. Listen to your body, work with it, not against it, do what you as an individual can, and forget what others can do. For most people, exercise is worthwhile and good for your health, but that doesn’t mean you have to go all out. Just getting a walk into your day is good enough for some. We’re all made differently.”
“From being 5 For 22 years I played football, week in and week out. I started to lose the excitement that football gave me and so aged 28 I gave up. I searched for something to get me excited – swimming, cycling, rowing and nothing did..
Then aged 29 having started to get out of shape I was diagnosed with testicular cancer.. the NHS were amazing and within a week I was operated on, as I lay in the recovery room out of shape and blown away by what had just happened I decided at that point I would become fitter than I had ever been in my life.
After a couple of months of rehab and not being allowed to exercise I found Parkrun, the rest was history.. I increased my running until I was running every day, then I tried a half marathon, it never stopped and before I knew it I was signed up for a full marathon. Fast forward 3 years and I am fitter than I have ever been, complete 20+ half’s, 2 marathons, have a 5k time of sub 19 mins and have run circa 2800 miles.
I will always remember the time when I was rock bottom, unfit, unable to exercise and remember how it made me feel.. I run every day and Inspire others to do the same. The goal for the next 2 years is to complete an Ironman and complete the journey of Illness to Ironman.”
“I wasn’t really sporty. I spent most of my primary school in choir. I loved it because there was less effort.
However; I became adventurous when I joined high school. Started off with field hockey which ultimately introduced me to running
Running wasn’t my favorite but I loved field hockey and it was the only way to stay fit. Slowly by slowly; I started falling in love with it and it became my way to go for fitness.
I have been running 10 years plus. Not consistently but a few times a year. This year with everything that is happening; I have taken it a notch higher and it has been my stress reliever. So far I am loving it; I already know that I am running more than last year and I hope to continue like that. For me; it’s more of a mindset than it is of a physical effort.
Anybody can run; it only starts with one step at a time.”
“I was an athlete throughout my childhood up through high school. Played multiple sports. Even after high school I stayed active for several years playing flag football. It wasn’t until my late 20’s when I got married and my wife and I started our family that I found every excuse to not be active.
Then about 5 years ago when my son started playing youth soccer and I realized I was so out of shape I could not keep up with 5 & 6 years old on a soccer field. This is when I decided it was time for no more excuses. I just needed to find something that would keep me motivated.
A good friend of mine introduced me to obstacle course racing. I looked into it and thought oh this looks fun. I soon realized that I needed much more in the way of fitness to be able to run these races. I started working out and training at a local gym 3 to 4 days a week and also running several times a week. Once I realized how much better I felt physically and the benefits I would see from a healthier lifestyle it lit a fire in me. I soon found that my passion was running.
I set a goal this year of running 1000 miles while also maintaining a balanced life with my family! My wife has also joined me in the fitness journey of life and we workout together several times a week doing her beach body programs.”
Throughout school I was obsessed with sport, I played as much as I could, my whole life was consumed with playing some game. I was immensely competitive and still am today.
From 11 I played for 2 rugby teams, ice skated 4 to 5 times a week, If not we played roller hockey or football. After leaving school this huge void opened up, I began a career in hairdressing and it was a party lifestyle, I gained weight, drank too much, smoked too much and dabbled in recreational drugs.
I started to realise that I was struggling with drink and I couldn’t just have a few, I had to shut the lights completely out. This took its toll professionally, physically and mentally. I hit rock bottom and was around 112kg, so unhealthy and something snapped and I became suicidal.
One day my best friend decided to take me for a game of squash, I can pinpoint that session in summer 2009, as the beginning of my recovery, it awoke my physical side and my competitive nature. We played more and I found new partners, eventually I started at the gym and since 2009 it’s become an integral part of my life. I wanted to end my life and now I wake up earlier every day to be more proactive, I train to be obsessive and it keeps me on the right path.
The knock on effects it has, my productivity stoked by endorphins and the positivity, I’m almost coming up 40 but I feel younger and more energetic now than when I was 27. Never underestimate the mental health benefits physical activity can yield, it takes time to get there but you’ll never look back.”
“Growing up I always loved being out on my roller skates, sometimes whilst my brothers pulled me along from their BMX bikes! I basically wanted to be in Starlight Express! In school I hated PE, I wasn’t popular and didn’t enjoy any of the activities offered, so I didn’t really get involved in sport.
Fast forward to 2012, I moved to Suffolk to support my husband who unfortunately lost his life to cancer. Finding myself far away from friends and family but needing a support network I reminisced about my childhood roller skates and decided to try out for the local roller derby team.
I was instantly hooked! It’s a full contact team sport, and I love that I can take out all my stress by hitting other people on skates, but it’s also very tactical, so every training session I can lose myself thinking about strategy and gameplay, giving me a chance to switch off from real life.
Eight years on, I still skate at least once a week. We are not able to play competitively at the moment due to coronavirus, so I’m going back to my roots and taking my wheels outside. Right now I’m taking part in a virtual roller marathon, raising funds for a community skating project.
In 2019 I gave birth to my son, and now I’m finding toddler friendly ways that I can skate. Skating was great exercise physically through pregnancy and brilliant for my mental health during the post-natal period. Through derby I have many new friends for life, skating has had a massive positive boost for both my mind and body!”
“I have always enjoyed sport although I wasn’t the best at typical school sports like netball and hockey. I gave them a go but was never good enough to make the teams. I always wanted to do the typical boys sports.. football, cricket. I’ve always loved running and cross country and did that through my teens.
At uni I met a couple of girls who played football. I joined the women’s football team and loved it. After uni I carried on playing football and got my coaching badges. I kept running and going to the gym to keep fit.
After I had my daughter I gave up coaching as it took up too much time with a young family. I still tried to keep fit by running and going to the gym. I then started to suffer with a bowel condition..
In 2012 I was rushed to hospital and diagnosed with chronic ulcerative colitis. My only form of treatment was to have my bowel removed. I was given a permanent ileostomy which saved my life. As I recovered I wanted to get fit again.. I set myself targets.. events or distances I wanted to achieve, whether it was a distance or a strength goal. I’m now fitter and stronger then ever. My ileostomy has given me life.. I am determined to live every minute. I go to the gym, have run 2 half marathons, regularly run 5 and 10ks, I have done a duathlon and I cycle.
Keeping fit and active is a privilege, it helps me feel better and allows me to spend time with my daughter when we are out running or cycling together!”
“I was always active and outdoorsy as a child, part of the school orienteering team, competing to a regional level with the athletics team in high jump and enjoying horse riding whenever I could fit it in. I then went to University and events here led to me being diagnosed with PTSD and I suffered with depression and anxiety.
The outdoors and being active has really helped me to recover from this and get back onto my feet again. I used hill walking in the Lake District to find some head space away from the day to day craziness. I went from couch potato to walking everyday, not always summiting mountains but making sure to make time for a short walk everyday.
As I recovered and began a new job in Suffolk I rediscovered my love of riding my bike. I have recently bought a hybrid bike allowing me to enjoy road biking as well as venturing off onto the local bridleway and byway network to give me a change of scene. As my fitness levels have increased I noticed a real difference in my mental well being, I am much happier and feel more awake and productive each day.”