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Benefits of cycling

The Power Of Cycling: How Bicycles Can Help Rehabilitate Wounded Veterans | Help For Heroes


– Cycling doesn’t have to
be an exclusionary sport, only accessible for the fittest
and most physically able. And I guess we all love chasing the KOMs and increasing our PBs. But to some people,
cycling is much, much more. We’ve come to see Help for Heroes to find out what adaptions
and tweaks they’ve made to help rehabilitation
for injured servicepeople, and how cycling can be an
incredible tool for recovery, and I guess, how it can be a
sport for absolutely everyone. Help for Heroes, a British
charity that supports British servicemen and women who
have suffered illness or have been injured in the line of duty. Hannah Lauten is the
Sports Recovery Manager for Help for Heroes. – My job basically consists working around the whole sports recovery
program for the national team. So we look at different
sporting events across the UK and worldwide that we can take part in and get beneficiaries to. I also look after the Evictors program, so we take the UK team
out to the Evictors games. – So why do you think cycling
is a great tool for recovery? – Cycling is great because
you can do it indoors and you can do it outdoors, so guys who do training inside
if the weather’s not great or if they’re not able to get out and they don’t feel
comfortable getting out, and they can go to the
next level where they can go out onto the road
with a group of people or even staff from Help for
Heroes have taken people out. Regardless of impairment type, there’s pretty much a bike
that will fit somebody so they can get out of their chair, they can get out of their prosthetics, they can just get away from everything that’s going on inside their head and just hit the open road, and it’s good sports too. This is Paddy, he was on a routine march with Royal Marines where he slipped a disk and became paralyzed on his right leg. He was then diagnosed with
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and he’s been using cycling
to aid his mental health. – Paddy, can you kind of, tell us a bit about how
you got in to the Marines and a bit about your story? – I joined the Marines in 1992, I believe that’s when you were born. And I did 22 years in the Marines. At the 18 year point, I damaged my back. My disk came out of my back at L5-S1 and paralyzed me: right leg. I was doing a speed march, I was just running along
and all of a sudden, I couldn’t run anymore, my leg wouldn’t work. I was just sort of
dragging my leg behind me, and you just get the normal
instructor’s attitude: You’re weak, get out of
here, get in the wagon. But for me, that wasn’t the case because I knew I could do it and I had been training, I had been cycling my
road bike beforehand. I was at Germany for three
years, working with the Army. So I had to travel back
and forward to work, so I used the road bike and
used that as my training. So, it was case of, couple days later the disk had completely shifted in my back. Trapped my spinal cord, my nervous system, and retracted my right leg underneath me and then that was me: Paralyzed, left in a wheelchair. After the surgeons done the work on it, they said that nerve
was permanently damaged and I’d never walk again. – [James] Was that a
really difficult moment? – Well, it was, being so active. It was just red rag to your bull and I swore at the surgeon and told him I would walk again, and I just got up and dragged
myself out of the room. And that was pretty much the last time I used the wheelchair. – What’s it like, living with PTSD? – It horrendous. I nearly didn’t make it here today. I get various triggers, gunfire being one of them and helicopters which
I can’t see, another. And just before I got in
the car to come up here, I live beside a camp and a pool and they were training on the range so I got into the car and started
driving with that in my head and I had to pull over, it’s a 20 minute drive from here, and I’m froze at the side of the road, and I just didn’t know what to do. I rang my wife, tell it to my wife and tried to bring myself down. Then, it took me nearly
half-an-hour to get here and I stayed in the
car park for 20 minutes and its just all these small things, just trying to focus myself to get here. From being such a strong person, with a strong personality beforehand to being, in my own feeling, weak. That you can’t do it, I was finding it hard
to get out of the car. When I got to here, I
sat on the wall outside. I couldn’t actually get through the door so it was the case: I came into the car, in turn, I went back out again and I just had to slowly break myself in and when I met Rachael
out here, I was shaking. And this is nearly an
hour-and-a-half after I was having the flashbacks
while I was driving. It is terrible. I can’t remember the last
time I actually slept, like dreaming. I take medication to sleep. I take medication in the morning to get myself up and get me upright. So it’s horrendous. (mellow music) – How does cycling help
with the recovery process? – I found that cycling
does help my recovery. Because I can have a bit of release, because it’s got nothing to
do with being in the Marines. Its got nothing to do with being shot at, it’s got nothing that triggers me, because I can put my earphones in and I can just push myself. I can push myself as
hard or as easy as I need and for me, physically and
mentally, it’s just amazing. So I just needed something to refocus on, and cycling was just one of
those things that I focused on. – Patty, thank you so
much and thank you for explaining a bit about your story. We’ve had a go on your handcycle, thank you for letting me go on it, first. But I think we should give the viewers a bit of an insight,
a bit about your bike. (mellow music) – [Paddy] So, I went for
fully carbon-fiber bike and it’s been specially molded
for me and specially built. So, it’s, as I say, fully carbon. Even the grips are carbon. Its setup pretty much
like a normal road bike. You know, you’ve got your front gears, which would be your back gears. Your normal cog system, and it’s just like a normal handgrip on any particular road bike. So your going down your
gears and up your gears. But, to move my shifting
system at the top, I’ve got a lever below, which I manage to tap with
my hand as I come around. – [James] Ah, okay. – Because it functions as
both hands ride at one time. And as you sort of find yourself, it can be quite a hard work
to actually push around. – Agh, it’s, without a doubt, the hardest bike I’ve ever ridden because I’ve got very small arms. Paddy here, has much
stronger arms than I do. But yeah, it’s amazing isn’t it? And it’s incredible how
fast you can go on them. – Yeah, I was competing in
Sheffield earlier on this year and, the sort of work that I was doing, setting 27 miles an hour on it; in this, is quite a speed. – What does it weigh? – 16 kilos. – 16 kilos, wow. And then, on the back here: Lest we forget – [Paddy] Yeah, it’s just in
memory of guys that we’ve lost and friends that have
gone, never forgotten. I had to reach out to some charities and get help to purchase the bike last year before going to Sydney. So, it’s one of those things, we can’t forget the guys. – No, agreed. Thank you so much Paddy. – Got it, man. (mellow music) – [Hannah] This is Andy, he’s a former Sargent
in the Royal Signals. He had the overuse injury in his knee and he used cycling to aid his depression through his mental health. – You know, it’s very strange. Like a lot of active people, I just had a knee injury, had to have my ACL replaced. And when you think that’s fine, it went a little bit wrong during surgery so I had a lot of infections and it was nothing I
particularly was concerned about. I was looked after pretty
well in the hospital. But for some reason, I ended up contracting Crohn’s. I went through my entire
career and childhood, I don’t I even ever broke a bone, I never hurt myself. So to suddenly find I’m now not as invulnerable as maybe I thought I was, and actually realizing that
when you hurt yourself, whatever it may be, it really hurts and it can just literally
affect your life completely, Turns your world upside down. – Being in the Army, you kind of feel like a
real-life action man, don’t you? How does it feel when
that kind of all ends? – You do feel like you should
be able to handle everything, but actually you can’t. Luckily I was married, I
had a really supportive wife and if I’d have been on my own, I’d have been in trouble. That was the only pillar of
support I had at the time to get me through that phase of being ill. – So it all happened in really
quick succession, didn’t it? I mean, you got your knee injury, and then it went to Crohn’s, and then you got discharged. Now that’s tough to go through. – Oh yeah, I mean that sort of situation, when you speak to people
it’s like a spiral. You’re in a spiral you can’t escape from. You get into a point where you just… I was having pain-relief in hospital to the point where they were
having to up every dose, go to a new pain-relief medication, to a point where they could stick me with a whole load of morphine for a horse and I wouldn’t even notice the difference. And you you’re just at
that point going: (sigh) So there’s going to be a varied point where you’re just going to
crack and I think I luckily, just maybe, didn’t quite get that far. – So you didn’t have a history of cycling, but did you just think:
I’ll be good at cycling? – Yeah, I didn’t do any cycling. Started cycling with a
pretty rubbishy bike. I remember, I was in a very
good club in North London, in Finchly, where they
were really organized, very disciplined, very experienced. And you just get quicker,
just by riding with people. I think that idea of being
isolated on a mountain, I think admittedly going up the Galibier, I started crying at some point. But, there’s was point there
where I was actually free with clear mind, fresh air, to actually: This is actually healing as well as being quite
painful on the legs. I still think that maybe… I even do it now, like I go on a Saturday morning, we have a club ride. It’s a social club ride. The best bit about the
club ride is actually getting to the coffee shop
afterward and having a chat. Because we’re all like-minded and we all like to have a conversation and that’s probably the healing process. (mellow music) – So a lot of the guys that come (mumbles) and they start attending
the different series of sports camps that we do. A lot of that is because they want to be a part of a team again and they want that comradery back and they want to be
around like-minded people and back in kind of like
a military environment. And that’s kind of what we aim to provide and we hope that
everybody that takes part, gets something from
that and allows them to go on to bigger and better things. – How do you think cycling
help mental health? – Mental health is quite
a tough one, I guess. A lot of our cohorts
that are coming through Help for Heroes at the moment,
are around mental health. And a lot of the time, it’s being in that same environment and that thought, that
brain never switching off, it’s constant thought process, and actually by getting into a sport that regains your focus, it gives you an ability to do something with like-minded people, it gets you out of the house
and out into an environment where you can kind of almost let all those thoughts dissipate, and it can be quite a
relaxing, quite calming, you can go for a steady bike ride or you can go and you
can work really hard. (mellow piano tune) – I’m off to meet Jaco Van Gas, who’s actually a friend of mine. I’ve known him for a few years now. He actually got injured in Afghanistan where he lost his left
arm and he had shrapnel in the left side of his body. It’s going to be interesting
to hear his story and how he became an athlete in cycling. Jaco grew up in South
Africa and at the age of 20, flew to the UK to join the British Army. In 2009, Jaco just
completed his last mission of his second six month
tour of Afghanistan, and he and his platoon would usually be picked up by helicopter. The pilot, however, spotted something and wasn’t confident
with the landing site, so sent the platoon coordinates to a different landing site in the desert. It was here that they
ran into enemy forces and Jaco’s life changed forever. – We were receiving fire from various different fire locations and almost getting surrounded to a degree. So they fired, the Taliban fired two RPGs, rocket propelled grenades
from my left flank. The first came over our heads and exploded in the distance, missing us. But the second one was fired low, bouncing, ricocheting off the ground. In my night vision goggles, I could just see this red
glow heading towards me and the sound of this rocket
just getting ever so louder. Just louder and louder and I
knew it was going to be close. So as a kind of reaction, I twisted by body towards and
kind of braced for the impact. So it exploded right next to me and the blast blew me about
four, five meters away from my original position. And it’s when I was
trying to hold my rifle in the correct firing position that it just fell to the ground. It just didn’t feel right. And it’s at that moment
when I looked down, that I realized that I
actually lost my left arm. So my arm was severed
from my body, immediately. There was an element of
accepting that quite quickly, and I think because I
do remember it slightly from that night, from the incident. What was a bigger shock to me, surprisingly, to a lot of people, was actually all the other
injuries I sustained. Because, like I say, it’s almost like I remember the arm slightly. But what I didn’t know was
I had a collapsed left lung, I had shrapnel wounds to my left side. I woke up with a colostomy and I’m like: What’s a colostomy, how does it work? I’ve lost a third of muscle and tissue to my left-upper thigh. It was really touch-and-go whether I was even going to keep my left leg. It had a few infections and
injuries and stuff like that so the doctors was really
considering amputating it but they were like: Well, we’d
rather try and keep it then. So that was a concern for me and then I’ve broken my knee, my
ankle, all the other injuries and that was actually
almost harder than the arm. – How did you find cycling? – It was the one thing that
was kind of easy-adaptable. Even just sitting on the training bike, on a stepping bike, on
the Wattbike in the gym. I only needed the one arm
to kind of hold myself up but I can still turn my legs, and again, especially for my left leg, it was really good rehab. So it’s from my rehabilitation, I really found cycling very, very helpful. Very useful. I then started learning about
para-sports and para-cycling. I bought a bike, and I first started off
riding it with one arm and it was well-difficult. I found it so hard. You know, you’re body’s just twisted and the pressure just on your one arm, the one palm and trying to
brake as well, do gears. But through my rehabilitation (mumbles) I always wanted to get
back on the motorbike. So I had this motorbike prosthetic and I just adapted that
and put it on my bike. So it enabled me to put
weight through both shoulders and then start learning to steer again. But it really set me on a trajectory that, I went from having an
interest into cycling to making a career out of it now. – When did you know you could kind of turn cycling into a career? – It’s a really good question,
knowing when I started. I think it was just the
passion about cycling was always there and that
burned so bright in me that, it was more the passion
and drive for cycling, to potentially become a Paralympian. I was on that trajectory but
a turning point for me was the London Olympics and
Paralympics in 2012. I was inspired by that
and I went to few events and I was like: Wow, I want a bit of this. And that really driven me
to eventually leave my job and go on to a Paralympic Pathfinder Day where you literally get introduced to what you potentially
could be as an athlete. You do tests and I got
deemed as having talent. So then, very slowly, they work with you and you start racing a
little bit domestically and it’s just a brilliant
pathway that they’ve got setup. So from day one, and
then I’ve made it through a development team, onto the Academy, onto the eventual British team. And my goal was to partake in Rio 2016. I narrowly, sadly missed
out on the final team to go. But I’ve learned a great deal from that. (mellow piano tune) – Right, this is one thing I’m actually really excited about is, taking a look at your bike and how you’ve kind of adapted
it to make it work for you. Can we get up and have a look at it? – Let’s do that. – Let’s do it. – This is my favorite, from all the bikes I own, which is several. This is by far my favorite one. Just the versatility
that this bike offers. Today it’s in its road-racing
kind of mode or setup with the lovely
deep-section wheels and then I can just change into
some gravel-bike wheels and then go and take some awesome trails, wherever is needed. So this is my prosthetic. This is the one I’ve developed
over a number of years now, and this is what I find
really comfortable. Its got an aerodynamic shape to it and it’s just so simple and easy to use. I wear a liner over my stump and it works on a suction system. Underneath here, I’ve got
a little one-way valve. So with the liner on, I push in and it pushes out
all the air out the bottom so nothing comes back in, and it just sits there nice and tightly. Over here, I have a simple
mountain bike bar end. And as I said to you earlier on as well, I’ve recognized the
simpler you keep something, the better it works. So this is literally a
mountain bike bar end padded out with electrical tape and over the years, it’s formed a lovely little groove into it and my arm purely sits on there. – Oh, nice. – Like that. So that is me, secured to the bike. And it’s in a position, or at an angle, that I can push through and I can also set out of the saddle and rotate the bike underneath me. So that was important for me, to be able to do that. Because a lot of other systems
doesn’t really offer that. So that’s me in a racing
or very aggressive position and there’s slightly
(mumbles) going uphill or having something to eat,
having something to drink, that I just pop into the smaller one. – You’ve got all the
shifting on this side, can you talk us through that? – That’s right. So obviously, most importantly, it comes down to brakes. I have here a three-way system, so a three-way splitter. So this is the main cable running obviously from
the brake into here, and then it just pushes the
fluid to the front brake and then some more to the rear brake. So by pulling one lever, I’m getting both brakes
stopping at the same time. So there’s advantages to that, there’s slight
disadvantages to it as well. But it’s a system that works really well and it enables me to run
quite a smooth-looking system. – And then onto shifting, going into the big ring and
using all the gears on the bike. Is that all done on one lever? – Again, all done on one lever. Fantastic system by Shimano. The synchro-shift, it works
really, really well for me. So I’ve got it setup
in a ratio that I like so I’m mostly in the big ring and it goes all the way up
to the very top of the block, and the second-last one, once I go into the
biggest gear on the back, it will then drop to
small gear on the front and then shift down a few
extra ones on the back. So, the ratio between
gears is really good. But no, the synchro-shift
system works really well for me. (mellow music) – So before I got here, cycling to me was getting
to the finish line, working on my power
output and getting PBs. But now I’m here, I’ve kind of learned that cycling can really change someone’s life. Getting out on the bike and feeling that fresh air, can save someone’s life. (mellow music) I have to say, I’ve had the most incredible day and absolutely loved it. Thank you so much to these
guys for all their time. If you liked it, well subscribe to GCN. Where do you click? – Down there. – And if you want to give
this video a big thumbs up, what do you do Jaco? – The big thumbs up. – And for more videos, click down there.

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