With the Government citing the importance of daily activity throughout the lockdown period, finding news way to boost outdoor exercise has been crucial. Like many people across our city region who have re-discovered, or discovered for the very first time, the simple joy of cycling, Claire Barber and her family have made cycling part of their daily lives since lockdown began.
Thinking of new activity ideas
The UK lockdown period began with dry weather and families suddenly spending every moment at home together. For families like Claire’s, boredom quickly set in with a real need to find fun and energetic outlets for physical and mental health.
‘My husband and I are active and healthy,’ says Claire. ‘But the children’s idea of exercising is pressing the buttons on the remote control! When lockdown hit, we all felt we needed to get outside. We managed to entice the whole family out for a walk, but it was hard work and under duress.’
Claire knew that she needed to think of a new idea, and cycling seemed a great way to get the whole family involved in activity. ‘The problem was, we didn’t own any bikes!’ laughs Claire. ‘Sourcing them in lockdown was virtually impossible, but I knew my mum and dad had long-forgotten bikes in their shed. I asked to borrow them, but they weren’t quite fit for purpose: one was large and heavy, and the other had a wicker basket and broken brakes.’
Sourcing bikes, with difficulty!
Claire tried riding the heavier bike around the block, but it was hard work. However, when her youngest daughter, 11-year-old Eva, showed interest in coming along, she persevered. ‘Our neighbour said that Eva could borrow her bike whenever we needed,’ says Claire. ‘Then Lily, my 13-year-old, started showing some interest and borrowed the bike too; soon, they were borrowing it every single day. I didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to keep them engaged in an activity, so I knew it was time to buy our bikes.’
With Government guidance permitting daily outdoor exercise, bikes were in a high demand. Sourcing bikes for the family was tricky, but Claire was determined. Hours on the internet paid off, and a fortnight later the family each had a bike of their own.
Beginning cycling as a family
Once everyone had a bike, it was time for the first family cycling trip. ‘It was hard work at first, with the children needing to stop to catch their breath and grab a drink,’ Claire admits. ‘But we built up our riding skills slowly and steadily by setting ourselves challenges and extending our cycling distance each time.’
The family set off on rides down the Manchester canal to begin with, before increasing the difficulty of their route week-on-week. ‘We made sure our rides passed the girls’ Nana’s and Aunt’s houses, meaning we could stop and say hello – from a distance – on our way home,’ adds Claire. We’ve even managed to get my stepchildren Dana (21) and Owen (14) to come along on some of our rides. Dana ordered a bike so she could join in, and our brilliant neighbour gave us an old one for Owen.’
Making active lifestyle changes
The family have seen huge benefits from choosing cycling as an activity. ‘In the past, it’s been hard to engage the children in the exercise we do. Yet lockdown and the cycling opportunity saw a change in their mindset. Exercise has to be fun and enjoyable in order to stick to it, and we’ve all definitely found something in cycling together.’
‘Our new hobby really helps us clear the cobwebs,’ continues Claire. ‘Today’s lifestyle is so hurried, and we’re always thinking about tomorrow rather than enjoying today. Yet a 20-minute cycle ride has helped us feel fresher and connect as a family.’
‘We’re together in a house, of course, but cycling’s given us a way to all engage and laugh along in each other’s company. I hope, as a society, we all continue to enjoy exercising. It’s been so nice to see others walking, cycling, and running outdoors, acknowledging each other with a smile.’
Data released today by Sport England, today reveals a downturn in adult activity levels in Greater Manchester on what had been a steady upwards trend in the years
This Walk to School Week, we spoke to Annette Turner, Population Health Programme Manager at Tameside Council, for her views on making the school run a more active and enjoyable experience