Mandy’s on a two-wheeled road to recovery
That was then. Thankfully, Mandy has now turned her life around – and cycling has played a crucial role in the transformation.
Mandy, from Chelmsford, recognised she had been through a period of terrible mental and emotional stress, brought about by an intolerable work situation.
She recalled: “I worked as a personal assistant in London. I enjoyed the work but it was quite pressured. Then certain changes within the company made me quite unhappy and the long commute was also taking its toll.
“As a result I was diagnosed with clinical depression. I needed to take some time off work and it was then I knew that my life had to change.”
Mandy took advice from her GP and other health professionals and, with their support, started to get her life back on an even keel. She took the brave decision to leave her job and, when it was a struggle to get out of bed, she summoned up enough strength to find local work in a shop and also discovered Chelmsford Park Run, where she could volunteer her time and skills and regain her self-belief.
But there were still barriers to overcome, not least mobility issues brought on by osteoarthritis, which made walking difficult. In typical Mandy style, she wasn’t going to let that stop her and she thought: Why not cycle?
She got out her old bike but her first attempts resulted in falling off. That’s when she found Cycling UK’s WoMEn TIME cycling project, a partnership with Chelmsford City Council which supports people to get back on a bike, whatever their ability.
Starting to cycle again has given me a huge boost. If I am in a good place mentally then it helps me to manage the physical challenges of everyday life.”
The gift of cycling has proved a life-changing experience. Mandy, 53, said: “I travelled everywhere by bike as a child but the only cycling I had done in the last 30 years was at the gym. It hadn’t occurred to me to get back on a bike, even though I had one at home that my brother had given to me.
“Prior to joining the Cycling UK group I had been a fair-weather cyclist and would never go out in the rain. I was also unsure about what to wear and not feel stupid.
“I had a few lessons on a Tuesday and then started to take part in the Tuesday rides, which were around 10 miles in distance. One day I was the only one to turn up when it was raining but I still went out cycling.
“I was able to build my confidence and overcome the fear of falling in my own time, and steadily built up my cycling confidence and the speed and distance I could travel. Then I was in a position to support every Park Run as a mobile cycling marshal – and I haven’t looked back since.”
Thanks to cycling, Mandy feels physically fitter, mentally stronger and – having also joined Slimming World in September 2014 – she has lost more than two stone in weight, which has added to her new sense of well-being.
She said: “Cycling combined with weight loss has been of great benefit to me. Getting around on a bike has had a positive effect – it has made me feel mentally well and I feel fitter, too.
“I can’t walk any distance as I suffer from osteoarthritis, so cycling gets me into town and therefore puts less pressure on my knees and hips.
“Riding my bike gives me a means to get out. It is perfect for getting from A to B. If I didn’t have my bike I probably wouldn’t do most of the things I do now.”
Mandy’s husband, Clive, bought her a new Trek hybrid last August, which is her pride and joy.
Mandy says she always knew that she loved being in the great outdoors and all she needed were the reasons to get out and the means to do so.
She said: “I get exercise while meeting new people, so mentally it is a positive thing. The routine of cycling with the Cycling UK group and the Park Run keep me motivated. Just before Christmas I cycled 25 miles with the group – which is a personal best. And, of course, I can cycle in the rain!”
Richard Monk, Cycling UK Cycling Development Officer for Essex, said: “Mandy’s comments highlight the huge benefits that cycling can have on someone’s health, well-being and self-confidence. I hope her story acts as an inspiration to others.
“The combination of the Park Run and cycling has been transformational and now you can see Mandy’s infectious smile and positive personality beaming all over Chelmsford.”
Mandy added: “Starting to cycle again has given me a huge mental boost. I have realised that sometimes things in life aren’t as bad as they initially seem. If I am in a good place mentally then it helps me to manage the physical challenges of everyday life.”