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Recovery through sport is vital for many of our wounded – not just for their physical health but for their mental wellbeing too. It helps them to live active, independent and healthy lives.

With most of our face-to-face activities currently on hold, our Sports Recovery teams have been working hard to find more ‘virtual’ ways to continue delivering this much-needed form of support. And as veteran Andy Shuttleworth explains, our newly adapted online offering has been a “godsend” both to him and others, especially during this second lockdown.

Andy understands just how powerful sports recovery can be. Prematurely discharged from the Army in 1984 following a serious knee injury, he was initially told that the damaged joint would need replacing within five years.

But it wasn’t until 2017 that Andy had to undergo a complete knee replacement. The following year, his other knee also needed operating on. Since undergoing the first operation, we’ve been helping Andy regain his strength through our Sports Recovery programme.

By 2019, Andy was in the gym at our Tedworth House Recovery Centre three times a week and, encouraged by his new-found passion for sport, tried out for the 2019 Invictus Games in the recumbent cycling category. Explains Andy:

“Recovery through sport has led me to do things I hadn’t been able to for over 35 years. It’s helped build my stamina and flexibility, as well as helping me heal.

“Above all, it’s introduced me to some of the nicest people on the planet - amazing friends and fellow competitors.”

Although Andy ultimately wasn’t selected for Team UK for the Invictus Games, he continued cycling regularly and was looking forward to a series of training camps in the summer. But then the coronavirus outbreak put his training regime on hold.

This is where our newly adapted online Sports Recovery programme is helping Andy continue to engage with the support he relies on. Via HelpforHeroes TV on You Tube, our Sports Recovery team is broadcasting a series of 12-week home workout sessions – all tailored especially for our wounded. The sessions include yoga, flexibility, mobility and body weight workouts.

“The workouts, and virtual sport in general, have been a godsend during lockdown and have kept many of us sane,” he says.

Andy has also been meeting other veterans online for regular Zwift sessions – something that he himself set up with the help of our Sports Recovery team. “Doing this has given me a huge boost and a way of paying Help for Heroes back for all the help I’ve received,” he says.

“The biggest challenge was persuading other veterans to have a go on Zwift and talking them through the process, so myself and another veteran, Andy Perrin made a video, with the team’s help, to show others our own Zwift set-ups. We now have a weekly Help for Heroes ride!”

Andy is hopeful for the day we can once again deliver our Sports Recovery programme face-to-face, but thinks there is also a future for more virtual forms of delivery too.

“Hopefully, we can get back to having real-world training and competitions,” he says. “That said, we should continue to use what we’ve learnt about virtual sport - both as a means of training and for competition and social interaction.”

Together, we can keep our promise to be here for wounded veterans and their families. 

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