#FatLadsCantClimb

This week (5th – 10th October) is Dyspraxia awareness week so I’d like to share some information about Neuro-diversity, specifically Dyspraxia.

On Saturday 10th, the documentary film that I have made, #FatLadsCantClimb, based around my Everesting attempt will become live on my Youtube (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NTDRMLmPuWc). To find out more, just type #FatLadsCantClimb into the search bar on facebook and you’ll see what has already been posted and the event too and I will also be hosting a live Q&A (https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/x/fatladscantclimb-qa-session-tickets-124127766491) where I will be taking questions about whatever you’d like to ask me…

You may be reading this because you know who I am through Cycling and be more familiar with me talking (or writing in this instance) about bikes or an event, or more likely some daft idea for a ride that might not even be possible to do! If this is the case, I’d like to ask you to bear with me as you read on. This is not specifically about cycling or bikes but it is about endurance and determination and where that skill-set comes from.

Some of you may already know that I am dyspraxic and live with depression; in fact, I hope that most of you already know that as I feel like it’s quite important to raise awareness about hidden disabilities as a matter of course. In the very nature of the fact that someone who has a hidden disability like a mental health condition or a  specific learning difficulty does not display any physical characteristics, it’s really easy for our awareness to slip and for discrimination to take place without any acts of malice. I have no specific, high profile case to cite and no data to support it, but I’ve been there personally and I’ve taught young people who have been there too.

I don’t believe that anyone sets out to dis-advantage and marginalise people like me in day to day life so there isn’t anything that people need to stop doing so that Neuro-diverse people are included but there is something that you can do and its easy!

If someone is behaving in a way that seems different, its probably because they are thinking or experiencing the world in a way that is different.

I’d like to point out that I didn’t do my Everesting attempt to raise money for a charity, but I did do it for a good cause (raising awareness of Neurodiversity) and this is the part where I ask you to give; not money, but time. Watching #FatLadsCantClimb will cost you 24minutes and might help you to understand the subtle differences between how we all experience the world. I’d also appreciate you spending 5 minutes to forward this, along with a quick note from you, onto a friend, colleague or family member who you think may benefit or find it interesting.

If you don’t know about Neuro-diversity, please ask. I think a lot of people nod along without asking the question on their mind for fear of it being seen as rude or ignorant where actually it could make a big difference to the way we understand each other: I obviously, can only speak for me, which is where some of the social awkwardness around this stuff lies. The next person might really dislike explaining how they are!

To make it easier for you to come up with the questions, here are a few topics that they might fit into…

  • My cycling achievements (please stroke my ego!)
  • Questions about cycling
  • Specific Learning Difficulties
  • Depression
  • Neurolinguistic Programming
  • Being a fat lad and wearing lycra in public!
  • How to get into cycling
  • Learning to ride a bike
  • My strategies
  • How to create your own strategies
  • Anything else (literally anything: if I can’t or don’t feel comfortable answering it, I’ll just move on or answer privately later!)

Why is MTB Adventure Therapy different to Mountain Biking?

I’ve been fascinated by the notion of delivering Adventure Therapy on bikes since reading an article about Lee Craigie’s cycle therapy work (https://leecraigie.com/cycletherapy) in MBR magazine. As I was already looking into becoming an NLP practitioner and getting more involved with outdoors activities, as part of my teaching job in a PRU, I began to fully appreciate the connection between physical outdoors activities and developing more positive behaviour patterns. After a few years, this led me to leave the classroom and spend a few years working in the bike industry and eventually set up Breaking Cycles CIC to combine my passion for behaviour change and Bikes!

Over the years, having a keen interest in the subject, my mind has been drawn towards a plethora of research, anecdotal evidence, heart-warming articles and stories about the benefits, of getting fit and being outdoors, to our mental wellbeing. This has led me to ask the question ‘When is it just a ride and when is it adventure therapy?’

Cycling, particularly when you venture into the hills, helps us to de-stress and gain perspective on the challenges we face in life. On its own, simply getting out for a ride can be the answer to your problems, but adventure therapy adds a more purposefully directed experience to this and provides me with truly awesome environments in which to share NLP techniques in a meaningful and memorable way.

This week, I have been providing some Adventure Therapy taster sessions for pupils of The Alternative School (https://www.thealternativeschool.co.uk) at Harwes Farm CIC (https://harwesfarm.org). Developing a generic taster session was a bit of a challenge for me as I would generally think about specific aims for each pupil and general aims for the group as I plan the activities for each session, which would generally be a full day too. So, following in the footsteps of Albert Einstein, I went for a ride and came back with an idea!

I’d like to take this opportunity to publically thank Anderton Bossonet estate agents (https://andertonbosonnet.co.uk) for offering some financial help to provide these session and 3 Peaks Cycles (https://www.3peakscycles.com) for the excellent quality and well maintained hire bikes we used; my tools stayed in my bag all week!

The session was built to include elements of learning new skills, developing confidence and gaining a sense of community by giving something back. We concentrated on understanding the cone of movement and how our position on the bike affects our ability to lift the front wheel over an obstacle (wheelies!), using a couple of trail features that myself and volunteers at Harwes Farm had built the week before. After a brew, we returned to the developing skills area with tough gloves and shovels and began to develop the trail features further. As Harwes Farm has an ethos of environmental sustainability, we only used materials that we could find on site too!

Groups from both the Accrington & Rossendale and Pendle Campus’ of TAS are keen to return and continue the development of an accessible, sustainable MTB skills are and themselves!

“We already have the resources we need, or we can create them” – Presupposition of NLP