Two Saturdays ago, I managed somehow to drag myself out from under my snug, warm duvet and cosy bed, had a quick breakfast, showered and changed into my track suit, trainers and socks. I was all set and on my way to a nearby park to partake in a Bootcamp Outdoor Training!
Now for those of you who don’t know, I have not done any rigorous physical training outdoors for a while,apart from the odd yoga class, here and there. I often join such classes and then fall off the band-wagon. So when I saw that there was a training session every Saturday morning in the wonderful outdoors and in a nearby park I thought I’d try it out. I do want to get fit, feel stronger and tone all the right places. But more than that I want to feel myself moving again; moving all those muscles that have been neglected over the years. After all, there is only so much muscles that one actually uses in the course of daily working life especially at a desk job and the commute to and from work in London! I love parks and being outdoors so this felt like a right fit. This particular training organisation offers a free trial session so I took them up on their offer and proceeded, rather nervously, to the park.
There were about 20 others or so, some obviously training for a while and a couple of newbies like myself. It was freezing that morning; temperatures not higher than 0 degrees and just to make things a little easier, it started to snow lightly! But I stayed. Perseverance power and all that. And the trainer was wonderful. She welcomed all of us and did not make anyone feel like they were really unfit and trust me, I know I was (and still am).
We did quite a few things for that one, whole, very loooooong hour! We did many, MANY, too many squats. We threw heavy sand-filled rubber ball (I only found out how heavy it was when it was being thrown to/at me!). We ran (I hobbled) around the pitch, jumped up steps (I just stood paralysed in fear) did some (or one) planks, sit-ups and press-ups. By the end of it I was drenched, exhausted, sore, in pain (which became worse the next day and lasted for three days), muddy but HAPPY! 🙂 I was glad I went and last Saturday I went again for more punishment!
Yesterday I even made the trek all the way to West London after a long day at work to get myself a new pair of Asics Gore-Tex trainers, in Black! So I know this is a new band-wagon that I’ve just jumped on but I’m hoping I’ll stay on this for a little while at least, long enough to feel the positive difference that I know it can make.
I thought of my former clients whilst jumping around in the park, the many clients who were stuck in themselves emotionally and how I wanted to tell them how much physical movement can help you feel so much better in yourself. I’ve always heard that it does, but I’ve only just found out it is true. The outdoors can be truly transformative.
I know too of people who have found great benefits from horticulture and avid gardeners would know first-hand how gardening is a wonderfully flexible medium that can transform lives and more importantly, your emotional and mental well-being.
All life is here: the positive power of being in the garden affects young and old alike – which is why horticultural therapy is becoming increasingly popular Photo: Getty Images
A session in the garden may leave you feeling exhausted like a training session in the park, but you may also feel strangely renewed. In the plant world, regeneration is a matter of course, but psychological repair does not come so naturally to us. While we have an innate capacity to form strong attachments, we are less well equipped to deal with trauma and loss. In the world we live in today, some of us have lost touch with many of the rituals that can help us navigate our way through life. As Freud once said: “Flowers are restful to look at. They have neither emotions nor conflicts.”
Growing Space, a mental health recovery project in Wales have their participants working in the most secluded parts of the garden. The believe that a walled garden offers a sense of security and protection, a safer space akin to the safe space a counsellor provides a client in a room. This is important because only when one feels safe, can one trust and in trusting let their defences down.
There is another project called Grow2Grow in Kent, is for people aged from 14 to 24 with serious behavioural or mental health problems. Many have been excluded from school. The food they grow is sold to local restaurants; they also cook and eat together. At the end of the two-year programme, which they attend two days a week, an impressive 80 per cent of them are helped into education or work.
Another positive initiative is the Clinks Restaurant set up in a few prisons and managed by the inmates themselves.
The issue of re-offending has become one of the most pressing challenges facing society today.
49% of prisoners released in the UK re-offend within the first year and for those who serve sentences under 12 months this increases to 61%. It is now recognised that the record levels of inmates in prison is not helping to reduce crime.
The sole aim of The Clink Charity is to reduce reoffending rates of ex-offenders by training and placing graduates into employment upon their release. They offer an opportunity for inmates to change their lives, giving them true-to-life work experience and nationally recognised NVQ City & Guilds food preparation, food service and cleaning qualifications.
Clink restaurants have been set up at HMP High Down, HMP Cardiff and HMP Brixton and a fourth is due to open at HMP Styal in spring 2015.
Fresh food is prepared and cooked in an open plan kitchen enabling diners the opportunity to watch food preparation. Their menus are rotated on a seasonal basis, to view the winter à la carte menu please click here: http://126.96.36.199/theclinkrestaurant.com/clink-admin/wp-content/uploads/2013/08/A-La-Carte-Menu-January-20152.pdf
On 23rd October Clink Events provided the catering for the Centre of Social Justice Awards (CSJ Awards), which was held at The Royal Horticulture Halls. Attended by 400 guests it was an incredible opportunity for the newly launched Clink Events to showcase the incredible food on offer. The inmates training at HMP High Down and HMP Brixton created 4,000 canapés in The Clink kitchens for the awards which were transported to The Royal Horticulture Halls by 3663. Two Clink graduates and two Clink trainers provided service training to 12 Centrepoint clients, who then served the food and drink to guests.
On Thursday 26th February 2015, 6pm to 9.15pm, The Clink Restaurant at HMP Brixton will be celebrating its first year of business with an Indian themed fundraising dinner hosted by chef ambassador Cyrus Todiwala OBE DL.
I have eaten at the restaurant in HMP High Down so I can personally vouch for them and tell you that their food AND service was exceptional!! I would encourage you to try it out for yourself and see. The restaurant is open Monday to Friday serving breakfast, 7.15am to 9.15am, and lunch, midday to 2pm. The income generated goes towards the running and operating costs of the restaurant which is supplemented by donations.
So no surprises.
Positive and helpful initiatives, WORK.
Horticultural therapy, WORKS.
Physical training in the park with a group of people, WORKS.
Eating together, WORKS.
Community building, WORKS.
Support to those who need it, WORKS.
Anyone engaged in positive and physically engaging activity be in the gym or in the park, community work, the outdoors, cooking and eating together WILL thrive. We do so little of this in our world today and we wonder why depression and isolation is on the increase.
So my request to anyone who may be listening is this: let’s do more of the good stuff because the good stuff, well it works, and when it does, it makes us all better people!
As always, be kind to yourselves.
Growing Space Based in Wales, (01633 810718)
Grow2Grow Based in Kent (01732 463255; commonwork.org)
Thrive A national charity whose aim is to enable positive change in the lives of disabled and disadvantaged people through the use of gardening (020 7720 2212; thrive.org.uk)
Clink Restaurant http://theclinkrestaurant.com
North London Fitness http://www.northlondonfitness.co.uk