"Lockdown was crazy at the start. We ended up taking the lead in developing our school's distance learning package which meant teaching pupils and teachers how to work remotely".
Former Royal Signals Sergeant Andy Perrin suffered a knee injury after too much stress on the joints through operational tours and exercise and went on to develop Crohn’s disease and depression, putting him out of active service.
The full-time teacher and sports enthusiast has been instrumental in allowing Help for Heroes to offer an adapted form of sports recovery during the pandemic, using his experience and knowledge as a cyclist to help the charity set up its’ Zwift account; an app that allows for online cycling in a virtual world.
“The best thing about it is we have some beneficiaries who have got involved and are now regular Zwifters, benefiting from the physical training but also the social aspects as well,” he said.
“We have a weekly ride that is getting more popular and I am also promoting the virtual Ride London event. We are pushing the social aspects of that using a zoom meeting so we can chat and actually see each other while riding. The virtual cycling has really helped veterans who have felt isolated during lockdown.”
“I find it really important to have goals to look forward to and this keeps me motivated and fit.”
Andy served in the Royals Signals for 13 years before he was medically discharged. The highlights of his military career were his posting to Northern Ireland as a Counter IED specialist. He learnt his trade in NI before tours of Iraq and Afghanistan in 2006-2008.
It took a while for Andy’s Crohn’s to be brought under control. During this time, he used cycling initially for his rehabilitation and joined the Help for Heroes Band of Brother, taking on some amazing challenges, including Race across America in 2017, and his gold-winning performance at The Invictus Games.
He said: “The one thing that has kept me going throughout my problems, apart from my family, is Help for Heroes. They have supported me since my injury, helped keep my spirits up and allowed me to do things that I never thought were possible."
After his discharge, Andy found a new career path through the Troops to Teachers scheme and qualified as a design and technology teacher. He now works at an independent prep school and says lockdown had a big impact on his job.
“Lockdown was crazy at the start. We ended up taking the lead in developing our school's distance learning package which meant teaching pupils and teachers how to work remotely. It was a massive undertaking with lots of troubleshooting and creating a package that allowed our pupils to have a full day teaching timetable every day as well as meeting pastoral needs and supporting parents, pupils and teachers.
“The hardest thing was spending all that time in front of a computer, I don’t like it and I get distracted easily. Remotely teaching is hard as you can’t help children as easily and also it’s harder to keep all pupils engaged.”
But with no commute and more flexible working, Andy found he had more time for exercise.
“Surprisingly my training picked up. I was able to jump on the turbo during the day and get out walking with my wife before we started work. It was actually quite nice, a lot of my cycling friends did a lot of outdoor cycling with very quiet roads, but I decided to take the lockdown seriously and restrict my outside contact so did very little cycling outside.”
Andy said one of the positives of the pandemic is seeing more people exercising than ever before.
“I see more people exercising and less traffic on the roads, more people using bikes and more kids out doing games and playing.
“Physically I am still going well, I have periods when I want to race and train hard and other periods when I am just happy to ride. I don’t put pressure on myself to do set things, I want to enjoy the cycling and not resent the activity.”
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