Swift-tees: A community support group

Swift-tees is a community support group, where walking, jogging and running is practiced as a way to improve both mental and physical health as well as overall well being. At each session the route ends back at the community centre, where the group stay for a brew, cake and chat. This part of the session plays a key role in an individual’s progress, supporting new friendships, increasing motivation, participation and involvement, and improving general mental health and over all well being.

Rosannes Story…..

Rosanne’s story begins when she started taking her daughter to the weekly park run. Rosanne, in her seventh year of taking medication for depression, encouraged her daughter’s involvement in the activity. She would not have been disheartened, however, if her daughter’s involvement was a passing phase as she could think of other things to do on a Saturday morning. As she took her daughter each week she was encouraged to join in, which she did. Within 3 months, Rosanne could feel the benefits and found her-self looking forward to the weekly sessions. Such was her motivation and enthusiasm, that by the 3rd month, family and friends were noticing her weight loss and by the 5th month, her hard work and effort saw her achieve ‘Park runner of the month’. After a year of running, Rosanne felt ready to reduce her medication. After discussion with her GP, her medication was reduced over a period of time, and eventually, again after discussion with her GP, she was able to stop taking the medication. The more Rosanne ran, the faster she was becoming and the better she felt, feeling an improvement in both mental and physical health. Over a 4 year period since then, Rosanne has gone from a dress size 20 to a size 10.

In her first year of running, after completing an amazing personal best time at the park run, Rosanne wanted to encourage and support those who ran at the back, or maybe struggling like she once had. When the summer came to an end and the park closed on an evening, a small group wanted to carry on running….. and so Swift-tees was formed, a community support group to help people improve all aspects of their health and overall well-being. Now in its 4th year of running , Swift-tees continues to support people and have a positive impact within the community.

Lucy’s story…

Lucy joined Swift- tees 12 months ago. Married with 4 children, she had some reluctance and hesitation in joining the group to begin with. At this time Lucy was feeling lonely, becoming more isolated and depressed following the death of her beloved mother. Juggling with the daily routine and being a full time mum, the family came first and Lucy spent very little time on herself or doing activities she enjoyed, the more isolated she became, the more lonely and depressed she became, which then became a vicious circle.

Lucy would take her sons to the weekly park run, whilst waiting for the boys to complete their morning activity she would take the dogs for a walk around the park. Her awareness and then involvement with Swift-tees first started with a smile and a hello from those who were doing the park run, which then developed into brief conversations and encouragement to join the Swift-tees group. Hearing of people’s own personal stories for being involved in the group and their progress in both physical and mental health, Lucy felt inspired to join the group, even though she had her own anxieties which were based on her perceptions around her appearance, weight and physical ability.

The day Lucy started the Swift-tees group, she was filled with nerves and anxiety. When she arrived she was given a warm welcome and reassurance that she would be supported. A group member, Julie, accompanied her as they jogged to one lamppost and walked to the next, continuing to repeat the pattern. On completion they congregated with the rest of the group in the community centre where they had a cup of coffee/ tea and a chat. This was to become an important part of the weekly sessions. Starting to connect with people and getting support from others, Lucy had found something she enjoyed being part of, she was making new friends and feeling supported, which helped reduce feelings of isolation, loneliness, and depression.

Swift-tees is now a big part of Lucy’s life, having a positive impact on her mental health and family life, with her husband and 4 children regularly attending the group sessions. Her own efforts and commitment has seen her develop from being anxious and self conscious with little belief in herself and abilities, to her being an active member of the group, meeting with group members outside sessions to run; volunteering within the group; and improving her physical health, losing 25lbs in weight over the year.

Lucy has progressed and achieved so much since starting the group, she came 2nd in the Swift-tees ladies league, she has completed the Hardmoors trail run –a race for people to practice running and descending/ascending on trails in the dark, challenging but fun! and her plans for this year are to complete 4 half marathons, including the Great North Run.

A year ago Lucy never thought that her life could have improved in this way. She once thought that she could not do what others could. With the support, encouragement and friendship of a fantastic group of peers, her life has changed so much for the better. Lucy shared: “ I once thought and told myself I can’t ,…however, through support and encouragement from the Swift-tees group, I now know that I can….!!!”

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