Carlisle Eden Mind’s Lisa Anderson provides an insight into the first month of the new Get Set to Go initiative

Get Set To Go!

Get Set To Go was something I was always going to be excited about because exercise has been a part of my own life for as far back as I can remember. The benefits of exercise on physical and mental health are just too good to ignore; that feeling when your body makes endorphins is self medicating at it’s best. I was so looking forward to witnessing people reap the rewards of this programme and couldn’t wait to get started.

The sessions started with short, low key walks in Bitts Park. On the first day, 14 people showed up! This wasn’t including three volunteers and our own Gabby Stephenson-Bell, whom I was very happy and relieved to have on board. I was honestly not expecting this turn out and thought it would only have been me and one of my Connect clients (Whom I’d sold this to like it was a free holiday to Hawaii!) and so was thoroughly relieved with the numbers.

People were literally stepping out of their comfort zones and taking part in something that would have, and did, cause some of them great anxiety at all different levels when they woke up that morning. Meeting new people and being in a new place was daunting for them but we understood this and tried to create a space that felt comfortable and safe. I tried to interact with everyone but then watched as people made friends, chatted or walked in silence seemingly enjoying the calm, fresh air and freedom (Lockdown blues evaporated!).

After that, Get Set To Go took off, with sessions every Friday and walks every Tuesday.

James and Emma from Carlisle United Community Trust deliver fun, varied and somewhat grueling activities at times. The great thing is, we are doing exercise whilst being deceived…They make it so much fun you don’t realise how hard your body is working. After the first session with them, I was walking like I had a coffee table between my legs-and I thought I was fit!

They disguise the exercises almost as outdoor party games. One example is all participants run or walk around the court area for a short while and then on a countdown have to get to a coloured cone (which are scattered around). Sometimes at this point excited screams and shouts can be heard… and they’re not all mine! James or Emma will then pull a beanbag from a bag. If that beanbag colour is the same as your cone you are exempt from the exercises that follow in that instance. These could be reps of 2,3,4 or even 10 squats, star jumps, get ups (Don’t get me started on those) and touch jumps. This particular exercise causes lots of laughs, groans and many cries of ‘It’s a fix!’, particularly if someone gets away without doing anything three times in a row! The concept of the whole thing never fails to amaze me. We are there to exercise but then we play games to try to win the right not to exercise! It works though.

The participants are thoroughly involved, doing only what they want to do at any given time. I know it is having such a positive impact on them and this is very clear in their faces and the way they respond to the exercises and to other participants.

The volunteers are interacting with everyone and they have told me how much they themselves have benefited greatly from this experience. We have a young Mother, a student, an ex rugby player/coach and a teacher volunteering for us, giving their time selflessly, participating and keeping an eye on everyone’s welfare at the same time.

Feedback has been overwhelming. Workers in other organisations are being very kind and complimentary of Carlisle Eden Mind for delivering this free programme. They have stated that there isn’t much like this available for people, especially at present, and it has been much needed in the community. I have texts from people on the programme just telling me they are loving it. Their lives feel so much better for exercising and they didn’t know it could make them feel so good. I truly believe it is an hour once or twice a week where people can almost forget the intensity of their situations, their worries and cares and just be themselves.

Of course there have been times when we have had to address ongoing issues with people who have suicidal thoughts or just need more support and encouragement throughout. It is a beautiful thing to see these people show up every week regardless. They are able to carry on in the face of adversity and seeing them helping themselves and doing such great things for their bodies and minds is very humbling to witness. Their bravery is noted every time.

Get Set To Go has been a great revelation. It’s like something inside me has been unlocked and my inner child can run and shout and be silly and not care who’s watching. I can recognise this in others around me during the sessions and it’s a fantastic feeling.

At this point I have to shout out to my Get Set To Go buddy Gabby, who has been an invaluable support to all of us from the onset, especially the HI participants and me! She continues to make people feel at ease and she also sheds blood and guts on the battlefield every Friday with us and is very much appreciated. I’d also like to mention James and Emma from Carlisle United who are just the best people for the job, so patient and understanding of mental health issues and are really funny. Finally, thank you to Mary Grace and Charlie who have helped a great deal with supporting clients to get to sessions and for being totally involved in the exercises as well!

Anyone who wants to come along and join us, you won’t regret it! 

I am hoping that the sessions will have a lasting effect and that participants will continue to stay active long after it is all over…but I’m secretly hoping it never ends.

Lisa Anderson