“Cycling got me out in the fresh air, got my heart rate up and got my endorphins flowing. I feel that my experience puts me in a good position to help people make their lives better through cycling.”
Chris Alston - Cycling Development Officer for Liverpool City Region
With no hint of exaggeration it’s fair to say that cycling has had a hugely positive impact on the health and wellbeing of Chris Alston.
“It was an absolute life-changer for me,” he says. “I had a lot of personal problems when I was discharged from the army. I’d served 22 years. I was discharged with Depressive Disorder and a hip injury. Cycling got me out in the fresh air, got my heart rate up and got my endorphins flowing. I feel that my experience puts me in a good position to help people make their lives better through cycling.”
His is a remarkable story.
“I was a Mountain Bike Leader when I served in the military which allowed me the opportunity to take soldiers off mountain biking whenever I could. When discharged, I spent a year in a dark and depressive state where I didn’t cycle at all. I’d go to my shed fully clothed in my cycle gear ready to go out and not even get as far as unlocking the padlock. Next I’d be back in the house sitting by myself in my gear doing absolutely nothing.
“I needed a reason to get back out into the world and cycling gave me that opportunity. The military is very insular and regimented and the friends you make there are like family because you depend on them so much.
“When you’re not in that unique situation anymore the adjustment is really hard. It took me two years to get used to life outside the military and it only really happened because I threw myself into cycling where I got to work and meet some great people.”
Chris works with a number of community groups across the City Region focusing on young people and mental wellbeing. He’s seen people grow in confidence many of whom who have struggled socially.
“Recently I’ve been working with the Spider Project over on The Wirral,” he says, “where they focus on wellbeing and recovery programmes for local people. We helped organise their Day Ride to coincide with World Suicide Prevention Day back in September. Projects like this are amazing as they give people like me the opportunity to meet people who haven’t had the chance to speak out yet.”
And what is Chris’s favourite bike ride in and around the City Region?
“Seacombe to New Brighton and back,” he replies. “It’s full of absolutely beautiful views from start to finish. It’s a wonderful journey to share with the kids at weekends whether it’s morning or evening.”