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Alex Feechan: How Biking & The Great Outdoors Saved My Soul

I have enjoyed spending time in the great outdoors since I was young, often heading off at weekends on little mini adventures, not that I knew that then. I was just a kid of the 70’s who got outdoors entertained themselves and headed home when hungry. This love of nature and being in the country has stayed with me throughout my adult life and is now not only part of my leisure time but also my working life.

FINDRA came about because of my passion for the outdoors and love of design. It was my newfound hobby of mountain biking that led me to found FINDRA, and it was mountain biking that saved me from spiralling into serious depression.

 

 

Prior to starting FINDRA, I was going through one of the most difficult times of my life. My marriage had ended and I found myself having to come to terms with life as a single mum to 3 young boys and juggling all of the responsibilities that came with this change of direction. Functioning on a practical level, I went through the motions on a daily basis making sure the boys got to school on time, the lunch boxes were packed, I got to work on time and life carried on. But emotionally and mentally I was struggling and I knew it.  I went to see my GP and after a long chat about how I was feeling he looked at me and said, “I think what you need to do is get out on your bike more”. Taken a back I looked at him and said “really!?”

“Yes really,” he replied.

So I did, I literally got on my bike.

I have often looked back on this and thought about how crucial that advice was to my ability to cope with such a difficult time. I feel grateful that I had a GP who thought out of the box a little and who recognised the importance of nature in healing and positively contributing to our state of mind.

I was fortunate that within minutes of leaving my front door I would find myself on a hillside in the middle of the forest; me and my 2-wheeled companion. Sometimes I would pedal hard to get to the top of the hill the physical exertion combined with my low mood could often lead to tears and on occasion full scale howling! With only the forest to witness my breakdowns I felt safe to ‘let it all go’. In fact, these outburst almost inspired me to name my brand ‘banshee’ but on reflection I decided against it!

My time spent alone in nature, climbing to a view point, listening to the silence of the forest, experiencing the changing season, the view across the valley, nature in all its glory all helped me put my life into perspective.

The space, the fresh air, the tranquillity all enabled me to reflect on were I was at in my life and how I would navigate the way forward. I always found that I would return from a bike ride feeling stronger, with a better outlook and a belief that I could carry on and cope with whatever came my way until my next escape plan to the hills came around.

Nature has given so much to me, it inspires my design work, it acts as my playground, and it feeds my soul.

 

 

When I started FINDRA, there were 3 keys aspects that I wanted to weave into the brands DNA: good design, consideration to the planet and a strong desire to encourage more people to get outdoors and reap the benefits of being in nature.

For me it doesn’t matter if you only manage 30 minutes outdoors a day, as long as you can find a way to make that time and feed your soul.

The benefits of getting outdoors and being in nature are well documented are now being promoted, with studies revealing that being in nature has a powerful positive effect on the mind, body, and spirit. Outdoor activities increase physical fitness, raise levels of vitamin D and improve distance vision. In adults, studies show that being in nature will speed the health recovery process, reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of cancer as well as lift people’s spirits. These studies highlight the numerous ways that simply getting outdoors will benefit us psychologically and physically.  I am delighted to see that more doctors are actively prescribing outdoor activities to patients, much like my doctor did for me.

 

Over the last 5 years as FINDRA has evolved and grown, in that time we have supported many people to enjoy the great outdoors from our brand ambassadors to organising our social bike rides and runs. We always aim to encourage others to give things a go and not to worry about how long, how far or how fast they go. The important thing is to get out there have fun and reap all the benefits that nature has to give us.

It was therefore an easy decision to partner with the ‘Scottish Borders Walking festival’ this year and support the great work that the team are doing to show case the wonderful walks that are on our doorsteps in the Scottish Borders. We are proud to play a part in this fantastic festival and showcase the weeks activities to all of our friends of FINDRA.

It would be great to think that we can resolve mental health issues just by suggesting everyone heads for the hills, but we realise its not quite that simple. But, if we can actively encourage more people to consider getting outdoors and into nature then maybe, in our own small way, we can have a positive impact on improving mental health in a natural environment with a natural solution.