David’s story: An active life has always been a way of life for me

David Hitchen from Marske is a man who likes to move. 

Being active has been part of his life for as long as he can remember. It’s something he’s always done, so much so that it now comes as natural to him as brushing his teeth.

The married father of two, who is a business growth advisor at Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council, said: “I come from a sporty family, my grandparents all had interests in cricket, football and horses, so it was difficult for me as their first grandchild to avoid sport, no matter where I looked it was an integral part of my life from such a young age.”

“I can’t imagine how life would have been if I hadn’t been immersed in sport so young.”

Whilst cricket and football were part of David’s early life, his real passion now is cycling, and it’s something he has consciously built into his daily routine through active travel. 

He grew up watching his dad, who worked at Wilton, cycle five miles from Marske to work every day.

“Growing up, we all got a bike as a Christmas or birthday present, and I learnt to ride in the road where I was brought up”, explained David. 

“My early memories were that everyone had a bike, so again it’s something that has been with me all my life.”

Whilst cycling is an essential part of David’s life from a physical and health perspective, during the pandemic, he started to truly appreciate how it makes him feel and the positive impact it has had on his mental health.

“Being active is great for your overall health, but when I’m cycling home from work, it helps me compartmentalise some of the things I’ve had to deal with throughout the day. 

“I also find it helps me come up with solutions to issues I’ve faced – maybe it’s the way my endorphins are working!”

While his cycle route to work is relatively short at just over three miles and mainly on the flat, it can take David between 10 minutes to half an hour, depending on the wind and conditions to complete his journey. And, whilst he enjoys longer cycle rides on a weekend, he describes travelling this shorter distance, and as he calls it, “turning his legs over” as an essential part of his day.

“As someone who’s still excited about work I find during the ride into the office, I’m already thinking and planning my day and running through my mind my action list and the things I need to achieve. So the ride into work set’s me up positively for the day ahead,” he added.

“Cycling along The Stray to Redcar, I can look out to sea, and it feels very therapeutic; I just relax and take in all the scenery. It’s the perfect route for anyone thinking about taking up cycling as it is relatively flat.

“I’ve seen some amazing sunrises and sunsets on my commute, it’s a sight I never tire of, and it makes me feel chilled immediately; it has such a positive impact on my mental health.”

David cycles wherever he can, so he’s often off on his bike at some point during the day. 

“We are fortunate in this area as we live close to the North Yorkshire moors or the coast. So on the weekend, if I’m out on my bike, I don’t go more than 10 or 15 miles from my home, yet I’m able to access quiet country roads that are relatively safe.”

As well as his bike David also owns a car, and when he was travelling further afield to Middlesbrough and Stockton for work, he needed to drive. But having transferred to a job in Redcar, which was closer to his home, he thought, what’s the point of driving every day. 

“I enjoy cycling, there were facilities I could use at work, it’s a cheaper version of transport, it’s also greener and keeps me active, so when I considered all of these factors together I came to a conclusion why wouldn’t I do it.”

David’s also now comfortable going to work meetings within Redcar on his bike. 

“If I’m travelling a short distance, I’m not getting sweaty, and therefore I’m able to turn up looking professional.”

David’s motivation to start cycling to work came from the fact that it allowed him to add exercise into his daily routine, and it also meant parking was never a problem.

And, whilst he’s a keen cyclist, he admits that it’s not without its challenges, and there are some barriers he has had to overcome. 

“Finding a secure place to leave a bike can be difficult; I’d certainly like to see more accessible, secure lock-up facilities, especially on our high streets. 

“Not all workplaces provide shower facilities, and whilst I don’t need them for my commute as I’m only travelling a short distance, they are vital for those travelling long distances.”

But he’s found that the most significant benefit of cycling to work is how it makes him feel and its positive impact on his well-being and productivity.

“I always like that buzz I get from being active; I feel so much better if I cycle to work than if I’ve had a stressful car journey.” 

David’s top tips for those starting out being active are to give something a go, start small and set realistic goals that you can build on.

“If you don’t feel confident about getting on a bike or are concerned about what you’d do if you had a puncture, there are organisations locally who are there to encourage people to cycle. They can help with mechanical training and guided rides to help build confidence.

“I’d also try cycling in a quiet area first with a dedicated cycle track, but my biggest tip is always to wear a helmet.”

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