15 years ago as a fit and healthy 47-year-old husband and dad, I had a cycling accident; 28 stitches in a shoulder wound and discharged home. But later that day, a major stroke took a grip of my brain. My whole world crashed around me!

That was the start of the biggest challenge that I have ever faced. Slowly improving year on year despite all the negative medical advice about plateau in improvement.

A big break came a year into my improvement. A place on a conductive education course specializing in stroke at NICE in Moseley, Birmingham. I knew nothing about the work of Conductive Education before my stroke. But now armed with my experience of conductive education and more traditional physiotherapy, I know that each has its merits for stroke.

14 years have passed since I had my course in conductive education and I still use the tips and advice that I learnt to achieve my daily goals that enabled me to live a more productive and rewarding life again. I didn’t just benefit from physical improvement as I also experienced a huge improvement in my psychological state. Gaining in confidence and kick-starting my ‘can do’ as opposed to ‘can’t do’ or ‘won’t do’ mindset.

Fast-forward to March 2020 and a big psychological set back with the permanent closure of the rehabilitation gym that I had attended for the last 10 years. This event coincided with the arrival of COVID. But now well-prepared to rise to any new challenge, and fiercely proud of the self-management of the physical and psychological consequences of the stroke.

I made an offer for a recumbent exercise bike at the gym, delivered it home and decided to realise an ambition that I’d had since my accident.

To cycle virtually from home to Paris before my 62nd birthday in May: a purely selfish challenge to test both my physical stamina and my motivation.

I started on 20th March with a daily 15-minute exercise bike session covering 5 miles at a time before progressing to 30 minutes per day and 10 miles.

 By 4th May I had covered the 400 miles to Paris!

Time for a 2nd challenge before my birthday on 25th May:

A 275 mile pedal to my cousin’s house in Limousin.

Achieved on 23rd May, 2 days ahead of my target date!

Why stop now?

But what would be a suitable Lockdown Challenge 3 (aka LDC3)?

On August 31st at 7:10 am it would be exactly 15 years since my stroke and what a fitting tribute it would be to reach Budapest, the home of Conductive Education by that date and time?!

And so LDC3 was born and off I went with a virtual ride from Chèvre Morte in Limousin via Clermont Ferrand, Lyon, Chambery, Milan, Turin and Venice to Budapest and total distance from home of 1623 miles.

It hasn’t been particularly easy especially in the August heatwave. I’ve had to push my motivation to a new place and cover a minimum of 15 miles per day for most of the ride. But I’ve done it getting fitter, a lighter and definitely more confident in my ability to keep up my virtual ride.

Where next? I have a few ideas. Follow my next challenge on Twitter: @brin1958.

Brinton Helliwell
NICE Ambassador