Ash Wallace is a shining example of how English Institute of Sport (EIS) employees are rising to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ash, lead physio at Equestrian Team GBR and Athlete Health consultant, has led a phenomenal community effort from her front lawn in Maidenhead, Berkshire.
First, she enrolled as a driver at Maidenhead Foodshare’s operation, one of 62 volunteers delivering food to vulnerable and deprived families twice a week.
And then Ash sparked a unique community workout in her small development of 13 houses when a neighbour spotted her stretching before going on a run. Aware of her sporting credentials, neighbours asked Ash to lead them in socially distanced circuit training and now all 13 houses take part twice a week.
Residents of varying capabilities, ranging from aged 13 to 70, come out of their homes and take part in exercises led by Ash, a physio of 25 years’ experience.
When the London Marathon’s 2.6 challenge came along, Ash couldn’t resist getting involved in aid of a cause very close to heart.
With her brother having passed away last November from Motor Neurone disease, she set friends an online 2.6 challenge and set up a JustGiving page.
As it stands, nearly 150 people have taken part in the challenge and over £1,500 has been raised for Motor Neurone Disease Association.
Overcome by the response to her efforts, Ash says:
“This has all been fabulous and I’m just delighted to raise some money for Motor Neurone disease. Being a physiotherapist, I’m all about movement and I’m very passionate about the fact we don’t move enough as a society.
“I wanted to be a physio in the first place to help people, and to do it in this way is incredible. None of this has been planned but I’ve got so much out of it.
“This pandemic is bigger than any individual and certainly bigger than any sport. I feel very strongly about that.
“We should be able to look at ourselves in a year’s time and say ‘we did our bit.’”
“One of the best messages I’ve received was from a neighbour who said: ‘thank you so much for doing this. This is far more than just exercise.’
“My brother had a very aggressive form of Motor Neurone and it’s not one of the causes that is always up there in terms of being supported.
“It’s a disease we don’t know enough about. All of this has kickstarted something in me and things I want to continue doing.”
Both through her community outreach and ongoing work with the EIS, Ash sees a common theme of the adversity of COVID-19 bringing people together.
Through lockdown she has been supporting elite equestrian athletes as they deal with the reality of the postponement of the Olympic and Paralympic Games to 2021.
“Equestrian is a remote sport even in normal times so for me, the crucial part of our roles was getting key information out to athletes quickly.”
“My role involves a lot of travel and actually with none of that happening at the moment, there’s more quality time to work with the athletes.
“We generally take a breath after the Olympics, now we have an opportunity to do that before next year.
“When something like this happens, it’s got to be about finding the opportunity to come out of it in a better place.
“We’re having more meetings than we ever had and it’s definitely bringing us together.”