Having originally believed she had missed her chance to be a Physical Training Instructor (PTI), Emily tells her story of learning the trade as a Reservist and how a lockdown initiative led to her becoming an Ambassador for the RAF Central Fund.
“I joined the RAF Reserves in May 2017 as a PTI after learning the trade was available through a friend. I thought I had missed my chance at this role due to my age but felt reinvigorated for life in the military!
Alongside my training, I took the opportunity to pursue my involvement with sport by joining the RAF Athletics Association which coincided with the start of their season. Having competed in the Inter Service Athletics Championships, I was delighted to be selected to represent the UK Armed Forces team. In early September, I travelled up to Braemar with the team to compete in the Hill Race, shortly followed by the Inter Forces Relay. Our team was mixed, with myself on the anchor leg to give me more time to recover from my first event. Having made it to the final, I brought the baton home in front of the Queen to take the win! It was an incredible experience with an atmosphere that almost felt like being at the Olympics.
The following year was extra special with it being the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force.
I volunteered to help find runners for the RAF100 baton relay and organised its appearance at both the 100 x 10 km World Record attempt, of which I was a member of the record-breaking team, and the London Marathon, which was my first marathon and happened to take place on the hottest day on record making it twice as challenging! That summer I completed my PTI training and started my workplace training at various Stations.
During the latter half of that year and into 2019, I was fortunate enough to do a lot of travelling with my sport. I was selected as part of the RAF team to attend the AirCom Cross Country in Bruges, Belgium. This was closely followed by the four-day Cyprus International Challenge, where I was the winner of my age group. In 2019, I represented the Inter Services team in the Belfast 10km and NATO 10km in Budapest as well as the RAF team in the International Snowdon Race. I was also lucky enough to be selected to attend the 75th Anniversary in Normandy with fellow RAF comrades which was extremely special.
2020 was all set to be my first six-month mobilisation. With paperwork completed and just two weeks until departure, I was all set for RAF Akrotiri when along came COVID-19! Rather than sunny Cyprus, I stayed in South Wales and was mobilised for four months to MOD St Athan PEd Flt. I managed just under two weeks before gyms were closed. Those weeks were very challenging as we committed to delivering socially distanced sessions without any equipment. In preparation for the gym closing, we developed home workouts that personnel could do in their block and issued each bubble with some basic equipment to allow them to keep some element of training going.
During the remainder of my mobilisation, I was on 24hr standby for COVID support and decided to set up a charity challenge. With individuals based across the country and a team who were on COVID support in the Midlands, the challenge consisted of walking or running a target distance. I developed a distance board to show the progress made each day and at the end of the event everyone said how much it helped during lockdown to have a focus and experience team motivation and morale.
In late September I provided support to the PEd Flt at RAF Benson, again in unusual circumstances. When I arrived, we were back to delivering socially distanced sessions, but it wasn’t set to last as the UK entered another lockdown and gyms closed yet again. We were challenged to think of ways we could continue to deliver output whilst the gym was closed to users. The Myzone platform was already being utilised at Benson, with many users having a heart rate monitor belt that had been supported by the RAF Central Fund. Having not used Myzone before, I did some investigation into what the platform could do and found that they had just released a new feature that allowed for live sessions to be delivered to users wherever they were, not just in the gym. This seemed a great way of encouraging personnel to stay active and retain that social element of exercise. Alongside a colleague who I had been discussing the idea with, we put a proposal together and within two weeks we managed to transform the Aircrew Conditioning Suite into a studio and source the additional equipment needed to deliver live sessions.
It was a steep learning curve adapting to the delivery of live online sessions but the response from users across the Station was very positive. We offered a mixture of instructor led sessions, from more traditional circuits to Broga across the week. The Myzone platform allowed us to introduce a bookable timetable system which, as it uses a mobile app and isn’t linked to MODNET, meant that users could participate from their living quarters, garages, at work or wherever they wanted. Talk of our initiative soon spread to other Stations where several Myzone communities were also set up.
As a result of this work, I was honoured to be asked if I would like to be an Ambassador for the RAF Central Fund. Sport has always been a great part of my life and a major part of who I am. From a young age I remember having a go at everything and felt that it was the only thing I was good at growing up.
As a beneficiary of the Fund’s hard work myself, I am passionate about ways I can help people get involved and find the power of sport.
Whilst being a PTI is about preparing personnel for the demands of military life, there are also many other benefits of sport and exercise. As an ambassador for the RAF Central Fund, I enjoy helping to promote their charitable work for sport and physical activities across the RAF. As a beneficiary of the Fund’s hard work myself, I am passionate about ways I can help people get involved and find the power of sport.
None of my running opportunities or achievements would have been possible without the support of the RAF Central Fund. The support I have received and witnessed both in my sport and beyond, wouldn’t happen without the funds raised through the RAF Sports Lottery. Over the years I have been awarded support through their Individual Sports Grant programme for things like new trainers, membership and coaching fees and specialist equipment such as replacement orthotics; promoting the lottery to others therefore comes with much personal experience and advocacy!”
Cpl Emily Brown
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