A fitness Facebook group to give people a sense of community and support when exercising on their own in lockdown has been created by hockey lovers.
“I came up with the idea Hockey Hamsters to try and motivate each other to get out there and exercise,” said chief organiser Chris Birch, of Bicester HC. “It has a major mental health impact behind it.
“As lockdown started to relax and first training and then playing came back, I noticed how stressful the whole sport ban had been on players’ mental health.
“I also run a rush hockey group that plays every Monday year around and these players in the group noticed the lack of opportunity to have a run around, a laugh and a giggle with fellow rush players which was taking its toll.
“As rumours began for a return to hockey more of these tensions and a desperation to play hockey again began to surface in many people in my hockey network.”
Trained as a parasitologist, Birch realised that the second lockdown was going to hit hockey players harder, with winter looming. As with many projects, the Hamsters idea was conjured late at night over a few beers.
He added: “The framework of the group is very simple, you exercise in hamsters (5km) or hamster pups (1km) and post your adventures in the facebook group. We also have squirrel missions so before going out you set yourself some goals like “see a squirrel” or “quack at a duck” or “wave at a dog”.”
Birch says that the sense of community has also helped with the loneliness “many of us are feeling without face to face to contact with our hockey club families.”
Birch added: “We have members from across the country and some with injuries and chronic illnesses and they have said Hockey Hamsters gave them the motivation to get out there and do some exercise even if only a pup.
“Life without hockey is hard but Hockey hamsters is bringing a little lockdown cheer across the country. My ongoing squirrel mission is – I would like for two Hockey Hamsters in Hockey Hamster gear to be out exercising and meet one another by accident having never met before and strike up a socially distanced conversation “You’re a hamster too!”
A website is in the offing while other ideas such as the Hockey Hamster cookbook are being considered.