Lockdown inspiration: student’s initiatives promote wellbeing

During lockdown, Izzy Cottrell, a final-year PE and School Sport student at Hallam, has gone to great lengths to help support and encourage physical activity and positive mental health within her student peer group. In devising a number of social media initiatives, such as the Strava Challenge and Lockdown Legends, Izzy has provided a platform in which fellow students can share their lockdown experiences and achievements.

Izzy has kindly been speaking with us about her social media challenges and future plans . . .

Izzy Cottrell

Izzy Cottrell

What motivated you to create the social media accounts for PESS Level 6?

The idea of creating the Instagram (@pesslevel6) and Twitter accounts came to me when we were sent into the second national lockdown. Being faced with the prospect of not being able to go back to university in our final year, there was a very sombre mood in our course group chat. People were sad that we weren’t going to get to spend time together as a year group before all moving on to different places next year. Off the back of this one of my first thoughts was ‘what can I do here to help lift the mood and keep people feeling connected and part of a community?’… and that’s where the PESS Level 6 social media pages were born! I really value being part of a community and feeling connected, and I know that many other students feel the same. In a year where we’ve been so disconnected from socialising and being in each other’s company, I felt it was important to provide an opportunity for people to share what they’d been up to, engage in CPD opportunities and celebrate all of the amazing things that people were doing, despite the difficult circumstances we’ve all faced.

You then went even further and began creating challenges to encourage physical activity. Can you tell us about that?

The idea for the Strava group and physical activity challenges came to me as most of us on our course enjoy undertaking some form of regular physical activity. I knew that a lot of people were going on their daily walks, runs, and bike rides, so I thought about how we could incorporate this into a group challenge. So, I set up a Strava group where anyone in our year group (and also lecturers) could join the page and record their physical activity. Our first challenge took place in December: traveling, in terms of equivalent distance, as far as we could towards the North Pole. From then on, we’ve been trying to travel as far as possible each month to see if we can beat our targets. So far, our biggest distance covered was in January when we collectively travelled an impressive 665.45km! As prospective PE teachers, a lot of us value the benefits that come from being outside and doing some physical activity; however, as we are all glued to our computers writing our dissertations and final-year assessments, I think the group has been really valuable as it’s encouraged people to take a break away from their screen and get outside and refresh. It’s been lovely to see what people have been up to, and I think it’s just another way of bringing people together and helping them feel connected in this virtual environment that we all find ourselves in.

Lockdown Legends is helping to shine a spotlight on the students within your year group. What’s been your biggest takeaway so far?

I’m a massive believer in championing people who deserve to be celebrated. There are so many people doing incredible things behind the scenes; however, it’s often not recognised or known by others. Therefore, I created the Lockdown Legends series to help people share their stories and have their little moment in the ‘PESS Spotlight’. It’s been so lovely to learn about all of the amazing things that my peers are doing. I think it’s also important for people to acknowledge that everyone goes through personal challenges and that no one has had it particularly easy over the last year or so. I think sharing stories and championing people helps bring that sense of ‘well, you know what, everyone is human, and everyone’s got things going on’. You never quite know what’s going on in people’s lives and I think it helps to reinforce the message about how important it is to be kind to people. Celebrating the people that may not always be at the forefront of things and giving recognition to all of the amazing things they’ve done is really important to me, and I hope that people have enjoyed hearing about the fabulous things that their peers have been doing.

Finally, do you have any plans for future initiatives?

Ooh, good question!! I would love to set us another challenge within the Strava group, possibly with a fundraising or social action element added to it – as I feel we are all capable of this. It’s just really important to me that we try and keep as much of a sense of community as possible, as I know it’s been super hard to stay motivated and connected when you haven’t seen anyone for so long. However, I do believe that if we do what we can then it will help a little bit with that lack of social interaction that people are experiencing. No one deserves to feel lonely, and I think that by having the social media pages and Strava group, hopefully people will feel as though they are part of something. The Lockdown Legends series is set to continue so that we can champion as many people as possible that deserve to be recognised. Other future initiatives could include group coffee and catch-up sessions (over Zoom . . . thanks Covid!) and the possibility of group workouts and quizzes if that’s something that people want. Everything we do is about helping people feel that little bit more connected and recognising that being part of Hallam’s PESS community is something pretty special.

Our thanks to Izzy for providing her responses. To celebrate International Women’s Day, Izzy was also recently interviewed by England Netball.  


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