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Assistant Practitioner takes on world's largest obstacle course

An Assistant Practitioner who works with mental health service users supporting them to exercise as part of their recovery at the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT) will take on his own physical fitness test when he takes part in the world’s largest obstacle course race for charity. 

Craig Edwards, who is an Assistant Practitioner in Health and Fitness at Hellesdon Hospital, Norwich, will run the 40-mile Rat Race, tackling 400 man-made obstacles in the grounds of Burghley House, Peterborough, in May. 

The race is in aid of the charity Children with Cancer UK which aims to improve survival rates for young cancer patients and to find and reduce the causes of cancer. 

He will compete alongside other seasoned obstacle course runners on 12 May who have been selected to run the 20-mile course twice, based on their fitness levels.

Craig, 31, is no stranger to helping others achieve their physical fitness goals as part of his role at NSFT and is taking on the endurance event as a challenge of his own, training in his spare time. 

“For me, obstacle course running helps me deal with life’s stressors,” he said. “I’m able to practice mindfulness, focusing on the present and doing what I can to finish the race. It’s an escape and you don’t know what obstacle is round the corner – you just have to deal with them as they come.”

Craig, who lives in Norwich, added: “I work with service users across our Adult Acute inpatient wards, offering health and fitness advice, wellbeing sessions and supporting them to take part in exercise. While they are in hospital, I utilise the facilities onsite along with starting to introduce them to fitness centres, activities and clubs in their local community that they can continue to use once discharged.

“Physical fitness is an important part of helping people to recover from mental ill-health. Whether I’m working with someone to run on a treadmill in our gym, or doing some simple chair-based exercises on the ward, I often see positive changes to people’s mental wellbeing, almost immediately after we’ve finished the session.

“Exercise definitely lifts my mood and the changes in the service users I work with can be remarkable. Their confidence is strengthened, they socialise and interact with others, and it gives them a focus.”

Exercise classes such as salsa dancing, yoga and Tai Chi are run on Rollesby, Glaven and Waveney wards at Hellesdon Hospital and staff escort service users to do activities such as beach walks, rock climbing and swimming.

Craig encourages service users to use onsite facilities and see the grounds. “Our trim trail is very popular, especially in the summer months, as it’s like a mini obstacle course,” he said. “We can accompany our service users to use our trim trail where they can have a go on a series of stations with outside gym equipment. Exercises involve balancing, jumping and other dynamic movements. 

“There is also an orienteering route where people can hunt 26 brightly-coloured boards across the hospital site and solve puzzles along the way.” 

Craig works for the Wellbeing and Therapies Team at Hellesdon Hospital, which includes Occupational Therapists, Occupational Therapy Assistants, Wellbeing Nurses and Assistant Practitioners. The team supports people who have been admitted to an inpatient ward to take part in physical activity to help with their mental health condition. 

For more information about Craig’s endeavour and to sponsor him, visit: ​