Varsity rugby players from Oxford and Cambridge Universities met virtually with residents from Leonard Cheshire services to take part in a seat-based exercise class together, run by Power2Inspire.

Everyone joined in with the exercises, taking the relationship between the Varsity players and Leonard Cheshire to a new level: they had never participated together in sport before. The players then went into separate ‘breakout rooms’ with residents: Oxford with Banbury, and Cambridge with Brampton.

Louis Jackson, from Oxford, says:

we talked through some of our backgrounds, both rugby and personal, with the Leonard Cheshire residents before discussing how important exercise is of any kind and how it can help cope with the stresses of lockdown.

The Oxford and Cambridge Varsity teams have been visiting the Leonard Cheshire services in the build-up to the Varsity match for years. Leonard Cheshire are a UK-wide charity for individuals with disabilities, providing accommodation and promoting independence.

Rob Quinlan, a Varsity player from Oxford, remembers visiting in 2018:

to see the resilience and spirit of the people there…was truly inspiring.

As Covid-19 made in-person visits to the Leonard Cheshire services impossible, Jeremy Macklin, Director of Two Blues Cambridge and Chair of Power2Inspire, looked for ways to recreate those “moments of magic” between players and residents in a safe way.

Power2Inspire is delighted to have facilitated this through their seat-based exercise programme, created during lockdown to help less mobile people stay fit and healthy. Now run three times a day live on Facebook, they have received over 275,000 views and has proven very popular across the world.

Whilst the virtual format of the event lacked the proximity of in-person meetings, both teams thoroughly enjoyed the collaboration with the residents. They were amazed at how many exercises you can do sitting down, and Louis was impressed at the full body workout they all got!

John Willis, Power2Inspire’s CEO, was thrilled at the event’s success.

The most valuable things taken from the session were how it strengthened the relationship between the clubs and Leonard Cheshire, and introduced Power2Inspire to both. I’m looking forward to working with everyone again at future events.

Anna Willis is a freelance writer and blogger. You can find her at www.tellstoriestolive.com, and on Twitter @annawillis101