Ambulance service staff taking part in gruelling sporting events are encouraging people across the region to be inspired by the London 2012 Olympics – without becoming medical emergencies.

With Team GB’s medal tally at the Games rising, their success is encouraging more people to take up sporting activity – with swimming, running and cycling already among the most popular pastimes, particularly during the summer holiday period.

For people living in or visiting Wiltshire, Gloucestershire and the former Avon – the region served by Great Western Ambulance Service (GWAS) – all three pastimes are well catered for.

As one of the largest healthcare organisations in the region, GWAS is backing the drive to encourage more people to take up sports they have been watching at the Olympics – urging people to “be inspired, have fun, stay safe”.

The trust has many sporting stars among its ranks – several of whom are taking part in triathlons, marathons and long-distance cycling challenges.

Combining their experience in preparing for these events with their clinical skills used in their ambulance service role, they have prepared a list of top-tips and advice in support of the GWAS campaign.

• If you are taking up a new sport – or returning to one after a long break – consult your GP or a personal trainer first.

• When road-running, make sure you are visible – even in daylight, hi-vis clothing makes you far more easily seen by motorists.
• Don’t think you will run a marathon on your first day. Start off by running short distances, slowly – you will build up distance and speed over weeks and months.
• Running on pavements and other hard surfaces is more likely to damage your knees and ankles. If that happens, try a running track, grass tracks or indoor running machines.

• Before swimming in open water – rivers, lakes, the sea, etc – check it is safe. Rivers may look calm on the surface but can have strong currents beneath; if there are warning sings on beaches about not going too far out – they are there for a reason;
• Always check you can get back to dry land or safe place should you get into difficulty.
• Remember that open water is likely to still be very cold – particularly after a very wet start to the summer.

• Wear sensible protective gear – helmet and hi-vis clothing;
• Check your bike regularly –tyre pressures, brakes, chain, gears, wheels. This will make cycling easier – and mean you are less likely to fall off.
• If there are dedicated cycle tracks, use them – not only is it safer than having cars, lorries and other traffic streaming past you, it is more enjoyable.

And remember…
• One of London’s main selling points in winning the 2012 Olympics was the legacy of encouraging more people in Britain to take up sport. So why not try your hand at something you’ve watched on television during the Olympics – be inspired, have fun, stay safe.