Rio Ferdinand Among Athletes To Share Experiences With Army Personnel

Army commanders have been learning new ways of doing things, from how they eat to mental health.

Military and civilian athletes have been sharing their experiences with Army commanders.

It was part of the Army’s Human Optimisation initiative, which is designed to help soldiers of all ranks to live better, inspiring change in how the Army thinks about mind, body and soul.

"It is not about telling people what we want to do. It is about inspiring them to go and find out what they need to do," said Lieutenant General Ivan Jones.

"As a world-class Army, we have to perform at the very highest level at all times."

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With advice on performing at the very highest levels was former England footballer Rio Ferdinand.

With Prince Harry – who has thrown his support behind the initiative - in the audience, Mr Ferdinand spoke candidly about his own mental health struggles, following the death of his wife.

"No one is made with a bullet-proof vest. There are going to be moments when they are going to be down," said Rio Ferdinand.

While common for everyone to face difficulties at some point in their lives, Mr Ferdinand remarks it is important to know how to deal with difficulties and react to them.

Also sharing their experiences was a panel of military and civilian athletes, including Olympic rower and Army Major Heather Stanning and Judo champion Captain Alex Paske, who said there are some strong parallels between being an elite athlete and a soldier.

"The idea of looking after your health is something that is critical to the Army," said Captain Alex Paske.

With a room filled with commanders from every level, the lessons learned here will be filtered back to the wider Army.

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One of the changes encouraged by the initiative is improvement to the Army personnel's diets.

As well as the sportsmen and women at the event, there was also a Michelin-starred chef showing new ways of preparing meals.

Instead of hyper-caloric meals and traditional fry-ups, personnel have been shown how to put together simple, healthy recipes which can be cooked using just a hob, a blender and a microwave.

"Instead of using ready-made meals which they stick in the microwave, [there are] some healthier alternatives," said Executive Chef Adam Gray.

"It is making small changes that they can have every day, that will help them perform a bit better," he added remarking he was "not preaching", but encouraging change.