Rugby league icon Jamie Peacock spoke to Insider Sport about the launch of his latest venture – ‘Be A Champion’ – amid a third national lockdown on the annual Blue Monday.

The 43-year-old is encouraging people of all ages and backgrounds, not just sportspeople, to alter their mindset to keep psychological distress, anxiety and depressive symptoms at bay during the national lockdown through ‘simple actions’.

Through the initiative, participants will be sent a journal which they can use to record their thoughts and feelings with a QR code inside the cover which, when scanned, brings up video messages from Peacock, encouraging and motivating them throughout the course of the programme.

“I realised when lockdown hit that wellbeing had been really impacted for a lot of people so I wanted to design a programme to cut through all the jargon and produce something that was simple and effective that everybody could use,” Peacock told Insider Sport. “I dilute down the information and pick out what’s important and relevant.”

The ex-Leeds Rhinos prop, who currently holds a commercial role at the club, has also pledged his support to home learning for children in the UK during the current lockdown by offering a free virtual wellbeing session and copies of the book to children aged 11 and over.

“Through my mentoring programmes, I know what works for a lot of people so I created a 30-day programme that people follow and start building stronger wellbeing habits in four different areas: positive mindset, sleeping well, eating healthily and being physically active.”

“It’s not about perfection, it’s about progress. It will give people a good focus during lockdown and a place to get to. We don’t know when we’re coming out of lockdown but you know when the 30-day programme is over and you can get to the end.”

The initiative aims to give people a sense of direction, in a world full of uncertainty, and Peacock has set participants a number of steps that everybody can achieve to moderate their lives.

“One of the aspects is just to drink six to eight glasses of water a day to improve your diet. That small change has made such a big impact. Another one is to stop using your phone an hour before bed. Everybody can decide to do that and you can create a positive distraction by reading instead, for example.

“I’m not asking people to run marathons, it’s as simple as just doing 20 minutes of exercise a day, which can be something as light as walking.”

Since stepping down from the sport, Peacock has faced his own struggles and has since taken up mentoring, working with and running programmes for the NHS, HSBC and McDonald’s.

“I retired from rugby league in 2015 and you generally need another career afterwards so I started developing and implementing wellbeing programmes, and running them for the NHS for students,” he continued.

“When you’re a sportsperson and you’re in the public eye, you have a duty to raise awareness of charitable causes which is something I’m a big believer in as well.”

Furthermore, a portion of the profits will be donated to charity – £2 from every sale will be split across two organisations: MND and Greenhouse Sports. 

“My ex-teammate Rob Burrow got diagnosed at 37 with Motor Neurone Disease, so we’ll raise money for him and rally round to try and find a cure for the disease. The second one is the Greenhouse Sports project which raises money to put sports coaches into schools in socially and economically deprived areas.

“For me, that’s a really big thing because kids not being able to go to schools and sports clubs has a huge impact because sport can teach children important values in everyday life.

“It’s a safe place to learn life lessons because effectively you’re only winning or losing a game whereas in life, the implications can be far greater.”

The timely launch is marked by Blue Monday – 18 January – which is said to be one of the most depressing days of the year, with people more susceptible to feeling down.

Peacock explained: “January and February is a difficult time of year anyway. Research has shown that out of all the days in the year it’s the day when people feel most depressed and that’s probably due to a Christmas hangover and not getting paid for six weeks.

“It’s a really stressful time for people given the weather too. It’s an ideal time for people to do something about their wellbeing and the lockdown has put a bigger emphasis on that.

Commenting on the spectator bans implemented across sport and rugby league, Peacock concluded: “The lack of sport is hugely impacting people. At some point it will come back but you can try and get a bit more active yourself and try and get outside. You can ring your friend who you normally go to the football or rugby with and have a chat over the phone.”

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