Me and My Bike

Let’s talk cycling!

Due British success at the Olympics and in the Tour de France, cycling in the UK has never seemed so popular.  Around here, the cyclists have been out in force during these past few weeks of rare summer weather.

Growing up surrounded by quiet country lanes, with parents who loved UK holidays, I spent a lot of time cycling as a child. Apart from a very brief period where I was forced to cycle to work (I very quickly bought a car), as I got older my bike rides became more and more infrequent.

Then in 2014, I was persuaded (read: bullied) into purchasing a lovely road bike by my Tour de France obsessed boyfriend. But I was still a fair weather rider – the furthest I had ever cycled was 10 miles, and I hurt for days afterwards.

Until last year.

I took on the challenge of cycling 150 miles in two days, for charity, in an event organized by the company I work for. I enjoy exercise (honestly!) and previously considered myself fairly fit – but I was in no way an endurance athlete. This was TWO CONSECUTIVE DAYS spending 6-7 HOURS on a bike.

But I did it! And guess what – I’ve agreed to do it all over again.

The next ride is in September. To increase the challenge factor for those who rode last year, we’ve chosen a new, longer route: 160 miles in over two days.

prof pic

Taken last year, before my pedals were forcibly swapped for clip-ins…

So, cycling has once again become a regular thing in my life. Like training for any long distance event, it takes up a lot of time: fitting in ~100 miles a week training is not easy when you’re working 9-5! But call me a convert – these days I’m all about racking up the miles and checking my stats on Strava!

Among the colleagues taking part there’s actually a good male:female ratio – great to see.

Like so many sports, cycling is dominated by men and let’s be honest, cycling is not an attractive activity. Lurid lycra, padded shorts, sweating, flies in your face, pulling horrendous grimacing expressions while trying to tackle a hill. Then there’s the discomfort involved – I get stabbing neck pains from being hunched over the saddle and let’s not even mention saddle sores (hands up if you know all about chamois cream).

I’m not really selling cycling, am I? So why do it?

  • I got into cycling because of my boyfriend and it’s really nice to have an activity that we can do together. Despite the limitations of road bikes (dry, smooth roads only for me please!) it’s still a great way to explore the countryside around us.
  • It’s social! There’s a great group for our work ride that get together to train. We’re all about comparing the chain oil ‘tattoos’. There’s also plenty of cycling clubs out there…
  • It’s (relatively) cheap exercise! Yes, a decent bike and kit will set you back a bit (unless, like me, your boyfriend is not the most imaginative with presents and therefore constantly buys you bike gear). It doesn’t have to be a road bike – once you’re set up you are free to head out whenever you like!
  • It’s a challenge! Even if you come back tired and wanting to eat ALL the food in the house, completing a long ride feels like a great achievement.

Including my commute to work, I cycled 42 miles yesterday – but I felt surprisingly sprightly today which means my training is paying off 🙂

H x

Fitness: My new motivator!

Apart from the odd sunny day, it’s still not quite warm enough outside to tempt me out for a run on week nights. I’m not very keen on running at the best of times and if it’s cold and damp then I feel more like jumping under the duvet when I get home from work! It’s really important to me to do some exercise nearly every day as a mood booster, but I’m also making a concerted effort to do regular exercise at the moment to build up to a few fitness goals I have for summer.

At moment I’m using one of the 7 minute workout apps to get me going. There’s been a lot of hype about these workouts in the last year or so – research indicates that short high intensity workouts such as these produce the same fitness benefits as 30 minute sessions. All you need is a chair or sofa, a section of wall and space to lie down. Perfect for my tiny flat! The ‘voice’ of the app leads you through a series of short exercises with short rests in between. It’s weirdly compelling which is great when you’re lacking in motivation.

The app I use is free and is just called ‘7 Minute Workout’. The app leads you through a series of short exercises with a short break in between. Unfortunately, with this app it’s the same 12 exercises, in the same order, every time. I think it would get boring if you did it every day, but unless I’m really short on time, I only use it to lead into something more fun. I do like the range of exercises though; they focus on areas that I tend to neglect.

7 minutes

 

Once I’m warmed up I generally have a bit of dance around my flat – it’s a great de-stresser too. I’ve got wireless headphones – my boyfriend bought them for me after watching me wreck two headphone cables in six months with all my flailing around! What I’m listening to varies on my mood but it’s generally upbeat so there can be plenty of jumping around and booty-shaking! If I’ve still got energy left after that then I’ll finish with a few pilates exercises and some stretches. I’m trying to be disciplined this last part as I’ve had to have physio in the last few months to recover from a knee injury.

What do you do to get going?