Some of you might know, if you have been following my blog, that I have a somewhat reduced or small lung capacity which I think might be limiting my performance. I tend to notice it when I am out cycling with friends from the Road club. I generally manage to keep up on the flat ok but as soon as we start to climb hills its a different story. Although I have been training hard over the winter and feel fitter now than I have ever felt, I still don’t have anywhere near the capacity to climb hills as they have.
Recently I have been made aware of a device called the Power Breathe, which is a piece of equipment that athletes use to try and improve breathing and lung function. It has been shown to be of use to sports men and women as well as being people with health problems associated with breathing etc.
The lungs are controlled by muscles in the chest and the diaphragm, which is a thin membrane below the rib cage that stretches across the abdominal cavity. It is the movement of these muscles that enable to lungs to breathe in and out. These muscles, like any other muscle, needs exercised in order to improve performance.
The Power Breathe is a small piece of equipment that athletes use to exercise the muscles that improve lung function. Its a small item to breathe through that provides a bit of resistance in order to make the muscles work harder. As time goes on and your muscles get stronger, the resistance can be increased to make the workout harder. The equipment has been shown to have an effect after 2 weeks of using it twice a day for 30 seconds at a time.
I’m not expecting to get miraculous results with it and suddenly be able to climb like everybody else, although I am keen to try it. If it can even help me climb a little bit better it will be worth the time. Only time will tell but I will keep working hard to keep my performance up as high as I can.
I went to RPM class tonight after a few weeks break from it and I really struggled but survived. I knew it was going ot be hard after a gap but it was fine. I felt good after it as usual and it has inspired me to get back into my training.
I have kind let my training drop a bit over the last few weeks which is not good so I need to try and step it back up. I was training really hard over the winter but after my skiing trip kind of let it drop for whatever reason. If anything I should have stepped it up, now that the better weather is coming in.
I very conscious tonight of my RPM being very low and I’m not sure if that’s because I’ve not been for a few weeks, or because of my CP. I suspect its a bit of both. The instructor was asking up to go the maximum rate of 130-140 RPM but I can’t get anywhere near that rate. If I really push it I can just touch 120 RPM for a couple of seconds but otherwise my sprinting speed is somewhere are 110- 115RPM. Frustrating yes, but I spoke with a physiotherapist at one time about it and she explained that people with CP don’t have the same neuro-muscular control as the average person which explains things.
I’m glad I went tonight because it has inspired me to get training again. I’ve got cycling planned for this weekend so hoping the weather is fine.
I went on club social ride today that takes place on the first Sunday of every month and I really enjoyed it. We went out on a nice tail wind, although coming back was a bit more difficult so, I dropped off the back and made my own way home rather than struggle and hold the group of 20 back .
I enjoy going out on club runs because the company is always great, I’m lucky enough to be part of Edinburgh Road Club, a really nice club. I seem to do ok on the flat and keep up with the pack fine although as soon as we start climbing, its a different story all together. I really struggle to get up the hills and, as soon as we start climbing, I get dropped.
I have been working hard over the winter trying to get my fitness up by attending RPM classes and circuit training, working out on the Turbo and doing hills reps. I’m feeling a bit frustrated at the moment because, despite my efforts, it would seem that I still can’t keep up with the able-bodied people I ride with.
One thing that I have discovered is that, without doubt, I have a very small lung capacity and this has to be a contributing factor. It was actually a friend of mine who discovered on the Internet that it is a manifestation of cerebral palsy to have a reduced lung capacity. Unfortunately there is little can be done about that and although I train hard, I might not ever be able to climb as effectively as other people. Off course I find it very frustrating but its one of these things that I’m going to have to accept. I have a tendency to compare myself with many of the other members in the club who are not only able bodied, some of them are top athletes. I must remember that it is not helpful t0 compare myself to them and it is not a reasonable comparison. For someone with CP I hope I am in top bracket of fitness and hope to improve even more.
On a Sunday morning a group from the Edinburgh Road Club meet outside the local Starbucks, and they generally go for quite a long run on a Sunday. The past couple of weeks I have turned up in the morning to join them and yesterday was a fabulous morning and went along again.
Its generally a standing joke about how soon they will drop me. These guys are superhuman and are incredibly fit and strong and there is no way that I will ever keep up with them, although I do my best and I enjoy the challenge.
Yesterday I managed to hang in there for about the first 10 miles out the Kirkliston. I was quite impressed with myself but it is really hard work for me. After I parted company with the others at Kirkliston, I went Linlithgow. I had a coffee there and came home again.
By the time I had got back at lunch time I had done 40 miles. I was pretty tired because I was going quickly to keep up with them and came back home quickly to get back to lunch. All in all it was a pretty hard run but I really enjoyed it and felt good for it. I was not very confident about going too far on my own but yesterday I got lots of confidence back and thought if I can do that in a morning, I’m obviously capable of more than I thought.
Nobody needs me to tell them the effects of physical exercise on mental health, its a well know fact. Just take a half hour swim or a brisk walk along to the shops, and you generally feel better after it. Cycling has had a fantastic effect on me and my well-being, so much so, I would say I am in better health now than I have been for many years.
As recently as my trip France where I had a fantastic week skiing and on my return felt flat and quite lethargic however, the effect of a cycle run was amazing. I took a short run down to North Berwick and got a train home and it left my feeling much healthier again and soon got me back to myself again. Since then I have been out a few times with the same energy as I normally.
I have a good friend who lives in the next street and he is a phenomenal cyclist and has achieved more in cycling than most of us ever will. He is self employed and is able to arrange his work in such a way that he is able to cycle almost every day, and he does. Day after day he cycles miles after mile and must clock up an amazing amount of miles. I met him one day in December at 4pm, when there was snow on the ground when he was rushing to meet someone because they were going mountain biking in Glentress Forrest that evening. Even the cold and winter snow doesn’t keep him off his bike.
In awe of his dedication to the sport, over coffee one day I asked him, what drives him, how does he motivate himself to go out day after day like that. His reply was when he said, ‘its a habit’. He’s been doing for so many years that it is a habit, and he does it without thinking her says.
I want to have good habits like that, perhaps not to the extremes as my friend does but, given the way it makes me feel, I want my cycling to be a habit. This winter has been kind and I got out loads so far but as the weather picks up I need to step up my weekly mileage by making it habit. We make choices all the time and it is up to us what habits, good and bad we adopt. Whether we fill our time with things that make us feel good or not it entirely up to the individual.
I’ve chosen to fill my life with sport because it makes me feel great, I get a high off it and, if its cycling, it costs me very little. What ever kind of exercise I do seems to make me feel great and I intend to go on filling my time with sport.
I read an interesting article in The Sunday Times this weekend reporting on a study carried out at Liverpool’s John Moore University, that endurance athletes may be pounding their way to hear troubles. This article does not apply to me because I don’t come anywhere near the mark of an endurance athlete although, it did make me think a little. It made me think about looking after my ticker and not putt too much straight on it.
Scientists have discovered that placing huge loads on the heart over many years can change its structure and workings. The cardiac cells may be replaced with fibrous material that reduces efficiency, and the hearts electro-conductivity can change leading to an uneven heart beat. This has been shown to be the case in a number of example but only when people have put excessive strain on the heart over many many years.
I haven’t so far, and don’t intend to, loose a moments sleep over this report, although it has made me wonder. I have discovered that people with Cerebral Palsy have a reduced lung capacity and I wondered if, hard exercise or exertion put extra strain on the heart?
For me, all the cycling I am doing is about looking after my heart and my body. How times have changed from 10 years ago from the guy who was smoking and drinking himself to dangerous levels. I’m not going to go into my past mental health issues here but felt it important to say how much I had changed and how fantastic I am feeling.
I attended the Edinburgh Road Club annual dinner last week which I really enjoyed and, as well as good food and chat, we were treated to a presentation from Graeme Obree. Known as the ‘Flying Scotsman’, Graeme Obree broke the world hour record and had a sparkling career in cycling. Despite his huge success on the track however, Graeme has experienced significant mental health issues over the years and had a couple of suicide attempts.
Graeme spoke about his achievements and how he got to where we did which was very inspiring, but the thing that really struck a chord with me and really got me fired up, was his absolute determination that drove him and still does. He told himself that he would break the hour record, in his words he said, taking a drink, ‘as sure as lifting this glass to my mouth’ he would do it, and so he did. It made me think about how that attitude could be applied to all aspects of your life and not just in sport, and what determination I had used in the past.
I had a difficult schooling career and was written off as a slow learner before my adult life had even begun. I left school at 16 with nothing then, after years of remedial teaching and very hard work, completed my MSc at medical school at the age of 25. It was a similar determination and conviction that drove me to complete my education and show the world I could. I has something to prove to the world and nothing was going to prevent me for doing that. Now I want to turn that determination to other things and sports and cycling are right there at the top of my priorities.
There is a lesson in Graeme’s story for all of us about determination and how much you want to achieve something, not just in sport, in any area of our lives. I have not achieved in my career or some other ways, but am really hoping to make up for it in sport now and make up for lost time. I don’t have a list of sporting milestones or markers that I want to achieve, but have an overwhelming desire to be better and fitter than even I ever imagined I could be. Whenever I get there and whatever shape and form that takes will only be borne out in the futer, but I know I will, as sure as typing this blog post now.
I’ve been attending spin classes from the beginning of December now and I am not only feeling fantastic but am beginning to notice signs of improvement out on the roads. I did 30 miles on my own and, although it was really cold, I felt strong and good.
Initially I was doing RPM classes once a week but in the last month have upped it to 2 and what a difference has made. When I’m out on the road I feel much stronger and a number of my friends who I cycle with have commented how strong I am.
I still have things that I really need to work on. My cadence is still very low and, in last weeks class, was struggling to get it up past 110-115 rpm which is not great. I need to try and find specific exercises for improving RPM. I suspect some spinning reps on my turbo would help. On the turbo trainer I do several 20 or 30 second intervals going as fast as I can, followed be a minute between them to recover. Reps of any kind are usually a useful training routine.
Another thing that I do is to concentrate on one leg at a time. When I am sometimes out on the road, I will concentrate one one leg for a while then the other, although keeping both legs going together obviously. Sometimes just focusing in your mind of one leg at a time can help you improve your efficiency. If I am cycling along for example, I will think about my left let for 10 or 20 strokes, then change over and do the same with the other leg. This gives me a chance to think about my legs position and the effectiveness of my stroke. I try and think about the whole pedal stroke, pulling up as well as pushing. Just the mental shift in focus has got me over a few hills.
I have a tendency to pedal with my toes, as many people with CP do, so I need to try to concentrate at keeping my heal down. Again it would be interesting to know how a person with cerebral palsy can improve pedaling efficiency but I hope I am on the right path.
I had an interesting experience in the gym tonight. I was at my usual RPM class and was finding it as tough at always. I was distinctly under the impression that, as time went on, it was suppose to get easier, but tonight I found it as brutal as ever.
I got the class early so, being the brave soul that I am, went right to the back on the class and got on a bike there. As the class filled up a girl took the bike diagonally in front of me which turned it into a really interesting class for me. I know what you must be thinking, that I spent the next 50 minutes watching the girl in front bobbing up and down, but it wasn’t like that. I could see the screen on the front of her bike and spent a lot of time comparing her workout to mine and, as a result, think I got some interesting insights into my cycling. I was about to compare my out to hers.
Now,I am taking the assumption that we are both pretty fit. She probably has a job and doesn’t have as much time ot train as I do and, as I am pretty fit right now and have been getting out a lot, thought it might be a like for like comparison. It was really interesting and a bit of an eye opener comparing our outputs.
Firstly there was a bit of difference in RPM or cadence. While we were sprinting, I could only get up to about 120 at a big push, while she was up are 135-140. Similarly her power output was usually much higher than mine. While I was putting out around 150 watts, she was up nearer 300. The measure of power is off course is a measure of work by time which will will affect by the resistance we both had the bikes set at. However, I did notice that we were using similar resistance settings as well.
Its difficult to know whether our differences in output levels are due to my lack of fitness, or are contributed to by my Cerebral Palsy? I have been training hard lately and feel really fit right now, have been getting out as much as I can over the winter too. I suspect that it is probably a combination of both fitness, and a consequence of my CP. For example, I read that one of the manifestations of CP is a reduced lung capacity. I am very aware that I seem to get out of breath more easily than others.
Having searched the Internet for information of the effects of exercise on CP, I have found next to nothing. There seems to me a real shortage of data and information on it. I am making a big effort to record all my training data in the hope that, as well as comparing it to able-bodied people, I might be able compare my performance to other people with CP and get a more accurate measure of my performance. I hope also that, if there is a shortage of information on CP and fitness, I might be able to start using my data as an example.
Had a great run to North Berwick again yesterday. I seem to go down that way all the time at the moment and get a train home again. 9 days out of 10 the wind is coming from the west and blows me down there and the train home avoids a long slog home into, what can be, a really strong wind.
Although it is early in the season, I am beginning to think about the things I want to achieve this year and how to start training for that. Now that I am using a heart rate monitor (HRM), it allows me to structure my training better.
I’ve recently been in contact with British Cycling and discovered a race circuit for disabled people, called para-cycling. There is a paracycling race in Cumbria this April at the beginning of the season, so I am going to train for that race. I have never raced before nor indeed, even cycled with other disabled people so it will be a completely new experience for me. I’m looking forward to meeting other disabled cyclists as well as having the opportunity to measure my performance up against them.
The other thing on my mind today was the 10 mile time trial. I’ve become very conscious when I’m out, trying to maintain a good steady effort for around a half hour at a time. Again, this is when my HRM comes in handy as a measure of the effort I am putting out.
Its still a bit cold and already I’m looking froward to the weather getting a bit warmer so that I can really get my teeth into my training. I made great progress in my cycling last year and hope I make as much progress this coming year.