I was lucky enough this Sunday to visit the new Sir Chris Hoy Velodrome in Glasgow and to have the chance to ride the track for the first time. Edinburgh Road Club (ERC) booked the track for 3 hours on Sunday morning and run junior and senior coaching sessions along side each other. I was lucky enough to spend about and hour on the track.
Firstly, it was just amazing to see the place, it is huge. The building is very modern from the outside and it is in the Parkhead area of Glasgow right beside the Celtic football ground. Parkhead is really quite a run down area of Glasgow that I am glad to say is being regenerated for the 2014 Commonwealth Games. It seemed slightly surreal to driving along a road lined with social housing, which screamed deprivation at you, and then to turn a corner and be faced with a £113 million Velodrome.
One of the best moments of the day was, after I got my track bike to hire, climbing the steps into the centre space of the track. I was quite overwhelmed by the size of it. Fortunately I didn’t have long to wait before getting to ride. The most difficult bit is getting on and off the bike. Someone had to hold the bike for me while I clipped my feet in. Once I was in, I has hanging onto the barrier with one hand just trying to stay upright which I found quite tricky.
The hardest thing was keeping my feel in the pedals. I have an ongoing problem with my right foot jumping out of the cleat. On a road its not too much of a problem because I can just freewheel for a bit and clip back in. On the track bike it was really difficult because you can’t freewheel so I go into a pickle a couple of times with one foot hanging out the side.
It was much more difficult than I thought it would be but I still really enjoyed it. Going round the banking at speed is an amazing feeling. I’m going to try and get another opportunity to go through again next year. I’m hoping Scottish Cycling will start a track league for disabled riders although I think it will be a while before they get around to that.
I don’t know about you but I’ver got pretty fed up with the weather lately, we have had very little in the way of a summer this year. It has rained constantly for the last few weeks which has made it difficult to get out cycling much. I’ve kind of got out the habit of cycling and am finding it difficult to get back into.
Nobody needs me to tell them the effects of physical on mental health and mood. For a while I was feeling a bit rotten because I wasn’t getting out on the bike. However its amazing the change that a couple of days can have and the effect of a long run on the bike.
I made a decision to start feeling great again and have taken various steps to achieve this. As well as getting out on the bike more often I have started takking daily walks, eating healhy and looking after myself. I hope I can keep it up!
In the last 1o days we have seen a much more settled spell of weather for a day or so lulled us into thinking that summer had finally arrived. I’ve been lucky enough so far to get a couple of runs and some cycling training in the sunshine wearing only my shorts and top, an experience I’ve not had since way back last summer sometime. Unfortunately things have takes a turn for the worse again and we are back to our usual rain and drizzle for now.
The good weather certainly brings out the cyclists and I was on a club run last week where there must have been around 20 riders. I generally enjoy cycling in the big pack like that although when it speeds up, as it does, I get nervous. If anything is going to happen it will happen very quickly so you have to have your wits about you. As well as bringing the cyclists out, I think the summer makes people cycle faster, further and harder which is probably help by the cycle season being well underway and people’s fitness much higher. Unfortunately this is somewhat to my detriment because I am, struggling more than ever to keep up with them. They are getting fed up waiting on me and I’m getting fed up busting a gut to keep up.
A good friend of mine reminded me of something which find of put things in perspective for me. The club that I cycel with, Edinburgh Road Club, is not just any old club, but its the most competitive club in Edinburgh. Some of the people I cycle with and not just any old cyclist, some of them are top athletes and are very competitive cyclists. There are Scottish champions and a couple of world champions in different disciplines.
Its not appropriate to compare of measure my progress up against theirs. I forget I have cerebral palsy sometimes, and I think they do too which on the one hand is a positive thing but, on the other creates false expectations. The fact that they make no difference to me is fantastic and they obviously don’t see me as disabled which is great. On the other hand, I have to remember that there is a difference and I’m not going be able to realistically keep up with them.
I think the best thing is to keep doing what I’m doing and most of all enjoy my cycling. Comparing oneself to others can be a futile pursuit unless you have good reason to do so like, you are about to enter a race or a time trail which I am not. Even I were however, I wouldn’t be about to race against the elite riders on Edinburgh, rather I’d be riding against other disabled people with a similar level of impairment. With that in mind I am not going to loose a wink of sleep about not keeping up with people and going to enjoy doing what I am doing.
Yesterday I attended Highland and Perthshire Cycling Festival after being invited to speak about the cycling that I’m doing, and about disability cycling in general. I met some lovely people and was inspired by the number of disabled cyclists there, and by the development that seems to be taking place to promote and encourage cycling amongst disabled people.
I was particularly inspired by a young cyclist with cerebral palsy who was into cycle-running and has won many medals in her discipline. She was a top athlete who brought along here running cycle to show us. I was quite surprised by the number of specialist bikes on show that are available to disabled cyclists. There were a couple of companies there displaying specialist cycles and equipment for enabling disabled cyclists to take part. For example, there were tandems, three wheelers that would enable a wheelchair user to sit on the front, as well as side by sides that enable disabled cyclists to be accompanied on a bike. It was great to see so much variety and ways that disabled people to participate in cycling.
One thing that did make me feel proud yesterday however was, that I realised that there are not many disabled people cycling and doing the sort of distances and training that I am doing. I feel fantastic that I am so fit at the moment and am able to cycle 40 miles or so with the local club. I continue to monitor my training and performance in the hope of finding other disabled people to compare notes with. The girl doing the cycle-running was fantastic and I hope she goes on to train and record her data and experience. Meanwhile I will continue to try and improve and encourage disabled riders to do the same.
I was so delighted to have been asked to attend yesterday and hope that even in a small way I might be able to encourage other disabled people to ride. I can’t put into words the freedom and enjoyment that cycling gives me as well as the obvious challenge. I think the good thing about cycling is, that it is as challenging as you make it. I love setting challenges for myself and stretching myself to the absolute limit. For example, a few weeks ago I went out with a group who I was never going to keep up with and they would drop me pretty quickly indeed. I managed to hang onto their tails for about 15 miles before they were out of sight and I just felt fantastic that I had done that. The challenge for me is one of the best parts and I hope that I can get that over to others and they get the same enjoyment out it as I do.
I now have to set myself some more challenges and things to archive. I would like to ride to raise money for charity next and then try some bigger longer, endurance rides. I would also like to pluck up the courage to take part in local time trials and see how I get on with that.
There is a climb that is well known called The Granites which is just on the boundary between Mid Lothian and the Borders that has been on my ‘to do’ list for over a year now and I finally cycled it today. It was good clear conditions and I was out with ERC and climbed it today and what a fantastic road it is. I feel really lucky sometimes because within an hours cycle there are so many fantastic country roads around.
I didn’t however complete the run that I wanted to do, rather I climbed to the top of the Granites and came back down the same way rather that carrying on with a circular run that the others were doing. I was struggling to keep up with the others because it was a particularly hilly ride. Again I’m back to the old problem of finding it difficult to get up hills. Someone said to me that I should work at my hill climbing.
The truth is I have been working at climbing all winter in RPM class and by doing hill reps. I might never be able to climb as effectively as able bodied people but I just have to accept that. am trying to raise money to buy a light weight bike at the moment which will help tremendously. Unfortunately, these things cost a huge amount of money and this might take some time.
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.
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.
Since I got home from holiday, I’ve not been out on my bike much. The first few days after my return from France I felt very tired indeed. I guess I’m not up to six days skiing on the trot which is what I did. When I am on a ski holiday for a week the temptation is to fill every day with as much skiing as possibly. Skiing, like most sports is hard work and to do it every days for a week I find pretty exhausting.
The winds are very high at the moment and this is helping to keep me off the bike. I went out for a run yesterday and turn back after 10 miles because the wind was so strong. Mind you, the 10 miles home was good with a strong wind on my back.
I need to get motivated again right now and at least get back to RPM classes. I know its going to hurt the first time back but the sooner I do it the better!
I’m in The Alps this week having a ski holiday. I’m in Courchevel, France for the forth time and luckily the weather is fantstic and snow conditions very good. I’ve not been here for a couple of years and I’ve been looking forward to seeing how much my cycling has helped. I feel fitter now than I’ve ever been so was looking forward to coming out to see just how much my training had made a difference.
After my first day I’m feeling a bit sore, but on the whole pretty fantastic. I skied for 4 or 5 hours today and felt strong and good. The snow was very good up high but lower done the snow is getting a bit soft in the afternoon. Looking forward to more of the same tomorrow.
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.