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.
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 have recently been in contact with Scottish Cycling to enquire as to whether is a group, or race circuit for disabled people in Scotland, and there appears to be nothing. I find this quite ironic because a number of the British paralympic cycling team are from Scotland. I have however subsequently been in contact with British Cycling and have discovered the paracycling race circuit. This is a series of races that take place throughout England and where anybody is entitled to enter.
I believe that they have tried to establish a similar race series in Scotland but have, as yet, been unable to do so. This might be due to the lack of population is Scotland, meaning that there are a lot fewer disabled cyclists going about Scotland. Or perhaps it is due to the lack of initiative or will to set one up. Perhaps this is a project for me for the future.
Meantime, I have to try and keep up with the able-bodied people in the club. This usually works out ok and there are groups that go a bit slower and I can manage to hang in there when we are out on a ride. I do have a tendency to compare myself with other riders in the club which is not always very productive. When I am training on my own I feel pretty good sometimes. I have made tremendous progress over the last 12 months however, when I go out with the club, sometimes feel like I am back where I started and am the slowest riding in the club.
I am sure it is not always good to compare myself with other people. It is particularly unhelpful to compare myself to able-bodied riders. I do forget that I have Cerebral Palsy and this make things more difficult. Things take a lot more energy and I need to remember that and be proud of what I am doing and not get despondent when comparing myself to others.
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.
Where to star cycling and getting fit, depends on where you are starting from and, to some extent, why you are doing this. Many people start training in advance of a big trip like a charity ride, or some people might just have decided that they want to get fit.
In advance of a large trip such as a charity ride, it is sensible to allow at least 4 months to train. There are no short cuts! Fitness is a long steady process. Some people will be starting from a place of some fitness, but for others starting from zero it can be daunting. Starting with as little as 3-5 miles a day can be a good start. By doing this each or most days, will soon put you on a footing to take things further.
Why is there a picture of a skier here you might ask yourself? Well, it all started 10 years ago in Glenshee. A friend of mine was making a day trip one new year to the ski slopes of Glenshee and invited me along. I, without thinking, said no. I thought I would wait until had mastered the art of walking before I thought about strapping planks to my feet and venturing onto the snow with them.
After a day of rolling around in the snow at Glenshee I was instantly hooked on skiing. Since then I learned to ski at Hillend in Edinburgh and have been fortunate enough to make several trips to The Alps to ski with my good friends David and Anne at Ski Hame.
I took up cycling simply because I thought it would help strengthen my legs for skiing. I had a holiday booked and wanted to train as hard as I could so that I would enjoy my ski holiday better. The rest is history as they say. I got hooked on cycling as well and joined a couple of clubs in Edinburgh who have been tremendously supportive to me.
Getting started can be the difficult bit but if you can get into the right Mindset for it, your a half way there. If you are fortunate enough to live in Scotland like me, wet, windy and cold wether is something you have to put up with and, on a winters day or night, dragging yourself off the sofa to go and train can be tuff.
For me there were a number of reasons I wanted to train and here are some of them below.
- I wanted to be fit. The fitter you are, the more you can do, and the more you enjoy doing it. Sound obvious ok, but being fit in itself isn’t enough, I needed reason to be fit.
- To Loose Weight. Not always easy but the link I provide here is a valuble resourse.
- To achive more, be the best I can be.
- Most of all, for me, is to feel good. Cycling and fitness in general makes me feel great.
Making me feel good, improving my mental health, and generally improving mysefl is the biggest draw of training for me and in the one that gets me off the sofa on a cold winters day. I’ll be talking about the feel good factor that cycling brings me in future posts!
According to the Cycle Touring Club CTC, that despite the terrible winters we have had in recent years, the rates of cycling continue to rise. More and more people are using the bicycle as a mode of transport and are starting to commute on them.
Unfortunately, the accident rate for cycling is not coming down any. Despite a gradual improvement in cycling facilities, accident rates, although about half of what they were in the 1990s, remain what they were in the last few years.
Although local authorities are putting money into to create cycle ways and better bike lanes, many drivers seem unconcerned about cyclist. A few incidents have been caught on camera lately that show shows that many drivers still have a healthy disrespect for cyclists. What would it take for cycling to be made much safer and for cyclists to be respected as equal road users?
I think the government has to continue to put more money into creating cycling facilities. Although a good start has been made in terms of cycle lanes and things, much more needs to be done. As well as creating designated cycle lanes, still need more places to lock bikes. I’m glad to see some bike lanes in bright red colour but we need many many more of them. Roads need repaired constantly especially if we continues to get the harsh winters we have been getting. Most of all though I think we need a campaign to educate drivers of the dangers of cycling and harsher penalties for those who break them.
Cycle helmets are nothing new, in fact they have been around since 1975 but I suppose in more recent time, the past 2 years , they have become increasingly more popular I would wager that the vast majority of cyclists are now wearing one.
I came off my bike a fortnight ago and cant’ remember much about what actually happened that day day, although of the little that I do remember, I recall my head thumping off the ground. I split the side of my helmet and was grateful the it was my helmet I split and not my head. I have to admit that before this happened I have been lackadaisical about wearing my helmet and not always convinced they were necessary. I don’t need any convincing now however and, after events of a fortnight ago, won’t go out without one.
Interestingly, helmets have never been made compulsory and some of the leading cycling agencies sit very firmly on the fence. The CTC for example will not endorse the compulsory use of helmets despite being made the law in some countries. Some of the old school riders in my club still refuse to wear one but I am glad to see that kids are growing up with wearing a helmet on the bike as the norm.
Here is an interesting website about cycle helmets. Hope you find it interesting and I would be delighted if you would share your thoughts with me.