Category Archives: fitness

Run, run, turbo. Louder, louder, And we'll run for our lives

Still sharing space with some less hardy plants … but closer to getting them back out in the garden

I rarely feel sorry for politicians – but (like him or not) I’ll make an exception for Boris Johnson. December, elected; March, having to remove basic freedoms like never before in peacetime.

Poor soul, when he came to power Brexit looked like the UK’s biggest issue but just weeks later nobody mentions Brexit as everything is overshadowed by coronavirus.

We now join so many nations in a lockdown – for an initial three weeks we are required to stay at home and only leave for shopping for “basic necessities”, medical reasons, to provide care, or to help a vulnerable person and travelling to and from work, if it is “absolutely necessary”. Gatherings of more than two people (excluding those who live together) are banned. Parks have remained open but people are able to go out to exercise no more than once a day.

The aim is to protect the National Health Service as much as possible by slowing the growth in severe cases that otherwise will threaten to overwhelm it’s capacity to look after those in need of intensive care. All very grim, but necessary – and harsher could still be in the pipeline if people don’t take the current rules sufficiently seriously.

On Tuesday I made use of the ability to exercise and ran for 10.4km (nearly 6.5miles). In other circumstances, it would have looked like the sort of early spring day that gets you thinking that all is well with the world. It was pretty quiet out but the walkers, runners and dog walkers were all friendly and all happy to keep proper social distancing.

I enjoyed it – but it does feel even more irrelevant than it used to, with so many people facing such severe issues at the moment. For those of us without skills that would be really useful currently, perhaps our obligations are simply to help neighbours where possible, follow the rules and maintain what normality we can.

Now many people are ‘working’ from home and allowed only one exercise session a day, I wonder whether we might see people valuing the opportunity to get out more than they would previously (‘you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone’), and starting a slightly healthier lifestyle? It would be a terrible irony if the pandemic had that sort of positive spin-off (sadly, a very small positive compared to such huge, and tragic, negatives).

Wednesday I worked to submit the application for probate on my father’s estate. He’d have hated the current situation – he’d have been 96 by now and confinement to the house would have been miserable for him (he was still driving himself to Rotary club and the church every week up to his final illness in December).

Thursday it was back to some sort of exercise as I ran with my wife in the morning, had a large bonfire in the afternoon and used the turbo trainer in the evening (the run having used my ‘one outdoor exercise a day’ allowance). 6.2km running and 45 minutes on the turbo for 21.57km (appropriately watching the game show ‘Pointless’).

With April’s sportive already gone, July’s ultra shaky to say the least, our walking trip to the Lake District in April looking doomed and my annual week’s cycling in the alps under severe threat, what sporting challenge is left for 2020?

After my ‘everesting’ in 2017, the solo ride out to the alps in 2018 and the marathon last year, 2020 is looking rather sad with April’s sportive already gone, July’s ultra shaky to say the least, our trip to walk in the Lake District looking doomed and my annual week’s cycling in the alps under severe threat.

On the assumption that there will at least be a lull in the crisis (and that I will still be fit and healthy by then) I’ve started to think what I might try to do later in the year by way of challenge and celebration of being able to take one on.

On a happier note to all the gloom around at the moment, the garden is full of birds from rooks, jackdaws and the regular woodpeckers (heard but not yet seen), down to the robins, innumerable LBJs* and – best of all – the wrens are back.

*’Little Brown Jobs’ (several species of small similar looking birds that a non-ornithologist like me cannot tell apart).

Alarm-alarm, quad bikes, craft beers, tapas and Glastonbury – not just another weekend

Back to Bournemouth and Hengistbury Head, it was a great weekend

I appreciate the horrible irony that, when so many don’t have the basics, I feel that I have too many things – but as a result, our sons give me ‘experiences’ for birthday and Christmas presents.

On Friday we drove down to Bournemouth for my birthday present. We all gathered in the evening (plus the older boy’s girlfriend) in readiness for the experience on the Saturday afternoon. After a great family meal in the evening, I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep in preparation – but the phone rang just before 6.30 with a message from the alarm company to the effect that power had been lost to the alarm at home in Oxfordshire.

Although heartened by the fact that it wasn’t an intruder alert, something had to be done, and it was a bit early to contact any neighbours.

The result, of course, was that before 7am I was in the car to drive the 100 miles back home. As I got into the village I could see some lights on – but the house had no power. It was simply the trip switch that had (presumably) been activated by a power surge some time after 5am.

Resetting it took about 5 seconds, followed by the 100 mile drive back to Bournemouth. What a great way to start a day.

In the afternoon we drove to Blandford Forum for quad biking. We watched the group ahead of us and got a bit worried as they seemed to be confined to some tracks around a hillside right by the farm – perfectly good tracks, with some very good flooded sections, but for an hour in the same place?

We didn’t know whether we’d be put with others to make up a group – but we weren’t. With just the three of us (sons and me) the first instruction ‘no overtaking’ wasn’t such a disappointment, but it did occur to me that we might not have the most exciting hour ahead of us.

Happily, I was very wrong. The instructor explained that we would start on the nearby hillside but, depending how we got on, there were more tracks he could take us to a few fields away.

We were on the first hill for only about 15 minutes and we must have convinced him that we weren’t complete no-hopers and he took us to the further field where there were some more difficult tracks.

‘Gnarly’ would be the word in mountain biking circles, I think.

That seemed really good and it was enormous fun. With the three of us the no overtaking was not an issue – the track was sufficiently demanding by itself.

After a while he led us off again and I was thinking that the time had gone incredibly quickly but instead of returning to the farm, he took us to a third site. My wife had been talking to one of the other instructors who explained there was a third site that they rarely took people to because it was very difficult – apparently that’s where we were.

I thought we’d already hit lucky on the fun stakes – but the third site was even better. In and out of some trees, up some very steep hills with drops that fell away so sharply that you couldn’t see the track beneath you as you come over the top, deep ruts, adverse cambers and sharp bends in front of rather solid-looking trees. It was very hard but such a buzz.

In the early evening we went to a local micro-brewery and sampled some really excellent craft beers. After that it was off to a tapas restaurant for some terrific food (after a slightly long wait for our table – with they handled very well, with a sincere apology and a free round of drinks – all credit to them).

On the Sunday morning the older son and his girlfriend were devoted to applying for tickets for the 2020 Glastonbury music festival. To get better internet reception we went to a local cafe/bistro on the seafront where they set up a row of four laptops and two mobile phones on the wall outside (the cafe not quite being open yet).

By chance, the Bournemouth half and full marathons were taking place, passing right in front of the cafe. I suspect that many runners though they were passing either a timing checkpoint or a press centre – certainly several waved and posed for non-existent cameras. Sorry, it was just an attempt at a ticket application.

In fact, their attempts failed to get through the queues to the ticket purchase stage – but friends who were also applying did get tickets for them all so it ended well.

After a brunch and a walk around the Hengistbury Head area, everyone headed back home in the afternoon – us to Oxfordshire and the boys to London. What a great weekend – and not a run, a cycle or the gym in sight. No exercise for three days, unless I can include the quad biking (I did ache a bit on the Sunday morning), or clapping the Bournemouth runners – congratulations to all of them.

I was thinking of the Bournemouth marathon as an event for late 2020 but the route winds back on itself several times in different places (would that mess with the mind?) and although I like running along the promenade, on Sunday there was a nasty little headwind blowing west to east along the Channel. I need to think about this …

Run, cycle training, gym, gym, run, gym

Back to hitting the mean streets of Little Coxwell

The training continues – I’ve been to the gym, run or used the turbo trainer on 11 of the last 12 days – but with no challenges until next year, I wonder about its use. I think it’s just ‘enjoy it for what it is’.

It rained heavily through Saturday night but we ran on Sunday morning – 6.2km (a bit under 4 miles). The light rain at the start was very pleasant but we ended in rather heavier rain which was a bit less so.

Later we went to the cycle path to do some more training – despite the weather we had a lot of children on the balance bikes, some more of whom, I think, will be cycling properly next week.

A bit of the afternoon was spent watching the men’s road race at the world championships in Yorkshire. The weather was foul and led to a shortening of the route; they cut out the Buttertubs and Grinton Moor climbs that I remember so fondly from our visit to Yorkshire for the early stages of Le Tour back in 2014. It was a seriously tough day for riding a bike – with 75km still to go, more than half the field had abandoned in the pouring rain and with temperatures down around 12ā„ƒ (low 50’sā„‰).

On Monday morning it was back to the gym for an hour. I’ve increased some of the weights again. I tend to do 3 sets of 12 reps until that gets comfortable, then I increase the weights and reduce the reps to 3 sets of 8 (if I can) , before building them back up again. I’ve no idea whether that’s a good way to do it …

I’m now on the machines’ maximum weights for leg press (200kg), abductors and adductors (both 60kg). On the leg curl and leg extension machines I’m at 55kg … again, no idea if that’s good, bad or indifferent – but it really doesn’t matter, I’m enjoying it.

I had planned on running on Tuesday but it was raining heavily so I went to the gym again and I ran with my wife on Wednesday morning – just under 4 miles on a cool, clear and crisp morning – and faster than we have run together for a year. I know that the gym is no replacement for running or cycling but I’m looking forward to a ‘proper’ run or cycle to see how I shape up at the moment.

Gym on Thursday and a day off on Friday to rest the tired muscles – and a very good weekend in prospect.

Congratulations to Katarina Johnson-Thompson for gold in the world heptathlon. Great athletics – dismal crowds in the stadium.

Gym (3), run (3), (attempted cycle). Steady as she goes?

Almost home from home now

This feels weird. The key challenges are sorted for 2020, but I don’t have any more for this year. It leaves me in limbo – nothing specific to train for now – and any training I do won’t help with next year.

I suppose it could go one of two ways. I could lose motivation for a few months, do little, get fat and suffer more in February when I try to pick it up again. Alternatively, I could carry on with relaxed, sensible and varied exercise on the bike, at the gym, and on my feet, without any real pressure – just for the pleasure of doing it.

Tough call – but I’m going for the latter.

I’ve been reading about ultra marathons – mine is (only) 50km in early July. Some of the news is good:

  • mental strength is important (if that means bloody-mindedness, I’m a natural)
  • it’s not about speed (I don’t really do speed, so that’s ok)
  • walking is expected and actually encouraged – was I ever going to run 31 miles?

Unfortunately, ultras require more training than a marathon (surely not!) and the 16 week schedule I’ve found starts with a 31 mile week. They say don’t increase weekly mileage by more than 10% so that suggests a couple of months of running to be fit enough to start training (and I’m supposed to be in full cycle training at that point for April’s sportive).

I’ve taken heart from a contribution from Michael, who is older than me and about to tackle his 12th marathon of this year. That’s a really impressive maintenance of a high level of fitness – so it can be done ….. but can it be done by me in 2020?

In that spirit, I went to the gym on Friday, and promptly undid any good from that at a splendid 25th wedding anniversary in Brighton on Saturday and a delightful 70th birthday drinks in the village on Sunday.

As a result, a slightly larger version of me ran to and from the gym on Monday (5.8km – 3.6miles), with 50 minutes of weights in between. On Tuesday I had to take a car into the garage for a new wheel bearing. My wife came with me and we ran back home (5.14km – 3.2m).

Not exactly testing running but the good news is that the Achilles tendons felt no worse than usual – the less good news is that my calf muscles were a bit sore. I guess that’s an indication that, in protecting the Achilles’ over the last few months, I’ve also gone easy on the calf muscles. Something else to add (cautiously) to the gym programme.

London on Wednesday for various chores, including watering our older son’s house plants while he is in the USA – and on Thursday it was a cycle to the gym, more weights and then a walk back having punctured just before I arrived (as it’s less than a 4 mile round trip I’d not taken a pump or replacement tube – rookie error). I ran to and back from the gym on Friday for another 5.8km (3.6miles).

Navvy, run, gym, odd-job man, run, cycle

I barrowed concrete at the cycle park Tuesday and ran with my wife on Wednesday. A gentle run but it underlined the bitter irony of how hard it is to get fit, and how fast the fitness goes.

I’m sure I remember running a marathon in April but based on current performance I don’t know how I might have done that. The concrete shifting was not to the liking of my knees or Achilles tendons but, if the legs hold up, I’ve got to keep going with the regular gym, planks, running and cycling if I want to stay fit and get around the Ride London sportive in reasonable comfort early next month.

I did a gym session on Thursday morning before we headed to Southampton to help one of my brothers-in-law moving into his new place. Sadly, we didn’t have the Guiness Book of Records on hand but I claim a world best of 30 pictures, one clock, one key rack and three clothes racks hung, a bathroom cabinet assembled and hung, a washing machine sorted and four dining chairs re-assembled. He’s a really fine chap but not a diy man.

The three of us ran on Friday and we came back home via Bournemouth to close up the house after it being used by one of my wife’s goddaughters. Judging by the instagram pictures seen by one of our sons (we would not think of intruding on that generation’s Facebook or other social media) she and her friends had a great time in excellent weather.

Sunday I was ‘on duty’ for the club’s family ride . My wife came along too (the club sportive is a week away and we have both signed up for it with another friend, but my wife has realised that she hasn’t cycled for many months) and the whole thing was a very enjoyable couple of hours.

To increase the training benefit I took the mountain bike. Not the easiest ride up the hills with the weight and off-road tyres – but the saddle is more comfortable than the carbon fibre on the Rose.

As thick as a plank (or is that as fit as a plank?)

Part of the opening of the cycle park

Sunday was Father’s Day in the UK so I was treated to lunch in London, which was great. We stayed overnight but I still resisted running on the Monday morning. The calf muscle feels much better but the Achilles’ …

One thing I have started is doing a set of plank exercises with my wife each morning.

It’s a minute in front plank with straight arms, 30 seconds on elbows, then 30 seconds with each foot lifted in turn, 30 seconds side plank, each side, and then a minute front plank with straight arms (I think it should actually be 30 seconds but I like to suffer) and a minute on the elbows. A total of 5 and a half minutes in one plank position or another – but the recorded programme takes nearer 10 minutes with the bit of spiel between positions.

I have no idea how useful it is but can’t be doing any harm – and strengthening the core has to be a real benefit for cycling.

I tried to do more exercises on Monday, particularly lunges with weights but couldn’t manage those because they put too much strain on the Achilles’.

Tuesday morning, plank routine again. This time I did it without the recorded programme and it took just 5 minutes 46 seconds, allowing just a few seconds for moving between positions. Just 16 seconds out of the plank position in a total of 5m 46s makes for a surprisingly tough exercise (even though the world record for holding a plank position is said to be just over 8 hours).

It was wet so I canned the planned afternoon ride and went to the gym for an hour instead, fitting it in around four ‘dog duties’ on behalf of two different neighbours.

Wednesday was another cycle training session at the local junior school but I started the day with the plank exercises again, and again on Thursday, before an hour in the gym. Later I was working up at the cycling park my cycling group has built at the nearby sports ground – it’s tied in with our work at the local schools to get children (and adults) on their bikes, and eventually to see them safely and confidently on the roads.

The cycling trip to the Alps is coming up all too quickly. I’m going to have to hope that the marathon training, the gym, the turbo and the planks are going to help as the cycling training itself (or rather the absence of it) out on the roads has been a disaster.

Turbo, gym, pink pigeons, a terrific women’s cycle race, Chris Froome (and some more cricket)

Women’s Tour of Britain coming through Faringdon. It was ultimately won by Lizzie Deignan, 9 months after having a daughter. Magnificent.

An almost decent week of getting back into some sort of training rhythm.

On Monday it was the turbo for 22.2 km in 45 minutes @ 29.6kph (13.8 miles @ 18.4mph) and on Tuesday an hour in the gym (various weights machines for the legs, front and side planks, 110 sit-ups, some chest presses, bicep curls and a lot of stretching).

Wednesday saw the Women’s Tour of Britain cycle race come through Faringdon, our nearest town so I went to support that – and the incredible efforts of some of the cycle group to decorate the town pink. Pink pigeons is a Faringdon ‘thing’ after Lord Berners – Faringdon’s eccentric aristocrat – used to have the pigeons at his house in the town dyed pastel colours in the middle of the last century. There were about 50 bikes put about the town, all pimped pink.

A second hour in the gym on Thursday before heading off to Southampton to stay with one of my brothers-in-law in order to go to the cricket on Friday. I was lucky that I was going with my brother-in-law as otherwise my absence on our 32nd wedding anniversary would have been rather frowned upon.

In keeping with my life’s work of bringing cricket to the corners of the world that hasn’t yet reached, after I watched them win their first world cup game, England batted and bowled reasonably in their second match – but fielded poorly and managed to lose to Pakistan (who they had just beaten 4-0 in a pre-tournament series). Back to winning ways in match three against Bangladesh and then (the match I was at in Southampton) winning surprisingly easily against the West Indies. Whisper it, but qualification for the semi-finals looks possible, with New Zealand, Australia and India also looking good so far.

I stayed over on Friday night too and then back home via Bournemouth (still managing to resist a run while I rest the Achilles’ and torn calf) to collect the bed linen and towels used by the friends who had used the house the previous week. Yet more glitz and glamour to my lifestyle.

Turbo again on Saturday evening – 15.64km in 30 minutes (19.4mph average). Hard, hard, hard.

…. and above everything else, my very best wishes to Chris Froome for a swift and full recovery from the severe injuries (a fracture to his neck, a fractured right femur, elbow and ribs, plus a broken hip) he suffered as a result of his terrible crash on Wednesday.

It’s a good reminder that this cycling lark can be dangerous – stay safe folks.