Category Archives: fitness

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.

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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.

Cycling stocktake (and I find myself rather short of stock)

Enough of this ‘why aren’t I cycling?’ and ‘I’ve got to get the bum on the saddle’ – on Monday I actually did get on the bike and go for a ride.

The Achilles tendons still aren’t great and the torn calf probably isn’t fully healed but they were all good enough for cycling and I’ve been prevaricating for too long.

Foolishly, I did my usual test route – the one I do every now and again to gauge how fit I am and how the cycling is going. I always push fairly hard on this route which is about 28 miles (c.45km) and flattish (280m or 920 feet). The last time I did it was back in September 2017 and I clocked a p.b. of 1 hour 28 minutes at 30.9 kph (19.2mph). This time I managed 1 hour 33 minutes at 29.2kph (18.1mph).

It was an unfair test given how little I’ve cycled this year, and considering that September 2017 was just 2 months after I ‘everested’, but it puts down a marker. It also suggests:

  • the training for the marathon in April has helped,
  • the gym has helped,
  • I haven’t forgotten how to ride a bike,
  • but there’s a lot of hard work to do before the trip to the alps

More importantly, I really enjoyed it.

So, it’s back to the cycling now – it will be kinder on the Achilles tendons and I’ll see a bit more of the countryside than by running my usual routes. I’ll miss the running but it will be interesting to see if a break from it (other than shorter, gentler runs as my wife’s unpaid personal trainer) will sort the ATs out.

Back to the turbo trainer (nearly) and, for something completely different, cricket

The Pavilion at The Oval cricket ground, South London

One of the (many) things I’m bad at is taking time to recover from illness or injury. Partly it’s just that I like exercise but it’s also fear that delay means I won’t be ready for the next challenge, whatever that might be.

Of course, that’s daft. Fretting about it won’t help and training too soon is likely to be entirely counter-productive and actually slow down the whole process.

Admittedly, having torn the right calf on Saturday, cycling on Sunday and going for two long walks (two long limps) over the weekend might not have been wise but the ride was short and gentle and I don’t get the chance to walk with both of our sons too often so I wasn’t going to turn those down.

Since then I’ve tried to be better. It was Bournemouth on Wednesday (no running) and from there straight to London in the evening to be ready to go to the cricket on Thursday.

Apologies to those in parts of the world that don’t have any knowledge of cricket (and to the millions who do know about it but still don’t like or understand it) – but I really like it. How can you not admire a game that can finish without any positive result at the end of 5 days of play?

This was the first game of the Cricket World Cup – a tournament of one day games, each of just 50 overs per side, meaning a match with a playing time of a mere 7 hours or so. This opening match was England v South Africa. Purists might look down on one day cricket as ‘cricket for those who don’t like cricket’ but it’s hard to know where the game would be without its shorter forms of as they are the main draws of big crowds.

Following England in just about any sport is an agony of optimism, disappointment and frustration. This time it is possibly worse than usual because of high expectations, England being the favourites for the tournament.

We batted first and posted a very decent, but not unbeatable, 311 runs for the loss of 8 wickets. The South Africans were in the hunt for the first half of their reply but faded in the face of some brilliant English fielding and catching, and were all out for 207. A very good day and a very good result against the side ranked 3rd in the world in one day cricket.

Perhaps above all else, we avoided the three words that strike despair into the heart of cricket fans – “Rain Stopped Play”.

By Friday the calf was feeling better and the Achilles seemed to be improving slowly so I was thinking I would get on the turbo trainer for the first time since early March. However, as the bike on the turbo has clipless pedals it would have meant a good deal of calf involvement – so I thought better of it. Signs of common sense, perhaps.

I don’t really understand why I’ve done so little cycling for such a long time. It was logical while I was marathon training but why so little since? I hope I haven’t fallen out of love with it.

We are visiting different friends for lunch on Saturday and Sunday which will mean a full 8 days after hurting the calf without any significant exercise. Is next week the one I start to get my act together?

Row, run, cycle – but taking time to smell the roses

Chelsea Flower Show

After Monday’s London run I gardened on Tuesday. Having cut a whole 3 seconds off my 2000m rowing time at my 2nd attempt, at the gym on Wednesday my 3rd attempt took another 28 seconds off (now down to 8m 42s), although still not feeling 100%.

I suppose that’s encouraging but if I’d known it was going so well I might have eased off a bit to keep something in hand for the next attempt. I assume the improvement is just a bit of familiarity with the equipment so perhaps next time will just be consolidation.

I’m still wondering whether the gym will add much to my cycling. I’ve always taken the view that cycling must use all the muscles needed for cycling – but the gym is a nice social diversion from other training (if I were ever to get back to doing some) and, with my focus on the legs and core, it can’t be doing any harm … can it?

In the afternoon I was at a local junior school helping to give cycle training to some 11 year olds. They could all ride but we were also assessing them with a view to taking them out on the road at the start of next term. It was enjoyable and all the children were pretty good on the bikes – although the bikes were a rather motley bunch in terms of style and road worthiness!

Back to Bournemouth on Thursday, continuing to clear the garage and garden. With a fleeting visit, no running (I didn’t even go to the beach to check that the sea is still there) – but back to the gym on Friday morning – I did the 500m rowing machine sprint for the second time and at 1 minute 57 seconds I took 2 seconds off my first time at the distance. My gym companion thinks the machine I used this time is the harder of the two – I’ll check next week.

After the gym, it was up to London for the Chelsea Flower Show. We tend to go every few years to get some inspiration for the garden – but fail to implement much (if any) of it. Still, it’s a good day out. This year was very enjoyable in good weather – even though it was a bit too crowded for my liking. Great show and artisan gardens and outstanding exhibits in the Great Pavilion. I’m not sure if I’m inspired or intimidated – probably both.

Back to Oxfordshire on Saturday after a run early in the morning (about 4.3miles – 7km). It went well to the half way point but then my recent right calf niggle became a current right calf pull. I finished the run at a hobble and well over a minute per km slower than the first half. How do I train for, and run, a marathon in April with no muscle issues, only pull one on a reasonably gentle 4 mile run the following month? It hurts a lot – but at least that takes my mind off the Achilles tendons.

We drove back to Oxfordshire later with our sons who came back for the Bank Holiday weekend which is good compensation for the calf.

  Indoor rowing  
Attempt No. 500 metres 2000 metres
1 1minute 59 seconds 9 minutes 13 seconds
2 1:57 9:10
3   8:42

Run, run, gym, run, gym, run, run (good job I’m running less and cycling more) and ‘Strictly come Wimbledon’

Back to the Bournemouth promenade

No matter how foolish, it seems that I can’t resist running when in London or Bournemouth. After last Saturday’s run in London, it was another 5km (3.1miles) along the Bournemouth seafront on Monday morning in bright sunny weather and a cool breeze.

Last week the knee had been improving but I managed to set that back a bit with the London run – and running in Bournemouth didn’t help either. I decided not to run for the rest of the week and see how the knee recovers. Needless to say, the ATs are pretty rubbish.

I went to the gym on Tuesday, having missed it last week. I tried the 2000m rowing again – a whole 3 seconds faster at 9:10! I assume it will help with the muscles in my back, shoulders and legs – it’s a very hard exercise but it’s another thing to play with that shouldn’t hurt my Achilles’.

The resolve not to run for the rest of the week lasted only two days as my wife wanted company on a run on Wednesday – just 3.5km (2.2miles) in lovely weather that looks reasonably set for a while.

Later we dismantled the playhouse in the garden. It was slowly deteriorating but had been there nearly 25 years so didn’t owe us anything. I’ve never been a very sentimental person but I’m getting worse as I get older and I was sorry to see it go after all these years. Hard to see what is sentimental about a garden playhouse but it brought back memories of our younger son coming to find us to say he’d looked out of the playroom window and seen two nice men building something in the garden.

Carrying on with the theme of poor exercise judgement, Thursday was back to the gym with my normal companion. Not feeling 100% I ducked out of the 2000m on the rowing machine in favour of a 500m rowing sprint. On the basis that took me very nearly 2 minutes of pain, the 8 minute challenge for the 2000m is looking a rather long way off.

Sadly, the increasing sentimentality meant that the playhouse had been stuffed full of the boys old books, games and even some old school exercise books. With yet more proceeds of the decluttering (including my wife’s old school exercise books!), that led to a massive bonfire on Friday – very therapeutic but it’s surprisingly hard work burning thick wads of paper (I think the outer pages burn and the ash then keeps the oxygen from reaching the rest?) so it was a long but satisfying job, mixed with some gardening – rock and roll.

I was too tired to get on the turbo in the evening, so instead I watched highlights of the day’s Giro stage – it was an undulating 185km (115miles) and the winner rode it at an average of 45.1kph (28mph). Astounding!

It was up to London again on Saturday as my wife had tickets for the Strictly Come Dancing (I think it’s Dancing with the Stars in the USA) Professionals’ show. The TV show is certainly not my thing – I can (just about) take the (surprisingly and happily small) time spent on the dances themselves but the padding around them is too much to bear. My wife has many friends who love the programme but none could make the date so I was the ‘plus one’. It was an experience and they are incredibly skilled – but, as I say, not my thing.

On Sunday morning we did one of my standard 4 mile (6.5km) London runs to Hammersmith and down the Thames Path to Craven Cottage (Fulham FC’s ground).

In the afternoon we went to the re-opening of Court No1 at Wimbledon, with its new roof. I’ve seen quite a bit of tennis at Wimbledon and the Queens tournament but have rather lost interest in recent years because of slow play and incessant shrieking and grunting (Connors and Seles have a lot to answer for). At least getting there from the London flat was easy and there was good music and tennis from, McEnroe, Navratilova, Ivanisevic, Cash, Hewitt, Clijsters, Venus Williams and Jamie Murray.

I might have mentioned that I struggle not to run when staying up in London – and on Monday morning we went for another run, this time over Hammersmith Bridge and down the path on the other side of the river. We’d stayed in London because, in the afternoon, we went to meet our younger son at Heathrow, back from Peru and Bolivia. He had a great time and we can now breathe more easily.