Back to the drawing board.

It’s been some time since I last contributed. It’s not been for the lack of thinking about it. In honesty, the enthusiasm just hasn’t been there which led to a feeling of guilt (for lack of contribution for those who do read) which then became plain embarrassing and took further chinks out of any motivation…

Such has life been for some 6 months, a fairly detrimental cycle that has been known by “loser’s loop” at my previous employment or “being stuck in a rut” to the rest of us.

The time has come to try and break that cycle. An enjoyable weekend of mountain biking in Northern Ireland recently saw me huff and puff my way round some beautiful country landscapes, on well-invested, constructed and maintained trails… The emphasis was on huff and puff by the way.*

It feels like I’ve had a fair kicking in some aspects of my life of these last few months and my health has taken the biggest beating of all in that time. But I don’t want to bang on about that. I want to seek advice and tips on what others find useful to pull themselves out of any such rut. Are there quick wins, strategic approaches, mental exercises that you have tried successfully? (or not – always good to know what to avoid!)

My main concern now is to get back into shape. I find it is too easy to fall into lethargy, and I am by no means a lazy kind of guy, but bad eating habits, alcohol and lack of sleep lend to weariness, weight gain and a suffering immune system pretty quickly.

My approach so far? Small steps.

1. Running – for those days when I don’t have the time I would like to have to exercise (also trying HITS)
2. Making time once a week for that big cycle ride that a. I really enjoy, and b. pushes me to my limit
3. Drink less – a given… but when you love Guinness as much as I do…
4. Cook more, eat less takeaway… don’t keep falling for the “it’s quicker”

Oh yeah and No. 5 – sleep more…

On that note….

* But do get yourself to Northern Ireland at the first chance you get; in particular the Castlewellan Forest Park, Tollymore Park and for the more adventurous head for the Rostrevor trails!

Riding a sine wave of emotion

I’m halfway up the eastern track, winding its way up the Worcestershire beacon, with a murky rural Herefordshire unfolding on my right. The wind is howling up, over and across the rolling hills beating my bike across the path. The going is tough, and whilst my mind is stubbornly focusing on reaching the top of the climb, it does waver briefly to reminisce about my experience last month at the Bristol Oktoberfest.


It was lap 3 where my race went awry. Having discovered that my “out-of-date” energy bars were well past the sell-by-date (a good year by all accounts!) I found myself heading out from transition onto my third lap with no food on board, and just a bottle of carbohydrate-charged drink to keep me going.


Mistake. After an enthusiastic start, only a quarter of my way into the lap I can feel the nauseous, light-headed feeling creeping in behind my eyeballs as a dreaded sugar-low begins.


“Just get yourself through this next section”. My minding struggles to push the empty legs on.


“C’’mon… …it levels out in 100 metres…”


I don’t want to stop on the incline, but my legs have lost all power and feel like I’ve donned a pair of lead ankles weights. The drain on my energy is so much that I almost come to a standstill as turning the cranks on the singlespeed steed takes its toll.


Then the incline levels out, slowly turning to a gentle decline allowing me to freewheel and reach into my back to grab my emergency gel blocks. I scoff half and swill the gelatinous mouthful down with the carb-drink.


Slowly the energy seeps back into my muscles and the light-headedness ebbs away, minutes more and I’m back on it and swooping through Ashton Courts finest.


Lesson learnt – no matter how unfit I felt before going to the event I really should have gone a little more prepared on the nutrition front. Mental note; also make sure you have an emergency pack of gel in your back pocket to get you out of a mess.


Back to the Beacon, and I’m cresting the top of the hill and whilst the wind threatens to rip me from the very spot where I’m standing, the view is grey but clear – it’s good to be alive.

Shaken to the core

2012. It hasn’t turned out to be the biking bonanza I had planned. Mountain Mayhem was, well Mayhem. Bontrager 24/12, Plympton was the epicentre of the bad weather of that weekend. SSUK cancelled, SSWC more than a pay cheque away. Every other inbetween local event happened to land upon some other family or otherwise-related event to cause an argument. I have just about given up and eagerly counting the months until I can start afresh. I want to hit 2013 with fresh legs, a revitalised mind and a positive attitude.

Ok, there’s a glimpse of fun in the form of the Bristol-held Oktoberfest, an 8 hour enduro that I’m much looking forward to. Any excuse to batter your way around Ashton Court at a million-miles-an-hour should be grasped firmly with both hands. And you’ll need those hands gripping the handlebars if you hit the trails at speed with the glorious flowing hard-packed sections laid in the last 18 months. It’s grin factor 10.

The only cloud hovering is the twinge in my lower back over the weekend. A stark reminder that the turmoil of the summer, recent working away during the weeks, a severe lack of bike time and the loss of any kind of exercise routine have taken their toll. Only last weekend, a singlespeed blast up-and-over the Malvern hills between a hectic work schedule feels literally as it has tore me a new one…

My core strength has gone.

So with a little under 4 weeks to go until Bristol’s Oktoberfest it’s all focus on re-building my core muscles. It’s the pillar of strength I need to do what I enjoy most – ride fast. My riding style is particularly demanding on my core muscles, climbing from the saddle rather than out – and any weakness is quickly exposed when saddled up on the Singlespeed.

If you find that you suffer from lower back pain or weakness in lifting then do investigate some simple daily core exercises – you will benefit hugely from it and in time feel and damn sight stronger. I include variations of the plank, leg lifts and sit-ups & crunchies in a daily routine, which never really exceeds 15 minutes and doesn’t require any equipment other than a bit of space to yourself.

Maybe you already have some simple exercises of your own – share them with us, I’m always on the lookout for a wider variety of routines to try out.