Category Archives: health

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.

Tough love.

Time is flying; the hands on the clocks keep spinning and winter is upon us again. Ignoring the sceptical October rumours, the snowy season is also creeping in with first reports of the white stuff terrorising areas of the country. The idea of cycling through some fresh crunchy powder sets off an excited little buzz in my brain after some fantastic winter riding last year.

It’s also been a two month struggle against my own fitness (or lack of), fighting off cold after cold – after all manner of vitamin supplements, chomping down on my own bodyweight in fresh fruit & veg and trying to clock up as many bonus hours of sleep as possible it is the latter that has proven most beneficial. The heady summer of training, competing & busy personal life had taken its toll so sod it, with the night’s drawing in I’ve taken on more of a life of a hibernating furry creature!

It’s working. The colds are passing quicker, physical strength is returning and most importantly, the mojo is rising – motivation is returning. My mind is turning to competition for 2012, and a winter of biking.

Don’t be put off by the icy touch of the morning, or the pitch black of the evening. Once you’ve braved the back door, warmed up sauntering to the first junction, hit the first rutted climb and eased yourself into the first quick down, at every turn you will be rewarded by a fresh sensation.

Slipping, sliding around, the grin factor goes through the roof. Drop a few PSI out of the tyres to gain a bit more purchase if you find the going a little too treacherous and keep the speed down until you get the feel of the bike sliding out from underneath you on the bends. Kick your leg out on the inside for a bit more confidence on the corners, and if the grip does let go you’ll be able to right yourself a bit easier!

The uber-quick, dusty trails of the summer may have gone, but there’s a whole new world to experience for the next four months, get out the warm gear and make the most of it!

Check out a recent top tips for winter riding feature in BikeMagic for a bit more encouragement…

What goes up, must come down (the wheels on the bus go round and round)

A month. It’s flown by if truth be told, but when you think about the numbers; 4 weeks, 28 days, 672 hours – reality bites.

It’s a period long enough to put a hefty dink in the previous 6 months of riding & fitness training if you’re hit by illness, injury or any other circumstances to prevent you swinging your leg over the loyal steed. I’ve just been through some of those very circumstances, with chest infection, sickness bug, man flu & stress, September has been a month of frustration. Made moreso by seeing my friends participating & performing well in events that I had been looking forward to with big ideas. It was not to be.

My first ride out with my training buddy Fruity this evening brought a renewed vigour, a little inspiration (that regaining my level of fitness from a month ago was within reach) and a simple reminder that what goes around, comes around. I have had a great summer competing in endurance & singlespeed competitions, achieving more than I ever had done in previous years but the reality that there will always be somebody out there quicker, stronger & fitter than you is always prominent in my mind. Fact.

A confession: I think I suffered more mentally in the last month than in physical well-being, throwing dark clouds over the self-confidence I have been working on – yup, it’s all about the mojo. Establishing your self image, knowing who you are and then looking at your (recent) achievements & reviving ambition from deep down, thrusting it into the spotlight. You are what you achieve? It’s not as outlandish nor boastful as it sounds – consider what you could achieve in your lifetime, and then consider how it would make you feel. In my minor existence one of my ambitions is to achieve a win in a mountain bike endurance event in the coming months and despite the last month of toil, armed with the reality of the predicament (someone will always better you in time)  I found that I was able to rationalise my situation and pull myself up out of the preverbial gutter and grab back hold of the ladder rung. Resume climbing!

So what would I like for you to take from this brief rambling about what essentially has been a rather dull few weeks of my life? Never give up. Find your ambition, and grab it with both hands. For every blow, if you can stand again you will find that you will be that much stronger.

Go on, get out there and do it. : )