Exercise for fun?

As i currently have no idea of what event/race i fancy doing i am trying just to exercise for fun, no pace targets, no mileage targets and no intervals, just go out and do what i feel like.

The idea of exercising for fun and not for a specific purpose is a little but strange to me now having trained for a reason for so long. I have in the past struggled to exercise for no specific reason as i am really good at finding reasons not to do something!

I’m now a week into this experiment and I have to admit i am enjoying it. I have been out for a couple of bike rides, a couple of runs, yes running is back and then some indoor Zwift rides.

Running without having to go at a set pace or for a set time is making it easier to build back into running, so far I’ve just done a couple of laps of the village, which are just under 5km, so no big distances and certainly at no pace. The pace element of running is the piece i am finding a little tricky as i am nowhere near fit enough to run a t the pace i did previously although in my head i feel like i want to. I do know the only way i will get back to or close to those levels is time out running and some interval sessions. Interval sessions may be the work of the devil but they are very effective if not a little painful.

It remains to be seen how long the exercise for fun vide will last and whether i do find something i want to do, but in the meantime let us hope it continues to be fun and helps bring back the full motivation.

The right direction

The last few weeks have been a case of doing some training as and when i have felt like it. My list of excuses for not doing some have ranged from, “can’t be arsed” to “still working” to “I’m playing FIFA”.

So. A range of “reasons” only one of which has any real merit but currently that is how it has been going. The funny thing is, that when i do do some training I’m enjoying it,be it a Zwift ride or a proper outside ride.

The other day o broke out the winter bike, well it is really my CX bike with mudguards and road tyres, and went for a gentle shakedown ride. It was a grey day and looking like it might rain, but despite that i enjoyed my slow paced ride.

I think i may have turned a corner in that i am enjoying the riding i am doing, next step is to get running again. I keep putting it off but unless i start now i won’t have enough miles to even think about doing any duathlons next year due to my long break from running. I am considering finding a running group to give me some motivation to get going as i think without it i might still be writing that i need to start next year.

Not much else to say currently other than that i am in the market for a new winter cycling jacket my Gabba 2 is past its best so look for a possible review if i find one!

Still looking for a direction

This last week started with.me being given some good advice from a variety of people in what might help me find some direction for my training, and I have to admit i have read it all but haven’t actually put any of it into practice, yet.

On the other hand i did do three sessions on Zwift which totalled 120km in 4 hours, so it does seem that even without my usual motivation too train i still find a way of at least do something. As an example i do a 70km route this morning, i thought about bailing out at various points but the thought of ticking off another Zwift route provided enough motivation for me to finish it. It also reminded me that eating when riding indoors is as important as when you are outdoors, i was very hungry when i finished. I also realised the saddle on my TT bike is not very comfortable anymore, time for a new one i think!

In terms of what to aim for, i am thinking of making some short term goals, that if they are not achieved won’t be devastating as they will provide a good base for any future activities. To that end I’m thinking that the Rapha festive 500 might be a fun challenge. You have to cycle 500km between Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve, a harder than average winter challenge but could be fun!

Next on my list of things to do is to get out and start running again, something that since having stopped seems far harder than it ever did before. Perhaps it is one of those things that once started will come back, i hope so but don’t know. The funny thing is that now the evenings have become dark i feel a bit more likely to go out as i like running with a head torch one, especially off road as it adds a toil hole of adventure to what would be an otherwise normal run. Let’s see what happens this week.

Inside out

Over the past few years i, like many other cyclists, have enjoyed the ability to ride indoors using Zwift.

Zwift, if you are not aware, is basically a virtual world where you can ride a myriad of routes where the software control the resistance on your smart trainer. There is an added feature to Zwift, you can also use it on a treadmill for running.

So, what does this all mean, well, for me i have found that training indoors on the bike has become a pleasure and so when the weather is not great i tend to opt for the trainer. Not usual you would think as using an indoor trainer allows you to do very controlled sessions so you can target power, cadence or heart rate. The odd side is that i have also been using it on the treadmill, and I hate indoor running.

For anyone who knows me, also knows that i would probably do a maximum of one runs year indoors and would go out whatever the weather. It seems i have now gone soft as if its raining I will use the treadmill.

The amount of indoor training i now do has started to slightly concern me, as where as i used to go out whatever the weather now i don’t, yes indoor training can be very targeted it also means you are not outside enjoying the real world.

The solution seems easy? Just go outdoors rather than inside, well yes that is the answer but the reality is that during the winter i can justify it by all the reasons above. The downsides are that I don’t go on club rides and don’t get to use the winter kit i own.

Am i going to change? I don’t know, my training through the winter has been consistent and i feel in reasonable shape and have achieved this without getting cold or soaking wet. I did go out over the Christmas period to prove I’ve not lost it completely but more recently its been the trainer.

i am looking forward to getting back out and about but equally i no longer think it is the only way to go.

Isn’t it ironic

Sang Alanis Morissette some time ago, although for her I doubt she was referring to the likely hood of being injured by a piece of equipment twice that you don’t really like!

The equipment in question is the treadmill we have at home, when we first got it I sliced my big toe open on it and then this week I caught a toe on it and it seemed to break it or at least fracture it based on the colour, swelling and pain.

The irony is that I prefer running outdoors and the treadmill is very much the domain of the wife, maybe it is her way of inflicting pain in me for something I have done?

So, the outcome of this was that I lost a few days training as luckily by Thursday I was able to try running again. Guess where I tried the run, yep that is correct the treadmill. The circle is complete.

I was either very lucky or my pain threshold is super high as I was able to run reasonably comfortably on the treadmill. I started off steady and gradually wound it up until I was doing a couple of Km’s at a good pace.

I then went climbing, if anyone has ever been climbing then you know that climbing shoes are not the most comfy things ever invented and that climbing involves putting a lot of weight on your toes. The weight on the toes was a little tricky I was not fully comfy doing it, but I still knocked out ten or so routes and didn’t seem to suffer.

The next test was a trail run to see how it reacted outside, and surprisingly two things happened, firstly the toe felt good and secondly I ran at a good pace in the mud. Nothing like getting a pleasant surprise.

All in all a week that started so badly but finished quite strong, I’m now looking forward to a more normal week with some good training.

It’s better outside

This is the time of year when it can be a real struggle to motivate yourself to go outside and train, you know you should be the combination of dark, cold and probably rain make it a pretty tough ask.

I am in the very fortunate position of owning both a smart trainer and a decent treadmill so I have the option of training indoors and being able to do my sessions, and I have to say that recently I have noticed that I am tending to do more indoors, where as previously I went outside, especially for runs,.

This weekend I decided that both my sessions would be done outside, it didn’t matter what the weather was doing I was going to go outside.

Saturday morning arrived, I looked out of the window and it was throwing it down with rain and it was windy and it was misty, almost the holy trinity! I started to think if it would really matter if I didn’t go outside, after all I hadn’t actually told anyone what I was planning.

In the end after some consideration, I put on a waterproof jacket, an Endure cycling jacket as I don’t own a running specific one (if any running gear company reads this and would like to let me have one to review please contact me!!) and headed for the trails.

After the amount of rain the trails had gone from the dust of the summer to the soft wet mud of winter, and I have to say It was good to run on these wet paths. The weather decided it hadn’t rained enough and gave me a proper soaking, the wind blew and crossing a field on top of a hill the mist rolled in, yet despite these factors the chilterns still looked beautiful, sometimes you need days like these to remind you how lucky you are to live in the countryside.

What about today I hear you ask, well you might if you are still reading, today I headed out on the mountain bike. Obviously there was plenty of mud and this soon covered both me and the bike in it. One of the advantages of a singlespeed bike is that you don’t have to worry about mud clogging up the gears and making it hard to shift, the other side is that for 98% of the time you are in the wrong gear! However, the simplicity of it combined with the enjoyment of being outside again meant that the whole ride was enjoyable, even the uphill parts.

So then, have I learnt anything from this weekend? Well not really I have always known I prefer training outside and especially when running, Zwift makes turbo sessions much more enjoyable, but it has shown me that I still have the motivation to go out when the weather is shocking and enjoy myself. This I think I may have slightly forgotten over recent times.

So if in doubt go outside, once you are wet you are wet, once you are muddy you are muddy but when you finish and you see the state of yourself it does remind you of being a kid and playing gin the mud except now I don’t have anyone telling me off for doing it!!!

Late Season Sunshine

What a weekend, the sun has been shining the sky has been really blue and the temperature has been at that just properly cold level where you can easily layer up your clothing to feel comfortable.

For me, Saturday was trail running day, despite some recent rain the trails are still surprisingly dry and the only moisture comes from all the leaves that have fallen from the trees. Running at this time of year is great as you get see the trees changing together with the under foot conditions going from dry to wet. These changes also mean you need to go back to the techniques of winter running, and that means light feet to ensure that if you run over hidden wet roots or holes you don’t twist an ankle or worse, of course early on this is a challenge as you are used to the dry, dusty summer conditions.

The run itself was a very steady paced affair, and I was really using it to try an dale army head after a couple of challenging weeks, normally running does the really well but of some reason there were a few things it just couldn’t shift so that means you don’t get a really relaxed run and so you spend the entire run feeling a bit uptight. Having said that it is always good to get out into the countryside, and as usual I came back with a few paw prints on my jacket even though I don’t own a dog, something I have come to enjoy over the years is being met by friendly dogs whilst running as they are usually accompanied by friendly owners!

Sunday was a spin on the road bike, again layers up against the cold the only “mistake” was not having a dark lens in my sunglasses as the sun was real bright and I ended up squinting when heading towards the sun. A slightly odd experience this late in the year!

Getting out and riding is  one of those simple pleasures that you sort of take for granted and so as I haven’t done it for a while it was a real pleasure to get out again, I had sort of forgotten what it felt like.

Not getting out is something that has become much easier due to smart trainers and Zwift, I know I can’t blame Zwift but it make indoor sessions so much more fun that if the weather is a bit dodgy or I just don’t fancy going out jumping on the trainer is just too easy.

Plenty of other cyclists out today, most seemed friendly, always a few that don’t acknowledge you but hay not everyone can be as cheerful as me!

I didn’t really tackle any big climbs today, just a few medium sized ones, and they felt ok.

The bike on the other hand didn’t seem to want to play ball, as the shifting back from the inner ring to the outer was a real tricky affair, I have had the impression the left shifter has been on the way out for sometime and I think it really is as the inner wire is pretty new and the adjustment is ok, oh well something to explore.

Overall a fun ride in the sun, and it capped off a couple of decent days of steady paced exercise in the outside sunshine which was probably well needed.

Let us hope that the weather holds and it enables some more outside fun, and once the mud returns it will be time for single speeding on the mtb.

A Beautiful Brutality

The other day I was on the bike leg of a brick session, the sun was trying to break through, the wind was blowing straight into my face, there was snot running from my nose and I was probably dribbling ala Tony Martin (that is the only similarity between me and the Panzerwagen) my head was saying why are you doing this and frankly my legs were in agreement. For someone of my age and ability this is a perfectly sane question,

So what is it apart from stupidity and fear of Iron Mike that makes me carry on? Well it turns out the answer is simple, if you lift your head and look around the countryside is simply beautiful

As I struggled along I was looking for some help, and as performance enhancing drugs aren’t available on the road or legal!, I wondered what would work and then I lifted my head up, stopped concentrating on the road ahead and saw that I was going along a road with woodland on one side and open fields on the other and then I remembered why I go outdoors and not go to the gym, I love the countryside.

For some reason I had lost the ability to enjoy the countryside whilst pedalling hard, I don’t know why, I enjoy it whilst running but on hard bike sessions I seem to forget to enjoy my surroundings.

I went to a talk by Chrissie Wellington the other year and she said to her it is important to smile whilst racing as it helped her and kept her going. I try to remember this at hard moments but as I am miserable it is hard to smile at those times so I try to enjoy my surroundings and then use that to drive me on, perhaps smiling might help I will try it in the future.

I think that it is very important to enjoy the area you are training in not just train hard, if you don’t enjoy it then the question is what the point? The answer to that question can only be answered by each individual but for me I train outdoors as much as possible as I work indoors and I would rather be outside in the fresh air and as long as I remember to look around then the pain is reduced.

Enjoying The Light

After the last post, which if you haven’t read is available here, things have been taking a more positive direction.

It is true that I as entered into a race which I didn’t do as I didn’t feel comfortable racing with others, and yes even doing ParkRuns have proved tricky as I seem to have lost the confidence in racing with others, it is almost like an anxious feeling. I have done a couple of ParkRuns but haven’t fully enjoyed the experience, but I will go back when I can get out of bed on time!

The biggest pleasure recently has come form cycling, going out on the singlespeed mountain bike is such fun, it takes away all the excuses of the gears weren’t adjusted properly, my suspension is too hard/soft etc. It is just about you and the bike so you get out what you put in. Funnily enough I have set my fastest Strava times on a couple of the climbs.

Running on the other hand seems more of a struggle, for whatever reason I am off the pace. I have been feeling good on trail runs and have set a couple of fastest times on routes when I have gone out to push, but when I get back on the roads I just seem to not be able to do it.  However, I am trying not to let it get to me to try an keep the mind in clean and in the right place.

The mental side of life is something that I am now more than ever aware of and I do find myself constantly monitoring myself and trying to asses how I am feeling. There have been a few times where I find myself slipping and my thoughts heading into the negative. At these times I try and do something to cheer myself up, be it a listen to a song if I’m at work, go outside if possible or ride the motorbike, bicycle or anything else that has two wheels. I am also far more open to talking about it when I start to feel a bit down and this certainly helps, it might be a cliche and it certainly isn’t easy but it is the best thing to do.

I am now working towards the London Duathlon in September and my main aim is to enjoy it and re-find the fun in racing rather than the stress and anxiety that it currently brings.

As a postscript, after the last blog post I did receive some really kind messages and offers of help and support which were very much appreciated and above all it reminded me that people really are good and can provide the inspiration to do almost anything.

 

 

The Man With The Halo

This is a different post to those I would normally do, This is the story of a pro athlete who on the verge of possibly his best world championship performance nearly had everything taken away from him.

The film is around 25 minutes, but trust me it is worth the watch, if you feel you need some inspiration then this might just provide it or it might make you realise what you have

Enjoy it, share it

Click on this link to watch it The Man With The Halo