Category: Health & Fitness

So this morning is was lashing down, there was very little wind but it was absolutely bucketing.  So I cancelled my run knowing that this afternoon it was forecast to be dry.  This afternoon arrived and whilst dry there where 15mph cross winds.  Now I hate the wind especially cycling but if I wanted to train today it had to be this afternoon I no longer had a choice.

It was a great wee run which I enjoyed and I’m thankful and a little proud that I pushed myself out the door.  Another point of motivation was the fact that I recently bought a Garmin for tracking my speed, cadence, heart etc.  My mates have been using them and I’ve been impressed by how detailed it lets you get in over viewing your training.  There however presents a new dilemma, which website will I use to record all the stuff.  My two favourites are RunKeeper & Strava but which one will I stick with… who knows???

Changing the subject a little I bought new brake pads this morning.  I decided as a hefty bloke I could use all the stopping power I can get my hands on and so I bought Swissstops.  I’ll review them soon and let you know how I get on with them…

*It would appear that WordPress doesn’t support iFrame links other wise I’d publish my recent rides through Strava etc… Time to change blog provider?? Surely not again… 😦

For the past 6 to 12 months I’ve not been cycling or exercising as I should.  I’ve literally gone from one injury to another whilst the weight has been piling back on.  The irony being that I’m sure the injuries are the bi-product of being very overweight for years and yet to lose the weight I need to exercise with which being injured makes it a struggle.

Cycling is my first love and my previous blog was full of the journey I made from just playing about on a mountain bike and doing infrequent and small mileage to buying a road bike and doing 50 – 70 miles a week.  Alas but my weight yo-yo’d throughout that period and has continued to this very day.

I’m back to 20 stone and I’m keen to get down to 14 or so.  I have a number of close friends who similarly enjoy their cycling and the last few weeks have seen me going back out with them.  Nothing serious but enough to rewet the appetite.  I’ve also been watching “The Biggest Loser” on channel Pick.  It’s the American series but to be fair I find their version FAR superior to the British one.  They provide a great source of inspiration and this has also served to rewet my appetite for getting back in shape.

So without further to do I’m announcing that I’m back in the land of blog to record the next phase of the weight loss/cycling journey.  Complimenting this will hopefully be other points of interest like dogs, hill walking and fishing. We’ll see…

Who’s up for journeying with me?

Back in the day I liked to mess about on my BMX and/or mountain bike. I wasn’t brilliant nor even good but I could pass myself and I enjoyed the challenge of it. At the time I was a tad cocky (hard to believe I know) and I would have given most things a rattle.  Now 25 years later and 10 or so stone heavier I’m a different person.  My co-ordination is awful and my timing has gone to pot.  Is mountain biking a good idea?  Now let’s get this clear I’m not talking about downhill racing or anything hyper nuts just something a little crazy.

I have a mate who I’ve known for 20 years or so and for the last few years throughout the winter he’s been cycling the forests at night.  Again back in the day it would have been me you’d have expected to give that a rattle, not him. Strange how things change. He’s been asking me to give it a go for ages now and so far to date I’ve always found an excuse but of late I’ve been having a rethink.  I still haven’t made my mind up to be honest all I know is that if I’m going to do this I am going to have to work hard at my all round fitness and more importantly my confidence.  I’ll also need to purchase a decent set of lights and be prepared to come off the odd time or three… is it worth it?

I don’t know, all I know is I would like to have my mind made up soon!

This morning saw my old mucker Nigel and I head out on the bikes.  Now to be fair I have been putting in the miles in training (or so I thought) and was expecting a decent wee performance from myself.  As we pulled up at our starting point, the Scarva tea rooms, the fog was present and the temperature cold – 1 degree cold!

Nigel looking like a pro in his new HTC top hit the first mile like a bullet from a gun and naively I thought this was going to be short lived but after mile 5 I began to fear it wasn’t.  Using the scenery to distract myself I pushed on.  The sun was rising and the mist off the canal made for a very beautiful set of surroundings.  The dew covered the many spider webs surrounding us making the ground look like a patchwork quilt. The beauty was outstanding!

Portadown fast approached and I was delighted to hear Nigel agree to my suggestion of a wee break. I jumped of the bike and beat the magic beans into me hoping for something miraculous.  Meantime a solitary rower passed us on the canal and I was wondered if I could swap activity with her.  Nigel took a photo (above) and back on the bikes we climbed.  As we approached the footbridge a half a mile out of Portadown Nigel was talking faster than my wheels were turning and he took his eye off the ball. He took the corner too tight and the handrail of the bridge clipped his hip.  Off came Nigel still talking and thankful to say no damage was done. 14 miles came up and we were roughly at the half way point. I beat a banana down me and was praying the coffee shop which was showing signs of opening would draw Nigel’s attention but no we moved on.

By this stage my legs were showing the first signs of weakening and yet my ears reported hearing Nigel come off with the idea of doing a bit of interval training.  In denial I watched as he put his bike in a top gear and took off like bat out of hell. My legs choked and a response was not given.  Here was my first lesson of the morning.  Solo training is ok but really only if you discipline yourself to push hard.  No surprise then given my previous post on discipline that my month of solo riding was not delivering for me; on reflection it lacked the ingredients of challenge, speed and strength.

The last 4 miles my legs were close to absent and as we returned to Scarva I was grinding to all but a halt.  I’ve done 30 miles recently so why was this one so hard? On reflection this week has been half term with the kids off school and my diet has been ropey underlining yet another lesson from a previous post.  I need to eat better if I want to ride better.

When we stopped and packed the bikes away it was music to my ears to hear Nigel’s suggestion of getting some coffee.  It was an excellent morning which has left me hungry for more.  I need to address my fitness urgently and more importantly not because I feel I have to but because this morning has left me with the feeling that I want to. There is a night and day difference between the two and with that as my motivation I’m on the winning side of the equation.

Weather & weights…

I’m seriously getting hacked off with the weather at the moment.  Every time I look sidewards at my bike the wind starts to blow at 20+ mph and the rain pelts down so hard it’s of almost biblical proportions.  Then as soon as I’m otherwise engaged blue skies break out and the wind is still. It’s doing my nut!!  I’m full of admiration for people who commute no matter what the weather is like. I swore this was the winter that I would stay away from my turbo but really I’m not being given much option.

This morning was another fine example.  I thought I might sneak a quick 30 minutes in and so arose at 07.15 only to find the howling wind making yet another reappearance and its buddy the rain torrential.  After a while of starring at the wall and with many an argument being thrown around my mind I decided that it was time to make a return to doing some light free weights.  With a bit of a push I went downstairs to the garage and did a nice work out.  It wasn’t too strenuous as I didn’t want to risk injuries but enough to challenge.

A couple of hours later and the aches and pains tell me I did the right thing…

*I started a page (top right) called “The Scales”  I used to publish my weight once a week as a way of keeping myself accountable but over time got embarrassed with the yo-yo nature of my progress or lack there off.  Whilst I still feel that, I think that accountability at least made me aware of where I was at. My conclusion is that it’s a necessary evil and so its made a return. 

I took my bike out for a quick 15 miles this morning.  The weather was bright, dry and without wind, so ok it was 4 degrees but it was as close to perfect as you are likely to get given the time of year.  The first mile was slow and as I climbed the hill out of my village I was struggling.  Why so slow & why is this so hard?  I hit the top of the hill and unusually stopped to catch my breath.  I hadn’t trained in 5 days so it wasn’t fatigue that was affecting me.

Three miles later and I felt like my muscles were still cold and my lungs reluctant.  Surely this was going to get easier soon I thought. Over the next hill and a few miles further down the road there was still no sign of the new legs I was hoping for.  It hit me that over the past week I hadn’t been sleeping well and with work, stress levels were unusually high.  To a certain extent stress levels are always reasonable high but this past week has been tough.  Were these two factors having a bigger effect than I had budgeted for?

I hit mile 10 and I was starting to get cross with myself!  What on earth is going on I demanded to know, I have been training for the past 5 weeks and this should be a heck of a lot easier.  Then it struck me for the past week my diet has been so poor its been close to a dung fly’s.  With stress come anxiety and with anxiety comes comfort eating.  If I’m honest the last week has been nothing short of a disgrace.  An old saying about computers says “crap in- crap out” why should my body be any different, crap food = crap performance.  Then in my anger and frustration I heard the bike say to me, it’s the junk food or me…  Cheeky git I thought, but you know something? Cheeky or not, the bike or just a thought, whatever it was it is right!  Things need to change if I want to experience results, its time not just to train but to commit to a balanced diet.  It is time to start prioritising decent sleep and to stop running from stress and instead to work through it.  It’s time to take control and give myself a chance of progress.

Of course this is nothing new; this has been a three year journey that has looked more like the hokey cokey than a journey towards weight loss and health.  I’m tired of the one step forward two steps back approach. I’ve been huffing with myself for ages about this issue.  What is the point of losing weight if you are just going to put it back on?  Three times now I’ve moved from 19 and a half stone to 17 stone and three times I’ve put it back on.  I need to grow up and move on, crap or get off the pot so to speak.  Here’s to movement into new ground and thinking never to return to the old pastures of the hokey cokey.

I woke this morning to note that it was blowing a gale and lashing it down… No cycling outside today I thought.  I did the school run and as we travelled down the A1 the skies looked like they had the potential to break out nice.  Half an hour later and whilst still blowing a gale the skies were blue and thankfully the rain had ceased.  My new Trek 1.5 is in the workshop at the moment getting the once over.  Last week 90 miles into its new life it started to make a dull thumping noise and not the type that comes from something simple like a chain rattling off the front derailleur.

So I reached for my mountain bike, an old faithful friend that I’ve always enjoyed.  It’s been a while and as I looked at it I remembered that with the last puncture I had put the front tyre on wrong with the directional arrow rotating in the wrong direction.  I’d suggest that that’s why the last time I was out on it there was more water hitting me from the tyres than the skies… Giving the high level of water on the road I decided that now was the time to amend the error.  What a struggle I had getting the tyre off.  It was 4 degrees and the cold tyre was just refusing to stretch off the rim.  Frustrated and in an unusual moment of genius I put the wheel on the radiator in the kitchen and in two minutes the tyre just popped off with the slightest encouragement from the tyre lever.


Eventually I got out complete with my new winter Lycra bib tights on, would they be too warm?  Well, we were about to find out.  Once out of the village and onto the open road the wind hit me relentlessly hard.  I started to question if this venture was wise but the mountain bike whilst slow was making comfortable work of it; I took the pressure off to be fast and told myself to relax. It was going well but after a while you really begin to notice just how slow a mountain bike is.  I was sitting at 10mph, now to be fair the wind had a lot to do with the lack of velocity but I couldn’t help but get frustrated.  If I was on my road bike I would be sitting at 15mph, a full 50% faster.


As I reached the brow of a hill having clocked up 12 miles and just about to head for home I could feel the joy within me well up.  I was out in very inhospitable conditions and winning.  I wasn’t tired or cold, this was fun and I was enjoying it.  The thought came to me that I had worked my way from hatred to love.  The initial hatred of the wind and the cold and the hatred in the early miles for cold muscles and reluctant lungs but as everything warmed up and the blood began to flow easily, love for the task arrived.  I could hear the question being asked was there other things in life that I needed to push from hatred to love with.  Dieting is the obvious one but are there others? Are there areas of life where I just need to push on through … food for thought.


Home was in sight and the wind had taken its toll on my legs, I was tired but feeling on a high. As I climbed the last hill before home I was glad of the triple on the mountain bike, the gearing really is nicely spaced out on the bike.  It’s a bike I think I’ll keep for some time to come.


A walk in Drumkeeragh Forest…

I took a walk today round an old favourite, Drumkeeragh Forest. A mate of mine brought the place into a conversation I was having on Facebook about how wild the entrance fee is to Castlewellan Park, and so I thought I’d pay a visit. It’s always been a kind of a weird place and I’ve always been a bit spooked by it and yet at the same time drawn to it.  I’m not sure what the weird atmosphere is about. Is it simply the feeling of being on ones own in the middle of a forest or is it influenced by its history which includes a murder that took place there in the 90’s and/or the IRA using it to hide in when they staged a big prison breakout in the 80’s. The place is starting to suffer from a lack of investment which I’m sure can only continue with the recession. Some of the paths have been washed away by the rain over the years and not replaced and grass has also overgrown the path too in parts.  The picture is of the path that cuts through the centre of the forest during a particularly wet period.

It’s a little hilly in places and to be honest as I walked I was shocked at how bad a condition my chest is in.  I’ve had a cold for two weeks, nothing major and so I was shocked when the wheezing started as did the pounding heart as I struggled for air.  Getting back to a decent level of fitness may take longer than I thought.

Summer brings to our house copious amounts of activity, chaos and emotional upheaval.  It’s intense and it can pull you inside out and out side in. September comes and you can feel like you’re in such a spin only superman could have experienced it.  So two weeks into September & its time to put the pieces back and restructure. I’m a lover of lists and the creation thereof, here is another…

  1. To return order & focus back into my life
  2. To get back to a regular rhythm of prayer & devotion.
  3. To have found over 100 geocaches.
  4. To have thought through what I’m doing with counselling.
  5. To get as close to 17 stone as I can.
  6. To return to training three to four times a week including regularly
    attending spin classes & training outside on my bike & hill walking.
  7. To get the back garden into a respectable shape.
  8. To have the domestic administration once & for all
  9. To get the garage fit for purpose.
  10. To get a new boiler fitted to the house.