Sometimes friends and family are not your best allies in the battle to get fit and healthy. Suprisingly, I don’t always NEED encouragement to take the easy option and sit on the couch. Instead I need encouragement to get moving, or even a friendly boot up the bum…and I would have been a long time waiting last year, if I’d hung on ‘for better weather’. I would never have trained and would never have made it to Africa to cycle and hike and kayak and do all the exciting things I got to do last November.
After 2013 kicked off with the doc banning all exercise for close to a month, I got on my bike, literally, this morning and battled the storms and the darkeness to cycle 15k into work. As I pushed my pedals through the Phoenix Park, I was cynical enough to ponder whether the wind blasting me in the face would refuse to play fair, and be mean enough to swing around and crucify me again on the return. I was right. It took 50 minutes to cycle into work this morning, which is 10 mins longer than usual. But eight hours later it took me a whole hour to cycle home…
It wasn’t quite home either, I was hitting the gym on the way. With the doctor also ordering lighter weights for the next week or two, I had somehow told myself I was in for an easy session. I don’t understand why I keep believing that gym guru David Dunne will go easy on me – ever! Instead, he doubled the reps and extended the circuits. Ignoring my groans and heavy breathing (behave), he grinned wickedly as I crawled away after an hour, to wriggle back into my wet cycle shorts and return to the rain.
Finally I made it home and parked the bike in the hall to a chorus of sympathy and recommendations about taking it easy, minding myself, and taking the car tomorrow. I settled for a hot bath and a steamed chicken dinner. I’m eternally grateful that this body of mine lets me do stuff like cycling and hiking, after all the abuse I’ve chucked at it over the years. But I’ve learned I’ve got to do my bit too. It may not always be pleasant, but you can’t cycle in the heat of Africa, if you’re not prepared to cycle through the brunt of a dying Irish winter. When it feels too tough, you’ve got to remember the goals and the rewards.
Tonight I’m definately ‘On the Couch’ – but tomorrow, the car will stay on the driveway….. 😉
I’ve been taking it easy since I got back from Uganda. Well, I’ve been going to the gym twice a week and gym guru David has increased the weights I’m lifting, so at least I’m getting some good workouts in between the naughty bits. The naughty bits include a recent trip to Germany to visit friends, which saw me go to the spa, walk in a snowy forest, and consume enough sausage, bread, pastry, cheese and red wine, to keep me going right across Christmas!
I’ve had a bevy of parties already, and the 98FM Radio Christmas Party is on this Friday – but then I’m off to Kerry on Saturday with my bike, and I’ll be camping, cycling, horse-riding, rock climbing and hiking on Carrauntoohil – weather dependent. While the following weekend, I’m off to horseride again at Flowerhill, near Portumna in Galway. I reckon it’s about 15 miles from Ballinasloe train station, so again I think I’ll make things interesting and take the bike. Since Uganda, I’ve changed the way I think about the bike. It was a training tool, cycling in and out to work (30k round trip) in a bid to work up strength for the Africa tri-adventure with Concern. But after cycling over 200k from Mt Elgon to the Nile, I now feel very self-sufficient having the bike with me as a means of transport. Weather doesn’t matter – you just dress for the weather. Have wheels, have freedom!
You know, I guess the secret to keeping fit over Christmas is to find things to do with friends that are active and fun. I started writing this blog with a sense of aplogy for being lazy, but when I look at all the stuff I’ve got planned, I realise I’m actually planning quite an active festive holiday. Gosh it’s so good to have a body that will let me do this stuff. Three years ago I was trapped in my own personal 23-stone prison. It’s not with triumph but with gratefulness and hope that I realise I tore down those prison walls, pound by pound, with my own bare hands – and so many more of us can do the same. The biggest escape since Alcatraz!
The fun really starts in 2013. I’m hosting a new television programme with Athena Media and Setanta, which aims to get people all around the country to join me and seek out a new life of adventure in the great outdoors. The word spread quickly in Dublin and there’s been a huge response, but we’re trying to reach people outside my beloved Dublin too. So if you know someone who you think might like to “Get Off The Couch”. Tell them to get in touch with Rob@athenamedia.ie.
Who are we looking for? People like me who never thought they could be active or sporty, but had a secret curiosity about how that might feel. People who I can encourage to come with me and discover the great outdoors, with the help of some amazing sports enthusiasts who are willing to share their passion for life and sport. I want to open a door and invite people to come through like I did, and feel the breeze and the sun on their face and the taste of salt on their lips and…. and…
I feel a bit tired just reading that myself, but it wasn’t planned, it all sort of ‘happened’. I hadn’t been on the bike since the Triathlon on Saturday, for all sorts of reasons – most of them connected with laziness, but then I saw on the weather forecast that Thursday was going to be a good day in Dublin, so I decided to roll out the wheels and start cycling into work again. I’m not saying I’m fast (I’m not) but I really felt the benefits of the ‘work cycle’ when I did the 18k in Kilkenny; and cycling into work means I HAVE to time myself and cycle to time. As it happens, I do seem to have knocked a few minutes off – I left the house at 620am and found myself on Pearse Street at 7 – with time for a quick cup of coffee, sitting in the sun, beside the bike, beside the canal… before I went into the office. What a lovely way to start the day.
After work I cycled back home – via the gym. I wasn’t looking forward to that. It’s a time-trial too, because I’m reading the news at 3pm, and have to make the gym by 4pm, which is a bit tight. Whenever I’m late, Dave my trainer, makes me suffer by stepping up the intensity of the session, to make up for the minutes I lost. This time I was on time, but he still creamed me! We did kettleweights and quite a lot of squat-lifts with fairly decent weights. My shoulders feel a bit sore after that today.
By the time I’d finished the gym, there was just enough time left to grill some chicken, dress some salad – wolf it down, and throw on a swim cossie and wetsuit, before belting out the door for the river. I really didn’t feel like kayaking – I had 6 training weeks of being forced to capsize for hours on end, and I just wanted to sit in the boat and be dry for once. It was unlikely to be tonight – I was having my first go at water polo and the boats are a lot more unstable than the learner kayaks I’d been using up to now. They’re tiny and light and overbalance in a heartbeat. Well to my suprise and my club-mates’ amusement – I left the river with dry hair. I was so damned determined not to fall out, that I remembered every trick in the book that they’d taught me the last few weeks. Blocks and brace turns, and balance and leaning forward. The works – there was NO WAY that I was getting wet this time, and I walked away a dry kayaker. lol…
PS. Loved the water polo.
PSS. You know, I started off dreading everything this Thursday and ended up enjoying the lot. Says something, doesn’t it…..?
July 3rd 2012
But look – I’ve got a problem; the carrier’s bust on my lovely new lean, mean, fighting machine… and I don’t think it’s just a nut I need. I tried doing things with screws and screwdrivers, but can’t seem to find the right hole. Have a suspicion that the existing screw has shorn off. Hmmmm. Gonna have to find a bike-doctor, and I really don’t have time… I hope I’ll be able to cycle in with this tomorrow… and is that rust on the chain? couldn’t be, they don’t rust, do they?
David Dunne is my personal trainer at Ben Dunne Gym – no relation! He first came to my aid when I was training for Everest and he’s been helping me ever since. I probably know how to put together a decent weights programme on my own by now, but it’s great to have access to Dave’s knowledge, and I think walking in to an ‘unpredictable’ workout planned by someone else, helps keep my muscles and mind active. But the downside is that there’s no gain without pain – and this evening, he inflicted it in bagloads… whew. One thing is certain; I’ll sleep well tonight!