Posts tagged ‘cycling’

December 28, 2011

2011: A Personal Review

At the end of every year, I always get an unsettled, ‘must-do-something-but-not-quite-sure-what’ feeling. How much of this is caused by the sheer amount of food I usually consume at Christmas I don’t know, but my usual remedy is to review the year and then think ahead to the next.  I’ve already written my plan for 2012, which is here on the blog, so that part is settled. I have a good feeling about 2012. Not sure why, but I do.

I didn’t write a plan for 2011. Which is why I ended up with 35:35 because I like to have a (flexible) plan for my time. When it came to reviewing the year, I just couldn’t think why I’d not written a plan and what on earth I spent the first quarter of the year doing. Then my lovely friend reminded me that I’d actually spent the whole time fighting for my job. Ah…

How quickly the mind forgets. My husband and I both had to go through months of fighting for our jobs. Months. It was a horrible time, filled with sleepless nights, tears and too much coping alcohol, all whilst trying to keep our stress and fears away from our children. Thankfully, we were the lucky ones, who got to keep the jobs we are both so passionate about, even though I did end up needing counselling at the end of the year to help me cope with everything that’s happened. It’s not finished though, there will be more changes and challenges ahead. Life is change. But we will survive.

Once the dust had settled in April, albeit with a different team, management structure etc etc, I started to focus on my personal life again, starting this blog and my 35:35 Challenge, to do thirty five things I’d never done before in my thirty-fifth year of life. I didn’t want it to be a huge challenge, but something to shake me up a bit out of life’s routine, do something positive after a difficult period, learn something new and have a few happy experiences. I read a study once that said new experiences are the way to slow time down. Following nothing but a routine means that weeks become months, which become years, without you even realising that so much time has passed. Puncturing that routine means that the brain remembers time better, which in turn makes it feel as though it’s not passing so fast.

So, from April, it’s a bit easier for me to remember what I’ve been up to this year. Highlights include my daughter starting school and thriving there (even though I was shocked to realise that girls can be mean from a very early age), taking her horse-riding for the first time, the completion of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks, and getting on a bike for the first time since childhood and completing Cycletta. Cycletta, a women-only bike ride, was a particular highlight because initially I was supposed to do it with someone else, who ended up having a family responsibility on the same day and so couldn’t make it. I nearly pulled out, but in the end I went and completed the ride on my own. It was such a brilliant, positive experience and I was thrilled to complete and chat to so many wonderful women the whole way round. After finishing the ride, I realised that I shouldn’t wait for someone else to want the same things as me before doing something. I have a habit of doing that, but sometimes it means that I never end up doing things I want to do. If I want to experience something, I need to just pluck up the courage and go for it.  I also realised that riding bikes is brilliant and that my body is far better suited to cycling than it is to running.

Other highlights have been a drumming lesson, various massages, and my annual visit to Paris, including a visit to Chanel.  Oh, and I was thrilled to be part of the annual Radio 4 Woman’s Hour phone-in too. I have completed 15 of my 35 Challenges. The first half of 2012 is going to be filled with trying to get to 35!

So, it’s been an interesting year and I have my plan for 2012. I’m feeling more settled, and ready for whatever comes next.

Happy New Year everyone!

What was your highlight of 2011? What are you hoping to do in 2012?

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September 5, 2011

Cycletta training

On Sunday, I went out on the bike for a 15 mile ride as part of my training for Cycletta, a 40km women only bike ride.

I’ve written before about my fear of riding a bike, and it’s only because of Cycletta, and my 35:35 Challenge, that I find myself riding at all. Since a childhood accident, I’ve spent such a long time thinking that I couldn’t do it, that cycling was just something that wasn’t for me, and yet year after year, I’ve sat glued to the TV for three weeks watching Le Tour De France knowing it was one of the greatest sporting events of the world.

We set out on a sunny Sunday afternoon, and thanks to my lovely husband, who has long been a keen cyclist and a Rights of Way officer, did a beautiful route, mostly off road along bridle-paths, parts of the Trans-Pennine Trail, and following the Aire and Calder Navigation. Although he is obviously much faster than I am, I was happy to ride along behind him, negotiating all the A-frames, as well as avoiding all the wayward Labradors and small children that such a sunny afternoon had produced. I even managed to go at a decent pace downhill, having finally realised that if I go at a snail’s pace with the brakes on, I am actually more likely to fall off.

Cycling, unlike running, doesn’t seem to leave me in such a pink and breathless state, as in between the hills and the difficult parts, come other bits where you can coast along to catch your breath if you need to, so at the end of the 15 miles I didn’t feel as though I wanted to keel over. Along the way I’d realised a few things. Firstly, that I am not actually as scared of riding in traffic as I’d thought. Having adopted the attitude of being brave, bold but mannerly, and assuming that if I am these things, and ride according to the rules of the road, that drivers will do the same, I am finding it a lot less worrying than I’d envisaged. Of course, I know that there are going to be drivers that don’t see me, don’t care or are just not very good, but by keeping myself as aware as I can of my surroundings and of upcoming traffic, I can do my best to account for such drivers.

The other thing that I realised, is that I am already becoming a better cyclist than I am a runner. I started running after the birth of my daughter. As I posted before, she had to be delivered very early because of my pre-eclampsia. I’m doing the Yokrshire 3 Peaks for Bliss, the premature baby charity, this weekend. When she was two, we decided that we would love a sibling for her, and I went to see a consultant about my chances of suffering with the condition again (which they said was one in ten) and what I could do to reduce that. I was told to to get fit. Running helped me to do that quickly, cheaply and outside. Cycling is helping me to do the same, but without the horrible pressure on my joints and feet. It suits my body better.

Plus, I’m having so much fun. It feels intrepid, especially cycling off-road or downhill. The things you get to see when out on a bike are lovely – I’d never seen parts of the route we rode on, and it’s such a pretty area, and so close to home. The main danger is that I get so carried away looking at my surroundings, I forget to look where I’m actually going. Horses, gardens, old Land Rovers, sheep, allotments – these are the things I look at. Nosiness and envy are rather a dangerous combination when you’re on a bike, and I often find myself riding in one direction, whilst peering desperately in the other. I suffer from severe allotment-envy, despite having one of my own that’s had a decent summer. My newly re-energised passion for horses also had me looking in every field and stable yard we passed. Plus, if anyone can dream up a new career that justifies me having an ancient, held-together-by-baler-twine Land Rover, do let me know, because I’m desperate for one!

When I think of the years I’ve wasted being too scared to ride a bike, it makes me sad. Cycletta has given me a chance and an opportunity, not just for one 40k ride in October but for the rest of my life, and I am very grateful. Plus, just think of the fashion opportunities. Liberty prints, Superga pumps and a Pashley Princess. Or perhaps Alexander Wang, a courier-style bag and an urban hybrid. Not to mention the new Henry Holland bike jacket for Skyride!

August 13, 2011

Titanic Spa and Hamman massage.

This, although something I’ve not done before, still feels like rather an easy win for my 35:35 Challenge. I’ve decided that this is a good thing, for two reasons. Firstly, I have a heck of a lot of challenges to get through by June so it’s a good job that some of them are easy and secondly, the next few up are going to be significantly harder. Plus, the main reason I needed a massage in the first place was because of my very sore shoulders from all the Cycletta training I’ve been doing!

Titanic Spa is an Eco Spa in Linthwaite, near Huddersfield, built inside an old textile mill. As such, it’s a pretty imposing building to drive up to. Luckily the welcome, although a little chaotic due to the number of folk checking in, was warm and friendly. I’ve been before, but only for a day visit. This time, after a full day in the spa, we spent the night in one of the apartments. To make the best use of the amazingly high ceilings they have created a mezzanine floor for our bathroom and bedroom with a sitting room and kitchen underneath. If we’d known about the kitchen we would probably have brought extra food with us for breakfast the following morning. Although croissants and cereal is provided, I think my husband would have enjoyed a fry-up, Yorkshire bloke that he is!

The Spa itself is on the ground floor and comprises Club Titanic which is a gym (you can also become a member to use more regularly too) and a pool and sauna. The other main element to the spa is the Heat and Ice Experience together with lots of treatment rooms. The product lines used are of the highest quality; Elemis, Carita, Jessica and Decleor, plus the newly added organic line, Pinks Boutique. Three Degrees Hair Salon is located next to the reception, together with a store for you to purchase any of the products that you experienced during your treatments.

Lunch and dinner are served in the Bistro in the middle of the building, and my experience of the food was completely positive. Lunch is a buffet, with several salads, plus a meat or veggie main. If you stay overnight, you can eat a great two course evening meal, usually included as part of your package. Although, I have to confess, I ordered wine and pudding too…

After our arrival and an hour in the gym (more training!) and short while in the Heat and Ice Experience, it was time for my Hamman massage. The Hamman (or Hammam in Turkish) treatments are carried out in a private room off the Heat and Ice Experience, so they are at absolute humidity and are designed to compliment the time you are spending in the various steam and sauna rooms during your stay. As a qualified massage therapist, not only do I believe absolutely in the power of massage, I have high standards and expect to receive a great treatment. The one thing I cannot bear is too light a massage, I need to feel as though my muscles are really being manipulated properly. As my young, slender therapist introduced herself, I have to confess, I  was worried that she was going to be too light of touch for my liking. Thankfully, my fears were unfounded. As I explained that my shoulders were really in need of a bit of work, she tailored the treatment to suit my needs.

Rather than the usual padded bench usually used in massage, Hamman treatments are given on a warm wooden plinth. The warmth of the wood helps ease your muscles, but it is somewhat harder to lie on, which is why these treatments are generally lighter than something like Swedish massage. However, thankfully, my shoulders were given a lovely deeper tissue massage too, which really helped to unknot them after too much uphill cycling. The treatment time was not long, only half an hour, but the effects were felt long after the massage had finished.

Overall, my experience of Titanic Spa was a very positive one. There were a couple of little niggles; the Ice Room not working and the Aromatherapy Room smelled like no essential oil I have ever come across, but these are not enough for me to think any less of it and everyone there seemed to be having just as good a time as we were! There are quite often offers to be had through various websites, which make it a great value stay and every treatment I have had there has been of the highest quality (particularly the Decleor Aromassage) so well worth the extra payments.

So, I recommend a visit. I am planning my next one very soon…

August 4, 2011

One, two, three, four…

The 35:35 Challenge is about to step up a gear, as a couple of bigger challenges are looming ever closer, Yorkshire 3 Peaks in September and then Cycletta in October.

For now, I am undertaking what can only loosely be called “training” for both of those, and trying to fit in a few smaller challenges along the way. It has recently dawned on me that in order to meet my self-imposed deadline I need to be doing about one a fortnight, which is not easy with a full time job and two small children!  Luckily, I have lots of support from my family which enables me to find a bit of free time, and some talented friends who are happy to help me try some new things. Or, they just enjoy watching me make a fool of myself… I’ll leave you to be the judge of that.

One of the things I have come to realise is that we all carry around beliefs with us that we consider to be the truths about who we are and what we can do. Sometimes this comes from the labels we were given during childhood – we were the sporty child or the academic one. Sometimes they are labels that we tell ourselves; that we can’t dance, or draw, run, play an instrument, cook. Whatever. What we seem to believe is that we should have some innate ability to do these things. I know that there are a few geniuses out there who are truly gifted. I remember my Granddad used to be able to pick up any instrument and get a decent tune out of it, whether he’d played it before or not. On a somewhat grander scale, there are sports people, musicians, scientists and writers who seem to be effortlessly brilliant. But for the rest of us mere mortals, one fact remains true. The reason we cannot do something is not because we are useless, it is because we have never been taught how. Even the best of us get better with tuition. The more you practice, the luckier you get. So what if, instead of saying ‘I can’t do that’ and believing it to be the full stop to the discussion, we ask to be taught how?

This is the premise behind much of what my challenge is about, and it has led to the first rumblings of a plan. I do love a plan. How many of us have wanted to try something but not known where to start? Or have been too frightened of making a fool of ourselves? Or thought that it was too late, that time had passed us by? What if you could try something out, just dip your toe in, to see how you get on, in a positive, supportive environment, surrounded by people just like you? Would you try then? Let me know.

In this spirit, my latest challenge has been to play the drums. Well, count to four, whilst attempting to keep some kind of rhythm, anyway. It is at this point I must thank my lovely friend Hillary who not only attempted to teach me this, but didn’t laugh at my attempts and provided sustenance in the form of cake. See, this is what I mean about a supportive environment…

Anyway, we started with a quick tour of the drum kit – an electric one in this case, much easier if you have neighbours, plus they are somewhat smaller. Then Hillary went on to try and teach me to basically do three things at once, which you’d think I’d be used to, what with being a mother, but it’s pretty tricky.

We spent the best part of half a day just playing around, me being utterly terrible and Hillary putting up with me with lots of good humour and it was GREAT. I left with the buzzy feeling like the one I’d had at the Northern Ballet which set me off on this challenge in the first place. We finished with an attempt at a bit of White Stripes (Meg, you have nothing to fear…) and I now have such a desire to try again that I was actually in a music store yesterday pricing up drumkits. Which would probably have to live on the allotment, so for now, I am searching for music teachers.

Here's the proof!

I do have a short film, showing how dreadful I was, and how much it didn’t matter, but I’ll save it for a rainy day…

July 8, 2011

Let’s get physical!

Hello folks.

It’s been a while since I posted anything here. Life is pretty hectic, although truthfully, I’ve spent much of the last couple of weeks sitting on the sofa watching other people expend energy – at Wimbledon and now the Tour De France.

Watching incredible sports people at the peak of physical fitness and determination, and even after witnessing today’s sad accident that has just befallen Bradley Wiggins of the Team Sky Pro-cycling team, my interest has been fuelled in undertaking more physical challenges and seeing what my body can achieve. Even clearly lots of pain after breaking a collar bone, Wiggins was already talking about when he would be fit enough to start training. What amazing dedication. He was in such great shape, with a chance of the yellow jersey this year and now we’ll never know. I wish him a speedy recovery.

My relationship with my body changed so much after having children, especially the first time around when my baby daughter and I nearly died. The fundamental shift in my thinking happened after this, as many of the things which I had been self critical about really ceased to have the same power over me.

I can have children. This is the biggest and most amazing thing my body has achieved, for which I will be eternally grateful. I cannot get into a pair of size ten jeans (although for a brief shining period of last summer, I could) but it doesn’t matter. Nor do I have the greatest skin, having both a few spots and now wrinkles. Who knew you got both at once? I thought I’d move seamlessly from one skin problem into another, not that they’d just pile up on top of each other! But anyway, although I do have a weakness for lovely skincare products, it doesn’t bother me in the way it once did. After two emergency c- sections, I have tram line scars across a stomach which on a bad day resembles pink blancmange anyway, so a couple of wrinkles are really neither here nor there. What matters more, is not what my body looks like, but what it can DO.

I can walk, run, dance, swim, ride a horse. I can dig my allotment. I can sing (terribly, but with gusto) while I’m in the shower. I can carry my kids around on my shoulders. One at a time, you understand, I’m not the Hulk. I can cuddle them both at once though, which is lovely. I also seem to be popular for sitting on, whilst watching TV together,  and I can also watch films, read books, listen to music, play games. I can eat, drink and be merry. I can explore the world and climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower.

But what interests me now, is what else could I do? Could  I run a marathon? Get back on a bicycle, for the first time since a childhood accident put me off for life? Climb a mountain? Where are my limits? It would be great to know what I can achieve with this one body, with its scars and wrinkles!

Well, I’ve decided to take some inspiration from the sports people I have been watching. The bike has been taken out of storage ( thanks to my lovely friend Hannah who left it with me after she emigrated) and is being prepared for my first wobbly trial. The running has increased to three times a week in preparation for the Yorkshire 3 Peaks challenge to raise money for Bliss (the premature baby charity) which is now in the diary for September and I am even contemplating Cycletta in October – which is a women-only 40k cycle ride on closed roads for charity. Assuming that I make it past those first rides and find someone willing enough to be my team mate, that is!

So, 35:35 Challenge has taken on a distinctly physical feel to it. For now, anyway. Other things are still in progress, including the flying and music. More on which another day…