To Train Inside or Outside?

Writing snuggled up under a fluffy blanket with puppy in full sleep-mode with legs sprawling in the air acting as my hot water bottle, I’m still trying to get my head around what made me think heading out on my bike this morning was a good idea. I felt like I had a long ride in my legs and I was just getting far too restless to not spend my Sunday out on my bike. Indoor training sessions can help keep your fitness topped up, but they just can’t match pedalling outside can they?

People not quite so outdoorsy must think I’m mad. It’s a weird feeling heading out in the wind and rain. With every car that went past, I must have looked like I wasn’t moving much at all, but like in Belgium, deep down I think I was enjoying it to some extent. The headwind was relentless at times, but bearable once back on country lanes and off the main roads. The rain was making it hard to read my Garmin. Roads were flooded and sometimes like rivers. Yet I was still oddly content with being outside in my own headspace.

Country lanes are fab most of the time as a cyclist, but you can end up in the middle of nowhere rather quickly. By this point in the ride you could I wasn’t exactly thinking straight. My kit was soaked through, so the cold wind was starting to take its toll. My only focus was the cafe I was trying to get to, Caffi Florence in Loggerheads near Moel Famau. I was so close, but had a swirling river I was simply on the wrong side of.

Having just descended a rather steep hill I didn’t particularly want to head back up, there was no option but to fall back on my mountain biking skills to get me to the cafe. Luckily, the unsuccessful crossing of the river happened to be right by a footpath I knew ended up right at the cafe I was desperately trying to get to. With some funny looks of Sunday dog walkers as I rode past on muddy trails on my road bike, I finally pulled up outside Caffi Florence.

My Garmin wasn’t a huge fan of the stormy weather, so I think that had given up a long time ago. By this point, with my hands stinging from the cold, I thought it might be wise to try and get picked up. I’d love to say I was hardcore and rode home, but not being able to change gear due to cold hands made that rather difficult. No phone signal made ringing anyone difficult, so I frantically went in search of hot chocolate in the cafe.

Looking probably quite delirious stood in the middle of the cafe freezing cold thanks to wet kit, the other customers must have thought I was completely bonkers. The guy behind the counter must have felt sorry for me as he popped my hot chocolate on the table with extra marshmallows. I don’t think I’ve ever drank a hot chocolate so fast, it must have looked like I hadn’t eaten in weeks. Honestly, writing this it makes me feel like I’ve been on some massive epic, but I’d only ridden 17 miles by this point!

Catching the attention of a little boy who found my cycling helmet rather interesting, I was slowly starting to feel more human as I thawed off. With no phone signal, the only option I had was to start riding and see where it got me. The original route home abandoned having lost all faith in my Garmin, I was just heading home on roads I knew.

Finally getting some phone signal and my inability to change gear thanks to numb fingers, Ryan and Elfyn met me on the way. Elfyn being a permanent fluffy hot water bottle, his cuddles were very much needed.

So I hope this post hasn’t been too depressing to read. I hope you could have a little giggle at my misfortune after thinking I could tackle riding my bike outside today. I’m not even going to start on how the sun came out after being rescued.

I guess all I have left to say is to those who feel guilty for opting for the turbo at the moment. Don’t. Trust me, you’re not missing much outside. Head out for a walk to get your fresh air fix instead. We’ll be back riding the country lanes in no time.

Why I’ve Swapped The Gym for Pilates

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I’ve been thinking about starting Pilates for so long. I tried some classes a few years back, but that was in the middle of downhill racing I think. The result being it didn’t really last with me being hooked on adrenaline…

Despite trying everything to get back into some sort of strength routine recently it felt like I wasn’t getting all that far. Dumbells that previously felt light are now rather heavy and my core strength is pretty much non-existent. I searched Youtube and tried old workout sessions I’d always love doing, but the interest just wasn’t there.

Just after Christmas a beginner’s course for Pilates popped up locally, so I managed to sign up despite it being a course in high demand. Pilates must be the thing to do where I live. London has spin classes and North Wales has Pilates I guess.

Anyway, that was that and I was signed up to a 5 week course of beginner’s Pilates. I’d looked for videos on Youtube for Pilates and Yoga before, but you don’t realise how wrong you’re doing things until you go to a class with an instructor that has years of experience. Youtube fitness videos can sometimes be fab, but then at times I think they can actually do you more harm than good.

The biggest battle for me with Pilates was not falling asleep. Not because the class was boring, but just with how deep you have to breathe to do all of the exercises. Your ribs open just as wide as they would in a session on the Wattbike, yet at a third of the pace. How I find lying on a Pilates mat comfy I don’t know. I’ve obviously got the family trait of being able to sleep just about anywhere…

Pilates has been a rather big eye-opener if I’m honest. There’s obviously a big trend in yoga at the moment and your not part of that yoga ‘cliche’ unless you can get your leg by your head, but I’m actually starting to think Pilates is a better place to start. With a knowledgeable instructor, you’ll actually start to use muscles you didn’t know you had and use them properly.

Being a cyclist I quickly noticed my quads are very quick to take over when I’m meant to be using my core strength for an exercise. Something the instructor told me would go over time the stronger I get with Pilates.

It’s the go-to recommendation for GP’s when people have issues with things like their backs and shoulders. Our daily lives aren’t really beneficial to things like posture and using our bodies as they’re intended. The thing that shocked me was just how deep your core muscles go, something I’ve only noticed from doing Pilates. You can be ‘toned’ like all of the influencers on Instagram, but if there’s actually any strength there is another question.

I’m excited to be coming to the end of my Pilates course and making it part of my training routine each week. Yes, I’m more familiar with things like running and cycling, but it’s good to mix it up I think. Especially when it’s something as beneficial as Pilates. After only a few weeks I’ve noticed I’m using my body differently, from carrying out tasks at work or how I run.

So you’ll probably see Pilates pop up on my blog from time to time now it’s part of my routine again. Who knows, it might even help when I’m on the bike. I’m just waiting for all of these storms to disappear first…

The January Slump

At the start of ‘off-season’ I was raring to go after not really accomplishing much on the bike last year. After the London Marathon, everything else seemed a little mediocre. It didn’t have the ‘wow’ factor of London. Come off-season I was ready to wipe the slate clean and give 2020 a good go. Now with a Wattbike Atom to train on I really have no excuse, but with a Winter plagued by every bug under the sun that perfect off-season hasn’t really gone to plan. Neither has the blog writing…

BUT

Here I am writing again, so that’s got to be a good sign right?

I thought I’d kick things off with a bit of a motivation themed post, as I can imagine I’m not the only one struggling with those New Year’s Resolutions. So I’ve been trawling through the depths of Youtube to find some inspiring videos to get you (and me) back into the swing of things.

  1. Making It Work: The Lizzie Deignan Story

Years spent at the top of the sport on the track and on the road, this video shows Lizzie’s return to the sport after having her gorgeous little daughter, Orla.

 

2. WHAT IT TAKES: One of the boys

Annemiek van Vleuten is a force to be reckoned with to say the least. After a big crash during the Olympic Road Race in 2016 it was questionable whether she would be able to return to the sport. With lumbar spinal fractures (yes multiple fractures) she was back on the podium a month later taking 1st on a stage in the Lotto Belgium Women’s Tour. In this video she joins the boys of Mitchelton Scott on their training camp.

 

3. Rising: No Train No Gain w/ Kate Courtney

A bit of gym inspiration off XC rider Kate Courtney, who is another Scott rider. This video follows her at a gym session at Red Bull HQ.

 

4. Lucy Charles – Road to Kona

Regularly popping up on my Instagram, Lucy Charles-Barclay is one of the biggest names in Ironman. Her laid back persona doesn’t stop her putting her all into training and racing. This video follows her quest to get on the top step at Ironman’s biggest race in Kona, Hawaii.

5. Beyond the Bike – Casey Brown

Now this video is from the archives way back when I was racing downhill. This was a video I watched multiple times the Saturday night before a race. It would be this or mountain bike film ‘Life Cycles‘. This video is a bit different from the ones above, but it’s definitely one to watch to give you a nudge to follow your dreams.

 

So I hope you’ll be leaving  this blog post with the fire in your belly again. I’ve lost it a little this off-season. I’ve even questioned if I want to race anymore, but looking through Youtube’s many pages has helped me get that focus back.

Falling off the wagon is ok, it’s just if you’re going to stay on the ground or brush yourself off and get back on. Even if you fall off again, it’s just important you get back on.