Category Archives: Fitness

Lard(er) management

I have a sweet tooth and love all sorts of delicious food, but alas, it does not love me! Just the smell of a jam doughnut and my mouth waters, and my bodyweight clicks up a few extra grams!

The older one gets, the less one needs in the way of calories or kilojoules to maintain a healthy physical size. I have fought the battle of the bulge all my life right back to when, as quite a young child, I was led to believe that I was a bit on the ‘heavy’ side for someone my age (now I know this was not true but it was what I believed).

I am now passed my half way mark in life and over the years, found I had put on more weight than was good for me. A decade ago I decided to change this and have worked hard ever since to reduce this to where I want it to be and keep it at that level. Sadly, my kilojoule allowance is now frustratingly low in order to keep it this way 😦

Keeping a handle on my weight was one of the main reasons why I took up cycling a few years back (together with the fact that I was getting no exercise). Now I commute to work daily and feel very guilty on the rare rainy days that I ‘cheat’ and use the car!

Cycling is energy efficient and helps keep the weight off

One of the biggest perks of being a bike rider is that you can take your hobby/sport with you and go bike touring when you are on holiday. Not only do you see so much more of the place that you are visiting, you will get to know so many more of the locals. But best of all, you can indulge in the local food delicacies without too many pangs of kilojoule-laden guilt.

France is one of the most beautiful countries and the food and wine found in each district is incredible. Foodwise, it is very different to what we get in Australia – it is just not possible to find the range of cheeses, pastries and breads, particularly in the regional area where I live. In the first week of our French tour, we were treated to wild boar, cheese that I did not know existed (!) and the rich French culture to set it all off. I was in heaven!

But there was one problem. I could not work out how many extra kilojoules I was eating each day or whether I was managing to ride them off to maintain a status quo (weight wise). The last thing I wanted was to return home to find a net increase in my weight. It is too hard to loose, so I would rather not put it on in the first place!

Unfortunately, both the major cycling tours that I have done have left me heavier on my return than when I left. (Admittedly, I was a lot fitter at the end too, so some of the weight may have been due to increased muscle rather than fat.) However, I am determined that this will not happen again, and I am now learning how to balance my energy levels before I again go on the road.

France, exquisite food from enticing bakeries and cheese shops

With the advent of the iPhone and iPad (and I am sure the non-Apple devices have similar software), it is now possible to get apps which you can use to monitor your energy input and output fairly closely. Many people would wonder “why bother, just have a good time and go on a diet when you return”, but in my book, this is a sure way to ruin the memories of a fabulous holiday.

My challenge though, is to be able to weigh myself now and again while on tour. In our western society where obesity is becoming a major issue, I would like to see a return to the practice of having a set of scales in each pharmacy or supermarket, where you can weigh yourself for free (or for a fee, I would be happy to pay!) The other challenge is to be able to calculate the kilojoules in meals in restaurants. Some food outlets advertise this information, but I think it should become compulsory standard practice everywhere.

I am also on the hunt for a set of small, lightweight scales that can be carted about in one’s pannier bag. This would assist greatly in calculating portions of snack food that are so essential to the rider, but are so easy to overdo. If you know of any scales that you think may be suitable, please share this information in the comments section.

And if you have any other ideas about methods to balance energy intake with energy output while on a cycling tour, it would be great to hear about them and to be able to share them with others.

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Small steps to cycling fitness

This post is going to seem a bit odd to people who have been riding for a long time, and think nothing of hopping on their bike and heading out for a 25km ride ‘around the block’. The reality for new riders is that riding that ‘far’ is a big step and not one to be taken lightly.

I had a few health issues when I first started riding, and it took a mammoth amount of effort to get up the smallest of hills. I just could not envisage the day when not only would I navigate the same hills with minimal effort, but would do this without even noticing the incline!

The reality is that, for those people who have never ridden before, or have not ridden since they were young, getting up the confidence to get on a bike can be very confronting. However, as with most challenging things, getting started is the hardest part.

Start by riding small, manageable distances. If you live in a quiet street (traffic wise), then ride up and down your street, then when you are comfortable, extend your zone around the block. (Make sure you know your road rules though, and rigorously observe them). If you have an experienced rider who is prepared to ride slowly with you and show you the ropes, so much the better.

Even better still, if you can get access to a cycleway where there is no traffic at all, this will be an excellent place to build up your fitness levels. I was lucky in this regard, traffic is almost non-existent in my suburb, so it was ideal.

Once you can do the equivalent of a few laps of the block and arrive back feeling invigorated rather than exhausted, then you are ready to go further afield. But don’t make the mistake of trying to go too far too quickly. You will arrive back exhausted and the enjoyment of riding will be lost.

Having a breather half way up the hill – that slope in the distance still waiting to be conquered!

Nearly at the top – pushing the loaded Anthem up the last bit of that big hill in the Scottish Highlands

If you have a steep hill or two along your route and they give you sleepless nights, the solution is easy – get off and push your bike up the hard bits, then enjoy the ride down the other side! There is no rule that says if you have a bike, you have to ride it all the way!  I have pushed my loaded bike up many steep hills, when common sense dictated that walking was far more sensible than struggling to ride. It is also a good way to ‘appreciate the view’ or ‘take a photo’ – yes, I have used all these excuses! But now I don’t bother with excuses, if I want to walk, I just do!
Using this method, no hill will ever be a problem for you again and you can go back to having undisturbed beauty sleep!

But each time you get to a hill, try to get a little further before you dismount. Before long, all those hills that looked like such a challenge will gradually become less forbidding, and eventually, you will barely notice them.

I can remember the enormous feeling of achievement when I first cycled 26km. The best part was that this took us into our local shopping precinct, so a cup of coffee was always available at the half way mark. This soon became a regular and enjoyable summer weekend outing.