Fitness14th November 2014
Earlier in the year, I had grand designs on a return to cycling after a break of nearly two years. What scuppered the plan was a lack of road cycling confidence that extended beyond not wanting to go pell mell down hills, which always was the case. Saying that, I have managed a few circuits from my home that took in Bollington but that is a far cry from daily commuting or travelling as far as the likes of Tatton Park near Knutsford or Lyme Park near Disley. What really is beyond me at the moment is an epic that takes me as far as Northwich or Chester.
Still, there has been a circuit from home that took in Gawsworth during March as well as a bimble up and down Longdendale in May. Both of those tried our the fold-up Dahon that I got last January so I am not done with cycling completely. In fact, Sunday saw me go around by Bollington on a short cycle that substituted for an aborted planned trot from the Cat and Fiddle Inn back home via Shutlingsloe. That was on a B’TWIN commuting bike that replaced the mountain bike that did day to day road travel duties for more than eleven years. The new one came to me from Decathlon in April and is a very nice machine with 24-speed gearing and lights powered by dynamos on the wheels. It has mudguards (an amazing rarity these days) and a carrier too so it is the type of bike that my parents might have fancied in their time. It certainly reminds me of a three-speed example arising from the same well of inspiration that I had in Ireland once upon a time.
Though I no longer trust its brakes, the mountain bike has not retired either. However, its role is very different from the one it used to have and the cause fits in with the title of this entry too. For years, its commuting duties kept me more trim than I otherwise might have been with round trips of around fifteen miles a day if not more. However, these had an Achilles heel in that I was put off cycling to and from work on wet days by a soaking on the way to work early on in my career. That was on a road bike whose gearing self-destructed and caused the acquisition of the mountain bike in 2002. Before then, it had served me well around Edinburgh and Skipton and around Cheshire too as well as on a single incursion into Derbyshire that set me on the road to hill walking in August 2000; it took me from Macclesfield to Buxton by way of the A537, possibly the highest that I ever have gone on a bike.
Dark evenings are not such an issue around Edinburgh but pose a different challenge on country A-roads. The result was that my commuting left the bike aside for the darker times of year and was taken up in earnest during drier spells on longer days. It meant that the benefits were not to be felt year round as they probably should to ward off any middle age spread.
What brought all this to mind was the fit of a new trousers during the past summer; it started me wondering if I was beginning to need the next waist size up and I baulked at the idea. That was enough to spur me into a kind of action. Walking was all very fine but it was not bringing my level of activity back up to where it once was. My remedy was the acquisition of a B’Twin bike trainer, again from Decathlon. The mountain bike was attached to this and I began to ease into spending some time on it. However, it probably is not the best of arrangements for silent running even after changing the back tyre to a quieter one; putting gaffer tape over the original might have made more sense for I am not buying another bike for this job.
Ten minutes on the thing were quite enough at the start, such was my lack of fitness. Since then, the sessions have grown longer and they are around the half hour mark these days. To some, that prospect would seem very dull and it was the same for a younger me. A spot of reading of magazines balanced on the handlebar is enough to address any sense of impatience though. Anything that helps me to spend time sorting my fitness has to be a good thing and I always reproach myself for reading nearly as much as I could anyway.
So far, there have been results and I reckon that I feel fitter though I’d rather have lost more flab than I have so that’s enough encouragement to continue. That it has given me a spurt of exploring hill country is another bonus because it did feel as if I was restricting myself to lower heights, as nice as they are. The summer weather we had this year helped too, in spite of it being at times a little hotter for walking than is ideal.
Nevertheless, I was lured out in places like Buttermere, Ullswater, St. Sunday Crag, Grasmere, Loughrigg Fell and Orrest Head during a good few Cumbrian excursions. Welsh locations like Ysgyryd Fawr, Sugar Load and Gower also saw me as did Loch Etive and Mull in Scotland. Maybe I felt it was high time that I got back into hill wandering ways while fitness was improving. On its own, the subject never really got me excited because I suppose that the world of competitive sport felt a little sterile to me. It actually took outdoors explorations to get me walking through hill country instead of looking in on it as if it were some niche sporting interest. It only was when I got to seeing hillwalking as a way to get into special quiet places with an attractive quiet spirit of their own that I really took to the activity. Being somewhere unique when ravishing light falls upon it has led to many happy memories too. Fitness is not for boasting but is a means to an end, a way of ensuring that hill country visits can continue and I keep adding to those soothing recollections.