Bristol, Cycling, Exercise, Walking, Well-being

Loving Exercise

I love exercise.  I’d forgotten quite how much I do enjoy exercising.  I’d also forgotten quite how much I  enjoyed using my bicycle for my commute to and from work in the past.  I’d forgotten that in a city like Bristol, more often than not, cycling is the most sensible (and quickest) form of transport.

Long Ashton Cricket Club

Take going to the gym.  It’s currently taking me in the region of 20 minutes to cycle there – depending on the heat and whether or not it’s before or after a gym class.  It regularly takes me this long to drive, particular the journey back into the city.  The majority of the cycle takes me along cycle paths, past a cricket pitch, providing a break from the busy city and beautiful scenes of a traditional Bristol.  I wouldn’t have found this gem if I hadn’t taken to my bicycle and needed to find an alternative route avoiding the A370.  It’s hard to believe such a busy main road is only 100 yards away from this peace and quiet.

I’m loving being back at the gym and having a wide selection of classes to choose from.  Whilst reading around Yoga I have investigated whether or not it counts as weight-bearing exercise (it does) and whether or not I still need to do cardio exercise.  There seems to be some debate over this, but I suspect that depends on how much yoga is going to become a way of life vs an additional form of exercise.  All I can say, is I can see myself how my cardio fitness has fallen off since I have been focussing more fully on yoga.  My benchmark was rowing 1000m on the rowing machine.  In the past, I have completed the distance in around 5 minutes.  This last week it took me 5 minutes and 43 seconds.  Evidence, if it were needed, that my cardio fitness has declined, and so according to my simple brain, just practicing yoga hasn’t maintained my fitness levels.  I’m hoping that through cycling more around Bristol and adding in additional classes at the gym I will start to see an improvement.

Unfortunately, the best way I can really judge whether or not the exercise has been of benefit is by a change in weight – or more specifically, a change in how my clothes fit.  I am also going to repeat the 1000m row each week to see if I can improve on my time.  And I still have my ultimate goal – to complete one un-assisted pull up!!!!  I don’t know why I have this goal, I just think it would be an awesome thing to be able to do!

According to the UK Government, the current recommended daily exercise targets are:  

Physical activity guidelines

I have also been doing research on exercise and menopause.  It would appear that strength training is recommended and so I am making sure I do one strength session per week.  Sometimes I have been doing my own thing at the gym and other times I have been going along to a conditioning class.  One thing I have learned over the years is that variety is vital to maintaining enthusiasm.

An added benefit of exercise, is that it does seem to help with my sleep.  Given the exceedingly hot weather conditions in Bristol at the moment, a decent night’s sleep is a bit of a struggle at the best of times, however exercise does seem to improve the amount and quality of sleep I am getting.  I am now also 95% certain that drinking wine has a huge impact on the quality of sleep I am getting, specifically, it seems to increase the incidence of hot flushes and restless legs, neither of which are particularly welcome when temperatures are in the very high 20s!

I am still managing to walk quite a bit.  I’ve walked 856 miles towards my 1000 mile target for the year.  I am using this year as a benchmark to be honest and so am not particularly pushing myself.  I have increased the number of steps in a day up to 12,500 as I was achieving 10,000 most days without really having to make that much of an effort.  By adding the extra steps it is forcing me to do some additional walking to achieve the target.  Although, it would appear that a steps target isn’t necessarily the best method to use.  Current research suggests that three or four 10 minute bursts of brisk exercise getting your heart racing is far more beneficial than achieving a steps target.  I am trying to combine both and hopefully achieve the maximum benefits I can from walking. 

At the moment, in Bristol, there is the added incentive of Gromit Unleashed 2.  The exhibits this year are fabulous and it feels like they’ve built upon the previous trails in the way it is organised – including availability of the replica models.  They definitely bring a smile to people’s faces and it’s amazing how many people just sit next to Wallace on a bench just to pass the time!  The only hiccup I’ve discovered thus far is that the app doesn’t work too well inside so I’ve not been able to register that I’ve visited a couple of the statues.  It’s great fun to do the trail and well worth visiting Bristol to take part, should you get the chance.



Cycling, Exercise, Well-being

Introducing Exercise

I said I wasn’t going to introduce more than one thing at once.  I lied.  Last week I had a bit of an epiphany.  I’m currently doing a coaching course called Living a Bigger Life, with Julie Creffield, and this week we were focusing on fears.  What it is that holds me back?  Previously, I’ve spurned this week of the programme, as I don’t believe I am fearful of anything or that anything holds me back.  So why is it, that I’ve spent the last 3 and a half months doing no exercise to speak of and increasing the time I’ve been spending on my backside doing precisely nothing.  If that’s not a fear thing then I don’t know what is.  I still can’t put my finger on exactly what it is I fear but there is clearly something that is stopping me getting out and exercising.

And that got me to thinking.  If you’d asked me 5 years ago, ‘If you didn’t have to work, what would you spend your time doing?’  In a flash I would have said, train for an Ironman and do voluntary work.  Since giving up work, I have dabbled in voluntary work, but I certainly haven’t trained for anything other than the sofa Olympics.

I used to do so much.  I used to go to work full-time, and train for triathlons, after work and at the weekends.  I used to go to a running club once a week, meet up to run on a Saturday morning for a breakfast run, and entered numerous races.  But when I moved to Bristol that all changed.  Yes, work was difficult, but I also struggled to find my tribe.  I had the best group of people to exercise with in Stoke-on-Trent, at a similar fitness level and with a similar reason to exercise and I had a great time.  We had amazing meals and picnics after races – exercise was about sharing time with each other – getting a PB was an added bonus.  I tried several different clubs in Bristol, but they were all just that bit too competitive, the social aspect seemed to be lacking and it was just not as much fun. There’s only so many times you can be left at the back of the pack before all motivation to continue is lost. On top of that I sustained an injury running the Stafford Half Marathon a few years back, and the minute I started to push my pace or increase my distance my ankle started to flare up.

close up of arrow symbol on road

Having said that, in my first job in Bristol I did cycle the commute to work.  It didn’t take long for me to work out that it was actually quicker to cycle the 5 miles to and from work than it was to drive it – and the school had really good showering facilities for staff.  That daily commute meant I maintained some level of exercise.  I have also maintained a gym membership whilst I have been living in Bristol, but haven’t really made the most of it, until this past year when I have started attending yoga classes on a regular basis.

In addition to the problems mentioned above, movement between Bristol and Portugal has also impacted my exercise.  I tried running here – but the difference in terrain played havoc with my ankle.  I’m a typical English Rose and really can’t cope that well in the extreme heat, so exercise is a bit of a no, no, unless I go out very early or very late.  I struggle to get up and exercise at 6:00am in the morning – the connection between brain and legs doesn’t seem to function that early in the morning!  I’ve tried cycling here – but besides the issue of the heat I also struggle with confidence on the roads – from packs of wild dogs to idiotic drivers!  I fail to maintain momentum in exercise in Portugal and this time, it’s been really quite extreme.  It’s also taken me a long time to find a yoga class that I really enjoyed going to.  As a consequence, since I arrived here in March, I have only been to 11 yoga classes, 2 sessions at the swimming pool and 1 bicycle ride.

athlete exercise fitness leisure

So, this week’s realisation that I do actually have the time to train for an Ironman was quite thought provoking.  Due to logistical issues, some health issues and financial constraints, I can’t really train for an Ironman at the moment and it may well remain one of those dreams that never turn into reality.  But if I have the time available for that amount of training, then I have more than enough time available to exercise for a minimum of an hour a day.  I can still cycle, I can swim, I can Nordic Walk (I have a bag of poles in the garage – another story), I can practice yoga – and there are no excuses.  Everything I have written about above is, in fact, an excuse.  No, I can’t run – but I can still do other forms of exercise.

So today I went out on my bicycle for the first time since arriving in Portugal at the beginning of March.  Tomorrow I am going to go for a swim.  The temptation to leave doing anything until the end of the week when I am back in Bristol was immense – but I’ve put off exercise for over 3 months now – the time has come to move.  I have a few days mid-week where exercise will be difficult, but by the end of the week I will be back in the position where I can do some exercise every day.  My only problem is going to be not overdoing it!