Monday, May 26

Spinning class: Crystal Palace loops

It's been a while since I last posted a ride profile, so I have some catching up to do! Loops bring simplicity and clarity - good for instructors to lead - but also repetition that lets the class know what will be coming up ahead, as we go round and round again. I call this one Crystal Palace, as I put this together a few years ago after riding a closed-loop circuit that has a gradual but steady climb.

As always, each rider is free to do whatever they feel is right for them but, for those that want to follow, the flat road segment may include jumps or running...or even a recovery ahead of the climb. The climb may be done entirely in the saddle or out of it but, ideally, the first two minutes would be in saddle while adding enough resistance before standing. HR also depends on individuals, whether they prefer a comfortable 70-75% or to push it to 80-85%. I suggest riders take the first loop at 70%, the second at 75%, the third at 80%, with final one at 85%.

Warm up - 3.5 mins
Loop (repeat 4 times)
Flat road - 4.5 mins
Climb - 4.5 mins
Cool down - 5.5 mins

Smell of Paradise - Sa Trincha
Only love can break your heart - Saint Etienne
Do you see the light? - Snap!
Big mistake - Natalie Imbruglia
Touch me - Rui Da Silva
Family Affair - Mary J Blige
Loneliness - Tomcraft
Galvanize - The Chemical Brothers
3rd Earth - Scott Bond vs. Solarstone
Celtic dream - Michael Flatley

Friday, May 23

Schwinn Revolution 2008 - Hemsby

Although not a big deal for our continental friends (who regularly do 12-hour continuous rides) or our cousins across the pond (who host events with thousands of bikes), this was (I believe) the first event of this magnitude in the UK: 100 bikes, 14 hour-long rides spread over a weekend and - this is the clincher - the ability to stay on the bike the whole time.

I went with Rick, a friend and fellow Spinning/Schwinn addict from Hove, who took these photos. When we arrived, after a brief stop at a roadside stall to eat the best sausage-bacon-egg baguette I've ever tasted, we were told that event would start an hour later and, apparently, everybody but the two of us knew. So we had plenty of time to choose our bikes and set up...needless to say, we both went for front row centre.

Just one problem - having fractured my shoulder blade two weeks earlier, would I be able to ride, much less push myself? I thought that I might have difficulty in holding the bars without a sling but it was worth trying, as there were only two classes that Friday evening. It took me a while to find a suitable riding position, as I could not stretch or put any weight on my shoulder. As you can see, I wasn't very comfortable but at least I was able to ride - I could always coast along and use it as an educational experience.

Well... what an education! After the initial stiffness, I loosened up gradually, the adrenaline started flowing and I was really getting into it. It helped having Mel Chambers leading the ride - when she suggests you could maybe work just that little bit harder, it's hard to disagree! Soon the pain disappeared altogether and I was able to lift myself to a higher level of effort, at or above my lactate threshold, for the two hours.

Rick said he could see I was really pushing myself, despite my totally relaxed state that might have fooled others into thinking I was taking it easy. I was certainly "in the zone", so much so that my focus was on one of the tealights in front of me and all I could see was the dancing flame - I can't remember the music, Mel's words, the pain, the effort... just the emotion and the little voice whisper "I can".

The next day was more of the same but with a variety instructors leading the rides. On the final ride on Saturday morning, I started feeling pain in my knee - quite unexpected, given my other problems, but probably related to the accident. Luckily, it was time for the lunch break, so I had time to recover... especially as Rick and I decided that 45mins was nowhere near enough for a decent lunch and we opted out of the first two rides of the afternoon session. The final two rides were relatively steady, the first being a 45-min climb and the second a low-end endurance ride.

Four more rides the next day, with best (for me) being a ride called "Feel the energy". A long climb up to Macchu Picchu, going through storms, caves, sprinting away from cannibals, working together as a team to get through the worst and using the electricity of the storm to charge us with energy, finally using it all in a final burst to the top and into the sunshine. Even while writing this, the memory of that ride gives me goosebumps... I wish I'd recorded it, so I could ride it again and again on my own!

Sigh! Roll on next year - I hope it becomes a permanent fixture on my iCal.

Thursday, May 22

Why did I quit my job?

I've been asked many times lately why I left my cushy 9-to-5 desk job in central government, especially given the perks the job entails: flexible working and hours, final salary pension, and no chance of ever losing my job unless I murdered my boss (even then, probably only if it happened on government premises!). I always believed that one of four things must be present to stay in a job: good money, good prospects, good working environment (location, people, etc.), good work. Government has never been a place to make money - unless you're a consultant - and prospects were minimal given budget cuts. The environment had been steadily getting worse and the work that I loved doing (protecting the international environment) had been taken away from me.

As I was looking around for options - transfer to another post, Department, job, even country - the opportunity to take voluntary redundancy came up. They offered me just under £30K to leave. I had calculated my basic spend including mortgage payments and, with the income I was getting from my regular Spinning classes, the money would be enough to last me another ten years. Well worth the risk, given I had ten years to get my fitness business profitable before having to get another job. So they showed me the money, I took it and left without turning back. Ultimately, the choice was about my state of mind... my happiness, if you will. That has no price, in my book - I'm just lucky I had the opportunity to make a break for it and to be in a position to afford it.

After I left, I saw this video - it touched all the right buttons, as it was exactly how I was feeling every day. If you have the opportunity, don't hesitate to make that change - a life not lived is worse than no life at all.

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Wednesday, May 21

Light at the end of the tunnel

It's been a frustrating but illuminating fortnight.

I was in relatively bad shape after the accident and found it difficult to do the simplest of things, like sleeping, getting changed and eating. So I was pretty angry at having put in this situation through no fault of my own. That said, I consider myself lucky to have got away so lightly considering the violent impact - if I hadn't had the cyclists' instinct to sweep the back wheel and spread the force of the impact by side-swiping the car, I would've gone flying and landed fairly hard, probably with far worse injuries. A shoulder blade can heal quickly, a broken neck less so (if at all).

Those who aren't cyclists may find this shocking but, despite the fractured shoulder blade, I was able to ride a Spinning bike a few days after the accident. One-handed, though, with the other arm in a tight sling - not to be recommended if you don't have strong core muscles to keep you balanced! I found the aerobic exercise (i.e., not pushing myself too hard) improved my state of being by getting rid of toxins that had built up as a result of the accident. I guess the fresh oxygen carried around the bloodstream helped to flush away waste by-products, improve muscle tone and flexibility, and repair tissue damage. It was also good for my state of mind - I refuse to be a victim of circumstances and have to feel like I'm doing something to improve my situation.

I was still unable to put on a standard cycling jersey, though, as I was (and still am) unable to lift my arm up - only a full-zip would do. Luckily, I had gone on a planned trip to France the week after the accident, which allowed me time to rest and recuperate in the sun (I was so lucky with the weather). I can recommend sun therapy to anyone with an injury - it speeds up the healing process no end. It also gives you a great tan! I also managed to buy some full-zip jerseys out there - they're rarer than titanium here, I guess because it's a mountain climber's jersey (there are no long climbs in the UK) and it never gets warm enough here to have to open them fully!

After I came back, it was time to prepare for the Schwinn Revolution - could I ride a bike for long periods of time? I had an opportunity to find out, as I was due to teach a class before the event. I would have to ride with both arms, as riding one-handed would strain my back through over-compensation. While in France, I had done some home-made physiotherapy to improve my range of movement, so I was able to put my bad arm on the handlebars even if I could not put too much pressure on it. By adjusting my position on the bike (not my usual, ideal position) I was able to ride without needing to lean forwards or put weight on my arms. So I knew that I could at least ride the Schwinn event, even if I could not "go for it".

Did I go for it? Find out in my next post!