Lockdown Cycling

With the lockdown in Wales gradually easing I thought I would share my thoughts on how cycling has helped me cope with lockdown.

Before lockdown I worked in an office each day and had a very definite divided between work and home, so much so that work papers have been known to stay in the briefcase from Friday evening until returning to work on Monday morning. Initially working from home was a shock to the system. I set up my laptop and monitor screen on the breakfast table which was in full view of the kitchen and sitting room (with TV etc). I struggled with the work stuff always being in view.

Going off on a cycle ride over lunchtime helped me clear my head. The good weather we had in the UK at the end of March certainly helped. What helped each more was moving the work kit into the front room which enabled me to close the door at the end of the working day – “out of sight, out of mind”. I was also put on reduced hours at work so managed to get two clear days in the week to get out on the bike during the day.

The only problem was that Welsh Government allowed us out for one type of exercise a day and it had to be “local”. Whatever “local” meant was never defined by Welsh Government, instead it was suggested it should be how far it would be reasonable to walk or run – not much help for cyclists. A journalist suggested a 10 mile radius of home which resulted in lots of laps of local lanes. I also had the advantage of a turbo trainer. At least I was better off compared to cyclists in France and Spain who couldn’t even leave their home.

In May the cycling lockdown was relaxed to cycling no more than was reasonable when taking account of your ability – not much help for a lawyer who likes clear instructions and rules! We could only drive “locally” which was defined as up to 5 miles for non-essential travel i.e. not for work, shopping or health reasons. This 5 mile limit still exists in Wales at the time of writing except an extension for compassionate grounds. There is no travel limit in England. It all means that I have been able to cycle further in May than I can drive! I cycle with tubeless tyres, plus I carry spare inner tubes, patches, chain link and a spare hanger so am reasonably self sufficient on the bike.

During the 14 weeks of lockdown I have got fitter through cycling on at least four days a week. I covered over 600 km and over 7,500 m of climbing in June, something I haven’t done since the Deloitte Ride Across Britain. My aim of doing yoga daily and a HIIT session when I have not been cycling have fallen by the wayside, although I have managed to restart the Water Rower sessions.

Cycling has kept me sane. I have missed the interaction with colleagues at work – daily Microsoft Teams sessions is not the same as real life conversations. I live on my own and at one point until very recently I’d had less than 10 face to face conversations including the checkout ladies at Tescos during lockdown! I am looking forward to more relaxation of the travel rules in Wales. I’m now used to working from home but do miss the office. Given the choice, I think I’ll opt for a mixture of home and office based work. One thing is certain, I’m going to carry on cycling!

Training and Mental Health

It is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK and I thought it was time to share my experiences of training and how it affects me and what I have done when I find it difficult to keep motivated to train for a distant goal.

It is now mid May and most riders aiming to take part in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain will have been training for at least five months and face another three months of increasing intensity of training in terms of the length of rides and the intensity of some training sessions if using a turbo trainer.

Keeping up that sort of intensity can be very difficult. If you have been training hard up until now you have probably built up a good level of fitness and you may be able to back off the training for a couple of weeks if you need to re-charge the batteries and re-motivate yourself to increase the training over the summer. If you are not at the stage of riding five hour training rides or getting to 60-70 miles in a ride, you may have more of an issue come September. Do talk to someone (or post on the Deloitte RAB Facebook page for tips and advice) and try and keep going – the thought of all my sponsors was a big motivator for me last year when things got tough during training. You will not be the only one having training issues.

In my training last year, very few training rides exceeded 80 miles, but it was relatively easy to knock out that sort of distance. I then combined it with a few 100 mile sportives over challenging terrain, such as the Chiltern 100 in July and the Wye Valley Warrior in August (both have lots of climbing so great preparation for RAB). I’m sorry to say that I believe sticking to 50 mile training rides just will not prepare you for the relentless impact of RAB and nine consecutive days of 100 plus miles, particularly if you want to enjoy the experience rather than survive each day. The RAB “bubble” will only take you so far – no one else can ride your bike for you.

My Post RAB Training

I have found training this year very difficult. I am a “numbers” person and like to compare my fitness level using Training Peaks. It is difficult to accept that my training score compared to last year is down by 25-30 “points”. I am both competitive and a perfectionist – part of my thinks a 40% fall in training fitness is not acceptable. When the more rational part of my brain takes over, I accept that Training Peaks looks at training intensity – my life in 2019 does not revolve around cycling training, I am not going our for 5-6 hour rides on a Saturday and another 3 on Sunday plus three sessions during the week. My FTP is still higher than this time last year, I have just lost a little of my endurance ability.

The last two weeks have resulted in a CBA attitude to a lot of things (CBA = can’t be a@sed); a function of reduced fitness, an early summer cold and a few work commitments that resulted in reduced training. I’ve realised that I need to do some training for the benefit of my mental health and do my best to complete the session rather than giving up at the first drop off in power output. At other times I have to accept that my body cannot “push on” when recovering from a cold. A few completed sessions this week and I feel much better. Hopefully I’ll manage a four hour ride on Saturday. I have the Dragon Tour coming up on 7-9 June – maybe the shorter routes and then see how I feel on the day of the Dragon Ride. After all, cycling is meant to be fun and it is a good way for me to clear my head, even if I’m concentrating to make sure I miss the potholes! If the cycling doesn’t work, I’ll just go for a blast on my catamaran dinghy – sailing is still my main passion.