Posts Tagged With: training

Buttermere and Crummock Water: End to End and Back again… Twice!

No cycling this weekend… but we did make up for it by swimming over 8 miles in the Lake District 🙂

All the advice we’ve had said we needed to do at least one swim over three hours, so we decided that we would do two end-to-end-and-back swims in a weekend and despite the dreadful weather we managed about 5 hours swimming and had a great time! We were very lucky to find an Open Water Swimming shop – Head to the Hills –  entirely by accident next to our B&B in Ambleside. I persuaded Alice that she really did need a wetsuit to spend over 3 hours in water below 17 degrees. Even she ended up being grateful for the added warmth which made all the difference – we’d never have completed the mileage without it!

Saturday was Buttermere (about 3 miles) and was actually a pretty enjoyable experience – we were apprehensive about our first proper lake swim – and although our boat support did their best, we certainly missed Borut’s calm reassurance (from Strel Swimming Adventures)!

We set a very leisurely pace and probably because of this – I was surprised how much I enjoyed the swim. The scenery was absolutely breath-taking in every direction which meant I kept wanting to look up, but for the first time I did manage to get into a reasonable rhythm and actually just began to enjoy the experience – I couldn’t believe how easy it felt! However, (maybe because she thought things were going too smoothly!) Alice made the mistake of removing her wetsuits half way… and ended up nearly blue by the time we’d finished!! It was a valuable lesson to learn before attempting Windermere! Luckily the Croft House Farm Cafe supplied us with copious quantities of “ButterBeer”, a drink I thought only existed in the pages of Harry Potter, but turned out to be a delicious concoction of warm milk, butterscotch syrup (apparently from a secret recipe) cream and marshmallows! It was absolutely what we wanted with our yummy sandwiches we’d brought from The Apple Pie shop in Ambleside!!

As we emerged from the cafe the clouds cleared and we enjoyed the beautiful scenery before celebrating in style with more conventional ale, pie and the most competitive game of Jenga I’ve ever played at the nearby Langstrath Inn 🙂

Sunday at Crummock Water was a little harder… the Weather was worse, the swim was longer and we were already tired, but we (or more realistically our support team – You were amazing guys!!) were committed to at least making a start. We rented a boat from the Wood House, where the owner was distinctly unhelpful, although he did reluctantly provide us with a mop bucket to bail out the water! Getting in was not very appealing, but the promise of a second round of ButterBeer kept us going – we set ourselves a target, if we completed the end-to-end and back in over 3.5 hours we would have to forgo the cakes and drinks – it was clearly sufficient motivation as we completed the five miles in just over 3hrs 15mins! The last hour or so was difficult, my arms were tired and felt a bit like jelly, but we were in a good rhythm again and our wonderful support crew made all the difference – stopping us like clockwork every 20 minutes for isotonic water, jelly babies and carbohydrate gels. Actually given how rubbish our boat was, they probably had a tougher time of it that we did. Alice admitted that she kept herself going by dreaming up new cake recipes… I’m hoping she’ll start making some of them! They sounded unusual but yummy… hopefully I can post some photos soon!

Now that we are back it seems like a bit of a dream. About this time last year a great family friend took us on a wonderful tour around the lakes, and if he’d suggested then as we drove past Crummock water, that just a year later we’d be swimming it both of us would have thought he’d developed a severe case of dementia!! Amazingly though, the fact that we struggled initially with open water swimming makes these little achievements all the more rewarding! We did imagine Daddy looking down on us and felt sure he’d have approved – he always was a massive Water Baby!! We drove home feeling like we’d really made a breakthrough and Windermere might just be achievable after all! Although it was a little disconcerting when we stopped to have look at the longest lake in England and realised that from our viewpoint neither end of the lake was within sight!

Oh well… I guess we’ll just have to take it 20 minutes at a time!! Amazingly we’re actually beginning to look forward to the challenge 🙂



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Another weekend… Another 83 miles :)

This weekend Mummy and I decided we needed to do a more realistic distance… so on Saturday we picked a favourite restaurant about 32 miles away to cycle to for Lunch and arranged to meet our Grandparents there – we knew we’d need an incentive to go that far 😉 and  we were very happy to know that they’d bring us clean clothes AND provide the option of a personal taxi-ride home if we were too exhausted to continue… Thankfully we needn’t have worried!

We couldn’t have been luckier with the weather, and it couldn’t have been a more beautiful ride! We managed to find a sneaky back route using our new bike Sat Nav (it’s like a miracle in a box!)

The Feathered Nest Inn in Nether Westcote is completely surreal… with panoramic views over the cotswolds, beautifully quirky decor and food that is out of this world! This might have something to do with the fact that the chef trained at Le Manoir aux Quatre Saisons… as might the fact that the portions aren’t always exactly what you want after a 3 hour bike ride 😉

The Feathered Nest

Despite not being enormous, my first ever experience of Courgette Flowers will certainly be a memorable one… and probably hard to beat! Thank heavens for giant puddings and Pettit Fours… we certainly made sure we got a good supply of calories! We felt VERY spoilt!!


Even our Grandparents looked pretty pleased when their chocolate cherry soufflé’s arrived and were almost the size of their heads!!

The Feathered Nest (2)

Its probably rather fortunate that they can’t really use the internet… or i’m sure they’d be rather embarrassed by this photo!

It was also special to visit somewhere we had been with Daddy, both before and during his illness. He had absolutely loved the whole experience and was always coming up with “special occasions” that could merit a trip to Nether Westcote for another delicious meal. He would be so SO touched to know that Tony and Amanda (the owners) are donating a night at their Inn as a prize at our Charity Auction in November!

It was the best weekend we’ve had in ages! Croatia is going to have a lot to live up to!!

The only thing missing was Alice, but as she was visiting her boyfriend in Fontainbleu in France we forgave her 😉

It was such a relief for Mummy to cover a big chunk of our daily mileage without too many ill-effects – although I don’t know why she’s worried – she goes so fast I could hardly keep up. Amazingly the only thing we noticed was being slightly saddle sore when we went out for our shorter loop on Sunday, which is pretty amazing when I look back on how my body used to feel after a long run!

I’m beginning to see why the world has taken to cycling!


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And then there were Three…

And then there were three...

Mummy is now officially part of the team! 🙂

After cycling thirty miles (for the first time ever) with us this morning Mummy has decided that she will join us on the cycling part of our challenge. Now we are even more excited… although it looks like camping might have just gone out the window (sorry Alice ;)) Daddy would certainly love to know that we are all doing this together. I hope he is looking down on us with a smile…

And happily it seems that everything (even lake swimming!) is better when Alice is around!

Our thirty mile cycle this morning was via Queensford lake – a beautiful open water swimming lake near Oxford where Alice and I duly attempted our first ever 750m lap. And although I still didn’t love the cold feeling around my neck – having Alice there certainly made it all seems so much easier. We are thinking this will have to become a weekly activity… (Alice wants to include a wake-boarding session after the swim. Obviously.)

Thankfully the water was cleaner and warmer than the lake last weekend and having Alice meant it just felt like a bit of fun! Clearly I needn’t bother attempting to train without her!!


Although I think I will probably have to do one more session before I feel prepared to cope with the swimming leg of Blenheim Triathlon next weekend 😉

I think maybe Alice thought we all needed cheering-up as her post-cycle yoga outfit was pretty entertaining…

Thanks Alice! You certainly made me smile…

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So Happy with our New Bikes!

We were pretty pleased with ourselves this evening when we returned unscathed from our second ever bike ride on road bikes (the first being yesterday!)…

It is such a relief to discover that we actually like cycling 🙂 It could have been a bit of a disaster if we just couldn’t get the hang of it!! I can’t believe how much easier they are than the ‘Boris Bikes’, but at least it is a pleasant surprise to find I can actually make it up a hill without getting off!

We had a great chat on our ride this evening (yesterday we were too busy figuring out the gears etc to have the brain capacity for talking!) and we thought about how lucky we are to have something positive to focus on. It is so hard watching Daddy suffer. He is so brave and selfless, but I had no idea that modern medicine was so limited in it’s capacity to alleviate this kind of suffering.

Just getting out of the house for an hour, having to concentrate on learning something new and feeling the wind in our face was the most amazing relief.

We came back rejuvenated and refreshed,  and so much more able to cope. It’s amazing what a shot of endorphins can do! 🙂

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We Have Bikes! Thank You Cycles UK

All the guys at Cycles UK Bow Lane deserve a medal – they couldn’t have been more helpful this morning! And we are so grateful for their generosity.

As it turned out I needed to be at home in the evening to be with Daddy so we made a last minute decision to get up at 5:30am today to try and collect the bikes first thing… it turned out excellently. Despite the fact that we had made an appointment to get all the bikes and gear fitted at 4:30pm today – they weren’t at all fazed when we turned up at 9am.

We were in the shop for nearly THREE HOURS and Dave and Dane were so helpful and patient with us.  They made sure the bikes fit us perfectly – we actually cycled them indoors with the rear wheels raised so that they didn’t move, which surely is something every shop should do – so they can really see if you are able to move properly.

They fitted water bottle holders, bells, padlocks, armadillo tyresmulti tools and saddle bags all without any fuss and constant enthusiasm! We also got some seriously padded shorts (apparently an essential for long distances!) and very high viz jackets. The service was absolutely 5 star!  🙂

Alice even got a personal lesson in wheel removal…

To cap it all – we actually managed to leave some of our gear behind (we were a bit flustered by the time we left as we were in quite a rush to get back to Daddy, but by the time we’d got home Dave had already emailed us to let us know what we’d left and that he was posting it to our home address – amazing!!

Thank you so much Danny, Dave and Dane – We couldn’t be more grateful!

Thank you

I actually managed to do a short test ride this afternoon back in Oxford (my first real session on a road bike!) and couldn’t be happier with the bike and can’t wait to start cycling to work. If you’re thinking of buying a bike we can’t recommend these guys enough!!

Now we just need start working on the swimming… Aaaahhh!

Ps. I showed Daddy the pictures and I think even in his current condition he got vicarious enjoyment from seeing us get our new toys!

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Bikes chosen, ordered and on their way: Thanks to Cycles UK!

We haven’t posted much for a while as sadly our Dad’s condition has deteriorated somewhat recently so our energies have been focused on being with him…

He is currently receiving excellent care at the Michael Sobell Hospice, but we are hoping that we will be able to bring him home in the next few days (so long as we can get adequate care at home to ensure that he is always comfortable). He continues to be as brave and wonderful as ever. Always an inspiration.

We feel more motivated than ever to complete our challenge, although training may take a back seat for the next little while as we just enjoy spending time with him.

In the mean time we wanted to share our progress on the bike front – probably quite an important element! After weeks of deliberating, learning and testing we have finally ordered our bikes 🙂 Having tried a LOT of bikes and receiving more advice than we knew what to do with we have finally settled on the Cannondale Synapse Tiagra

Thanks in large part to Danny at Cycles UK who has patiently helped us through the decision making progress and arranged for a fantastic partnership with Cycles UK meaning that we should be able to get all the gear we need without breaking the bank!

We are so grateful that Cycles UK are generously supporting the cycling part of our challenge! Thank you Danny and Thank You…


We should have the bikes within the next couple of weeks – so soon I will have no excuse not to cycle to work (10 miles each way should get me reasonably fit in no time!) but I’m sure the first few weeks will be a challenge… the first of many no doubt!

As Daddy says we will just have to Improvise, Adapt and Overcome.

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New Age fitness: The Curve, the Watt Bike and my First ever Personal Training session

So getting a road bike hasn’t proved quite as easy as we’d expected. Sadly it seems – we cannot just walk into a bike shop eager and excited and exchange our cash for shiny new bikes! Alice and I are apparently verging on deformed having unusually long legs and short backs meaning we really need a specially adapted ladies bike in a large. So far not a single shop (and we’ve tried a few!) has had one in stock that we can try.

Having tried a selection of mountain bikes, cyclocross, touring bikes and road bikes at the super helpful Beeline Cycles we at least now know that we both want a road bike. (We actually REALLY want one!) A few months ago I never could have believed I would be so excited about getting a bike! A couple of people have very kindly agreed to order some in for us to try, but that takes a few days meaning we have had to consider other avenues to get our post exercise endorphin fix…

I decided to try some of the new more funky looking equipment in the gym and even had my first ever experience of personal training. It has been a pretty fun week of firsts!



This was my first experience of a self-powered running machine. It is the human equivalent of a hamster wheel.

According to Woodway, the manufacturers, it breaks all the rules; runs on sweat and determination and burns up to 30% more calories than a conventional running machine. From personal experience I would say that this is definitely true. In just over 17 minutes I had burnt 400 calories – and I didn’t even run the whole time. Just out of interest I went straight onto a conventional machine, set the pace at 10km/hour and incline at 2.5 and it felt like I was expending zero effort in comparison.

Running on the curve is hard work and constantly uphill, but I like this. It feels less damaging to the joints and more natural because you are controlling the pace with your legs, not buttons. It did take some getting used to – I wasn’t sure I’d be able to maintain my balance or slow down without falling over for the first few minutes, but I quickly got comfortable and I’m not sure I’ll ever be satisfied with a conventional running machine again!



Apparently the Wattbike is the first factory calibrated indoor bike to deliver accurate, consistent performance data and technical feedback…

I am still getting my head around this one.

I think I need a few more sessions to really appreciate all its functions, but I did enjoy the experience. The riding position is comfortable and it is very easy to use, it feels much more like riding an actual bike. I also found it helpful that it told me that I was generating more power with my left leg than my right – I guess it is good to work on balancing these things out early on. I will definitely be using this more in the coming weeks, while I await a real bike of my own!



The Virgin Active near my office were giving free trial personal training sessions and this seemed like too good an offer to pass up! I have always been a bit dismissive of personal trainers, refusing to accept that I need to pay someone to motivate me to push myself and thought that my combination of running, yoga, spinning, swimming and the odd squash match was already pretty rounded.

I clearly need to re-evaluate that position.

In just an hour I did more different kind of strength training exercise that I have done in the last year; learnt what TRX actually is; discovered I love kettlebells (as a tool); that I can actually do a pull up and that working on your abs can be fun! I especially enjoyed working with the medicine ball. And I really noticed the difference in my body – even after just one session! I could feel all the muscles I had worked, but also my core felt stronger and more defined.

I will definitely be tempted to sign up for more of these! But if anyone knows where we can find ladies road bikes with a 56” frame and a triple chain step ASAP please do let us know!!

This is our new dream bike:


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Richmond Park, Sunshine and Deer: Outside at Last!

Yesterday we decided to rent bikes in Richmond Park from Park Cycle at Roehampton Gate (Postcode: SW15 5JR)… This was our first proper attempt at cycling outside for real! Getting bikes of our own is massively to of our “to do list”! But renting them was a good start… I didn’t even know that this was an option until a great friend suggested the idea. Thank you Laura!!

After a hesitant start we had an absolutely fantastic time. We initially rented road bikes, but pretty quickly (after about 200m!) realised that this was a massive mistake – not only did it mean we couldn’t get away from the traffic and into the park proper, but they were also rather difficult to get the hang of. After swapping to mountain bikes we had so much fun cycling on the off road tracks and grass in glorious sunshine through the beautiful scenery:

We even saw some Deer:

The eight mile circumference of the park whizzed past us in no time!

There is a cafe right next to the bike-hire shop which looked like it served pretty good food (albeit rather pricey!) We now can’t wait to go back… hopefully next time we will get there before the traffic builds up so we can give the road bikes a proper chance!

If you’ve never been to Richmond Park and you live anywhere near London it is definitely worth a visit!

The morning’s cycle left us feeling inspired and excited about our challenge – we are now in the process of planning our route and searching in earnest for the right bike. We still aren’t 100% sure whether we need a road bike, a touring bike, a cyclocross bike or a hybrid bike – it is all quite foreign to me – so any advice would be very much appreciated!

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Facing the fear: riding the Boris Bikes to work… and back!

Thanks to the tube strike today I finally ran out of excuses and cycled all the way to work… and back! And after nearly 2 hours on a bike in the streets of London I’m still here to tell the tale :).

My last experience of riding a bike in a town was through the cobbled streets of Florence with crazy Italian drivers swerving and honking their horns, but this morning was even more frantic. At least it was a steep learning curve. I now know:

Facing my fear of London cycling felt amazing. I can’t believe I have spent so long walking around London, when cycling makes everything so much more accessible and more fun! Now I have no excuse not to do it at least a couple of days a week… hopefully the terror will fade!

Never been so happy to get home in one piece!!

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Group Cycle, Spinning and RPM

The training begins…

Boris Bikes

Last week it suddenly hit me that not only is our crazy challenge not ‘next year’ anymore, in fact it’s actually only just over six months or, more precisely, 207 days to go!

So that’s 207 days to get fit… and more importantly learn how to ride a bike! About 10 days ago Daniel Gould from Cycling Active kindly came to photograph us cycling to work on the Barclays Bikes, or at least trying to cycle in my case! Let’s just say I realised that definitely need to practice my traffic avoidance and general steering technique. As fun as crawling around London on these clunky bikes and stopping every time a car passes may be – I don’t feel like it is getting me much fitter! So I’ve resorted to an alternative solution: indoor cycling. In the last few weeks I’ve tried every cycling class at the gym. I never knew there were so many!

What is the difference between RPM, Spinning and Group Cycle anyway?

I’ve done all three in the last week and while they all cover the interval, hill climb (seated and standing) and sprinting elements of normal cycling, there seem to be some obvious differences even to a novice like me!

RPM follows a set structure, which is pre-choreographed with no flexibility for the instructor to make changes or adapt the activity to the mood of the participants. You are supposed to hit your max three times with recovery periods in between, this is meant to make you burn more calories and continue burning even after you have finished exercising – appealing if weight loss is your goal! Group Cycle is a free-style class, the instructor can choose any music and set the structure of the class. Depending on the instructor this class may burn the least calories. Spinning is also free-style, but with more emphasis on high intensity training, which is good for endurance and strength and probably burns the most calories out of the three.

I suppose RPM is good if you like predictability and want to know that you are getting the exact same workout every class. owever, I can’t imagine it is the best way to train your body – surely every real cycle ride will have it’s differences and you will go faster and slower in different areas, even the weather will make a difference.  I also suspect that your body must get used to the predictable rhythm of the class and so you stop progressing beyond a certain point and your fitness plateaus, unless alternative training sessions are added.

Both Spinning and Group Cycle are much more varied and the instructor can tailor the class to their mood or the performance of the participants as they go along. The music also changes and you never know what you are going to get when you walk into the class. This could be a good or bad thing. It means that the instructor in these sessions is far more important – they can really make the class great or… not so great! Their energy and choices really make an impact on the workout you get, so you may be disappointed if their choice of music or structure is not what you expected.

Personally I find RPM quite boring and I don’t really like knowing in advance exactly how long I am going to have to punish my poor thigh muscles. I also think I find it easier to push myself harder when there is more interaction and a feeling of spontaneity and fun, which I get most in the spinning classes I’ve attended so far!

The real question is how helpful are any of these classes in preparing one for cycling outside? I guess I’ll find out soon… Realistically I know there are a lot of challenges that come with real cycling that you can never encounter in the gym… the wonderful, but unpredictable English weather, uneven road surfaces and of course traffic (not to mention punctured wheels or broken chains!). For the moment, I’m happy that I feel fitter. Even after just a few classes I can tell that my body is responding to this new form of exercise and it feels good. The endorphin rush after spinning is particularly great – addictive almost! 🙂

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