Injury and Rest – the dreaded rehab

Injury is every athletes worst nightmare, 4 months into an Achilles injury with at least 2 months to go until full fitness I find myself struggling to cope with so much time away from sport.

A constant too and fro with starting training and stopping again, constant physio therapy and lots of ice, how long does it take to really shift an injury?

A heads up from the physio only to find ourselves back at square one after the third week of a rebuild phase.

it’s a tough game

 

I mean if I was fully deabilhitated like David Moore suffering a brutal shoulder dislocation. Rumour has it he was wrestling a bear, however I believe it was more likely in the middle of one of his very heavy workout sets. Straight in for an operation a few days later and bed bound since. This is the kind of serious injury that I could understand such a set back. Although I’m sure with such an admirable mindset he’ll bounce back very soon.

 

The man himself!

It’s often said that if we didn’t train each time we had a niggle we’d never get any training done at all. It’s this resilient mindset that creates the base of successful athletes. The craving for success and the dopamine surge from attaining it.

I’m not talking about being the best or winning, I’m talking about a perseverance to improve. There’s no substitute for the hard work athletes put in, but just when is it time to stop?

Listening to your body is a fundamental lesson every sportsman goes through, but where is the line drawn between uncomfortable and painful.

Anyone coming back from injury will notice a decrease in strength for a short period especially in the injured area, but does this mean no training should be completed?

 

The dreaded view

I think managing any injury is always tough but sessions should be completed pain free. Coming back too slow is better than too soon meaning you’re not back at all.

A very useful tip when coming back is to remember you’re not always testing for pain that day. Pain can come up to 48 hours post exercise. So just because you feel fresh don’t push too hard.

I know it’s tough missing races, seeing opponents making easy wins. But even the best athletes recover from injury to come back fitter and stronger than ever.

 

The perfect set up!

In the mean time, rest, recover, stretch and roll. Get your long overdue chores done until you can manage some form of substitute exercise.

And remember, you will be back!

A Morning in Mossley 

I was quite anxious being invited to give a talk in Mossley school about growth mindset and the attitudes found in athletes as well as other people.

With no psychology qualifications, and only being a part of high level sport for 3 years, most of which was watching and training with far more developed athletes.. I’d hardly consider myself the perfect candidate.

None the less having rowed with people at all kinds of levels, been coached by some of the countries best coaches and ex athletes, I’ve been exposed to a great number of different approaches. Although the most successful all have one underlying feature. Even in the field of architecture and my degree the most talented people I have encountered share the outlook more commonly known as a growth mindset.

I entered the school armed with a press release for the paper, a short relatable PowerPoint for the children and a collection of medals and trophies I’ve gained over my short sporting career.

A growth mindset?

Well what exactly is a growth mindset and why is it suddenly becoming so popular?

The fundamental concept initiated by Carol Dweck of this mindset is the word yet. 

“you’re not there YET”.

I suppose you could call it an optimistic attitude.


Many people, children and adults alike, regularly experience failure. I personally experienced a big personal disappointment whilst racing Nice ironman. Other people can experience this by not attaining results for university, percentages for a sales job, children in class tests.

Now in this situation the pessimist  would be defeated. How could they ever do it? It’s not possible! The average athlete would settle, I can do better but that’ll do. The salesman will take his pay cheque a happy man, he didn’t need the bonus anyway.

But the one with the growth mindset won’t settle. They’re not unhappy, not defeated, but they acknowledge there’s room for improvement. An advanced version of themselves can manage this.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be the best of everyone, but the optimism to grow for the best possible personal gain.

And it can be hard when you’re down to pick yourself up. The children at Mossley referred to this as “the pit” but understood there is another side, where the grass is truly greener.

But as is said time and time again, there’s no substitute for hard work. A resilient character with a perseverance to give their best will find endless amounts of opportunities and doors open for them.

So I found myself presenting this idea in front of the junior section of Mossley school, 200 fresh faces staring back at me, reminding me of myself not too many years ago sat through a school assembly.

And I have to say I was thoroughly impressed by the reception and politeness of the children, and staff, in Mossley school.

Many of them had or will grasp the concept of hard work and reslience, knowing all they can do is their best. And that hard work can open endless opportunities for their future selves.

A set of children that should make the town proud and I look forward to seeing what this next generation of Congleton’s youngsters bring to the future.

Jan De Jonge – The Man Who Saved Me.

If there was an award for the nicest man ever, Jan De Jonge of People, Business, Psychology would 100% win that.

Monday 14th December, a normal day by all accounts. The Bath uni Basil Spence project was behind us, so it was time to crack on with some Christmas fitness, after all, the treats are earned. My Achilles was up to 80% so I decided to see what my legs had got and start with a cheeky 90k.

11am and I set out, chilly but dry, ready for a decent few hours in the chair. 55km down and I got a flat. Questions on winter tires, specialized armadillos letting me down, nonetheless armed with 2 spares and 3 gas canisters I was ready for the job. So I changed the tire and set back out on the job.
1.3km down the road, and it popped again. After 4,500km without a flat, I wasn’t convinced by this coincidence! So after rigorously checking the inside of the tire for the 4th time I put in my final spare tube. Popping as the gas canister inflated it, I was a stranded man.

So what to do. 50km from Bath and 15km from the nearest bike shop. Not allowed to run due to the Achilles, I was in serious trouble.

Stuck outside a row of terraced houses, I decided to try my luck on the doors. No answer to the first door, a lovely elderly lady at the second that unfortunately couldn’t help. As they say third time lucky, and that’s when I met Jan.

Unfortunately unable to provide a new inner tube, the worlds kindest man offered to drive me the 15km to Devizes, to find a bike shop for a new tire and inner tube.
Slightly taken aback by the offer i didn’t know what to say, but in true Christmas spirit Jan drove me to Devizes where I was kindly provided with a spare tire for the remainder of the journey home before sun set.

I can’t thank Jan enough for his kind deed that day! I’d have had to spend almost £100 on taxis or walk until the following morning! I was thoroughly touched by his sentiment. Not many people would have carried out the deed he did that day, I’ll always remember his help!  And definitely help any others I find in a situation like mine.

Its days like this that restore my faith in the human spirit.

Cycling – free transport? 

I constantly find myself making promises to visit friends in remote parts of the country that I sometimes really struggle to keep.

I mean don’t get my wrong, I’d love to visit all of them! But for up to £70 a train, huge bags and 3 hours of hopping on and off, not to mention the rush to fit in a morning session. I’ll pass thanks.


However if it’s within cycling distance, well that’s a different story.

Granted everyone has different achievable distances. In the summer I rode 240km home without a struggle, today id struggle to ride 24km without needing a break. But if the party is within your distance it should seriously be considered.

It was only in summer that I found myself stuck in Bath while one of my best friends had his 21st planned in Northampton. Well, £50 train tickets or 160km each way is a tricky decision.

But none the less, I neatly folded my tuxedo into my rucksack, made sure I had all the vital accessories, last check for a toothbrush and off I went!

Yes I had to ride with a bit of food, £2 for a couple of belvitas, and yes it was a 5 hour shift in the chair, but to save £48?! Riding back off 2 hours sleep and a hangover wasn’t the prettiest day of my life, but it’s all in your head right?

Most people that want you at a party are happy to let you use their shower. They’ll usually even let you borrow a towel! How nice of them eh.

Nobody expects you to sit through the party in your sweaty cycling kit, nor carry 3 days provisions on your bike. But reducing carbon emissions, saving money and keeping fit. Can’t go wrong!

So next time you’re thinking its a nice a day and rushing around trying to get yourself sorted. Pack a small bag or rucksack, even give your clothes to friends to take. And get out and enjoy the ride! You’ll feel much better for it when you arrive I promise. And you’ll have earned that beer!

Being Healthy – an athletes advice

Weight loss, a healthy diet, a trim waist. One of the most common objectives for people in modern society.

Constantly on and off diet plans, struggling to find one that works, missing the treats you once had so much you just think what’s the point?

Believe it or not I can absolute relate. Having joined a gym and put on 24kg preceding rowing, before losing 16 for triathlon, I’ve learned a thing or two. So here are my most basic tips and tricks for a good diet and weight loss!

For an effective diet you’ll need the following 3 things:

  1. Patience
  2. Self Discipline
  3. Belief

Based on these 3 things, a very effective diet can be created. Weight loss won’t happen over night, or 2/3 days, or a week. But over a period of 2/3 weeks, visible weight loss can be achieved. How? you might ask, you’ve tried everything. Well, patience, self-discipline and belief.

So to lose weight calories in has to be smaller than calories out, you already knew that and it’s not as easy as it sounds right! So for a start, stop weighing yourself every day. Weight loss is carried out on a daily basis, however it should be measured weekly or fortnightly. Pick a day, probably rest day or the day after and jump on the scales! Otherwise, don’t worry about it. Weight fluctuates so much from day to day with food, water retention, sleep, exercise, it’ll only stress you out if you keep checking. Be patient, follow your diet plan and the results will come I promise!

Second of all, don’t completely cut yourself off from nice food. Complete isolation doesn’t work. After 4 months off running with injury, I’m not going to be able to run a marathon tomorrow. Trying to jump head first into the worlds most strict diet isn’t going to work. Treat yourself but be careful with your treats, pick a day once or twice a week that you’re allowed them treats so you don’t feel guilty. Plan to break the rules so that it’s under control, this can be best used if it is after a long session of exercise and the treats feel earned.

  Self discipline. This is the tricky one, when your body is running heavy deficits it can be hard to turn down treats. But if you replace chocolate, sugar, crisps, with something more healthy like salad, pickles or nuts. Again don’t over do it because any of these in abundance can be just as bad for you.

Alcohol. Oh it’s the devil! We love a drink, love being sociable, our lives can seem to evolve around it.

Alcohol is the downfall of most people, the calories contained in alcohol is astronomical, replacing the alcohol with a soft drink can really help this weight loss goal. I know drinking is sociable but you can learn to have just as much of a good time sober. Try a dry month for charity and you’ll find at the end of the month your inclination to alcohol is much lower.

The next is what to eat?! Cheap, healthy meals are hard to create. And finding meals tailored to your needs can be a tricky one and breakfast is always the hardest! Shopping weekly or fortnightly is a sure fire way to keep costs down and make it much easier to avoid unhealthy snacking.

I tend to find avoiding bread and cereals for breakfast is the best start to the day. Well how do you do that you might ask?! Low fat Greek yoghurt is a great way to start. Oats, raisins, nuts and honey are just a few ways to make this meal slightly more exciting! Porridge, fresh fruit or a smoothie are other excellent starts.

A snack to get you to lunch isn’t out of the question on a diet! A small healthy snack to boost metabolism would be ideal here. Graze boxes offer some great ideas here. Or low calorie breakfast bars too! Even make your own flapjack/granola to get you through the week.

What happens next in the day varies from person to person. If you’ve got a heavy afternoon lined you might need a big meal to get you through, leaving a lower calorie meal for dinner. Alternatively a light bite at lunch before a big dinner can also work!

The trick is to eat a regular healthy volume of low calorie food, rich in nutrients. Soup, salad or an omelette are a great way to achieve this. A big enough meal to satisfy your stomach without the guilt of excess calories is what you want, not a depressing 30g salad!

The biggest bit of advice I can offer is keep yourself happy whilst you’re dieting. If you feel constantly run down, tired and depressed it’s not going to work out. Fact. you’re probably giving yourself too few calories anyway! Enjoy cooking fresh meals, trying out new food combinations and treating yourself. Treats don’t have to be bad.

However… you should feel hungry while you adapt, it can take a while for your stomach to shrink!

I’ll be posting over the coming weeks on my own diet and how my weight loss is going, so stay tune…

don’t forget, believe in yourself! You can do it with patience, self discipline, belief. It gets easier I promise..

And most importantly keep yourself happy!

What is a healthy diet? 

Diet. The word is enough to make people shudder, and is unanimously one of the most common questions I get asked when I tell people I do triathlon. “Are you on a diet”, “are you really careful with what you eat?”.

Having moved through the sports from a 60kg young ballet dancer to a 94kg rower and back to a 78kg triathlete I’ve experienced a vast range of nutritional techniques supporting and detracting from sport at a variety of different levels.

   

 Well for a start, what actually is a diet?

I’ve got friends that are lactose intolerant, so they avoid foods that are going to flair up their symptoms, is that a diet?

I’ve got friends that are power lifters, so eat everything they see to gain weight and power. That’s a diet too right?

I know people that don’t do sport but have a diet rich in vitamins and minerals to stay healthy, also a diet no?

As well as people that just don’t eat to stay as small as possible, they’d also argue they’re dieting.

And I have friends that are trying to lose weight like myself and they regularly ask me what they should eat, a topic I’ll be covering in my next blog. But this is the most stereotypical form of diet, weight loss.
So right now I know what you’re thinking…. and yes I actually have friends.

But what ticks the box for a healthy diet? Arguably the most healthy of the above options is the natural diet that gives the body optimum sustenance with none of the sometimes damaging effects of sport. Avoiding illness and keeping your body well looked after, giving it everything it needs to function.

A very narrow minded Google defines diet as specifically weight loss, however controlled weight gain is also a very popular form of diet.

Stating the obvious for one to lose weight calories in < calories out. Fact. Therefore to lose weight you’re starving your body of the nutrients it needs to function, encouraging it to adapt to perform using less calories and burn the fat that already exists in your body, and naturally some of the muscle too.

But starving your body to encourage the depletion of healthy stores that your body has saved up doesn’t sound very healthy to me? Although it is dieting.

   

A lot of people that know me will know I love a nice meal out with friends and have a heavy soft spot for sugar, but having lost 11kg in 10 weeks for Ironman Wales I’m no stranger to the diet world. A slow sustained weight management diet can prove healthy and beneficial however it takes time, resilience and patiences and won’t happen over night. It can also be hard, harder than going to the gym or exercising, because the will to say no and resist temptation can be almost impossible when your body is running deficits.

So a diet is just eating specific foods, but a healthy diet? Be it losing weight or gaining weight I would define careful nutritional management for constant benefit as a healthy diet. Eliminating harmful substances and not using the radical tactics some people take to punish their body hoping for imminent effect. Careful control over the nutrients supplied to body should be what a diet is. This way it is also most effective and can actually be defined as healthy.

So to answer the original question, what is a healthy diet?

A healthy diet is not harmful. It is careful nutrition, self discipline and time.

Clinchers vs. Tubulars – the common question

One of the most regularly asked questions of amateur cycling, you’re after new wheels but do you go for the clinchers your used to or the mythical beasts they call tubs.

Being relatively new to road cycling, I have to admit my knowledge probably isn’t that of a professional engineer or tire scientist, although with 4 road bikes and a tt bike on order, I’ve experienced a fair share of different tires & conditions.

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My 2 most used set ups are a pair of basic shimano R40 clinchers with gatorskins/specialized armadillos (I’ve tried both), and on my race bike I use a mavic cosmic ultimate tub rear wheel and a velo-smith hand made front wheel. And it has to be said, they’re fast, very fast. I’ve also ridden a set of giant’s SLR aero clinchers to get a feel for the differences.

Its pretty clear that with the current technology of both the wheels, there isn’t much difference in aero advantage. There’s no denying the carbon clinchers were fast, they had the same bite the tubs offered. The deep rims purring away every time my legs offered a kick of watts. But the pros must use tubs for a reason right? From the personal experience of riding both of the options I have to say I much prefer the tubs to ride, however clinchers offer much more security.

Advantages of tubular tires:

  • Grippy – fast feel
  • Higher tire pressure (in dry conditions)
  • Puncture resistance
  • Weight – usually a few hundred grams lighter

Disadvantages of tubular tires:

  • Hard to change in a hurry
  • Expensive to run
  • Terrifying for the average cyclist

 


When you don’t have the engineers following you in the team sky support car, it can be frustrating fixing a puncture. However with a clincher it’s the same common process, tube out, check over, tube in, inflate. Whereas a tub is much harder to change. It is possible to rip it off and put on a new tub however this is a hard process and the tub usually needs preparing before it gets fitted. The Vittoria pitt stop is fantastic and usually does the job however as I found in a race late September, if you have more than just a simple puncture, this can leave you pretty stranded!

Tubs are much more expensive to purchase and run that the average clincher. With the tires coming in at around £30 each, and pitt stop at £7-10, the inner tube seems like a much more reasonable option. Although the higher pressure in a tub makes a real difference. In dry conditions I found myself riding up to 120psi helping the heavier cyclists. Although in wet conditions I had to ride the standard 80psi nullifying this advantage. The hiss of tires on the start line isn’t a fun sound anyway, let alone when you’re riding tubs.

It has to be said that when riding my tubs the lack of rolling resistance, smooth grip on the surface and few less grams on the hills makes a big difference. The confidence into the corners and attack into the last stages of a climb was something I really used to my advantage through the 2015 season. Although troubles with changing and gluing new tires was something I won’t be jumping to do again in a hurry.

Having just purchased a time trial bike, I opted for clinchers. The few grams I’d save could be lost with one less doughnut at the buffet and the security of a couple of minutes puncture fix is a risk I’m willing to take knowing I can definitely fix it. A peace of mind that will certainly help in training and the long run.
Looking at both sides offering advantages and disadvantages for both I’ve not really offered any form of verdict. So my decision? Both. Well that’s not a decision really is it, so if, like myself, you’re not made of money and have to decide, I would advise it depends on the use for the wheel.
Tubs are comfortable and fast, very fast. Ideal for hot weather and racing. Fitting this on your bike will give you extra confidence and a real kick in races. However for every day use or lots of hours training, a carbon clincher offers a very similar standard to the tubular tire, with the ease of changing, so I’d recommend this option.

Don’t Jump the Puddle!

So this morning I went running…. brilliant you might think. We’ve all done stuff, we’ve all run before, you’re a triathlete so surely that’s pretty regular? What do you want, a medal?

And no, today was a pretty standard run, grizzly day in the South West with a wet and muddy canal path to run down. I’m still in rehab so can’t run fast as my achilles is tender. So days like this I’m usually pretty steady and observant.

 

Muddy Path from Saturday

 

As is pretty common for a Monday lunch run, I encountered a few other keen runners, usually training for the bath half around this time of year. But passing them today was particularly difficult.

We’ve all been walking down the high street in a hurry when some little tourist, couple or shopper weaves all about the pavement like they’re a snake. And all you want to do is push them out of the way. Today was no exception to this, and the main reason for the swerve, was to miss the puddles.

 

Flair Trainers

 

 

I can kind of relate, you have fresh shoes from Santa, you want to show off your Christmas flair and the mud is only going to cover them up. Although the summer you’d run down the same path as if there’s nothing there, stepping where the puddles are. So why now suddenly jump 5cm deep puddles as if they’re a 30foot mine shaft. Jumping the puddles can be really bad for your legs and therefore your running.

More canyoning

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It’s no secret that as you get older you’re more susceptible to injuries and running is a very high impact sport. Most runners run at around 160/170 steps per minute. With each stride up to 550% of your body weight is transferred into your legs. Meaning your quads, knees, ankles are taking quite a beating.

This high impact sport can bring regular injuries at the best of times, putting extra strain on the tendons and muscles in the cold by jumping the puddles like you’re some kind of ballroom dancer, definitely won’t help. A steady rhythm of running is both faster and more efficient, something regularly interrupted by these deep ravines you have to avoid.

So why do you want to jump the puddle?! You’re getting muddy anyway, it’s already raining so you’re gonna get wet, so get stuck in! 40 years ago you and Janice would have loved jumping around and getting muddy. Why stop now?

Most people will run for a maximum of one hour, with your toes being regularly engaged they’re not going to get cold I promise. Your shoes will dry, your kit will clean, so pretend you’re a child again and have some fun! You’re less likely to get injured, and your regular stride will help you run faster too!

Bad Weather or Bad Gear?

Many cyclists are familiar with the velominati rules. You don’t have to get far down the list to come across rule #9:

Rule #9 // If you are out riding in bad weather, it means you are a badass. Period.
Fair-weather riding is a luxury reserved for Sunday afternoons and wide boulevards. Those who ride in foul weather – be it cold, wet, or inordinately hot – are members of a special club of riders who, on the morning of a big ride, pull back the curtain to check the weather and, upon seeing rain falling from the skies, allow a wry smile to spread across their face. This is a rider who loves the work.

 

the top of bannerdown

 

However you don’t necessarily have to love the work, but love the sport and riding your bike. Even my parents at the age of 50 will still not be deterred by a light shower here or there. “The weather is bad” or “I don’t want to ruin my bike” are the most common excuses heard in cycle clubs nowadays.

It was just earlier today that I looked out the window and saw a wet, bleak, January morning. It wasn’t icy like yesterday, meaning there was no danger of slippery roads. Instead of deciding to miss the session and head back to my work I headed over to my chest of drawers, pulled them open and started to rummage for the days kit.

 

a similar outfit last year

 

Winter leggings, 3 thermal tops, 2 pairs of gloves, a gilet, 2 pairs of socks and my thickest overshoes later, I set out into the misty morning. Is there such a thing as bad weather? Or do we just need to wrap up, stay dry and stay warm?

As I was riding I encountered numerous other riders, something not uncommon for a Sunday morning surrounding Bath. However one thing that was uncommon, unanimously 100% of the riders returned my greeting with a wave or a hello.

Only a small difference however it made me realise that in this moment of bad weather, the people that really love the sport, it’s community, the opportunities it provides are always there come rain or shine!

The riders weren’t all riding fast, riding road bikes or training like me. A trait that doesn’t necessarily have to be replicated. But all out to enjoy themselves, with a smile on their face remembering why they do it. An example that should definitely be followed!

Indoor Training – Winterly or Weekly?

The watt bike, the turbo trainer, your mates rollers. Most of people see them as the devil, what’s the real benefit of indoor sessions when you could be out in glorious British weather enjoying the rolling hills of the countryside. Is there any benefit?

The Bath Uni Watt Bikes


It’s not always we get the luxury of heading outdoors for the long rides we all desire. Real life schedules, icy weather and bike maintenance are just a few reasons we sometimes have to suck it up and hit the indoor sessions. Not always first choice for most athletes, but should we be using this all year round?

Beautiful British Countryside


A sprinter has his indoor track, a rower has his ergometer, a cyclist has his turbo. These controlled environments allow you to really maximise your fitness taking away a lot of the chances of injury. The warmth of a gym can help to relax your muscles ensuring your body is fully ready for a tough session. Sprints can be controlled, power output efficiently monitored and there are no external variables such as gradient and weather. This means a session can be created and carried out to perfectly suit specific needs.

But is this the only benefit?

Rowers use the monotony of an ergo to train mental toughness. Digging deep and pushing hard, squeezing every ounce of energy out of their body. A mental state deep inside ‘the pain cave’ difficult to recreate outside of a racing environment. There’s a reason people are reluctant to carry out indoor training, and that’s cause it hurts.

GB Rower Sam Courty Turbo Training


You’re not outside, moving, experiencing the world. There’s no downhills to hide on, no back wheel to suck, no respite for the legs. Just you, your trainer, and the hard, cold numbers. If you’re not pushing the watts, it will tell you. As we all know, there is no audience for hard work, but the capacity to push with nobody watching, testing, admiring, is something not all athletes have. Sticking out sessions when you don’t have to ride home, you can just jump off, at any point you could just stop. Nothing is keeping you going, is it?

 


This is where the real athlete is born, the absolute desire for self improvement, the strive for perfection that we see in all our very best role models. This is the kind of environment champions are made. Pushing beyond all limits, when others have stopped, just to become the best. Different coaches have different approaches to indoor sessions, but most would agree that sprint sessions are invaluable in training to produce that killer snap in an athlete.


British winter has arrived and it’s not every day you can get out andenjoy the sun. Dust off the turbo, put on a good film/sound track and see just how many watts you can produce for 30 minutes, twice a week. And I guarantee when summer comes around, your legs will be your friend.