Conditioning

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Because it doesn’t seem right call it ‘training’. Training is for races, or a specific event. In my case there should be plenty of time for me to just ‘ride in’ to fitness as my journey progresses; I shouldn’t need to build up to it.

And yet I’d prefer to start positively. To have the ability to do 50+ mile days, back-to-back on an 80lb bike, or ride into the mountains if I have to. Most of all I don’t want to have to worry about arse-chafing. I’m planning not to use padded shorts for the duration of my trip, so my taint needs to be tough, and it will only get that way through riding (although if there’s another way – vinegar? heat? other conkers-related methods?) I’d probably consider it.

I was probably the fittest I’d ever been by the end of last autumn. Capable of riding 60 miles in 3-hours by myself on country lanes (I’m still absurdly, pathetically proud of that). Then winter arrived and I spent nearly a month in Thailand and it all fell to bits. Running helped to keep the weight off and maintain cardiovascular fitness but my cycling legs quickly softened. I knew I was setting myself a trap but I couldn’t face riding in the cold and the rain.

January was bleak and my Reynaud’s was a constant frustration but I managed to get out most weekends.  Initially I found it frustrating to be bumbling around on my hybrid, 5mph slower than just a few months ago.  I finished building my touring bike just as a bit of dry weather arrived, allowing me to do some much-needed successive days in the saddle. Nothing big, but enough to feel the firmness returning (wahey).

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As some of the fitness returned, I started to enjoy riding again, even at a glacial pace on familiar roads. The heads-up riding position of my touring bike, and change of focus started to seem like benefits rather than burdens. I’d often need to stop somewhere after ninety minutes or so. To warm up my hands and feet I told myself. But this desire for sensation in my extremities encouraged me to check out pubs or cafes I’d never been to, or visit friends for a cup of tea. I’d rarely do that when smashing along on my road bike in the summer.

By now I should be riding fully-loaded, to get used to it and really develop torque and power, but I can’t bring myself to do it. Once was enough; just to see if everything would fit and the bike wouldn’t fall to bits with everything on it.

When it’s sunny and dry in February and March, I love riding in the British countryside. The views at this time of the year are unobscured and unparalleled as the hedgerows have just been trimmed right back and leaves aren’t even starting to appear on branches.  It’s been a great few weeks to say goodbye to the lanes I’ve been riding for the last decade!

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