Motivation

For the first time in a very long time, I am finding it hard to motivate myself to keep exercising. The fact that exercise has been proven to slow the progression of Parkinson’s is usually a pretty big motivator in itself and exercise is a great coping strategy. Obviously social distancing regulations have played a significant part but I’ve been reflecting on what other factors might be involved.

Routine

Without fail, twice a week for the past four years, I have trained with my personal trainer at the gym. When my training session is in my diary, I never think ‘Will I or won’t I?’ or ‘Maybe later’. Without question, I get up and just do it!

No routine = No Reason

Just Do It!

I can’t take credit for the phrase ‘Just Do It’ but the sentiment works for me. If I get up and go to the gym first thing, I never fail to exercise. If I take the ‘I’ll do it later’ approach, ‘later’ sometimes simply does not happen.

Leave it Until Later = Leave it until Tomorrow!

Commitment

I have a commitment to train with a friend once a week and we share a personal trainer for this session. If I didn’t turn up, I would be letting my friend and my trainer down, so yet again, I never question it, I ‘just do it’.

No Commitment = No Commitment

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Friends & FUN

I enjoy exercising with others. Most of my cycling is with friends. The occasional solo cycle is great but for a long, hard, training cycle, the company of friends makes the whole experience so much more enjoyable no matter how hard it might be physically. I go further and faster, have more fun and enjoy it so much more when training with friends.

No Friends = No Fun!

The Great Outdoors

Cycling outdoors is my exercise of choice. With our outdoor time restricted, I’m trying to find an ‘at home’ exercise that will give me the same buzz as cycling outdoors does. But there isn’t one! I simply cannot find anything to like about our indoor turbo trainer! No wind in my hair, no company, no fresh air, no sights, sounds or the sunshine that comes with the changing seasons. I really must try harder!

No outdoors = No Motivation!

Goal Setting

Each year, I set myself a physical challenge to ensure that I exercise harder and more regularly than I might otherwise do. Whilst our Raid Alpine challenge hasn’t been cancelled, as with everything else, it is under a cloud of doubt and so I’m finding it harder to maintain my commitment to such intense training, with the concern that it might have to be postponed.

No Goal = No Training!

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The Feel Good Factor

I feel better after exercise, physically and psychologically. My Parkinson’s symptoms are less noticeable after an exercise session and I know I am doing something that gives me the best chance of an active future. Starting the day with exercise makes me feel positive and energised for the rest of the day. I am the fittest I have ever been and that feels great.

As with most of the rest of the world, almost overnight my routine has been interrupted, my freedom to exercise with others has ceased and my ability to go outdoors limited. At the same time, my kids, home from university are desperate to walk the dog, so I haven’t got the same demands from her! My exercise goal – The Raid Alpine sits under a cloud of uncertainty and my ‘just do it’ mentality has been rocked.

It’s been useful to reflect on what helps and what hinders my motivation to exercise. When the time comes to return to some normality, I will ensure I reinstate all the elements that make my exercise regime work for me. I look forward to that day and in the meantime, like everyone else, I have to make the most of the situation we all find ourselves in and do what I can to keep my self as fit as possible because one day our lives will return to a more normal state.

Training Stats

During 2020, I’ve done three months of hard, hilly cycle training: 37 cycle rides, most of which I’ve arrived home exhausted from, nearly 102 hours (moving time) covering a distance of 1782km and climbing 22,200m of hills and yet…..

I’ve climbed just over twice the height and twice the distance that we need to do in the six days of The Raid Alpine.

A little context

Had I not returned home after each cycle, I could have reached Slovenia, Budapest, Stockholm, Madrid or Krakow on my bicycle by now.

AND

I have cycled the height of all the following mountains combined:

Ben Nevis – 1,345m

Image Source: Wikipedia

Snowdon – 1,085m

Image Source: Indépendante

Kilimanjaro – 5895m

Image Source: Britannica

Machu Picchu – 2430m

Image Source: Indépendante

Mont Blanc – 4810m

Image Source: Britannica

Matterhorn – 4478m

Image Source: Wikipedia

Mount Olympus – 2918m

Image Source: Independant

Yes! All of these combined….

I’m very aware with the current pandemic, we are likely to at least have to postpone this challenge, although we haven’t had this confirmed yet. So, while cycling in the great outdoors is still permitted, albeit solo, rather than in a group, I’d best keep training…….

Snail’s Pace

Another sunny day, another day of social distancing and another day of ‘stay at home’ except to exercise.

There is much concern about the impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing of social distancing and isolation, amidst health, employment and financial concerns and so much uncertainty.

My antidote to all things stressful is to get out on my bike but whether it’s on your bike, walking or running, being outdoors has taken on a whole new level of freedom that many of us had previously taken for granted.

We are so lucky to live a few minutes from glorious countryside where social distancing is easy to achieve, so John and I cycled some local hills, enjoying a slow, mindful pace or so I thought! On reflection, I enjoyed a slow, mindful pace, enjoying the fresh air, the tranquility, the wind on my face, the sights and sounds of the countryside and the quiet roads, deserted except for a few fellow cyclists or walkers. John enjoyed the cycle but despite his patience, was a little frustrated by the slow pace and is keen to go out alone tomorrow for a ‘proper’ cycle!

Family Time

With the go ahead from Boris to leave the house once a day to exercise, I yet again opted to cycle.

None of my three boys are particularly keen cyclists. There are frequent mumblings that parental obsessions with all things cycling may have put off any budding Bradley Wiggins in our family!

So it was wonderful when Rory enthusiastically agreed to join me. Three days of social distancing clearly does strange things to teenagers!

We thoroughly enjoyed a sunny, easy paced cycle over 26km in lovely countryside. There were lots of cyclists out and lots of families out walking and taking. I can’t help but wonder if we might as a nation become a little fitter and a little more in tune with each other as a consequence of this period of social distancing. It would be good to think that some positives might unfold over time.

A Little Normality

Amidst a stark ‘Stay at Home’ message from the Prime Minister, a little gift….we’re allowed to leave the house to do one form of exercise a day. After debating for a nanosecond what kind of exercise that might be, John and I chose cycling!

During these unprecedented times, it is lovely to be able to enjoy the sunshine, our gorgeous countryside and to maintain a little degree of normality.

Gratitude

Even in these difficult times, I have found a lot to be grateful for this week.

I am grateful beyond words that my Dad is recovering well following his heart surgery.

I’m grateful for the skill, expertise and dedication of the doctors, nurses and all the other NHS staff who made this possible during such challenging times.

I’m grateful that my Dad had is surgery before the demand on ITU beds and ventilators overwhelms the NHS.

I’m grateful that he should be well enough to be home before the surge in demand for NHS services. Home has to be the safest place for him as soon as he is able. His bed, ventilator and the highly trained staff who have cared for him when he needed it most will then be available for others when they need it most.

I’m grateful for the support of family and friends in so many ways, always.

In such stressful times, it is even more important that we take a breath, calm the mind and be grateful for what we have.

Some Normality

For all sorts of reasons, we haven’t cycled together since Lanzarote:

  • Work commitments
  • Family commitments
  • The weather
  • The Coronavirus
  • Ewan living 450 miles apart from the rest of us!

So, it was lovely to cycle today with John A, John A, Roland and Caroline. A socially distant cycle – note the lack of team photos, no sharing of snacks, no welcome or congratulatory hugs and 2 metres between us (often considerably more as I tried to keep pace)! But it was great to do something in a near normal manner in such abnormal times.

60km cycled amidst our beautiful countryside where social distancing is a natural phenomenon, remote country roads, passing only the occasional car, walker or horse rider, 1100m climbed, 2 metres apart. While many other exercise options are no longer available to us, thank goodness for cycling. The mental and physical health benefits from being outdoors and from exercising can only help build our resilience in these unprecedented times.

Ewan enjoyed a socially isolated cycle in sunny Scotland and of course we all shared and congratulated each other on our respective Strava stats and PBs!

We’ve proved it possible to retain our sense of team despite the geographic distances involved and we have proved it possible to retain for a short time at least, some sense of normality amidst so much uncertainty.

Lighthearted Learning from Lanzarote

1. Uphill is hard, downhill terrifying!

2. The heavier we are, the harder it is

3. Regular rest stops are Essential

4. The Cycle Tracking App Relates to Your Menstrual Cycle not your Bicycle!

5. Rehydration is Vital

6. Team Kit = Team Work

7. Style is a Personal Thing

8. You Can Never Carry Too Many Jelly Babies

9. Months More Hill Training Ahead………

10. It’s All for a Good Cause

A Small Matter of Percentages

Guest Blog by Ewan Mac<ean

Preparing for the Raid Alpine 2020

0-10%: An honest assessment of how prepared I felt arriving at our Lanzarote training camp to cycle previously unattempted distances and heights over consecutive days in a totally new environment.

25%: Approximately the number of the Cure Parkinson’s Trust Raid Alpine group that met for the training camp. If this bunch is reflective of the group as a whole then despite our different backgrounds, different abilities and different health issues, we will have a fabulous team spirit and a combined will to crack the task ahead! Speaking of will, Will Cook deserves a shout. Will is our leader and oozes calm authority and general niceness. He will undoubtedly be a strong hub to our collective group wheel.

50%: Kit, kit and more kit!! Having experienced the Lanzarote heat and, an issue for me that I’ll really have to address, the daily length of time exposed to the sun, the realisation, although I had a fair idea, that I don’t have half the kit required for the Raid! Many thanks to Alison for lending me sleeves, who knew they would be so useful?, and to Roland, my roomie, for the ‘bum’ butter, to protect my other two bits that are actually slightly in front of my bum! 🙈 🥜

On that theme a new saddle is a ‘must’, new shorts with extra padding are a ‘must’, and I’ll be googling ‘extra strong testicle butter’ as soon as I get home!! 🥴 If it’s not been marketed yet then I’ll shortly be making a pitch on Dragons Den!!!

75%: As a group we cycled many miles and took on some serious climbs. Climbs similar to those that we will have to complete over and over in the Alps. Many thanks to Francis for planning them out. Francis clearly thought through the distances and gradients to make the Lanzarote cycles as reflective as possible of parts of the days in the Alps.

The 75%? Well, I’ll keep training hard over the coming months but a big lesson for me is that the Raid, like life, is a long game: 1. to be enjoyed and 2. best played at a sustainable pace. Holding it at 75% effort up the mountains will hopefully see me complete each day without gassing out and retain the ability to move to the next day in a sustainable condition! Slow and steady will be a discipline but an essential one.


100%: Admiration. Total admiration for those within our group who have Parkinson’s. I would put myself down as a pretty fit 55 year old and I’m taking on what to me is a huge, huge physical, mental and no doubt emotional journey. To have now spent some time with Alison, Janet and Leona and see how they have to strategise what are more usually fairly normal every day tasks, then chose to get on a bike and cycle up mountains over long distances, you could be forgiven for thinking they’re slightly mad! However having spent some time with them and better understanding their condition, they are far from that, they are amongst the bravest and most committed people I’ve ever met. I’m 100% in awe of them. For them to devote themselves to this task and to raise as much money for CPT as possible has got me 100% hooked into doing the same.

0%: Finally, back to 0%, my own personal zero! Despite the recent few days of total bike envy and me consistently talking a good game to whoever would listen regarding acquiring a new top end carbon bike when I get home – 0% is the chance of me being allowed to!!