TWC reader Natalie Trice shares her story about getting back in the saddle again after a long absence. Having children, work and general life had got in the way of exercise. But now she is back in the saddle again, she says there is no turning back.
For as long as I can remember, cycling has been in my blood. My childhood summers were spent outside with my sisters on our bikes. We would ride from morning to night, clocking up miles worthy of Strava kudos and whether I was on a second hand heap from the dump or a shiny new Raleigh, when I was in the saddle I was at my happiest.
During my teenage years I cycled with friends, navigated the gravel tracks of Cannock Chase with my bike-mad boyfriend and then commuted across London when the Boris bike was as much of a foreign concept as the iPhone.
Then I got married and had my children. My bike was replaced with a Bugaboo, my helmet became a toy drum and not even my gel saddle was enough to soothe the wounds of childbirth.
Soft play and milestones got in the way of my cycling but I stopped in my tracks earlier this summer when I read a survey from Bulk Powders, the sports supplement brand. It revealed 30% of Brits don’t follow the exercise recommendations from the NHS and my face flushed with guilt knowing I was one of 20% doing nothing at all. With the boys at school and my work flexible, there was no excuse for not doing the two and a half hours of aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities a week needed to keep fit and healthy.
I pushed away the blueberry muffin I was scoffing, it tasted dry and I felt a fraud as I sat there in designer harem pants and limited edition trainers. Far from being the tell tale signs of a workout, they were testament to the fact that whilst I was a member of the gym, the reality was other than a little candlelit Yoga the most exercise I got was hot-footing it round the shops buying the latest kit.
“Yes darling of course you will”, was my husband’s response that evening when I mentioned clambering into the depths of the garage and dusting off my mountain bike. His stifled laugh, and my conscience nagging me about being a lazy Brit, was enough to get me back in the saddle to prove I was no couch potato.
Two weeks later, with my bike set up and helmet cleaned, I made a pact with two friends to get out on the roads and I haven’t looked back since.
I will admit that the first few rides were embarrassingly hard and at times, with sweat stinging my eyes and my hamstrings burning, I wanted to cry. My bike was past its best; my legs screamed they were in a similar predicament and I gasped for breath every time we hit a hill.
However, the moment my feet hit the pedals I felt free and at home.
Getting back on my bike was less about weight loss and more about shedding the lazy tag I’d earned, getting away from the laptop, pushing myself to the limits and having a little headspace.
With British Cycling pledging to get one million more women on bikes by 2020, I started thinking that there must be others out there who, like me, want to get back on their bikes but have lost their confidence and fitness levels.
Alison Rose, Director of Coach House Sports Physiotherapy Clinic, advised me, “People fall out of shape and away from exercise for a number of reasons, but the good news is there are a number of accessible options for anyone wishing to get back to their recommended fitness levels.
“Cycling is one of the best forms of exercise you can do if you’re unfit or haven’t exercised for a while. There’s no huge requirement for dynamic or core strength and it’s easy on your joints. Start with as little as five minutes cycling and build up gradually over time. If you start small you will soon build up to the recommended levels of 30 minutes three times per week or a variation on that, such as 15 minutes, six days per week.”
I will admit there have been times when going for coffee has been more tempting than a 15 mile hill ride, and thieves stealing my new Cannondale took my confidence away, but I love being on the road and feel like we are old mates reunited. I return from a ride exhilarated and can’t quite believe that in the past three months I’ve gone from doing little more than walking to school, to clocking up an average of 50 miles a week.
With four charity rides booked for 2015, my fitness levels rising and Saturday mornings spent pedalling rather than sleeping in; my husband and sons tell me I’m their cycling hero.
This article was written by Natalie Trice. To find out more about her, check out her website.
Also worth a read: