refresh and reset

Where have I been? At home mostly.


End of blog...


Just kidding but no, yes I have been at home a lot lately. Since leaving London and shipping over to Northern Ireland, it's all been about finding our feet as a family which meant one of us would have to be adaptable. That fell to me so after the honeymoon period of putting down roots and cycling all around the place, I haven't been out on a bike since end of November. For many of you who have been part of the NITP community over the years would be shocked to hear that. Put it this way, I've done more running miles in 2022 than cycling! So why the absence and time away from cycling and website?


Refresh


All honesty, I lost a little mojo for cycling in general. I wanted to use the time and opportunities to do other things like explore my new local area. I am privileged to be next to an abundance of walking and hiking trails through the Mournes and the neighbouring forests. I found spending time in this new terrain refreshed a lot of mindset and how we probably all take a lot for granted. Walking through the Mournes, I've got to see views and be surrounded by some jaw dropping landscapes, something I wouldn't experience on the road bike. My last time on the road bike wasn't a happy one as I had a puncture on a very mucky road down from Newry and it just cemented my feeling at the time that a break was due.


It is important to take a break if you feel like you need it. Society is really pushing the importance and understanding of personal well being and mental health so you shouldn't feel guilty to take some personal time or just try other things for a while. Mental health wise, I have been absolutely fine. I get bored and grumpy if I'm not kept busy. Even my legs get restless if I haven't done any exercise. It's like they've been programmed to move in a pedalling motion and will throw some aches my way if they don't get what they crave.


Alternatives


Just because I haven't touched the bikes doesn't mean I haven't done anything though. I decided to sell my turbo trainer and buy a spin bike. I thought the maintenance costs of wearing out the chain, cassette and wheel was something I didn't want to keep forking out for. If there was no budget, a smart bike would of been the one but I opted for a belt driven spin bike and it's done the job. Because I am not using Zwift with it (I'd need power meter pedals), it can become a little mundane using it. I'll often complete a set of standing hill climbs at different intervals but maximum of an hour is all I can motivate myself to do at the moment.


Coming across a few people on YouTube such as Stephen Reid who are based here use the Mournes etc. for trail running. This peaked my interest. I used to play football for many years ago so I used to run. My aerobic fitness should be at a level where I can start a bit further than a total beginner but it would be a massive wake up call to my legs to shift all my weight from the bike to the lower limbs for motion.



So I invested in some running gear including a basic pair of trail shoes. Some of the upper end prices were eye watering and I didn't know if the whole trail thing would take off for me so best to buy safe first. Although slower, running is a pure freedom thing. Run anywhere basically. Road, grass, track, trail, snow, beach. Doesn't take long to get ready either although one thing I had to work out was where do you put your personal belongings? I have seen a few trail runners wear special trail chest packs which looked neat but I was already out of budget and have a few Osprey backpacks which could do the job for the time being. It did mean a bit of an unorthodox approach to running as if I didn't tighten the straps, everything was jumping up and down on my back. Might as well ran with lil NITP on my back!


Honestly though, running through the forests and into the Mournes is raw and refreshing to the point you feel like you don't want to go home. Well that is until your legs start to feel like lead. I've managed to do anywhere between 2-4miles at a time with a few walking breaks. Anything past this mileage, the DOMS will be brutal plus I have to consider my back too and what it can withstand which brings me onto my next alternative.


Strength and Conditioning


Years and years of riding have conditioned my body to only be good at one movement. At the time, I knew I needed to do more but it was just laziness and ignorance that I didn't do any strengthening off the bike and I paid for it when I had my back injury nearly a couple of years ago now. Being off the bike has presented an opportunity for me to focus solely on my back. I came across Tim at the Strength Farm down the road from me and thought this was one avenue that I haven't tried yet. I've done the physio, chiropractor and osteopath route. They were all focused on getting me back to daily life but I don't want to be there anymore. I wanted to start thriving and give my body a chance to live rather than be restricted. Tim put me through a few tests to see my levels of mobility especially in my hips and ankles and found I had some pronation issues. This was probably from my body adjusting itself over time to combat the back issues I experienced.



Some of the tests really hit home how rusty my body felt. One test involved a hip flex and the first attempt I could hardly bend at the hip. But after many repetitions, my hips started to loose and I was flexing further. It reminded me how adaptable the body can be if you condition it. I went away after the first session with full determination and the exercises were hard. One exercise had me holding my body in a semi-press up position - awful! The one leg raises made me feel my hamstrings was going to snap! But on my 2nd session with Tim, the progress was very evident and I was experiencing less bouts of pain. To put into context, your lower back is like a coiled spring, it's responsible for a lot of bending and arching with a lot of weight and pressure going through. My spring became seized and rusted so I am now in the process of waking it up and bringing this spring back to life. I am currently coming up to my 3rd session (once a month) but due to a couple of times of being sick, my progress has stalled a little but S+C is the final piece to the puzzle I've been looking for. I expect in no time to perform some front flips purely for the Insta stories!


Goals


Because I have dabbled into a bit of trail running, I really haven't looked at what I want to tick off this year in terms of cycling. There is Lap the Lough over here which I wouldn't mind doing. It's a full circuit of Lough Neagh and it's fairly local to me. The Lakelander Gravelgrinder is also something I want to do again especially as I have unfinished business there. I have though considered selling my gravel bike and buying a MTB on the basis that I can get into the bike trails more around here. I don't feel confident using my gravel bike as the brake system isn't great at all. Why not upgrade that then? Still can't use the gravel for the pure mucky and tricky stuff. Why not do both? Don't have the finances so it's something I need to consider.


Back to the trail running. The Mournes in the Summer would be a big playground and I want to start ticking off some of the summits. In dry weather, the terrain would be more kind and some of the views on offer would be a worthy reward.


What about the website? I've started to get back into it and thinking of an opening up a running section to cover my new found interest. We've put our range of logos on some apparel if you fancy some casual wear! In all honesty, everything comes down to time.



When you have a young family, they come first and I do feel guilty if I am out for a few hours and not being badgered about playing cars and building towers! Like to assume though that the pandemic has reordered people's priorities in their life especially if you have children. Most parents and guardians work full time and getting time with your children is difficult. I currently don't work on Fridays purely because I want to spend that day with my son and have that bond with him. I feel it has had a big impact on his growing up and I happily accept cycling as a sacrifice for that.



So in terms of things to tick off this year, it's all about opportunity and availability. If I can commit to it, I'm in. If not, focusing on strengthening my back, core and hips is more than a suitable alternative. If you feel some of my what I have shared resonates with you, it's ok to take a break and refresh. The key is to optimise that time away from your interest and hobby with something that kicks that motivation and happiness into gear again. Try something completely new and different, seek a bit of inspiration around and get out of your comfort zone. Your body will appreciate the change and the benefits back over into cycling are endless.


See you out there!


Ben aka notinthepeloton


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