Tag Archives: health

Excluding views of cycling campaigners

After being asked by the County Council I recently suggested some items for the Leicestershire Cycle Liaison meeting agenda. I suggested 5 items:

  • parts of the TfL February Board meeting briefing paper (PDF) [focused on the need for segregation and the benefits of segregation]
  • a report from someone involved in transport strategy for new housing
  • plans of junctions that have been updated or are being designed now to review for cycle safety
  • a presentation from the Council on what requirements for cycling provision are included in all design briefs
  • an update on the Council’s policy on 20mph limits/zones given the changing national picture.

I fully recognise that I am pushing hard at Leicestershire County Council whose understanding of cycling provision is limited to education, signposting and shared use pavements.

However, I was disappointed to get this reaction from a Cycling Campaigner:

I have found in the past, that talking about highly charged issues, like you have sent for comments, can really only be done, to have any meaning, with a keen cyclist. do you fall into this category do you happily cycle at 28 to 33 kms per hour.If you do then it can be meaningful as anybody can cycle slower and fall in with the existing infrastructure, its the keen cyclist that has the problem.

So by this persons definition I am not a “keen cyclist” as I do not ride between 28 and 33kms per hour (that is 17.5 to 20.6mph) and because I am not a “keen cyclist” I should be happy with the existing infrastructure as I am not one of these “keen cyclists” who has the problem.

I was almost lost for words and it took sometime for my blood pressure to subside enough for a reasonably civil reply.

I campaign for cycling infrastructure to the latest Dutch standards because I am concerned about a variety of crises we face as a country:

  • deaths on the roads
  • obesity
  • congestion
  • air pollution
  • health costs
  • peak oil
  • CO2 emissions

While walking and use of public transport can also help with some of these crises nothing is more effective at tackling them all than switching lots and lots of journeys to ordinary people riding bikes. Not only that but switching people to riding bikes also happens to be great for the economy with shops, employers, home owners, health service, road maintenance, emergency services all benefiting.

I do not want to be associated with an attitude that defines only fast sports cyclists as “keen cyclists” and which does not consider the huge numbers of people who would like ride a bike but feel it is too dangerous.

So I am not a “keen cyclist” despite riding nearly every day and 3,500 to 5,500 miles a year! Moreover, my focus in Cycle Campaigning is not on “keen cyclists” by this definition (although my experience of cycling in the Netherlands shows that even “keen cyclists” benefit greatly from Dutch quality infrastructure.

[Update] I have now had a gracious response to my response from the person concerned confessing that they were being selfish.

Going public on Cycling goals for 2014

So far I been reflecting on goals for 2014 in Approaching the year end and considering future goals then I came over all mad and brave in Going public on a goal for 2014. The Leicester Sprint Triathlon. So what about cycling more generally for me? It must be time for “Going public on Cycling goals for 2014”.

This is about personal goals related to being more intentional about my health, the issue is typified by my inability to lose weight and keep it lost. I am 2kg heavier than a year ago, my body fat percentage is currently 26% (24% a year ago). Currently, just over 100kg I really want to get close to 80kg (although realistically it is a long time since I stayed under 90kg for very long).

So for cycling I am setting two goals based about two habits which seem to have been effective in the past.

  1. I will ride a bike at least 1 mile every single day. By simply getting on the bike I make sure I have done some exercise and most days once on the bike I do a lot more than 1 mile.
  2. I will complete a 100 mile ride once each month. I find these are really helpful in burning up fat. I have even booked dates in my calendar for these right through the year to try to make sure they happen. They are:

January 24th Friday
February 14th Friday
March 21st Friday
April 25th Friday
May 9th Friday
June 6th Friday
July 12th/13th Saturday/Sunday (Dunwich Dynamo) = 200km
August 8th Friday
September 13th Saturday (Historic Churches)
October 17th Friday
November 7th Friday
December 5th Friday

Hopefully that will bring my annual mileage back up to about 5,000 in the year (2011 total miles was 4,700; 2012 total miles was 5,500; 2013 total miles is 3,500).

Along with the swimming and running needed for the triathlon I am hoping this will help tackle my ongoing concern with my weight.

I am also committing myself to some stretching and core muscle work as I know I benefit from them. I am not entirely confident about my ability to stick to these having failed so many times in the past. For the plank I can currently do 60 seconds and so my goal is to simply increase that by 1 second a day. I am still working on what stretching to do.

Fortunately, I love doing the cycling so the goals are much easier to stick at than goals related to weight loss or other exercise.

Approaching the year end and considering future goals

So with just a few days of 2013 left I’m starting the process of reflecting on the year just ending and considering my goals for the year to come.

I will have cycled just over 3,500 miles which is about 2,000 miles down on 2012. I am putting that down to last year’s LeJoG ride and the training for it. Probably the key loss for me has been a much reduced number of longer day rides.

On the plus side I have had some fantastic rides on my Bike For Life which continues to be all that I had hoped for: a delightful bike to ride that is incredibly reliable, low maintenance and practical.

Less good is that my Pearson Touche fixie has been off the road for a while. Hoping to find time to sort that out soon.

Next step is going to think about my goals for the next year and how public I am going to be about them. For various reasons (including an approaching 50th birthday towards the end of 2014) I want to be more intentional about my health than I have achieved in the past. Making that challenge harder is my proven poor interest and stickability at daily routine and good habits. Riding a bike is going to be a key part of this but it isn’t enough.

Maybe more on that later.

I am also interested to see how the blog develops over the next year now that I have moved it onto a more powerful hosting platform. Suggestions are welcome.

Driving causing need for basic car redesign

In recent years I have noticed an increasing number of people who obviously need a fundamental redesign of the car. Put simply many people no longer have long enough arms.

You see them all the time driving in a very uncomfortable position. They suffer from a choice between two bad options:

EITHER they cannot fit their stomach behind the steering wheel OR they cannot reach the steering wheel with their arms.

Clearly cars need redesigning so that they no longer block the space for the stomach with a steering wheel, instead a small joystick in the arm rest will probably be a better solution.

It is ironic that (as indicated by this study Surge in obesity correlates with increased automobile usage) it is the popularity of the car that means it’s design now needs to be changed. As cars have become more popular and are used more and more so more people have become obese which now means they find it difficult to fit in a car, especially behind the steering wheel.

Diet progress: 7kg down

Today marked one of those pleasing mini milestones that I find motivationally helpful.

I have now lost 7kg since 1st January. Every few days I see a weight on the scales that I have not seen in a long time (if ever, when I was going up past this weight I was not weighing myself regularly).

This means that the halfway point of this diet stretch is within shouting distance, if I am disciplined this weekend then it could be within the week.

Sadly, it is now getting noticeably harder to lose weight. A gentle bike ride of 10 miles or so (which would be typical for work) is not enough to allow me to ignore what I eat.

Still the benefits I am already experiencing from losing this much weight mean that it seems more worthwhile than ever to continue.

The 10kg turnaround

Recently my diet has progressed to the point where I am about 10kg down from my maximum weight last summer. That weight scared me quite a bit and so I took action to lose about 7kg although I then put 2kg back on over Christmas. Since the beginning of 2011 I have lost 5kg (which puts me slightly ahead of my target for the end of July).

The difference has come from a combination of snacking less (especially late at night) and of far more exercise (which has mostly been cycling).

I am amazed at the difference that losing this 10kg has made, far more difference than I had expected. People commented that I look less fat (a long way to go before I could claim to look slim) and this is borne out by moving down two9 waist sizes in trousers and at least one neck size in shirts. However, there has been a much bigger change in how I feel and what I am comfortable doing. I guess that tiredness, lack of energy and reduced ability sneak on you with the extra weight and it is easy to assume that it is just you getting older. Now though it is rather like turning back the clock my personal quality of life is much improved and it has a positive effect on the rest of the family as well.

It all seems very obvious with the benefit of hindsight, yet it took a lot to get me to act. Not only that but after seeing the first benefits I nearly slipped back again. The boost given by simply enjoying riding my bike everyday and getting things done by bike that I have never managed before has made all the difference.

I now feel that I have the keys to continuing this progress a little more locked in. The pattern is:

  • Daily bike riding. No set target for length but it does keep going up as I get fitter. Now over 120 days in a row
  • Daily weight recording on the linediet.com to see progress against my target with not quite daily reporting of progress on twitter and quantter
  • Tracking the miles I cycle. I keep a fairly simple tally in Daytum (data entry is very quick and easy). Essentially I add one total per day for the miles I ride broken down by Bike and whether for work or leisure. I can see at a glance that I have ridden 765 miles this year of which 443 are for work and a daily average of just over 12.5 miles. I like numbers and so like being able to see the miles clock up here.

Over the next months the diet will take me into down to weights I have not seen for many years. By the time I reach July I should be just easing out of the overweight BMI category. So far every indication is that will be good, I just wish I had got on with it sooner.

Roads, Casualties and Public Health: the Open Sewers of the 21st Century

I thought I had written about this before but it seems I only tweeted it (so many choices so easy to forget what you’ve done).

Anyway this Roads, Casualties and Public Health: the Open Sewers of the 21st Century is a long presentation (about 1 hour), a lecture with all the slides.

Unlike all the speculation is this is a proper research paper by someone whose research field is death (sounds nice?)

I have found this has really got me thinking and looking at things differently.

Highly recommended.

100 today! Daily Habits work

So today is my 100th day in a row that I have kept my “Ride a bike every day habit”.

According to HabitForge.com I have now succeeded 100 days in a row. It has been 175 days since I started monitoring the habit with a success rate of 91% as I have ridden a bike 160 times in the last 175 days (most of those “failure” days were right at the beginning when we went on holiday without a bike).

When I started the habit I was thinking of 21 days to establish a habit and I suppose the target of cycling for a month was obvious. I was really pleaszed when I had achieved over 45 days and back in October wrote: Habit failed after 46 days.

Having reached a nice large milestone I guess the pressure is on to not break the chain. However, there is also the suspicion that if I did break it the challenge of getting back to the same total would seem very daunting. Still hopefully before that happens I will feel truly confident that I have established riding a bike everyday as a lifelong habit.

For me this habit was set at exactly the right level. It is easy to achieve each day, but having got on a bike the sheer enjoyment of riding takes over and has resulted in a huge increase in the number of miles I am riding (514 miles in 2011 so far), that in turn has been really helpful with my diet.

Suffice it to say I am convinced that simple daily habits are an excellent way to motivate change. Highly recommended.

As for tools to support forming these habits I use three. If you like very simple prompting with tracking then HabitForge.com is excellent. If you want something a bit prettier and you use twitter then quantter.com is good, it works on a monthly basis which may suit some habits better (I mainly use it for my diet along with thelinediet.com).  If you prefer to track lots of numbers rather than just days in a row then daytum.com is excellent ( I use it to track distances ridden with subtotals by bike and a breakdown between work and leisure). There are also apps for phones although I have found the web based ones suit me better (I can get to them on my phone anyway).

What helps me improve fitness & lose weight

In some ways it is far too early for me to be writing this post. It might appear as if I am all sorted whereas I still have a long way to go.

Still I have lost 9.5 kg since around May 2010 and 4.5 kg of that so far in 2011. I have also cycled many more miles so far in 2011 than I have ever ridden before. In fact you can probably go back a few years and find times when I cycled less in a year than I have ridden so far in 2011.

So I thought I would share what helps me:

  • Being patient. I needed to recognise that it took me years to put on all the weight that took me well into obesity. Therefore I cannot (and should not) expect to lose it very quickly.
  • Focus on simple healthier habits. As far as health goes I have restricted myself to working on only two very simple habits.
    • The first is to ride a bike every day. Since I started measuring this with habitforge.com in late August I have achieved it 91% of the time and am currently at 95 days in a row.
    • The second is to weigh myself every day and use the simple thelinediet.com to track progress against my goal (my 2011 target of 15kg loss in 7 months is at the lower end of the recommended range that I have seen suggested many times of a max of 1 to 2lbs per week for sustainable and healthy weight loss . My target of 15kg is 0.5kg per week or about 1.1lbs). So far this year I am losing weight a bit faster but a) a lot of this was put on quickly during Christmas and b) I am losing it more through exercise and less late night snacks than through eating less.
  • Allowing the healthier habits to help me not turn to older unhealthy habits. Typically for me meant turning to food when stressed or depressed. For example I am now learning that riding a bike works better for me in so many ways.
  • Extra tracking websites give me social motivation: quantter.com and lots of stats: daytum.com (helpful for expense reports as well)
  • Riding a Bullitt cargobike has stopped me from obsessing about speed so I ride more gently and enjoy it more
  • Riding for work has taught me to slow down so that I don’t get so sweaty and this has meant I enjoy the rides more, they made a significant difference to making me feel better, that helps me do a better job and has reduced stress.
  • I sometimes weight myself at late at night to see if a ride would be a good idea to be sure of reaching tomorrows weight target.

Note that there are a few things I am not doing

  • I am not worrying about how fast I ride (I only note it for blog posts which point out the speed and convenience of riding a bike over using a car).
  • I have stopped all kinds of detailed analysis. I don’t measure heat rate, I don’t measure cadence
  • I have not set any targets for the distance I cycle (my only secret aim is not to record too many days where I ride less than at least a couple of miles)
  • Riding in cycling specific clothes (only a few exceptions in very very wet weather and when doing long day rides).
  • Cutting back very much on food at main meals and not cutting back on visits to coffee shops (although trying not to eat quite so many cakes there).

So for me in 2011 two simple habits that I measure publicly seem to be enough to help me tip the balance to gaining fitness and losing weight rather than the other way round.

Your mileage/motivations/experiences will be different so other measures may work a lot better for you.

#ride:10miles of healthy therapy

Life is tough and sad at the moment. I have tried different ways of coping in the past. They have not been generally successful. I guess my two most common responses are to eat and sleep (at least hide in bed). I have used those many times and it has been a key factor in accumulating the weight I am now fighting to lose.

Now I am trying to ingrain a different response. So tonight after everyone else had gone to bed I went for a very gentle 10 mile bike ride. I circled Watermead Park (enjoying again the improved access at Birstall) and so have seen about 10x more rabbits than cars.

Sometimes a hard ride feels a good way to help with depression & sadness. Today it felt better to be very gentle, it gave time and space to think, to remember, to swear, to cry, to pray.

Tomorrow is going to be difficult but I am so much better prepared for it than I would have been using any of my previous responses.

Next time you are down and struggling consider pedal therapy, it seems to be working for me, maybe it might work for you.

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