Worth the weight – MyFitnessPal

Being tall generally means you fall into the category of ‘being a big bloke’ and being a big bloke generally elicits rashly formulated notions from folk:

‘You must sleep with your feet in a growbag!’ (please, my sides are splitting).

‘I bet you can handle yourself.’

‘We must have you in the rugby team’ (second row of course).

‘I bet you like a pint or ten’.

‘Come on, have another helping… you’ll waste away otherwise.’

My Fitness Pal ScreengrabI’ll admit that I’ve fallen foul of the latter two over the years. I used to be 17 ½ stone and being tall meant I could ‘carry’ that weight to an extent. I didn’t feel obese, as such, and folk generally didn’t think I was.

I was exercising, too, so I felt that I needed the fuel to move my bulk. I’d keep on having second portions at my parents or in-laws because I felt I needed it. Bit of vicious circle, then.

Fast forward a few years and one back op later, and it became clear that I really didn’t need all that food. Although I’ve lost quite a bit of weight since those (halcyon?) ‘Freddie Flintoff days’, it’s only now that I am really doing something about it.

My approach is founded in common sense: only eat what you need. However, discipline is key and that’s where my mobile phone has played a role in the form of the app MyFitnessPal (on Apple and Android). Continue reading

Using a foam roller to ease back pain

66fit foam roller 45 cmIf, like me, you struggle with lower back pain, then activities like hillwaking and cycling are likely to cause you problems. A foam roller could be an answer, though.

A roller is a very simple piece of exercise equipment. It works on the basis of myofascial release, which is a soft tissue therapy focusing on the connective tissues, and makes use of the user’s weight to apply sustained pressure to specific parts of the body. It’s a fairly simple principle to grasp, and you’ll understand the benefit if you’ve had stiffness in muscle groups released by physio or sports massage. The relief can be heavenly!

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I’ve started reading Michael Hutchinson’s The Hour, a treatise, albeit a light-hearted one, of the hour cycling record. This gold-standard cycling event is en velo at its purest: a rider, a track, a single-speed racing cycle and the clock.

Langdale, above Mickleden

The book opens with author demonstrating fabulous form tearing around Manchester’s velodrome. Outside it’s February and cold and bleak as this Northwest city can be, but inside the home of British Cycling (for now, at least) Hutchinson is following a sublime line on the track’s steep banks.

Despite being near the limits of his physical capabilities, Hutchinson talks of a state of ‘almost concentration’. He claims never to have found ‘any other way of fully engaging mind and body’ and notes that it’s a very personal sensation: ‘It’s all about you, and even if others can understand it, they can’t feel it.’

It’s a rather lovely passage and struck a chord with me.

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Langsett rehab

When my back has one of its ‘dos’, my rehabilitation is marked by milestones: being able to sit down in relative comfort, getting on the bike on the turbo trainer, riding on the road and, finally, heading to the hills.

I felt pretty good yesterday so headed for the ever-popular Langsett.  I took it easy and managed to get up on the moors with no real problems. Continue reading

Bad back Zen

I guess you could think of it as a ‘Carry On’ moment… Traipsing around Manchester on Saturday, heavy bags of Christmas shopping clenched in both fists, a shoulder pack lassoed around my neck and my right foot skidded across an icy patch on a dropped kerb. My body reacted to save me the embarrassment of falling on my behind and arms, bags and one leg flailed in the air.

Instead of bruised bum, however, I had that familiar breath-taking stab in my right buttock followed by an intense pain shooting down to my Achilles.

Ah yes, my old friend the sciatic nerve on fire again. Continue reading

Rest, and be thankful

I was wasting some time on the Web the other day I cam across a comment from someone suffering from sciatica as a result of two prolapsed discs.

Regular readers will know that I too suffer from this knuckle-biting ailment and, in the past, it’s been a source of profound misery.

However, clearly in some discomfort, this chap used an amusing turn of phrase to describe his condition, amounting to ‘it hurting so much that it feels like my arse is broken’.

I liked this… I liked it very much.

Although I can well imagine the pain and frustration this fellow was enduring, his expression ably hinted at the ridiculous sense of helplessness that can result and, though a keen sense of laconic humour, that things can and do get better.

I’m pleased to say that I am now enjoying a protracted good patch. I’m gingerly riding the bike as often as possible and my lower spine feels strong.

This, by and large, is thanks to my fabulous physiotherapist and hours listening to Radio Four while working through my routine of exercises… anyone fancy the ‘man looking up at the sun while simultaneously blocking its rays with his hand’ to stretch back and hip flexors?

But this comment also got me thinking about Andy Stothert’s excellent article ‘Keeping the Faith’ in the September issue of TGO.

Having endured illness and pain that has rocked his self-reliance on the hill, Sothert ventures out only to meet a fellow walker in a seemingly worse state than he.

Despite this, the walker was managing to reap a rich experience in the hills and the author captured an excellent photograph of his companion descending into cloud on a Lakeland ridge.

I too have felt this crisis of confidence, and this article inspired me.

So, assuming the gods of hill walking are smiling on me this weekend, I’m going to get of my broken arse and get into the hills proper with pack and tent.

Life is, after all, too short.

Bit sad tonight…

… I should be en route to Cornwall with bike loaded for my LeJOG.

Instead, I’m in the office and will be travelling back up North tonight. It will be a journey marred by sadness.

I know there’s always next year, but after all that time and effort it’s still gutting.

Still, I am on leave for the next couple of weeks, and I will be heading to the hills for a week or so in the big tent, even if it is just to look.

And there’s always the Test Match tomorrow…

I should have kept the Space Hopper

The last few weeks have been robbed of adequate distraction. Consequently, I have found diversion in other things, not least the giant Swiss Ball which now forms part of my daily exercise regime.

Regular readers will know that my height can present challenges in the selection of outdoor gear, and the same is true of exercise equipment.

My ball had to be specially ordered, is made of a thicker material to support my weight etc. etc.

My programme has started by bouncing on the ball, Space Hopper-style, with a straight back. In common with all physio exercises, the more you focus on your movement, the more beneficial the exercise.

Bouncing, therefore, requires concentration but you can feel the lower abdominal and ‘core’ muscles working. I’ve now graduated to ‘supine arm raises’ and the ‘floor bridge’ and there’s plenty more where that came from.

The good news is that all this work is having a profound effect on my recovery and, I think, my future health if I keep the core workout going.

I’m also developing muscular lumps in my stomach which I didn’t think existed… time for some bouncing.

Walking tall… nearly

Dove Stones Reservoir, Oldham I went for a walk today… not far, just around Dovestones.

The significance of this lunchtime stroll was two-fold: the weather was superb and I could put one foot in front of the other without searing pain shooting down my right leg.

It felt fantastic and I walked (almost limp free) with the fanfare from Rocky trumpeting in my ears!

Perhaps I should take up golf…

The party’s over, then.

There’s no way I can ride the Lejog this year. How very, very disappointing.

I haven’t been on a bike for nearly three weeks now… my rides replaced with physio routines. I really do miss it.

I think I am making progress, though. The consumption of painkillers has reduced, I have more mobility, I’m sleeping…

The initial frustration has calmed somewhat, too, and I won’t be putting the panniers and bikes on ebay.

There’s always next year.

Now I have to focus on getting better…