On my bike

1964 Portsmouth Road SCCU 25 mile time trial championship. Finished 6th aged 18

The first thing I turned to when I decided to get fit again and lose weight was cycling. As I said in the introduction to my cycling blog, Bicycle Diaries,  cycling had been my main sport from 1962 at the age of 16 to my late 30s when I finally gave up racing. Since then, through the 1980s and 90s, I continued to cycle occasionally for pleasure. This has included touring in France on solos and on a tandem, particularly in the 1980s, the Sea to Sea and other Sustran’s routes. However, I have rarely used my bike over the last 15 years or so. The details of how I got back into cycling for fitness in July 2012 can be found in the initial blog post Starting Again so I won’t repeat that all here.

Social ride to Beninborough Hall August 2013

As a way of getting fitter cycling has been ideal and certainly worked for me. I enjoy the social rides I go on from time to time with the Leeds Cycling Campaign social group on Saturday mornings and still hope to go more regularly on the Sunday morning intermediate and, in due course, longer rides. Last year I started to organise informal social rides with members of the Bradford U3A racketball group (the subject of a future post). I had hoped to develop these rides this year but after my mountain bike crash in April in which I ruptured a kidney the summer was pretty well lost as far as cycling was concerned and it never happened. I still intend to do this next year. By now I was hoping to be riding sportives and audaxes and entered one. the Lincoln Arrow, earlier in the year. This also fell victim to the crash. However, I returned to Bergerac in France early July and rode the circuit there that had got me going again 3 years earlier and am well on the way to recovery now, ignoring for the moment that as a result of my stay in hospital I have since been diagnosed with prostate cancer. To cut a long story short, it is a low grade, low risk slow growing variety (as best they can tell so far) so I am on the ‘active surveillance’ programme where they keep an eye on it and are prepared to act swiftly if things change for the worse. I’ve reproduced both these posts here and they follow this one.

Cycling will continue to be a central part of my fitness regime for a number of reasons. I still very much enjoy it, the sense of simplicity and freedom, the experience of connection with my surroundings and movement on a human scale. I read somewhere and I hope to find it again somehow, that the ideal scale for life in the future will be that which can be encompassed in a days cycle ride. In Copenhagen about 45% of journeys each day are by bicycle. In Leeds and Bradford it is about 1% I believe. In common with many other cities now, Leeds and Bradford are making serious efforts to improve cycling infrastructure and encourage people to cycle for short journeys and commutes. So many different agendas are addressed by this – health, morbidity and obesity, environmental pollution, stress and mental health, generally well being. Hopefully cycling will become a safe and routine way of getting about in our area.

Health and fitness – summary

Health and fitness is one topic I will be posting about here but by no means the only things. However, since my retirement in July 2013 at the

age of 67 and a doctor’s earlier warning that at nearly 18 stone with high cholesterol and blood pressure I had an excellent chance of not making it much beyond 70, I decided that whatever other plans I may have for retirement they would all depend crucially on staying alive and this should be my initial priority. In fact I had made a start on this in July 2012 when I was inspired to start cycling again by Bradley Wiggin’s Tour De France victory. I say ‘again’ as cycle racing, along with squash, had been my main sports between my teens and when I gave both of them up at 40. I had never quite given up cycling altogether and had,

August 2003 in France

for the previous 20 years or so, undertaken one or two purely social rides on flat, short mainly off road routes with friends. I still had a couple of bikes in the garage and a now 30 year old turbo trainer so I started doing 5 minutes on the trainer most days and eventually short rides of 5 miles or so round the local roads.

Around August 2013, a year later, I started playing racketball, a variant of squash, with a view to getting back into squash too. Racketball is less technically challenging but just as physically demanding in terms of endurance if not speed and flexibility.

Me and Laura Massaro May 2014 National Squash Championships, Hull

Some call it old man’s squash! I enjoyed it so much and, once I recognised I would never get the speed and flexibility at 67 that i had in my 20s, I decided to stick with racketball. For what I wanted, a good workout, sociability and competition, it ticked all the boxes. The full story of all this is recorded on another blog I started in October 2012 called Bicycle Diaries. Recently the posts have been about a mountain bike accident and my diagnosis of prostate cancer but most of what preceded these are mainly on cycling and fitness. In addition I started walking a few days a week; anything between 30 minutes and 2 hours. I tried to work this into my everyday activity as a mode of transport on the days I didn’t play racketball or go out on my bike. The idea was to have at least 40 minutes activity everyday or at least most days when this wasn’t possible for some reason or another.

I soon learnt that as far as weight loss is concerned exercise would not be enough so I started modifying my diet. I signed up to MyFitnessPal to record my food and calorie intake and, with the help of a Garmin Vivoifit, calculated and recorded my exercise calorie burn. This wouldn’t work for everyone and can get a bit tedious but for me it works and over the 3 years I’ve been taking this seriously I have got down from 17 stone 12 lbs to 12 stone 10 lbs. This has been slow and steady and by making fairly small incremental changes to my nutrition and life style. I’m now fairly confident that I can maintain this without too much effort. I still enjoy the occasional over large meal and fairly heavy drinking at family celebrations and other similar events but these are always now fairly isolated one-offs and I easily drop back into my normal routine. In fact even my over eating and drinking is quite a bit less in volume than it used to be.

That’s the summary. I will post here with a bit more detail on individual aspects of this – cycling, walking, racketball, nutrition – in due course, partly for my own record of ideas and information and perhaps if I get any, answers to questions.


MOF-SW128-Homepage-FA1_RayToday is the 1st of November and for some years now this day has launched the Movember event. It was started in 2003 with the idea of raising money for men’s health issues, particularly prostate and testicular cancer, and mental and physical health. To signify participation you sign up and grow a moustache – something that in Australia where the movement started had become rather unfashionable so a sudden outbreak of moustaches would be noticeable and promote discussion. The M of Movember signifies the item in question, This year the intention is to exploit the ‘Move’ syllable to emphasise the importance of movement and being active for general and mental health and well being. These issues are near to my heart these days as I have spent the last 3 years getting fitter and lighter after, at nearly 18 stone (114 kilogrammes) and with high blood pressure, being told I was likely to have a very short and unpleasant retirement. And I was diagnosed with prostate cancer after a routine examination while I was in hospital in April with a ruptured kidney after a mountain bike crash. All is well at the moment as I have got down to 12 stone 12 lbs (81 kilogrammes) and my blood pressure is normal. My cancer is of a relatively low grade and contained so for the moment I’m on the ‘active surveillance’ programme and life goes on as normal.  No doubt I will be doing further posts here about health, fitness, exercise, diet and cancer. I have been pretty successful in losing weight and getting healthy over the last 3 years in a way which for me at least is sustainable. I’m pretty confident the changes I’ve made in diet and behaviour are now comfortably embedded in a lifestyle that I will have little trouble in continuing. Time will tell. What works for me won’t suit every one of course but it might be of interest to and useful for some.

The other thing that starts today is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The idea is that you sign up and write a novel, of any genre, in the 30 days of November aiming at 50,000 words by the 30th, about 1667 per day average. It’s been going since 1999 when there were 21 participants. Last year, 2014, there were 325,142 participants. I started it a few years ago and kept it up for a few days but didn’t get into the habit. My interest in writing fiction and poetry has revived in the last year or two (although I’ve not done much about it so far) but I might sign up for NaNoWriMo this year and see if I can do any better.