Wednesday, 29 February 2012

A Motivated Mummy Says ...

"I have a pretty busy full-on day everyday with my two rats. It's harder and more demanding than working with 30 accountants demanding everything in unreasonable time scales! When they're in bed, I either whack on a DVD and get on my trainer or do some Wii fit. It's hard going and by this point of the day I'm exhausted, but I feel so much better after. I'm terrible if my husband is out at basketball, I'll comfort eat anything I can get my hands on! This way I'm busy working out for over an hour and then shower, drink a pint of water and I'm not even hungry then! 
"I've lost 1 stone in 2 months and I want to lose another stone.... It's hard but I feel great after workin out!"
(Carley, a city-working mummy of two.)

A Motivated Mummy Says ...

"I didn't want to be a fat mum. I wanted to be a positive role model for my kids and stay healthy so I can be around with them as long as possible. Hence, why I will be getting my running shoes as soon as I can after this next baby is born!"
(Tarnya, a running-working mummy of one and bump.)

A Motivated Mummy Says ...

"I am overweight now and have battled since having Holly to find the time and energy to get fit but I do WANT to get fit. I don't want to be the fat mum at the school gates or the mum panting in the mum's race at sports day. Most importantly, I don't want my health to jeopardise seeing Holly grow into a woman and be there for all the important milestones in her life. 

"This is my motivation and no matter how many times I keep taking those steps back I will always try again and take another step forward."
(Kirsty, a working, active, running, role-modelling mummy.)

A Motivated Mummy Says ...

"Being active beforehand probably was definitely an influence. Wanting to get fit again so I can keep up with my husband on my bike, but I also want to be fit for Antonio, so I'll be around for him for as long as possible."
(Liz, a super-fit, endurance mountain-bike racing mum, with many medals to her name!)

A Motivated Mummy says ...

"I raced when the children were little to hold onto my 'racing identity ' ... and show the kids I could still win. Now I ride to show my children that sport allows you to understand how to work hard to achieve your goals and not sit in front of the TV! There's a world to explore out there!" 
(Michelle, a mummy of two and a successful bike-racer of most disciplines who has given me amazing tips on juggling both!)

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Eight – Motivate Mummy Some

Ok. I have to be fit again. For myself and for being a role model for my baby girl. That’s motivation enough, isn’t it?

Or is it?

I can talk myself into being really motivated. I know words and I can use them; they’re easy. It is a completely different type of motivation that I need to get on my bike. Although I love riding and I am desperate to be riding again, I do attract distractions. I am easily hindered. Exercise is sometimes too much effort.

When I have lots of other things to do: housework, shopping, marking, preparing dinner and all those things I can’t do very well with a toddler clamped to my thigh, they are easier to choose. And, more sensible – we have to eat; I have to work! However, I do lack enough motivation for these chores too ... perhaps I’m just a demotivated!

That is why I need to develop some motivators ...

For example, the weather: it’s so easy to be motivated right now because it has been 16 degrees in Kent and sunny. This reduces the faffing; the need for lights and lots of layers. The weather is a motivator. But, no one can rely on this in the UK – even those of us in Kent. The cold and the wet are not as appealing.

Over the years, I have learnt a few tricks that have helped to keep me motivated. For example, being organised: the longer I take to get ready, the more time I have to convince myself to stay on the sofa. If my bike is set up and my kit is ready to go, I don’t have time to demotivate myself!

As well as being organised, like teaching, I’m motivated by exciting planning. Riding my bike should be exciting enough ... Well, for me it is! But, if that isn’t enough of a motivator, I need to plan to do a session that is. For example, going off-road; easy intervals (I say 'easy' because I hate them!)

I love music. Or, should I say loved? The best I get to listen to now is from the Disney Channel. In fact, during a ride one Thursday, I sang to myself the theme to ‘Mickey Mouse’s Clubhouse’ for the entire ride. Pedalling to ‘Hot dog, hot dog, hot diggoty dog’ does not motivate faster legs. But this isn’t rare for me. I have pedalled to the rhythm of reciting ‘The Guffalo’ and I have hummed the melody of Willow’s Jumperoo while riding. The only place I could listen to music, for me and as loudly as I’d like, would be on my turbo. And, you can’t be more motivated than by listening to some late 1990s-early 2000s house and trance. Can you?

But, above all of these motivators, motivating me more than anything right now is my absolute trump motivator: the box set of ‘24’. I have a computer in the garage on which Nick and I watch box sets when on our turbos. I have been so obsessed with Jack Bauer and Tony Almeida that I have actually opted for the turbo on a Sunday rather than the frosty roads – ok, not really too much of a choice!

And, if all else fails ... chocolate. How on earth can I make room in my tight calorie schedule for a Mars bar? 

An hour’s training. That’s how.

BBC 'Horizon': 'The Truth About Exercise' - Tonight!

Dr Michael Mosley claims that we only need to do 3 minutes of intense exercise a week to become fitter! I admit, since I have included intervals in my sessions, I have become hungrier and slimmer - or is that dehydration? Or just being more active?

He does have a point!

I'm going to watch and learn - it could give me more time! Or not ...

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Seven – The ‘Mummy Be Fit’ Support Team

It’s taken some time but for the last six months, Nick and I have established an inconsistent Thursday night bike ride. I say ‘inconsistent’ because I have had to be, sometimes, prised from Willow.

I hate leaving my baby girl, even if I have had a day where being with her has had its own demands ... Crikey, she can demand ...!

It is amazing how I can create situations in my mind to prevent me from leaving her and spending some well-owed and deserved time with my husband. And, the irony? Willow is always with one of two women who comes the closest to replicating our love for her ... Our mums.

From Willow’s first few months, the mothers were adamant that I went out and I rode my bike. However, I didn’t ever want to leave my baby. I should have realised that they have enough experience to know what’s right. And, they are right.

This is the great fear of detachment.

They have been through this and I’ve just begun. From the day Willow and I were snipped apart, she has begun a journey of independence and it is up to me to encourage and nurture that. The mothers have been through this. But what I am forgetting is that although Willow is going to grow away from me, she is lucky to be given the chance to grow closer to the two women to whom we and she owe our existences. And, they are two women who are determined, and rightly so, to enrich her life with their own special relationships.

It’s because of these women that Nick and I get time together. It is because of them that I can still ride my bike. What would I do without them?

Since Willow, we have never needed our mothers more. In fact, in the newborn days, if my mum hadn’t had the audacity to let herself into my house with her own key, I would not have been fed. And, if my mum-in-law hadn’t have sent over home-made meals, Nick would have perished as much as me! From basic survival support to babysitting, our mums have been there from the beginning.


Therefore, I am often shoved in the direction of my bike; I am so lucky to have this grandparental support team behind me. Willow’s relationship with them is awesome. Though, I sometimes wonder if the welfare of their immediate offspring is anymore a concern? I was on the turbo trainer not long ago when my dad visited. I explained that I’d be about 20 minutes and his response, ‘It’s alright. I’ve come to see Willow.’ She’s only just one! Does she realise this? Does it matter? No.

Grandparental adoration for her is vital – Nick and I can train together and we know she is with someone who is going to go over and beyond the amount of attention I can give. That’s actually a fact because I am ashamed at how much energy and attention they apply to their visits when I have sometimes willed Willow to like the TV just so I could chill for a while.

Without them, could I get out on my bike? Probably. But could I go out with Nick, like we used to? No chance.

Tonight, we had a hard, muddy, wet ride in the woods ... (Shame on us!) ... And, this was thanks to a mother. I'm writing this feeling refreshed and clear-headed. Thanks to a mother.

If I want my fitness back, I need to make the most of my support network. There are four people itching for an hour of hugs with my baby. I am lucky. And, so is Willow.

And, this detachment fear I have – the mothers have 30 years on me dealing with this and they’re still attached. They’re still the first call I make when I’m stuck. They’re here for Willow; they’re here for me and Nick. They get us back on our bikes.

Thank you.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

An addition ...

I feel amazing for having been on my bike. I have cleared my head and ached my legs a bit. I feel awesome now ...

Roll on my next session.

Six – More hurdles than a cyclo-cross race.

I have a plan; I must stick to it. For now, it is about doing something regularly so I become used to it. I have a plan and I will be fit, again ...

The weather isn’t too inspiring in the county of Kent. We may boast the country’s lowest rainfall and its warmest climate but it’s too cold to go out on my bike in the evenings. Besides, since Willow, I’ve become a wimp. A few years ago, I would have donned my super lights, waterproof and headed out without a worry. But now ... I feel the need to be close to home or easily accessible, at least.

Who said only babies suffer from separation anxiety? So, I am lucky to have my bike on my turbo trainer, set up in my garage – our make shift gym.

Last night, as soon as Nick was home and tea had been served (yes, I am a control freak, I have to make sure I feed the baby because only I know how to make sure she eats enough to not disturb my sleep in the early hours,) I went to my kit cupboard.

That was depressing.

I am much larger than when I last used my kit. Even my ribs have stretched! How? Even more reason to get on that bike.

My kit cupboard’s contents are now fairly limited. I have a lot of ex-racing kit and when I was racing, I was a different size and shape. That couldn’t be used. I have gym kit – pregnant woman gym kit – neither is appropriate for sitting on the saddle. I have one pair of cycling shorts that I had used on my weekly or two weekly rides over the past year and they had to do. But they were fraying, badly. Not long ago, I had so much cycling accessory choice, how could I be in a situation with just one pair of fraying Lycra shorts? This wasn’t going to be comfortable.

However, the kit situation was not the end of it.

When I had finally found acceptable attire, I had to brace myself for the long walk to the turbo trainer. It’s only to the garage, off the kitchen, but when so much preparation has to go into getting there, it seems a long way off. And, I knew there would be more obstacles in the way.

I forgot about the faffing - and I was good at that pre-Willow. I had a drink and a towel. But, I had yet to secure my bike to the turbo; check the tyre pressure; put on my bike shoes; load the DVD (I need that additional motivation in case I convince myself to stop too soon!) But these obstacles could be dealt with.

The main one obstacle was harder.

It came in the form of huge, penetrating, blue eyes in the living room, through which I had to pass. Asking, ‘Mummy, are you leaving me?’ There was the lure. How could I? Ok, she was with her dad – but, I still felt dreadful about shutting the door on her. It was too cold to keep it open and let her watch ...

...  And, as for the cold! I was in the garage with a radiator; a room next to the kitchen and the wall with the range:  I hadn’t expected to be walking back up to the kit cupboard for leg and arm warmers, fleece, gloves and hat. I was inside and it shouldn't be cold inside! 

Of course, this meant I had to pass her again and I had to shut the door on her twice. But, she wasn’t at all bothered! She didn’t even acknowledge me. Daddy is way too exciting, clearly.

Eventually, halfway through the session, the door opened and there stood my baby, watching me. Her huge grin and her huge eyes and her absolute wonder. She may have been thinking, ‘What on earth is my mum doing on that machine in this boring room?’ But I took it as my daughter’s intrigue: she was interested in me and my bike.

And, so it begins ... 

Friday, 17 February 2012

Five - Can I really plan to do this with a 13 month-old, a job, a husband, a house, cats, a garden, ... ?

Being a mum is incredibly busy. I underestimated this. And, being a mum who works is even harder. Therefore, how can a working mum squeeze any time into her hectic schedule for herself? Especially to ride a bike?

I have to try. For my own sanity!

At the end of the day, I am usually whacked. I don't even know why, sometimes. And, ironically, I am more whacked after a day with Willow than a day at work - and, I work with teenagers, trying to get them GCSEs and A-Levels in English, which is whacking in itself.

Once Willow is in bed, I could easily fill these hours with housework, meal-planning or work - perhaps, I should do. But I can just as easily fill these hours with nothing. It's because of my being tired from the day, that I need to be organised. I so want to be fit and healthy again; and, I so want to feel good riding my bike again, but I won't go out on my bike unless I plan for it. A plan takes away the thinking and the thinking is where my struggles lie - I can so easily talk myself onto my sofa.

Anyway, if I look at this objectively, this training lark doesn’t actually ask for much.

I have worked out what I can do: an hour after 7pm on a Monday, Wednesday and Thursday. Tuesdays are difficult, because I have to plan and mark and prep for work at some point! And Fridays, I am not training then! No way! I can do two hours on a Saturday and/or a Sunday. Not quite the quota of an elite cyclist but more than enough for a working mum. And, ironically, it still exceeds the governmental guidelines of 30 minutes every day, by a little bit – where on earth do they get those figures? Not from working mums, clearly. Nor, mums to newborns, definitely!

That is 7 hours, out of 7 x 24 hours (yes, I teach English, my brain won’t calculate that.) That isn’t that much. I can train after Willow has gone to bed and still be sat down for 9pm.

I can do this.

My difficulty comes with my disorganisation. I'm a free-spirit, but governed by lists. That translates as being so disorganised that I need a step-by-step plan for my day. If I don't write down my tasks, I even forget to put on my washing! Can you believe that once upon a time, I lived by colour-coding anality? Everything I needed to do was done yesterday. I actually approached motherhood this way, initially; taking advice from Gina Ford, only to find out that Willow hadn't read anything by her so didn't really play her role properly. Motherhood demands flexibility and lots of it.

But, being a mum demands organisation too - regularity is good for Willow and me. If I want to be my fit self again and if I want her to brought up in a household that respects activity, I need to give it respect and plan riding my bike into my life, again. It is important that I make this a regular and consistent thing for my mind and my body: I have to get used to regular exercise, again. I have to give myself, regular me-time, again.

Four - Justification - Why am I doing this?

Being a mum is like bike-racing.

Mums spend nine months increasing their leg strength, their stamina, their ability to use oxygen efficiently and coping with fatigue. At the end of the nine months, their stamina and endurance is tested in an event that can last days for the hardcore ones. But, it is endured because the prize is precious. So precious.

Then, they are blasted into the world of sleeplessness and they are pushed physically and mentally, selflessly keeping up with the demands of this precious prize, which I liken to how I imagine back-to-back 24 hour racing is. That goes on for months.

About six months later, another challenge is thrown at these exhausted women: the prize moves and is attracted to anything that could harm it. Mums have to develop their fast-twitch muscle fibres, their awareness and their reaction skills. Very much like bike racing - mountain, road or track.

This becomes more intense – the prize moves faster. So does mum. The prize becomes older and stronger but still incredibly draining and dependent. But mum keeps up.

So does a mum really need to be active in addition to this?

I need to be.

When I have finally settled Willow, it is usually gone 7pm and I am shattered – and nervous about how much energy I may need for the night shifts. She is energetic. I love that she is enthusiastic about everything and charges everywhere. But, when she is on charge, I should be too. Instead, while she dozes I want to clean my house, my lessons to be planned, my meals prepared, my hair washed, the cats fed, without fearing their lives, and the list is continuous. Therefore, the last thing I can really justify doing is riding my bike.

However, I need to change this attitude. It isn’t healthy. And, if it isn't healthy for me, how can it be healthy for Willow? 

My days are consumed by Willow - and, I love that. Though I know I should factor something in for me. Something I enjoy. Something that allows me to be Gemma for a while. I recently re-read Carol Ann Duffy's poem ‘Before you were mine’ and approached it, for the first time, as a mother. Duffy wishes she knew her mother as she was; before she was hers. She hit a nerve. Before I was Willow’s, I raced bikes, I rode scary singletrack, I ran, and I loved this. I want her to know that Gemma. Being a mother of a daughter is also a huge responsibility – I want to be a good mother; I want to be good at my job; I want to be good at my sport; I want her to see the huge amount of possibilities that there are for hard-working women and all because I want her to believe she can achieve anything. 

I could factor in a bath (what's that?) or a manicure or a meal out with friends but I choose sport: why? It is going to exhaust me even more, surely? Or can it? I am my most productive after I have increased my heart rate for a while. I plan my best lessons when I am out on the road. I sort out my week while tackling trails. I am happy when the endorphins are flowing. Of course, I like knowing that I can eat cake because I’ve earned it!

What I'm struggling with isn't new. There are so many of us facing these same challenges. I have a new, huge amount of respect for the mothers I have raced over the years. They must have been where I am but they came back, fighting. I wonder if it is true that childbirth may make me push myself when my riding hurts? 

So, I am writing this blog because I want to see my own argument for having my 'me' time. I hope other mothers fully agree with me! 

However, above all, I am a mum, first and foremost, but I need Willow to know who I am too.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Three - Run? Bike? Swim? Run? Bike? Run? Bike? Bike. Bike ...

I spent the ten months I was pregnant – yes, ten months and any mother who has carried to full term will agree, it IS ten months – being gentle with my body. By gentle, I mean Yoga, Yoga and more Yoga. I did cycle gently for a little while but I stopped because I kept kneeing my bump and needing to rush to the toilet! And, I was too proud to replace my race saddle with a gel one and that became a little uncomfortable. Oh, I did go to the gym and move on the elliptical trainer a couple of times a week. I was determined to be fit for labour and to be running within a week after.

Within a week!
Yes, I was ambitious. Green and stupidly ambitious.

The midwife thought I was nuts. My mum and mum-in-law agreed with me politely, but they were humouring me, the way experienced mothers can. Nick expected no different. Apparently, Paula Radcliffe was running two weeks after her baby, so why couldn’t I? Well, firstly, Paula Radcliffe is Paula Radcliffe: she ran 26.2 miles in under 2 hours 20 minutes. I couldn't do that. Ever! But, I had bought a pushchair with which I could run and was desperate to use it. However, two weeks after Willow was born, I hadn’t run. And, I could barely stand up or crouch down or bend over or sit. Run? What a joke!

The real realisation occurred, a few weeks after, when I had forgotten a loaf of bread in Tesco. I needed to fetch one, quickly, so I ran the aisle to get it. I didn’t run back ...

When I had realised running was off the agenda while I worked on my pelvic floor, I felt like a blank canvas for sport: I felt like I was new to sport. I knew I needed to be active and had to get back into sport - not just for my body but for my mind. In fact, more for my mind than anything else. Exercise and activity, outside, inside, intense or steady, does wonders for how I feel about myself and my life. But what did I want to do? Did I want to swim? Nope – I don’t like being cold with wet hair. Play netball? Nope – I’m not aggressive enough and would have let down my team if Willow changed my timetable. Once again, I realised, I love riding my bike; cycling ticks every box. But, I wasn’t sure my muscles would have enough memory to know what they should do when I was back on the saddle.

Back on the saddle ... Hah! Sitting on my bike posed enough challenges as well. Firstly, I didn’t fit into my cycling shorts. Secondly, I didn’t own enough shorts to provide the amount of padding I needed. I couldn’t stay in the saddle for more than 10 minutes – but 10 minutes was a start. I know now that I should have bought a gel saddle; it would have been wise.

I did persevere.

Every other day: 10 minutes. 15 minutes. 20 minutes. 25 minutes. It took me 5 weeks to get up to half an hour. And, by then, I had recovered a bit more from the birth too. Well, slightly.

So, my post-pregnancy sport? It is the same as my pre-pregnancy sport.

I am a cyclist. I love riding my bike. I love off-road and on-road. I can go anywhere. I love the time it gives me to think. I love how it makes me feel.

And, the best part is that Willow can come with me. (When it’s warmer and she won't catch a cold ... I am a mummy, after all!)

Two - Food and fast!

Following the birth of my baby girl, I knew I had to get myself fit again. My pregnancy was too easily used as an excuse to actually eat for two. And, my first trimester was nursed with sugar and sour sweets. Having spent years as an athlete, my body was now feeling flabby and foreign to me. Having Willow, I had pushed it in ways I never knew I could and I had learnt that sport is actually quite easy, in comparison to childbirth. It’s motivating myself to do it that isn’t easy.

Running wasn’t working - a little matter called the pelvic floor. 
The bike hurt me - the birth was a natural one ... 
What next? 



Diet? Everyone in the world says that breastfeeding will get your figure back. Really? So, I breastfed. What everyone doesn’t tell you is that the reason why you will get your figure back is because, when breastfeeding, you have no time to eat! All the time, you are your baby’s food source. Willow fed for hours and hours and hours. I lost weight rapidly. However, I gained that weight rapidly because fatigue and extreme hunger and lack of time to eat can only really be satisfied by cake. Cake can be bought, it doesn’t need preparation and it makes you feel so good on your one hour of sleep. It was part of the convenient food diet that I consumed while I was feeding Willow – totally inappropriate for her but so necessary for me. I couldn’t even have a hot cup of tea so a nutritious lasagne was not happening.

This has led to a bit of problem. A year on and I am still fighting the weight. A year on and Willow has a very sweet tooth. A year on and my diet is worse than it has ever been. I am now in a bit of a quandary: I can’t run because I feel too heavy to pound the streets; I can’t sit on my bike because my belly nearly hits my knees; I can’t wear lycra – I can’t. 

This 'be fit' campaign has to be addressed firstly by my diet - if I eat well, I feel well. Of course, if I eat well, I will want to do more sport and not laze around blaming Willow for my lethargy, like I am, right now.

After my glass of wine tonight, I promise, tomorrow is a new day ... 

Actually, I have had enough of saying ‘tomorrow’ or ‘as from Monday’ or ‘starting next week.’ It is 11.57am, Thursday 16th February 2012 and I am beginning now.

I am going to drink lots of water and cut back on cups of tea. Pre-pregnancy, my weakness was coffee but somehow, unless the coffee is made by a barista in Majorca, I can’t stomach it now.

I am going stick to a certain number of good calories per day, 1800, and I will only exceed those when I am training. I need to be strict here because I have already had a Waitrose fondant fancy ... 

But as from now. And, I mean NOW.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

One - sometime in January 2012 ...

A year ago, I had a beautiful baby girl.

A year ago, I decided to get back on my bike and get fit.

A year later ... it was again my New Year’s Resolution. Why on earth has it taken a year?

Well, things were a little easier, once upon a time. Delayed responses are now the stories of my life. Everything I do, post-Willow, takes longer: drinking a cup of tea, making meals, getting dressed, going out, coming home. In fact, sometimes in the past year, I haven’t even been dressed all day. Straightening my hair and painting my nails are things of the past. So, getting out on my bike? Well, that hasn’t happened much, either.

It took enough time, pre-Willow, to get out on my bike, especially in the cold. I was notoriously good a faffing and I have just become better at taking my time to change into my cycling kit. Now, I have the added challenges of finding something I have washed, getting dressed while a mini-person is sucking on my leg warmer, soaking it with drool. I should be rushing because having Willow has made me and my husband more efficient at doing things. That is a euphemism for ‘we don’t really have the time.’ When I have my hour slot to do some sport, I should be rushing to make sure I get it and make the most of it. But that takes more effort ... Then, there is the bike maintenance. The what? I’ve taken to the turbo because it is clean and mostly maintenance free.

But, the thing that has made me struggle the most has been guilt. I have a job and my baby goes to the onsite crèche or the grandparents on my working days. I treasure the time I do have with her so should I really be spending more time away from her and being on my bike? That has been the most persuasive bike deferrer. Her drool and mess and demands seem to captivate me more than the pushing of pedals. I dream of the idealistic concept that I am hers, all day and every day. Until ...

A few weeks ago, she was chewing on the laces of my off-road trainers: they were clean, very clean, very unworn; and, I realised, I need to be doing sport – I need to be on my bike. I have a daughter who needs to know that sport is life. And, who will teach her that? Me.

Turbo, I am on my way ...!