Monday, 30 April 2012

Eighteen - Working out with Willow - Part 2

We have a Monday morning routine and we (I think) love it.

Because sport is integral to my life and so is my daughter, I combine the two. And, ice the session with blueberry pancakes. You would think Willow was the one who exerted the most energy, if you were to judge her vigour in eating these pancakes. You see, prior to the pancakes, Willow and I train. Well, I do.

So, every Monday, Willow and I go for a run and do a circuit session together. I say ‘together’ but mean it quite loosely ... I run and push her about; and, I throw her about like a wriggly barbell while she giggles and squeals. But, this is a session I really look forward to. I am not sure about Willow’s opinions but she hasn’t complained yet. For me, I am combining running, something I love to do, with my baby.

While I was pregnant, I spent a lot of time researching travel systems. I knew I wanted something that was quite robust and would allow me to take Willow for walks in forests, over hills and along beaches. Living in Kent, we are lucky to have all terrains within quick access, except mountains - we have the North Downs, but they're hills. And, I knew I wanted to share these terrians with her when she was born. I was also keen to be running as soon as I could and knew I had to choose a buggy that could accommodate both. I bought a Baby Jogger XC and it has done its job well. (The grandmothers say it’s quite good in the town too but I try not to go there!)

In the early days, she was in a bassinet on the Jogger. The pushchair has suspension so she slept, I trotted. I said, the early days – a trot was on a good day! As she became more knowing, this progressed to the car seat, so she could be nosey. Luckily, I could attach it to the pushchair. Today, she sits facing forward in the buggy and squeals as we come across ducks and dogs and birds and trees and walkers and runners and cyclists and anything that stimulates her greedy little mind!

In fact, she loves it. And, I’m even more ecstatic about this because Willow is enjoying sport with her mum!

Although the buggy is really manoeuvrable, it’s still an additional 15kgs that I’m pushing (she’s 10kg!) I see this as resistance training - I will be stronger! However, it does roll a bit too nicely, so I have to be sensible not to speed too much! And, because I have to hold on to the handle bars, I see it as useful bike training too, especially as the buggy gets speed wobbles when it’s taken over 8mph and I have to push the handles down forcefully to account for these. (Don't tell Baby Jogger this, apparently the Jogger isn't meant to exceed 8 mph!) However, as Willow is becoming heavier, her weight and her positioning are balancing this a bit more. 

But this run has more than just benefits for me. Of course, I am outside, running, getting fresh air. It has benefits for Willow too. She is outside in the fresh air, engaging with the environment and grinning at what an outdoors life brings. 

Sport is not just about fitness. It is a way of life and a way of life that offers more opportunities than anything else. And by me sharing this with Willow, she will always know.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Seventeen - Working out with Willow - Part 1

Being a parent has made want to ride my bike more. Obviously, this is not just because I want a break! 

It is so important to me that my daughter grows upbelieving in sport and being active; and, it is my responsibility to ensure thisvalue. But to do so, I need to make sport part of our lives – not just mine. And, I have realised, I don't think this can be too difficult if we do sport together.

At 15 months old, Willow is already copying her parents: ifI am cleaning my teeth, so will she; if Nick is maintaining a bike, she will beby his side eyeing up the dangerous tools in his box - she always goes for the most lethal; she is not always interested in her toys, when her parents are about, because she wants to interact with and help us. It’s lovely – sometimes anuisance – but lovely.

More importantly, this has huge advantages ...

I have said many times about how guilty I am leaving my baby while I go bike-riding – despite knowing that the cycling is good for me and she is always with someone who will spoil her. However,if Willow enjoys doing things with her mummy, this should include sport,shouldn’t it?

Therefore, I have spent weeks trying to develop a trainingschedule for me that means she has fun too. I have a BabyJogger with which Ican run with Willow; I have a Weeride which means she can come out on my bike (when the weather improves - when this rain stops);and, I have a wriggly 11kg weight that helps me work on my strength and mycore. In fact, this weight moves so much that my core has no other option than to be solid! (I hope!)

My baby is becoming my training mate.

But, the benefits are not only for me. They are for her too.

Willow will grow up to think that activity and outdoors lifeand sport are integral parts of living. Being sport requires being healthy and this mindset is something that I want Willow to learn.

Again, if I involve Willow in my running andriding, she gets to see so much more of the world. Only on Monday did we see a heronflying over a river by the side of the path on which we were running. She pointed at 'dat' and giggled because it was so close and so new. Similarly, sport has allowed me to visit beautiful parts of the country and todevelop a love affair with fresh mountain air. I want to share this with her. I know she loves being outdoors already but I want her to see more than just the back garden and suburban parks. I want her to know that a technical single-track descent leaves you grinning more than a ride at Alton Towers ever can do. And, I want her to have the chance to compare the two. 

Doing sport with Willow means we get to do something together – routined and enjoyed.And, she is involved with me doing something I love. I’m less guilty and she’smore involved. My weights sessions involve intimate and close cuddles – usually sticky anddisjointed because she likes to run about too and in active excitement, she covers me in drool. But, we seem to be playing while I amworking on my biceps and quads! Not to mention, soon she will be counting to 20 quitefluently!

And, what’s more exciting than sharing a passion with yourchild? 

Therefore, Willow and I have so much fun working out together. It's a win-win situation.

Until she becomes a teenager, at least ...

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Olympic Mountain-bike Course in Essex

I have to share this.

Lee Williams, one of our top male cross country racers, has recorded a lap of the Hadleigh course. I believe the course was designed by a fantastic Mr Salt, renowned for his great mountain-biking events.

I can't wait until August, when I'll be here - with Nick and Willow - cheering on the ladies. I can't wait until I'm race-ready and able to perhaps have a rude of this course myself, in the future!

So, fellow mountain-bikers, sit back and enjoy. Non-mountain-bike racers, this is what we do - usually 4 or 5 times, flat out, no respite ... This course will be tough!

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Sixteen - Mummy be un-fit ... but smiling!

I survived my first weekend away from Willow!

All that panic and worry about leaving her ... what for? By the carnage that was my front living room when we returned and the speed with which my mum was ready to go home herself, that Sunday, I know well that Willow was thoroughly entertained.

Of course, it was tough leaving Willow and I missed her, achingly. 

In fact, Nick and I spent the whole weekend imagining how we could share our sport and lifestyle with her. Already, we know she loves the outdoor life: she tantrums to be in the garden, in all weathers; she is her calmest when we are walking through woods; she is an observer and, like a little sponge, she soaks up all that being outdoors allows her to see. If only I could attach her to my bike and ride the Welsh mountains' single-track ascents and descents with her.

But, above all, for me, this weekend was a chance reflect and relax, a bit. For 15 months, my life has been a continuous whirlwind with no respite. I haven’t slept in beyond 7.00am, sometimes I haven't slept at all and I certainly have not been able to have a duvet day or a day off. This weekend gave me the opportunity to ...

Typically, I chose to overexert myself and make myself even more shattered!

Soothing the pain of leaving my baby behind, in Kent, to be thoroughly spoilt, Nick and I headed for South Wales. Although, it was hard leaving her, it was exciting to have a weekend of time with my husband and trail-riding ahead. And, to really enhance the excitement, I love the sun and the weather was the most gorgeous I have ever ever experienced in Wales: it was full-sun and stunning. In fact, we rode the Skyline trail, on Sunday, with just arm and leg-warmers on our limbs. We’re from the tropics of Kent so it takes a lot to heat us!

It was also so exciting because part of the thrill I have from riding in Wales is that the climbs are quite lengthy. Like I said, we’re from Kent ... !

But, they were much more lengthy than I remember.

My heart rate was over 190 beats per minute within a few seconds of climbing the first trail. But this wasn't because I was riding hard. I was - but harder than I have in a long time. Disappointingly, despite my attempts at training rigour, I felt like a sack of vegetables with no strength trying to ascend those hills. And, I don't remember parts of my body wobbling with every bump as much as they did! My excitement was superseded by my forgetting how hard and relentless mountain-biking is. Permanently carrying a 10kg wriggler is easy in comparison. 

And, I was breathing hard the minute I began. A lack of skill is often survived with an additional pedal push - but, I didn't have that. Once upon a time, I had power to get myself out of trouble. But, I was at my maximum and had nowhere else to go. 

I was so so so so unfit!

As for my arms ... I spend all day holding Willow. She may be walking now but her favourite place is still attached to me. That meant nothing for the strength I needed to throw my bike about. Either my shocks were not working - which is highly likely, they haven’t been serviced for years - or, I was just incredibly weak. 

I was just incredibly weak.

The last time Nick and I rode these trails, I was an elite mountain-bike racer. Nothing scared me and I rode every part, hard and fast. This was a stark contrast to my tentative riding now I am a mother. Mountain-biking is challenging and sometimes scary. This weekend reminded me that I am no longer the driven, competitive and determined athlete I was. That was quite painful to realise. A few years ago, we would have ridden all day: we just about managed 3 hours each day.

This shadow aside, the weekend with my husband, the trails, the weather, the thrill of the descents, the endorphins from the climbs, the fact that I wasn't overtaken by another rider (ok, still a bit competitive!), the being out in a beautiful world – where we saw tornadoes and birds of prey and no one else for hours - were enough to let me leave Wales with a grin.

Seeing my baby’s grin when I got home was the biggest cherry.

Next time, she's coming.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Fifteen - A blog to share ...

I have to share Willow Rockwell's latest blog. Not because she has the same name as my baby or because she is a fellow mountain-bike racer. But, because she is a new mum and she is writing for me, a year ago; and, she is writing for many other mums, whether we've tried regaining fitness or going back to work or adapting to our new life roles and our new relationships and juggling everything motherhood throws at us.

Motherhood is technical single-track on steep inclines and descents that you ride with no brakes. And, we all fall off ... well, some of us, I mean, I have enough.

Obviously, me attempting to regain national elite level fitness is nothing in comparison to this lady's dreams - she is world class, a championship medallist - and, she is aiming to race at London 2012. I hope she does - this is the only event for which I have secured tickets and Willow and I will be there to cheer her. (Of course, we'll be rooting for Annie Last too!)

But, did I say, Willow Rockwell was a new mum?! I mean, a properly, new mum?

Her baby is only 3 months old and she has just raced the first mountain-bike World Cup of the season. This is phenomenal because I could barely sit on my saddle when my Willow was 3 months old. As for riding off-road ... it wasn't just sitting in the saddle that hurt: I remember juggling some tricky roots whilst singing Kelise's 'Milk-shake' song to camouflage the boob pain! And, emotionally, I remember, when my Willow was about 6 months, I had to get off my bike, one evening, because I was sobbing so much about having left her that I began to hyperventilate and couldn't breathe! So, racing? Wow!

I really wish Willow Rockwell every success because what she is aiming for is amazing and quite humbling. And, if she reads this, I want her to know that she is not alone with the struggles that it may throw at her.

Every mother I know, knows.

And, our paths are more often uphill, rocky, boulderous tracks but these are rewarded by the views and the descents, which we will enjoy, when we get there. When we get there.

Our daughters will be more impressionable come 2016, if that means anything ...

I am lucky because my bike-riding is my release and not my job. Although, I have spent years wishing it was my job! But my real job has had to have its sacrifices now: I can't strive to be anything but good enough, at work, now I am a mother; and, these decisions have been tough, heart-breaking, life-changing but not forever.

My baby is forever.

Or, until she is 7 and chooses sleepovers over snuggling with me. These first few years are mine to enjoy and if I have had to make drastic decisions, I have done so because I know they are right for me and for her. It has taken a year to realise this, though.

The years will go quickly ... these 15 months have.

Anyway, I must race soon - Willow must see me race first - how many regional races between now and July?