December 14th, 2017. I was lying down at home in full-on “recovery mode” following my back operation, contemplating all of the guidance from my consultant and my physio. Beyond the immediate recovery from the surgery, I knew there was a lot of work to do to regain a reasonable amount of mobility. Years of adapting my movement to minimise the pain and discomfort have left me with quite heavily restricted movement in some areas, and seeing the faces of both my consultant and physio when they realised this gave me a real kick from behind to step up and get myself in shape.
Back in the 90’s, myself, my brother and a few friends rode mountain bikes. A lot. As we have all grown older and gained more grown up responsibilities, for me at least, it became something that I did once or twice a year as a treat. On this particular day, my group messaging app pinged with a message from one of our little group. It read “Sam Houghton Challenge. 9th June 2018. 46km loop with 1400m of climbing. Entries don’t open until March but I thought I’d see who fancies it?”
46km. I thought about it. 46km. Far further than I’ve ever ridden in one day before. I decided to look into the event myself. In May 2006, Sam Houghton (who was a keen mountain biker) lost his battle with cancer, aged just 22. The challenge is organised in memory of Sam, and participants raise money for Cancer Research UK. Something clicked in my head – I wasn’t going to turn this down. In the condition I was in, 3 weeks post-op, I could quite easily have let this pass me by, but I couldn’t. I needed this as a goal, a target, and my word has it motivated me.
Since getting the go ahead from my consultant and physio to get back on my bike, I have been building up the miles gradually, increasing the distance on road and adding in off-road riding as and when I became more comfortable and I knew my body could handle it.
As well as riding and walking, I have started doing body weight exercises at home as part of Break-Point UK’s Prime Evolution programme. This is something that I begun at the end of January and the first phase runs over a 12 week period. Broken down into three sections – Mind, Body & Nutrition – the course is aimed at developing a more positive approach to all aspects of life. I’m currently 6 weeks in and already I’m seeing changes in the way I think, feel and look.
I’ve never been able to get into working out before really. I’m not a gym person. Confidence issues have meant that on the occasions I have used a gym I’ve never really worked to my full potential – I’ve always been too worried about what the guy on the treadmill/bike/weights next to me might be thinking. Ridiculous I know, but they were thoughts I couldn’t keep out of my head. I still have those thoughts, but now I am learning to block them out and work past them. In a number of contexts and from a number of people I have heard recently about the impact that negative thoughts can have on our lives: more accurately the impact that removing negative thoughts can have. For example, in an endurance situation you ultimately end up with two options – either finish or don’t. Not finishing however, is a negative. So remove it. The option you’re left with now is finishing. This new mindset has led me recently to making a number of decisions that I perhaps wouldn’t have made in the past, and stepping up to things I perhaps wouldn’t have.
Having always been a bit of a tech-head, I also find that gadgets that can help me, motivate me. The more I use them and learn about their potential, the more I want to use them. And this is where my trusty Garmin Fenix 3 watch comes in. I’d be lying if I claimed to use it to anything like it’s full potential at the moment, but I do use it every day to support and inform my training, and in the last few weeks I have not only been using the GPS tracking and heart rate features but also the route navigation. Having been on a quest to up the distances I have been walking and riding I have found myself straying from the beaten track shall we say. 5 minutes is all it takes to plan a route on Ordnance Survey’s website and upload it to the watch. Then it’s simply a case of selecting the route in the navigation menu, choosing which activity you will be doing, and hit go. The watch then guides you at every junction as to which way you should be going.
I know this isn’t exactly new tech. Garmin actually announced the Fenix 5 two days after I bought my Fenix 3 almost 18 months ago, but what I do with it works for me and keeps me motivated. And that is what I need. At the time of writing this there are 83 days until the Sam Houghton Challenge. I have less than 12 weeks to up my fitness and do my bit for a cause close to my heart.