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Posts from the ‘Cycling’ Category

Belle & Sebastien

I am back. Oops. I got lost. So where were we… ah yes. Holidays. So…

The Hautes Pyrenees, peaceful, beautiful, low key yet impressive.

Gorges de Kakouetta: Truly impressive, the walls of the gorge are up to 300m high and barely more than 5m apart in some areas. The lush vegetation is jungle-thick and waterfalls fill the air with a fine spray. This is best done early in the morning when there are no tourists, it gets crowded from 10am.

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Col de Tourmalet & Pic du Midi de Bigorre: We undertook a 4-hour walk from the Col de Tourmalet (2,115m), the highest road in the central Pyrenees and one of the most famous climbs on the Tour de France, to the Pic du Midi de Bigorre (2,877m), which is renowned for its astronomical observatory. The weather was glorious but the air was fresh and after a rather uninspiring climb on rocky terrain, the views were breathtaking once we got to the top. We took a different route on the way down and were lucky to spot a marmot soaking up the rays on some rocks. I wanted to adopt it, John said no.

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Luz St Sauveur: This delightful little town, which used to be a 19th century spa, is the perfect place to stay if you want to explore the area for a few days especially if you are a keen cyclist or hiker. We found a room at the friendly and very affordable Hotel Les Templiers, which is run by an Australian lady and her French husband. The hotel is located opposite the Church of St-André, guaranteeing you a charming view when you open the shutters in the morning! I daren’t say romantic, John might squirm…

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Cirque de Gavarnie: One word: breathtaking. Its edifying size and stunning surroundings makes this Unesco World Heritage Site a must-see in the Pyrenees. The imposing rock amphitheatre, with its 400m Grande Cascade waterfall, rises to over 3000m and makes you realise how small humans really are. Again, this is an early morning jaunt as it gets very busy later on in the day.

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I want to go back. Soon. It is a very serene and stunning area of France from which you come back feeling relaxed and scrubbed shiny and new from the inside out.

The Magic of Physical Exertion

We all know why exercise is good for you: it prevents the many contributory factors that can cause heart disease, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels and obesity and it helps stimulate the cells that strengthen your bones. In combination with a healthy diet it helps maintain a healthy body weight, builds up your immune system and research has also shown that regular exercise can reduce your chance of developing certain cancers (colon & breast).

But more than anything for me, it helps me stay mentally healthy. The release of the brain chemical serotonin boosts my mood and reduces any feelings of anxiety and depression. By exerting myself, I am flushing away all the negativity which has built up during the day. The other thing I have found is that exercise gives me focus: as I become fitter, I feel more in tune with my body, more able to up my pace and challenge myself. In turn this makes me feel more in control of my life and health. This feeling of control gives me more confidence and as a result, I become braver and bolder in more areas of my life.

As proved by my recent lack of exercise, which has manifested itself through a subdued mood and a general sense of apathy, it is high time I got back on the road: running, cycling, walking. First stop, the Swiss mountains this weekend…

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…more about that next week.

Et il a une bicyclette!

Blog Bike

I have decided to start cycling into work. Commuting in London takes me up to two hours a day and if I want to fit in exercise, seeing friends, cooking and baking into this, I’d need a 36-hour day. Cycling to and from work will mean I can cancel my gym membership and spend more time pursuing my other passions.

So I decided to hire a bike for a week. I went to the On Your Bike store in London Bridge on a Saturday and collected my steed. Mmh, a donkey might have been a more appropriate description. It was big, heavy, grey and slow. Being fairly fit, it was a bit of a shock to the system.

The following day, I decided to undertake a practice run into work, I set off just before 9 in the morning. It was hard work and because I wasn’t clear on where I was going, I had to stop frequently to consult the map. An hour and 10 sweaty minutes later, I arrived, discomfited, at work. I was truly questioning the benefit of such suffering. Thankfully, I made it back in a quicker time but the 25-mile round trip (via the supermarket to reward myself with nice food) exhausted me.

Having hired this instrument of torture for a week, I had to return it, which meant cycling into work again so I could return it to the London Bridge store after work. Being a tad over-cautious and maybe a little Swiss in nature, I decided to give myself plenty of time and left at 6.30am.To my surprise, it was a wonderful ride into work: I knew the route, the roads were pretty empty and it was a lovely day. The ride gave me an instant boost for the day.

This meant the bike plan was back on track. Next stop: buying a suitable bike. Having done a bit of research and spoken to a couple of people who are keen cyclists, I am leaning towards getting a road bike, rather than a hybrid. Evans Cycles weren’t very helpful and pointed me towards their ‘most’ popular model. So the hunt is very much on and I am looking forward to going to a few more shops to see what is out there.

I love how a bicycle takes you to places which would remain undiscovered were you using a car or public transport. It’s faster than walking, thus satisfying my need for speed and the plethora of new & old buildings, pretty streets, glorious parks, moving statues (Sumner Street in SE1) and very different areas of London on offer please my unquenchable curiosity.

Go on, give it a go…

Active Body, Active Mind

High Peak Trail

I come back from an active weekend feeling rather refreshed. I was up in Derby visiting John:  on Saturday, we went to Carsington Water reservoir in the Peak District and took a leisurely 8-mile stroll. Although it was windy, it was so nice to be outside and was just what I needed after a week of late nights.

On Sunday, we got on our bikes and cycled 25 miles round the High Peak trail – and what fun it was! Cycling as hard and as fast as I could, wind in my hair, gorgeous sunshine and beautiful views across the countryside. Sunburn is not my friend though and I am still suffering today…

The Peak District is stunning and should be explored if you get the chance.

Yesterday, I finally did my indoor skydiving – a present from John. Airkix is based in Milton Keynes and is basically a wind tunnel. The tunnel circulates air into a 12 foot flight chamber. To enter the tunnel I simply stood in the open doorway and leant forward. I felt my legs lifted from under me as I assumed a horizontal flying position. The instructor helped me through the motions by giving me tips on how to position my body to fly high or low. It was great fun and I’d thoroughly recommend it. Skydiving could be next…

So it’s a new week and I am raring to go: exercise is featuring heavily on the agenda with spinning, running and yoga planned throughout. Healthy eating is also a must: lots of vegetables and fresh fish, washed down with plenty of water… Healthy body, healthy mind…

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