Lessons from a bike

Want to know how NOT to prepare for something? There are lessons from a bike coming right up that you can apply to anything at all, believe me.

Do you remember that last week we talked about the importance of doing the preparing before the doing – whatever it might be? Just in case you missed it, you can refresh here.

Preparing for anything has been front of mind for me due to my inability to move my neck for quite some time after a gazillion handstands but also because of a random encounter on a plane.

Back in October, I boarded a plane in Sydney bound for my hometown Perth. I was at the end of the queue, so by the time I found my home for the next five hours, both occupants of the seats either side of me were ensconced. The gentleman in the window seat was deep in conversation on his phone as I got settled and although I know it is rude to eavesdrop, it was a little hard not to when you are sitting 1cm apart from each other.

Although it was not mine, I quickly became engaged in this conversation. It didn’t take me long to work out that my travelling companion (lets call him TC) was about to embark upon a bike event that he was ill-prepared for and with just two days until the start gun sounded – there was no small element of PANIC.

Once TC was off the phone – I couldn’t resist questioning him on what he was actually doing. Firstly, hats off to him committing to a very worthwhile cause, the Ride to Conquer Cancer. But and there is a big but – when that commitment involves two consecutive days of sitting on a bike and cycling a grand total of 200km – preparing is central to one’s success at making it off the bike alive.

With five hours to spare, I had all the time in the world to grill TC. This is how it went.

Q. How much training have you done? A. None.

Q. Is your bike ready? A. Probably not, the last time I saw it was in the garden shed and it may have a basket attached to the handlebars.

Q. What are you wearing? A. What do you mean?

Q. What have you planned to eat and drink on the day? A. No plans as yet.

I could see that in order to assist TC to avoid being on the nightly news over the weekend, intervention was required and let’s just say that a crash course in general preparation, sports nutrition, logistics of cycling and survival skills ensued between Sydney and Perth that night.

I thought of TC often over that next weekend and first thing Monday morning he kindly updated me on his adventure. Here is what TC had to say…..

Hi Julie

Well, I completed the 200km and followed your nutrition plan to the letter. Had I not, I would be dead…

Key Take-aways:

  1. Identify obstacles – the weather Saturday was extreme

    a. Pissing rain from the start

    b. Hail in Byford

    c. Howling Sou’Wester (clocked at 80km / hour) that we rode directly into for the last 60km!

  2. Think logistics – setting up the swag at ground level was torture

    a. My knees were swollen enough without having to kneel on them.

    b. Slept first 3 hours in my shoes as I could not face the torture of taking them off

    c. Woke at midnight to find my way to porta loo and change into more comfortable attire in blustery 7 degree temperatures

    d. At first light surrounded by very enthusiastic cyclists who were looking forward to a 3 – 4 hour effort back to Perth and a lazy Sunday afternoon… Not available for me

  3. The right equipment is essential – my bike was a piece of s**t

    a. Sunday morning I woke to two broken spokes, a bent rim and 15 Psi in an 80 Psi tyre – all of which I suspect I rode with for a good portion of on Saturday

    b. Was told by learned colleagues my weekend was over… Some called it deliberate sabotage by me to avoid the 2nd 100Km

    c. I thought I would give it a bit of a go for personal pride with no thought of actually making it. Surprise, surprise, I crossed the finish line at McCullum Park on my bike in the second last group of real battlers.

  4. Recovery is Important

    a. Epsom salts

    b. Hydralyte

    c. Ice on both knees

    d. 50mg Voltaren tablets

    e. T Bone Steak

    f. Half a bottle of Red

    g. Compression bandages applied indefinitely

Signed up for next year…Thanks for your contribution and being interested – part of the healing process is being able to talk about these things. TC

Thanks TC for the lessons you have shared and the grace in which you accepted your fate. Lets catch a plane a little earlier next year.

It’s all in the preparing

Earlier this year, I completely stepped out of my comfort zone and tried to learn a new skill. I have known these skills before but when I say before, I mean a lifetime ago.

One of my daughters is an elite gymnast and as I spend SO much time getting her to and from gym, I thought it would be a great idea to add a bit more time there and join the adult gymnastics class. A good friend had already been doing it for a while and I was intrigued.

A few problems presented themselves fairly quickly. Flexibility, upper body strength and ineptitude topped the list, with embarrassment following close behind. I really hadn’t thought the timing of these classes through enough, as there is a large glass window in the entrance that enables full viewing of gymnasts in action. This is perfect when one is viewing a child’s class but not ideal when all the parents that you know are flocking in to pick up their kids but instead discuss the finer points of adult gymnastics. I think it is probably a stretch to call what I am doing gymnastics but I am an adult.

We have done a lot of good solid laughing whilst coach David has put us through our paces and I can now hold a candle, do a few penguins, throw in a few forward rolls and do a passable handstand.

Which brings me to why we are having a conversation today. When I was a kid, handstands seemed fairly straightforward to me, lunge forward and fling those legs up as high as you can. But no, no, no.

David is a thorough coach and he is dedicated to getting us to prepare and perform handstands properly. Please note the keyword here – prepare. Up until now, I have been completely unaware that there is a sequence of events that leads to a successful handstand and a couple of months ago, one of our classes was dedicated just to this. Standing on your hands and moving them is hard graft in my book but I made it through the class without any major injuries. Or so I thought.

“You have to do the preparing before you do the doing”

The next morning my alarm went off as usual and I attempted to get out of bed. Nope. That particular move was not available to me. My neck had completely seized up. There was no need for rocket science here – clearly a whole hour of handstands after decades of no handstands can not end well. Needless to say, I spent a great deal of time over the next two weeks bonding with my physiotherapist.

What I learnt from the good old handstand

  1. You have to do the preparing before you do the doing – when learning a new skill of any kind, whether it be a new exercise routine, choosing and preparing healthy food, getting better sleep or managing stress – prepping up is super important. Do some planning – it really works.
  2. Do not make assumptions about your current skill level – even if the skill or behaviour you have decided to develop was one that you have previously known well, things may have changed – just saying. How will you brush up on those skills?
  3. Take bite-sized chunks – in hindsight it would have been best for me to do ten minutes of handstand work, not 60 minutes of hard core up in the air moves
  4. Be patient – consistency and persistency will get you everywhere
  5. Make getting from A to B simple – if you do the preparing before the doing, getting from A to B (whatever that may be) will save you time, money and energy. This might mean starting with three walks each week rather than aiming for every day morning and night or doing a food shop each week to ensure you have healthy food on hand rather than winging it and ending up ordering takeaway.

What are you preparing to do?