My new old bike

My first bike was not a road bike. Back in the day, when I considered one bike to be entirely sufficient, that one bike was not a road bike.

These days, I have lots of bikes. I can justify them all, I really can.

Well I probably can.

These days, the road bikes are my favourites.

I love my cargo bike and I probably spend more time riding it than any other bike. It is my source of day-to-day transport. It saves me the trauma of school run parking. It allows me to be mummy and a cyclist at the same time. It is a magical vehicle which can be transformed into any kind of carriage on the whim of my childrens’ imaginations.

But it is on a road bike that I truly know who I am.

My first road bike was a Giant OCR. I bought it in 2003 and it was the most expensive thing I had ever bought. I still have it and I still love it. It’s not the most lightweight bike and its not the fastest bike. But then, I’m not the most lightweight rider and I’m not the fastest rider. My Giant and I have been through a lot together – quite often at the instigation of my brother!

I like to feel that the bike was suffering as much as me in the Alps.

When I met the man who became my husband, I maybe got a bit of bike envy and decided it was time for a carbon road bike.

Enter Contessa.

Contessa was light and fast and totally beautiful. I felt like a real speedy cyclist. I could talk about my summer bike and my winter bike. I even entered a couple of road races.

When we had the children it was difficult to find the time to cycle and I decided to sell a couple of bikes. I sadly waved goodbye to Contessa. I kept my Giant though.

I was happy with the decision. Life was different now. There wasn’t time for speeding around the countryside on a carbon bike.

I was fine with it.

For a couple of months anyway.

Without cycling, I realised how much I am a cyclist. Riding bikes is a part of me. I had to find a way to find the time. A five hour cycle may now be a luxury, but a one hour cycle is a necessity. I need that time for me.

I have been hankering for a new road bike pretty much since I sold Contessa. Riding the Giant again made me realise how comfortable I was on it. Giant have now moved in to produce the Liv range of womens’ bikes. A little light googling and I had my heart set on a Liv avail – totally beautiful bikes. Kind of pricey though.

I decided that for now, I would keep an eye on Gumtree and see if I could pick something up secondhand. The bike of my dreams would have to wait. At least until we go back to being a two income family.

It was my husband who spotted the advert for the Planet X.

Not the bike of my dreams, but a great quality bike, barely used and an excellent price.

I was prepared to compromise.

And then I rode it.

It turns out that my compromise was not a compromise. This bike is fantastic. I have never been so comfortable on a bike. I have never felt so strong on a bike. I could honestly ride this bike all day long given the chance.

I love my new old bike.

I actually love it so much that, although I still drool over the Liv bikes, I don’t think I ever want a bike with even slightly different geometry again.

So, if anyone is looking to buy a new bike, my advise would be to seriously consider a new old bike. There are some fantastic secondhand bikes out there. The wonderful thing about buying secondhand is that you get to try out a bike different from everything you thought you wanted. If it doesn’t suit you, you just sell it on again for exactly what you paid for it.

Secondhand bikes are a great way to save money.

And who doesn’t need just one more bike when they are saving money by buying them….

Why having children is like having bikes

Today, I was reflecting on the fact that my bikes were my babies before I had babies. Then it came to me just how many similarities there are between being a mother and being a cyclist.

Here is my reasoning:

  • Some days with them are truly wonderful. You feel alive and strong and joyful.
  • Some days with them are truly awful. You feel like you can’t do anything right and it is all so much slower than it ought to be.
  • Some days it seems to take forever just to get out.
  • Even when you’re not with them, you seem to think about them all the time.
  • There are any number of apps readily available to make you feel bad about how you are doing.
  • There are any number of people – family, friends and total strangers – who are more than happy to offer their opinions about where you are going wrong.
  • In the winter they make you feel trapped indoors but it’s just not worth the hassle to go out.
  • Sometimes you long for a day away from them. But when you finally get one, you just wish you were with them again.
  • There is never a good reason to leave the house without a banana.
  • You love them whatever age and stage they are at, but still there was something magical about the first time you held them.
  • It doesn’t matter how many or what sort you have, they all need your time and attention, and to know that you love them.

I thought about this for quite a long time.

And then I came to a wonderful conclusion:

Being a cyclist is like being a mum.

So cycling is like practicing parenting.

And practice makes perfect.

So I need to cycle more.

Pass me my bike!

Cyclists of the World Unite! Or at least be friendly

My husband and I recently took part in a local sportive.

How times have changed…

In the past (before children), we would have entered the longest route. The night before the ride we would have made sure we got enough sleep. We would have arrived early so we could start early. After the ride, we would have gone home to eat a big dinner and put our feet up on the sofa for a well earned rest.

Now, we enter the shortest route. We don’t often get out for longer than an hour so it’s hard to train for long distance. The night before the ride we were amazed to only get up once at silly o’ clock to fulfill an absurd request from a small person. We set off early to drop the children at their Granny and Grandad’s house for the day, then headed off in a rush to make sure we didn’t miss the last start time. After the ride, we picked up the children and went home to eat a big dinner, put the children to bed (repeatedly) and bake a three-tier birthday cake for the following day.

But we were cycling.

We were cycling together.

We used to cycle together every weekend. Sometimes during the week too. It was something we probably took for granted.

Since having children we do still find time to cycle, but very rarely together. We were chatting about this recently and both agreed that, when we can get babysitting, we would probably rather go for a cycle than go for dinner.

I’m not sure what this says about us apart from the fact that we are most definitely confirmed cyclists.

It was great to be part of a fairly big event with lots of cyclists on the road. It reminded me that we are part of a community of a kind. The sportive was run brilliantly and we had a fantastic day.

There was just one negative.

About five miles in I had a mechanical. Fortunately, I also had my mechanic (husband). It only took 10 minutes or so to fix so it wasn’t really a big deal.

In that 10 minutes, maybe 50 cyclists passed us. 2 slowed down and called to see if we needed any help.

Only 2.

We didn’t need any help so that was fine.

Except, it really wasn’t fine.

Not to my mind.

If I see another cyclist stopped by the side of the road, I always slow down to ask if they are alright. Always. Not just if they are on their own. Not just if they are on a road bike. Not just if their bike is clearly broken in some way. Always.

I do this because I would like to help. When I see another cyclist, I see somebody I have something in common with. It doesn’t matter how fast they are cycling, or how far they are cycling, or what bike they are cycling. They are cycling.

Most of the time, folk do what we did; smile and shout “we’re / I’m fine” and wave you on. This is fortunate because my good intentions are about where my helpfulness ends. I can fix a puncture, but so can most other people. Beyond that, I’m not really much help. As my husband will attest, I am better at breaking bikes than fixing them.

But it’s the thought that counts and I hang on to that.

It’s being part of a community that counts. And communities support their members to the best of their abilities.

Is it me, or are fewer cyclists offering support to each other these days?

Are fewer cyclists smiling and waving when they pass each other?

Or am I just getting old?

Cyclists, we are already a minority. Some days it feels like every other road user hates us. Let’s back each other up.

When you see another cyclist, see somebody you have a connection with. Connections are important. Connections with other people make life worth living. They are what make us human.

Smile and wave folks. Smile and wave.

 

 

Do you want to build a snowman?

It was a standing joke in my family when I was younger. How my Dad sulked the year it snowed and none of us would come out and build a snowman with him. I can’t remember how old my siblings and I were but we considered ourselves too old for such pastimes. My Dad must have considered himself to old for such pastimes too – unless he had his children with him to give him the excuse.

Two events in my life have made me think about this recently.

Firstly, My son turned five. My daughter is about to turn three.

I am loving the age my children are at now. They are that bit more independent so I get at least one cup of coffee a day that I don’t have to reheat. They are not at school yet and as a stay at home mum I get plenty of time with them. The youngest is out of nappies. Most nights, when we go to bed, we sleep until at least 6am without interruption.

I loved my children as babies but I don’t miss the days of night-feeds and explosive nappies and tiny people who can’t tell you just what it is they want.

Still, sometimes I think I am still just coming to terms with being a parent while they are growing so fast. There are some things that are over and I will never have them again. No more cots, no more baby sensory, no more spoon feeding, no more jumperoo taking up half the living room.

There will come a point when there will be no more cargo bike. The children are getting so big and heavy and Danny can pedal his own bike now. The plan is to move on to a tandem type bike. I am really excited about a tandem, but I think I will cry the day we sell the cargo bike.

The second event that made me think, was a family week in the sunshine. A brilliant week and the kids had a ball. We spent the mornings at the beach and the afternoons at the pool.

This was the first holiday when hubby and I got a fair bit of time relaxing. At the pool, the kids played happily in the shallow pool with armbands on while we sat and watched them. We did play with them some of the time, but they didn’t always want us to. They were quite happy.

I’m not complaining about any of this. Like I said, I am loving the age my children are at now.

But it makes me think.

Did I make the most of it?

Will I one day look back with regret?

Sometimes I worry that I will look back and wonder if I spent my children’s early years trying to ‘get stuff done’. If I was impatient and grumpy. If I should have left the laundry in the basket and gone to blow bubbles in the garden. If I should have ignored the mess and gone to build lego. If I should have skipped the cycle ride and gone swimming as a family.

I don’t subscribe to the ‘cherish every moment’ approach to parenting. It would be hard for anyone to cherish the moment on our recent holiday when both children lay on the floor screaming blue murder because they both wanted to go out of the lift first.

But still. Did I make the most of it?

What will my children remember when they look back on their childhoods?

What will they think of me?

Sometimes motherhood feels like one guilt trip after another.

I really don’t think I will look back with regret.

I do blow bubbles in the garden. I love nothing better than watching them leap around trying to catch them all. Sometimes I think our house must be identifiable for miles around by the veritable cloud of bubbles drifting above it.

I do build lego. I had forgotten just how much fun lego can be. The three of us have collaborated on some amazing fantastical creations and I couldn’t say who had the most fun.

I do take them swimming sometimes. True, not very often and hubby takes them most weekends while I cycle. Hubby lets them splash him and pretend to dunk him under the water. Hubby does tricks and lets them ride on his back while he swims. Hubby is great fun to go swimming with. Hubby is brilliant with them and they love their time with him… without me there. And I am a better Mummy after my cycle.

I am sometimes impatient and grumpy. I do sometimes fob them off because I have jobs that need to be done. I am human and life is busy.

I do my best and that is the best I can do.

I wonder if my Dad thinks the same.

I wonder how he felt that day we all refused to build a snowman with him.

 

Ode to Joy

I had a fantastic day out on the bike today.

Once a month, I have a day off being Mummy and I go out with my cycle club, Hervelo.

As I said in my last post, I am suffering from Turbo fatigue and remembering that I love riding outdoors. Today just reinforced this.

I did realise the benefit of turbo training as I felt stronger on the bike than I have done in years. I felt like I could of ridden for miles. I felt like the hills had got easier.

This is probably also in no small part due to the hugely effective strength training provided by the cargo bike.

As we hit a steady slight downhill section with smooth tarmac and a lovely tailwind, I felt incredible.

I felt free.

I felt strong.

I felt alive.

I felt real joy.

It was the kind of joy that small children feel so often.

The kind of joy that made my son run around in circles with his hands above his head for an hour because the beach we had just arrived at was just so amazing.

The kind of joy that made he and his sister jump up and down on the spot on Christmas morning because Santa had really been.

The kind of joy that makes them both chase bubbles for hours around the garden.

The kind of joy that young children express with their whole bodies.

It was a beautiful feeling.

It occurred to me that I see this joy in my children several times a week inspired by the smallest of things.

How often do we feel this as adults?

Even more worryingly, how often do we see this in older children?

Where does this incredible feeling of joy go?

I have a theory. It is a theory based on no evidence. A theory which I only thought of as I rode home.

I think we view our children’s emotions as amusing. Sometimes we view them as frankly annoying – “seriously, we need to get shoes and coats on right now because we are going to be late. The lego model you made is marvelous and we will look at it when we get back”.

I don’t think I always value my children’s intense emotional lives. I don’t think I show my children that I value their emotions.

And then they start school. They start so young and the pressure to achieve starts to build.

Whether we mean to or not, we quite clearly demonstrate to our children that we value academic achievement. We value reading. We value writing. We value counting to ever higher numbers and then learning to use and manipulate those numbers. We do this with the best of intentions because we want our children to succeed.

Maybe we should start to value joy?

Turbo Powered

For the past three months, I have spent my weekend and evening cycle time in the garage. We have a fantastic garage set up. Race bikes on turbo trainers with a TV and a huge range of box sets, plus a range of cooling fans.

I resort to the turbo in the winter because the daylight hours are so limited and riding in the dark, even with great lights, makes me feel very vulnerable.

Even at the weekends, the light is low early in the mornings when I would normally ride. The roads and cycle paths are often wet / icy / 6 inches deep in fallen leaves. All this amounts to an hour of very gentle, cautious and frustrating cycling.

On the turbo I can spend my very limited time doing a really tough session that will make me a faster cyclist. Brilliant. Fantastic use of time.

But it’s still not quite the cycling I love.

I settle into turbo training every winter. I can list all the benefits of turbo training:

  • I am quite a numbers junkie and my turbo has a power meter which the part of me that keeps a training log, loves.
  • I now have a reliable heart rate monitor which my inner number junkie loves even more than the power meter – this is much easier to watch when I don’t have to think about staying upright.
  • No clothing layers, no overshoes, no gloves, no earwarmers Just shorts and t-shirt with no huge pile of washing afterwards.
  • TV boxsets. The turbo has led me to obsessive watching of TV boxsets. ‘Life on Mars’, ‘Ashes to ashes’ and ‘House’ have been some of the highlights over the years. For longer sessions, you can’t beat ‘Chasing Legends’. For the past 2 winters I have been kept motivated by the 15 series boxset of ER (I’m still only on series 7).
  • No post ride bike cleaning.

But it’s still not quite the cycling I love.

This week has been February break so no nursery or playgroup. My husband took a couple of days off work and my road bike needed a test ride before my monthly club ride. So off I headed on my road bike. Outside.

It was only an hour.

It was an hour from which a bit of a quandary has been born.

I am now looking at the turbo with disgust. I no longer care whether Carter gets over Lucy’s death and whether Carol Hathaway manages to balance her new role as a mother with her job as a nurse (I have been watching a lot of ER).

I want to ride on the road.

I want to be outside in the fresh air.

I want to struggle up hills and kamikaze down the other side.

And it’s almost possible. It’s light enough at the weekends. It’s not that long until the clocks change and it’s light enough in the evenings.

But there was a reason for hitting the turbo. I want to race. I want to get back to time trialling like I used to.

I definitely wanted to.

But do I still want to?

I ride a bike because I am a cyclist and I cannot be myself without riding a bike.

I ride a bike because I want to be fit.

I ride a bike because it gives me the alone time I need to be a part of a close family.

Do I really ride a bike to race?

For me it comes down to time. For me to ride a time trial I have to get the bike in the car, drive at least half an hour to wherever the race is, sign on and wait about a bit, ride the race, get everything back in the car, drive home and unpack it all. That amounts to about three hours. Of that three hours, maybe an hour is spent on the bike.

What if I just binned the race, went out of the door and rode my bike for three hours.

Three whole hours.

That sounds amazing.

But what if I went to the race and did well. Went as fast as I used to. Beat my pre-parenthood pb’s even.

Faster than ever.

That sounds amazing.

So, I am back to an identity crisis.

To race or not to race. That is the question……

Weighty problems

New Year seems like an appropriate time to talk about weight loss.

Weight can be a touchy subject so I had maybe better add a disclaimer. I am writing about my personal experiences with weight gain and loss. I am writing about it because I think about it. I include numbers because I think about the numbers. I think people should decide their own healthy and happy weight.

Disclaimer over.

I’ve never been small. I’ve been a size 14 most of my adult life and I’ve always been fairly content with my size. I’ve always been pretty heavy for my 5ft 5 too, around 11st 7lb. I’ve often thought I could do with losing a few pounds, but I’ve never really dieted as such.

Then I had children.

My first pregnancy I regarded as a license to drink chocolate milk. It was brilliant. Whatever I fancied I could label a craving. Everybody knows pregnancy cravings must be respected. If I’m honest, I don’t think I ever really craved anything when I was pregnant. I just allowed myself to be greedy.

Unsurprisingly, post pregnancy, I found myself shopping for size 16 clothes and weighing in at 14st.

I was no longer content with my size.

The trouble was that there was no way to lose the weight just by exercise. I had a new baby and was trying to breast feed. I couldn’t find the time to exercise.

So exercise took on a new meaning. I walked. I walked and I walked. I walked in the sunshine, I walked in the rain and I walked in the snow. The great thing about small babies is that they love to sleep and they love to look at stuff. Baby Danny loved his buggy.

I did a bit of running too and started going to the gym a couple of times a week.

I also discovered the My Fitness Pal app. I counted calories and I tracked steps and gradually I lost weight. Danny turned one and I was down two stone.

Hurrah for me.

Then came pregnancy number two. I lost the baby very early and to be honest, my weight was the least of my concerns.

Pregnancy number three had the very happy outcome of baby Ellen. This time I was more careful. I did not drink my own weight in chocolate milk. I accepted that I would gain weight, but I wouldn’t go wild this time.

Ellen was born and I was 14st 8lb.

I felt like I had been cheated out of 9 months of chocolate milk.

Back to my fitness pal. Back to the pedometer.

It was harder to walk everywhere this time as I had a 2 year old as well as a newborn. 2 year olds don’t like to walk for miles, or to sit in buggies for any length of time.

I got into running, I entered a marathon. I did too much too soon and never got to the start line of the marathon.

Ellen turned one and I was still 13 stone.

When I got the cargo bike and started using it five days a week getting Danny to nursery, I finally started to lose the weight. Six months of using the bike for transport and I was back to my pre-pregnancy weight.

Hurrah for me.

But here’s the thing. My weight no longer just hovers around 11st 7lb. Instead, it likes to creep its way up to 12 stone. Maybe this is due to having children. Maybe it’s due to reaching my 40s. Maybe it doesn’t matter why.

I don’t want to be skinny but there are some weight related things I do want:

  • I want to go back to being content with my body.
  • I want to set an example to my children of healthy eating and healthy weight.
  • I want to race time trials this year and be as fast as I was before I had children.
  • I want to cook one evening meal which everyone eats.
  • I want to be able to drink wine and eat cake occasionally.

So my challenge for the start of 2017 is to find a way to balance all these wants.

Right now, I’m going to give this some serious thought. While enjoying a slice of Christmas cake.

 

How failing to cycle might make me a better mummy

It’s become a bit of a family tradition that we go away for a long weekend for my birthday and for my husband’s birthday. Nothing too complicated. A caravan and a swimming pool and the kids are over the moon.

We are just back from my birthday weekend. We all had a great time but for me there was also a tough reminder about empathy for my children.

Here’s the thing – I wanted to cycle to where we were staying. I really really wanted to cycle there. It wan’t too far. The weather forecast was fantastic. The others could drive and I’d meet them there.

It wasn’t to be.

I went in the car.

The bike stayed at home.

I was disappointed. I was actually more disappointed than I have been about anything in ages. (I think the last time I felt this disappointed was when I realized that breast feeding just wasn’t working out.) I cried. I struggled to let it go. Every time I saw a bike on the road it set me off again. Every time I thought about how perfect the weather was it set me off again.

In the absence of any other form of solitude and exercise over the weekend, I took to walking. This gave me the space I needed to think this one through.

What a realisation I came to.

I realised that this is how my 4 year old feels.

When he sees something he really wants and I tell him he can’t have it, this is exactly how he feels.

I know that the toy is cheap rubbish that will fall apart before we get home. I know that it’s going dark and the dinner needs cooked so we can’t go to the playpark right now.

But all my 4 year old knows is that he really really wanted it and he’s disappointed. It doesn’t actually matter how absurd what he wanted was. He’s disappointed. He can’t help feeling disappointed any more than I could.

I try my hardest to be a patient parent, but I really find it hard to deal with the crying and whining that 4 year olds can produce when they really want something ridiculous. My patience really wears thin when I think we’ve moved on and he starts all over again, sometimes hours later.

As a parent, I often deal with my 4 year old’s disappointment in the following ways:

  • Distract him
  • Explain (again) why the answer is no
  • Get cross and tell him to stop whining

When I felt disappointed, would any of these approaches have helped me?

  • Distraction – the disappointment would still be there. It just kept coming back no matter how much I disliked it.
  • Explaining – I already knew all the reasons why. They were the reasons I felt disappointed in the first place.
  • Anger – That would just make me angry as well as disappointed.

Oh no, I’m a horrible parent. Bring on the mummy guilt.

It took a fair bit of walking to work out what could of helped me when I felt like this. Nothing could make me feel less disappointed. I think that all I really needed was for someone who loved me to tell me that they understood and to give me a big hug. I would still feel disappointed but I would also feel loved and acknowledged.

So, I need to rethink how I deal with my children when they feel disappointed.

They feel how they feel and it doesn’t matter if it seems ridiculous to me, it’s serious to them.

Sounds simple.

If only they didn’t feel that way quite so often because I still really really find whining hard to deal with.

But if I can just remember how I felt this weekend, then maybe failing to cycle this once, might make me a better mummy.

Running and Me

I have something of a love / hate relationship with running.

I love how quickly running gets you fit. I love how little time it takes. I love how accepting and supportive the running community is. The phenomenally successful Parkrun movement, to me, exemplifies all that is good about running.

But I hate running. It’s hard work and gives me none of the exhilaration that I get from cycling. Running makes me self conscious – it took me a long time to get over feeling self conscious and t0 start running in the daylight without fearing passing someone who knew me.

I started running after entering a duathlon in the area I lived at the time. This involved a 20 mile off-road run followed by a 30 mile cycle. Not training for the run was really not an option if I wanted to survive it.

My choice of event possibly gives some insight into my personality. It seems that my basic approach to life is summed up by – if you’re going to do something, go completely overboard at it (my husband will vouch for this).

When I moved to Edinburgh from the back of beyond, I tried to find a cycle club to get involved with. I ended up not doing this at all, but joining the wonderful Musselburgh Running Club. They were so friendly and encouraging that I found my bike gathering dust while I started entering running races.

0172_08778

‘Consistent’ is possibly the best way to describe my racing performance. I was consistent in finishing towards the front of the back third of runners. But it didn’t matter. I was improving. I was getting new pb’s (personal bests). I was running longer distances. I was enjoying feeling part of something. I was gathering an impressive collection of medals (for taking part).

penicuik-10k-2

 

I got back to cycling when I met my husband but have gone through phases of running ever since.

Running was my way back into fitness after both my pregnancies. Suddenly my time was massively constrained, but running was something I could fit in. I just needed a 30 minute window, 3 times a week and I was a runner again. I was a sporty person again. I was almost me again.

I discovered running buggies. We bought a second hand Baby Jogger and I started to feel some sense of freedom. Martin and I could both do the local parkrun together every week (by together, I mean we started together and he waited for me at the finish line….he waited for quite a while sometimes). We both took pride in running with the buggy.

2013-01-05-1st-park-run
Danny’s first Parkrun, aged 8 months

Danny enjoyed it too, most weeks. He got to watch the world go by slightly faster than usual and watch all the people around. Sometimes he didn’t enjoy it and for whatever reason would just cry. Martin and I both agreed that these weeks we would just abandon the run. There was always another week. This was the beginning of my theory of finding time to train, in particular point 3. ‘Don’t be a selfish dick’.

Injuries are a big issue for me with running Because of my ‘if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth going completely overboard at it’ philosophy to life, I am more than a little prone to overuse injuries and burnout. I haven’t run for 18 months now. Partly because I have rediscovered my love of cycling. Partly because I ran too much, too far and too heavy. I hurt my knees and kept on running. Really not sensible.

I’m thinking of having a go at editing my philosophy to ‘if a thing is worth doing, it’s worth going completely overboard at it….unless it hurts. If it hurts, stop doing it’.

For now, I’ll not be running but I have no doubt that one day I’ll forget how much I hate it and head out for a run….and quite enjoy it after all. After that, it’s a slippery slope to “I’d still like to have a go at a sub-4 hour marathon”…

Finding the time to train

For me, this has been one of the biggest challenges to getting back on the bike since I had children. It’s the reason why I kept getting back into running. Running is quick and simple – straight out of the door and a half hour run 3 or 4 times a week is not too tricky. Cycling takes more time.

But there is time. For me, there is always time. I just have to find it. I really don’t have much truck with “I don’t have time to….” .

Before I enrage anyone, I should add that I am talking about me and my life. I am not working just now – my days are hectic but I can get the cooking, some shopping and the endless laundry done during the day. My children are 2 and 4 now, things are getting easier. Most days have gaps when they play really well together with no need for input from me. I am also very fortunate to have a supportive husband who understands that cycling is a need, not a want for me (because he is also a cyclist). He also wants to spend as much time with his children as he can. His work allows him to start and finish relatively early so he is always home by 5:30pm.

If you have a very young baby, if you are a single parent, if you have other dependent family members, if you or your partner work long hours, or if you have any of the other challenges in life which massively restrict your available time and energy, then you probably don’t have the time to…. and I would never presume to tell you that you do.

So for me, it has been a challenge to find the time, but it has not been an insurmountable challenge. Finding the time has come down to 2 elements:

  1. Manage my time
  2. Manage my expectations

This has had to be counterbalanced by another big issue:

  1. Don’t be a selfish dick.

1. Manage my time:

Or in other words – don’t fanny about. I’ve always had a tendency to be organised to the point of fault. Working as a primary school teacher forced me to get even more organised.

I have a pretty good idea at the start of each day what we are doing for the day, what chores need done and when they can be fitted in. My aim is always to have everything done by the time I come downstairs once the children are in bed.

My children are at an age where they need 12 hours sleep a night. It doesn’t really matter which 12 hours these are. We are an early bed and early rise family because this is what works for us. This means that the evening is free from around 6:30pm but I have to be out of bed by 6:30am (often earlier, if the 2 year old has anything to do with it!).

The weekends are (over)organised too. Because my husband and I both want to train, one of us gets the early slot (on the bike around 7:30am) the other gets the late afternoon slot (about 3pm) . We each get an hour. This still leaves plenty of time to spend together as a family. When you get an hour, you use it. Doesn’t matter what the weather is doing (if you’re only going out for an hour, does it matter if it’s raining or windy?), doesn’t matter if you’re not sure if you can really be bothered, just go. Don’t fanny about!

  1. Manage my expectations.

Before I had children, I would rarely bother going out for just an hour. Maybe midweek I would, but weekends were for long rides. I can’t do that anymore. But what’s wrong with cycling for just an hour, if that is all you have. I would love to do more long rides. I would love to do more coffee stop rides. But more than I want those things, I just want to ride. An hour is all I have and I would rather use it than waste it and moan that I can’t do more.

I ride for transport and I ride to train. My training aims vary. At the moment I am gearing myself up for time trialling. But essentially the aim is always to ride better, faster, stronger. So, if I am riding for training, I always need to be pushing myself. Personally, I think an hour pushing myself is greater value than 4 hours cruising along (don’t get me wrong, I love cruising along).

This is part of the reason that I switch to the turbo around this time of year. With limited light, low sunshine, icy roads and wet leaves everywhere I find I have to ride quite cautiously on the road which doesn’t really allow me to push myself. The turbo gives me a well used hour on the bike.

Riding for transport is a fantastic thing. I have said it many times…I love my cargo bike.  It allows me to burn calories and be active throughout the day which gives me the base fitness that enables me to push myself training.

I also have to be realistic about what I can expect of myself. Life with children is exhausting, regardless of whether you are also juggling a paid job. Some days, I am just so exhausted or exasperated that I just cannot bring myself to get off the sofa and I have to accept that this is perfectly acceptable.

Right now, my aim is to do 3 quality sessions a week, plus cycling for transport on the cargo bike. If I can manage 4 that’s great but it’s not essential. Doing less is ok as long as what I am doing is quality. Essentially, the junk miles have had to go.

I had a reminder recently about expectations. I was joining a coaching day with my club and, in my wisdom, decided to cycle to the venue and back. This would clock up around 75 miles. In the past this would have been no problem. I’d be tired after it, but it could be done. Apparently, it can no longer be done. 75 miles was too far. Suffice to say, the bike nearly ended up in a ditch when I ground to a halt and had to call for a lift home.

  1. Don’t be a selfish dick

I love cycling. I love training and seeing improvements in myself. But also love my children and they are not going to be children for long. Already, they are becoming more independent and needing me less. My greatest fear is that I might look back and regret missing parts of their childhood.

Given I’m not also juggling paid work at the moment, I am very lucky (most days) to be able to spend lots of time with my children. However, Martin wants to train too and we still want to have time together as a family. I don’t want to spend the weekends passing the children between us while we each rush out to spend hours training.

It’s hard because cycling is an obsessive sport. It’s all too easy to start trying to find ways to get more time on the bike. I constantly have to remind myself what really is important.

Cycling also has the ability to break me like running just doesn’t do. I’m talking lying on the sofa unable to move or think kind of broken. This means that, although there would be time in the summer for me to head out really early and cycle 3 hours yet still be ready for a family day out by 10am, I can’t do it. I would be tired and lacking the patience to deal with small children and that’s just not fair.

The hardest thing for me is often the evenings. As I said, our children are in bed early so there is time to train in the evening. But sometimes that just doesn’t work out. Flexibility is not my strong point and the evenings when I have my mind set on training but one or other child is refusing to go to bed without major delaying tactics are really tough. It all comes down to fairness. It’s not fair that they are stopping me from having the time to myself that I desperately need. But it’s even less fair to shout at them because they’re overtired and overwrought and they actually need patience and calm from their mum to help them settle. I need to keep working on this one.

In conclusion, there is time. But time is by no means the only consideration. And if you get the balance wrong, mummy guilt is never far away.