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!

My Child My Self

Babies don’t see any separation between themselves and their primary caregiver. They view mummy (or whoever their primary caregiver is) as a part of themselves. Research suggests that this phase ends at around seven months. More details here.

Sometimes I wonder how this separation and independence works from a mother’s point of view.

I think I sometimes find it hard to accept that my children are people in their own right. That they are not a part of me. That I do not have a right to their innermost thoughts and feelings unless they choose to share.

Don’t get me wrong. I want my children to be independent. I want them to be themselves. I don’t want them to depend on me for their happiness.

But I want to know what is going on in their heads.

Right now my son is worried about starting school in August. He is not great with change and this is a huge change for him.

Right now I am worried about my son being worried.

I want him to talk to me about how he is feeling so I can understand him better. So I can help him better.

But he doesn’t really want to talk about it.

Not to me or to anyone else.

And that is his right.

He is his own person.

So how do I help him?

I have come to the conclusion that all I can offer him is my love and my acceptance. And all I can do is wait. If he knows that I am here for him and that I want to help then he will ask for my help if he wants it.

It sounds so simple but it is so hard.

Waiting means watching him worry. Waiting means seeing him unhappy. And no parent wants to see their child unhappy.

It would be so much easier if my son really was a part of me. If we weren’t separate. Because then I could handle it all for him and he wouldn’t have to feel unhappy.

But if our parents protected us from every negative emotion in life, would we really be full ourselves?

 

Strengths and Weaknesses

I have always been a ‘strong person’.

I have always seen this as a positive quality.

Recently I find myself questioning what this actually means. Am I really that strong? Is it really such a positive trait?

Physically, I am definitely strong. I ride a cargo bike, often loaded with two not-so-small children and all the stuff which seems to be required when leaving the house with two children. Not to mention that the three year old is currently refusing to go anywhere on the bike unless she is carrying several stones from the driveway.

But physical strength is not really what I mean by a strong person.

I have a strong character. I have a good idea of what I am and what I am not. On the whole, I am happy with who I am. The things I do, I do for myself and my family. I don’t do things ‘for show’. My husband has a similar outlook which made for a wonderful wedding day. We kept all the bits of a wedding which we liked and skipped all the bits that we didn’t. It was very much ‘our day’ and we both loved it.

But strength of character isn’t entirely it either.

I am a strong person because I am balanced and stable and not easily overwhelmed by emotions and that means I can be emotionally strong for others.

I think that is a big part of what people mean when they describe me as ‘strong’.

But it’s not true.

But it’s not real.

But I am not even sure it is possible.

The same as everyone, I am balanced and stable sometimes and unbalanced and chaotic others. I do get overwhelmed by emotions. I get overwhelmed by my emotions. I get overwhelmed by the emotions of others that I love, especially my children.

But I don’t often show it.

I have mentioned my parents’ divorce before.  It was a time of huge emotions. Huge emotions for me. Huge emotions for the people I loved the most. The kind of huge emotions which can leave you struggling to see anything positive in life.

It was the time when I learned to be emotionally strong for others.

It was the time when I learnt to detach myself from my own emotions in order to deal with other peoples’.

More than twenty years later, I am realising that this is not a positive quality.

More than twenty years later, I am realising that I still have not re-connected with my own emotions.

I realise that I have not just detached myself from the emotions I felt more than twenty years ago. I have perfected the art of squashing any emotions which threaten to overwhelm me.

I think about this now because I think about my children.

I think about their emotional life.

Young childrens’ emotions are so out in the open. They haven’t yet learnt to worry about how their displays of emotion impact on others. They feel extremes of emotions over the most seemingly trivial issues. They display every emotion they have.

As a stay at home mum I deal with my childrens’ emotions all the time. As frustrating as that can be, I love that they wear their hearts on their sleeves. It means that I can know every part of them. It means that I can really connect with them.

But can they really connect with me?

Should I show my emotions to them like they show their emotions to me?

My immediate answer is no. I know how it feels to see your mum crying and trust me, it feels horrible.

But does that mean I should never cry in front of my children? If so then I have failed.

Like any mother, I do not want to see my children in distress. But we cannot protect our children from everything and they will inevitably feel distress in their lives. So I want them to learn how to cope through distress.

I want my children to know that it is ok to feel whatever they are feeling. I want them to know that they do not have to control their emotions, they just have to control how they act on those feelings. I want them to know that I will do what I can to help them when they do not like how they are feeling.

I tell them this now. Usually along the lines of “It is ok to feel angry, it is not ok to hit your sister/brother”. I show them by accepting their anger and giving them a cuddle (on the days when I get it right).

So maybe it is ok to cry in front of our children. To cry and to tell them “I feel sad”. To show them that the world doesn’t end when we feel sad. To show them what a difference they can make to somebody who feels sad with the healing power of a cuddle.

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.

 

Risky Business

I am all for children taking risks. I think it is essential that all children grow up being encouraged to take risks. It is only through taking risks that they can learn how to manage risks.

We all want to keep our children safe all the time. No parent wants to see their child hurt. But they have to learn to keep themselves safe.

We can’t always be there to catch them, they need to learn how to fall.

I don’t mean that we should encourage them to jump down the stairs or run in front of buses. In fact it is a daily battle to prevent my daughter from engaging in just such acts of assured self destruction.

I mean measured risks.

If the consequence of taking a risk and failing at something is a bruise or a scrape then I will let my children take that risk. Bruises and scrapes are not that big a deal. If the consequence could be broken bones or being flattened by a bus then I will not let them take that risk.

I see it as my job as a parent to keep my children safe and I take that responsibility very seriously.

But it is not my job to prevent them from ever falling over.

I am happy for my children to take risks and discover their own limits.

Two weeks ago, my nearly-five year old son decided it was time he learnt to pedal his bike. He got a balance bike for his second birthday. When he got too big for it, we got him a pedal bike. But he insisted on riding it as a balance bike with the pedals off. Until now.

In typical my son style, he decided out of the blue that he was ready to pedal, and that was that. Off he went. He is brilliant on the bike. He handles it really well and is absolutely flying.

He is clearly a child after his mother’s heart – he loves to cycle.

He is used to bikes for transport. We have been using the cargo bike to get most places for over two years.

So naturally, he wants to ride his bike everywhere we go. After all, that’s what I do.

So far, this has worked fine with his bike attached to the cargo bike. He goes in the cargo bike on the roads and on his own bike on the cycle paths. Another huge benefit from owning a cargo bike. We get to race along the paths and ride together chatting.

But, he doesn’t really want to keep getting on and off. He just wants to ride his bike.

He wants to ride on the roads, just like Mummy and Daddy.

I’m not talking main roads. I mean the ‘quiet’ roads that are part of the cycle routes.

I am happy for my children to take risks and discover their own limits.

But this doesn’t feel like my child taking a risk. It feels like other people (drivers) taking risks with my child.

And the potential consequences are huge.

I am not happy with that. Not at all.

So what now?

Do I:

A) Let him start riding on the roads with lots of instruction and guidance.

or

B) Explain to him that the roads are unsafe so no, he cannot ride on them.

The trouble is, neither of these options sit well with me.

Here are my issues:

Option A:

I know how some drivers choose to drive. On a daily basis, cars cut me up, pass with centimeters to spare, pass on blind corners, drive straight at me, and share their views on my chosen mode of transport with some colourful language.

I know really that this is the minority of drivers. Most are absolutely fine. But that minority of drivers are taking a risk with my life. The potential consequences of that risk are very very serious.

I cannot let them take that risk with my son.

Option B:

There are so many problems with this option.

I want my children to love cycling like I do. I want them to love cycling like Danny does at the moment. If cycling becomes a frustrating experience of being told no all the time I am going to take this away from them.

I want my children to grow up believing that people are inherently good. We all make mistakes but people are good at heart. I try to believe this despite the close passes and colourful language. I cannot expect my children to believe this if I tell them that some drivers make the roads unsafe for cyclists. They make the roads unsafe just so they can get where they are going 2 minutes faster.

And then, how do I answer questions like:

“But you and Daddy ride on the roads, does that mean you are not safe?”

“But you ride the cargo bike on the roads with us on it, does that mean we are all not safe?”

“When will I be old enough to ride on the roads?”

And here’s the thing. When will he be old enough? My mum regularly tells me how much she hates the thought of my cycling on the roads. I’m in my 40s.

So option A and option B are both unsatisfactory.

I need an option C.

Anybody got an option C?

Where the grass is greenest after all

I was on a first aid course today. This meant hubby taking the day off to look after the children. It meant me being child free from 9am-5pm. Similar to what a lot of working parents do several days of the week. I was also lucky enough that the course was being run a 5 minute walk from my house, so no extra time away travelling.

I had been quite looking forward to doing something grown up for the day.

I did enjoy the day. I did get to be a grown up all day. I put my coffee down at the edge of the table. I ate my lunch without getting up once. I went to the toilet on my own without anyone insisting on opening the door at inopportune moments. I learnt some new things and got to practise old skills.

I realised how much I enjoy being at home with my children.

I remembered just how lucky I am to be able to stay off work for now.

Being a stay at home mum can be a frustrating experience. Here are some of my regular frustrations:

  • There are tears and arguments over the most seemingly ridiculous things. Did I mention the day I had to stop the cargo bike on the way to nursery because the children were getting hysterical over whose turn it was to throw the imaginary ball to the imaginary dog?
  • There is very little peace. Between bottom wiping, potty emptying, crumb sweeping, lego building, sticker sticking, story reading, milk pouring, snack providing, clothes changing, etc, etc – somebody always seems to want something from me.
  • The endless household chores. There seems to be far more laundry than could possibly be produced by just 4 people and far more meals to be made than we can possibly be eating.
  • I am never alone. Never.
  • I am never alone when I am on the toilet. Never. Somebody always wants something when I go to the toilet. Quite often, that is the very moment when one of them decides they want to bash their sibling with a toy doll.
  • The tedious arguments. Seriously, just put your shoes on. Please, just put your shoes on. Just once, put your shoes on the first time I ask and don’t make me ask a hundred times.

All these petty frustrations can add up and start to drag you down.

Today gave me some perspective about the positives of staying at home with the kids, as compared to going out to work:

  • I am the mistress of my own time. Ok, there are constraints – we have to get to nursery and playgroup on time and I have to collect them both on time. But my children are still young enough that the eldest is only away for three hours,and the youngest only for 2 hours a couple of days a week. The rest of the day is our own and we get to choose what to do with it. We can play in the garden, go for a walk, go swimming, build fantastic lego constructions, bake, go to the library, whatever we like. When you go to work, you have to be at work, until work finishes – even if you decide you’ve had enough of work now.
  • I get to do all the things that were great fun as a child. It turns out that lots of these things are still great fun as an adult, I just forgot. Building lego is fantastic once you throw away the instructions. I love the challenge of using every piece of train track in building a mega track. As for chasing bubbles in the garden – brilliant.
  • I get to move. Today, I mostly sat in a chair. By the end of the day I felt twitchy and irritable. When I’m at home with the kids, I often wish I could just sit down. Turns out that’s not what I want after all.
  • I don’t miss anything about my childrens’ lives – good or bad. I am a part of it all. Sometimes it seems endless, especially when I’m standing in a play park which I would really like to leave now. Today, I walked past an empty play park and I felt like crying. I felt like crying because it made me realise that there will come a day when my children don’t want to go to the play park. And on that day, I will really really miss standing in that play park trying not to feel bored.

I’m not saying that staying at home is the best way. I don’t believe that there is a one-size-fits-all best way. I don’t want to spark a working parent versus stay at home parent debate. I think that every family has to make a difficult choice about what is right for them, and then try and find a way to make it work for them.

All I am saying is that today I counted my blessings.

Today I truly appreciated that for me, at this moment, the grass is definitely greener at home, with my beautiful, hilarious, fascinating, frustrating children.

Winning the Weight Loss Challenge

I’ve posted a couple of times this year about weight loss and me. About losing weight after pregnancy and about the culinary challenges I now find myself facing.

Time for an update and the update is positive.

Since New Year, I have lost just over a stone. Even better, I find myself fitting into clothes a size smaller. This is the first time I have been a size 12 in many, many years.

Yay for me. I feel great and I feel positive about maintaining my new weight.

The remarkable thing is that I’ve not really found it that tough to lose the weight this time. I’ve not been hungry and I’ve not gone without my red wine and chocolate at the weekend.

So I thought I’d share what I’ve been doing.

I discovered the myfitnesspal app when I first started losing the ‘baby weight’. I think it’s a fantastic tool. But, like any tool, how well it works depends on how well you use it. I have used it well and I have used it badly. More about that in a future post.

Here is why I think I might just of got it right this time:

  • Accurately measuring calories out:

I got a new Garmin (I am a bit of a Garmin gadget addict). My lovely husband bought me a Garmin Vivoactive HR for my birthday. I have tried all sorts of heart rate monitors over the years. All of these used chest straps to measure heart rate. All of them have ended up flung across rooms in disgust. I came to the conclusion that I am simply not the right build for chest straps.

My new Garmin is a watch which measures heart rate at the wrist. I have found it to be reliable and accurate. It uses the heart rate measurements to calculate calories burned, so the calorie count is pretty accurate. The Garmin Connect app talks to the myfitnesspal app so the calories I burn are added onto my daily allowance. It also counts steps so I don’t have to tell myfitnesspal how active I am (since this varies every day anyway).

  • Thinking about the quality of everything I eat

I have had my daily calorie ‘allowance’ set at around 1500. This is fairly low, but because I am on the bike pretty much every day for transport or fun, I generally have another 500 calories added to this to make up for calories burned. I have found that this level is perfectly achievable without feeling hungry as long as I think about the quality of everything I eat. For me this has meant lots of fruit and veg, and lots of malt loaf. I look for what I can eat which will make me feel the most full, for the least calories.

Sadly, if I consume 685 calories with a slice of tiffin and a medium latte from Costa (I love tiffin and latte from Costa) that is a huge dent in my allowance and it doesn’t really keep hunger at bay for long. That said, a small skinny latte from Costa comes in at 70 calories and, because milk is largely protein, this is actually not a bad high quality, low calorie snack.

  • Eating enough and eating often

Eating enough and timing when I eat has been a tricky one for me. I now never go out without snacks (for me, as well as the children). I would no more leave the house without bananas and malt loaf bars, than I would leave without a packet of wipes (Once you have had children, it is almost impossible to contemplate not having wipes on hand at all times, even once the children are out of nappies). I have realised that, if I actually let myself feel more than slightly hungry, I overeat.

Mid-morning and evening are the important times for me. We have breakfast pretty early, then the nursery and playgroup run is on the cargo bike. By the time I have done that, I always eat something. I often don’t feel hungry, but if I don’t eat something around 100 calories, I will find myself eating closer to 500 calories later.

I now try to keep meals under 500 calories, but I kind of count snacks as a meal – especially evening snacks. I eat with my children at around 5pm and I go to bed around 10pm. That leaves a huge stretch of time without eating if I don’t have enough calories to eat in the evening. So, I make sure I have enough calories to eat something in the evening. This is usually the calories I have burned through cycling, especially if I have been on the bike in the evening.

Some days, I find it hard to get my head around eating enough in the evening. It is hard to see that you have 800 calories left because it has been an active day and not to think that that is an achievement, especially if I’m not actually feeling all that hungry. I have done this in the past and have found that the next day, or even the day after, I go on a bit of an eating rampage. Bring on the Costa tiffin and unlimited home baking! So now, if I have 800 calories left at the end of the day, I use those calories before I go to bed.

  • Minor changes in family meals

I recently watched the ‘Hairy Dieters’ programmes and thought they had lots of good ideas for cutting calories without sacrificing enjoyment. I bought the cook book too and have found it really helpful. It has some good, simple, tasty recipes which have been acceptable to everyone in my family (Husband: larger portions, 4 year old: happy to eat most things, 2 year old: put bread with it).

I have taken the hairy biker idea of little swaps and used that with other meals too. So, if I make pasta and pasta sauce, for me I swap the pasta for baked sweet potato (5 minutes in the microwave so not a separate meal to my mind) – just as filling, half the calories. My family loves chilli and quesadillas – I make the chilli with quorn mince, use the food processor to add in loads of peppers in disguise, and I have baked potato instead of quesadillas. Lunches have been the same minor changes – one slice of toast with extra baked beans or scrambled egg is more filling for less calories.

  • Chilling out about going over my daily ‘allowance’

I no longer panic when I go over my daily allowance. I regularly do go over it and I am still losing weight. My reasoning it that I have my allowance set fairly low and that leaves a nice ‘margin of error’. According to the NHS, a woman should consume around 2000 calories a day to maintain her weight. So, even if I go over by 500 calories every day for a week, it’s really no disaster. I probably won’t lose any weight that week, but I probably won’t gain any either, and that is fine.

I am not en elite athlete and I never will be. It is not vital that I keep my weight low, it never will be. I just want it a little bit lower. I always go over my allowance on Fridays and Saturdays. Wine and chocolate. It is worth appreciating just how easy it is to consume a couple of thousand calories through wine and chocolate. This allows me to be moderate in my indulgences and to be aware of them, without giving them up entirely. If I have kept more or less within the limits I have set throughout the week, although I go over at the weekends, my average daily calorie consumption for the week is still under 2000 calories so I should still lose weight.

So, these little revelations have meant that for now I have found a ‘diet’ that I can keep to and not feel deprived. I also feel that I am not demonstrating an obsession with dieting to my children. I am perhaps demonstrating an obsession with healthy eating and moderation to my children. To me that is ok. I want to bring my children up to be active and to eat healthily, not to diet. I find that if I stay active and eat healthily (not Costa tiffin, or at least not too often), then I don’t need to diet.

 

Cycling Siblings

There are just 15 months between my brother and I. I realised that we were always close when I recently scanned all our old family photo albums. So many of the pictures were of he and I together.

How we rolled in 1979

I think that is one of the reasons I wanted to have children with a fairly small age difference. I just assumed that they would be close because they were close in age.

My brother and I have always shared a love of cycling. Although I am adamant that I rode without stabilisers first, he was the cyclist first. I rode my bike for transport, he rode his for enjoyment.

Two-wheeled rolling in 1981

As we got older, our lives grew apart but cycling was something that kept us connected. He moved to another country, got married and had children. For a number of years we met up in Majorca for a training camp. We didn’t ride in the same groups, but we had meals and beers together.

My brother is also responsible for some of the more absurd things I have found myself doing on a bike. If my brother called to ask if I wanted to enter some event with him, I just entered. Without question. Also without really finding out many details about what I was entering.

2003:

Brother: “I’m doing a challenge ride in Sweden called Vatternrundan, fancy joining me?”.

Me: “Sounds good, sign me up”.

The detail I never asked about: joining over 15 000 other cyclists for a 300km (that’s 186 miles) ride.

2006:

Brother: “I’m entering the Etape du Tour, fancy joining me?”

Me: “Sounds good, sign me up”.

The detail I never asked about: joining 7500 other cyclists on a 187km (116 mile) stage of the Tour de France, through the Alps.

Discovering that the Alps are actually quite tough

I would say that my brother and I are still close although we don’t see each other or even communicate that much any more. We live in different countries now. We each have our own children and a million other distractions keeping us busy.

We also have the constant ‘elephant in the room’ of our parents divorce. Suffice to say it was messy and it drove a wedge into my family which can never be removed.

But we still have cycling. We both still ride our bikes. We both define ourselves partly through cycling. We both cycle to keep ourselves sane when our children are driving us insane. My brother will always be a better cyclist than me, but that really doesn’t matter.

I look at my two children now and I can see how close they are. Most of my photos are of the two of them together. My eldest doesn’t remember a time when the youngest wasn’t in his life. Of course they argue on a daily (sometimes hourly) basis. But their relationship is a great source of joy to me. Now that the youngest is speaking well, the two of them have the most incredible flights of fancy together and I love to eavesdrop on them playing.

Having a sibling is a unique relationship and it’s one which we take for granted. I hope that when my children are older they keep that connection. I hope that they find something positive to bind them together. That they are able to challenge and support each other through their lives.

Obviously, it would be nice if that something was cycling…