My Olympics: day one, cycling road race

July 28, 2012

In this blog series, I take inspiration from one of the day’s Olympic events. Today: the cycling men’s road race.

Vinokourov and 136 chums took to the streets of London, Surrey and the North Downs today in a 250km race which included nine laps of the delight that is Box Hill.

Inspired by their efforts, I put some air in my rear tyre’s slow puncture, crossed my fingers and headed out to the somewhat less challenging terrain of Twyford.

Me and my bike (a couple of years ago)

Vinokourov (earlier today)

Vino pelted through 250km in 05:45:57. I was a bit tired. I did, um, 17.5km in 00:38:56. But I also trained chest and triceps earlier, alright?

Hugh Porter: Welcome to today’s coverage of the men’s road race which, somewhat inexplicably, has only one entrant, who is in fact actually a woman.
Chris Boardman: Yes Hugh, the favourite today is Nicola Joyce, a fine athlete who burst onto the cycling scene in 2003.
Hugh: Ah yes, I remember that Chris, in fact didn’t she buy a tri bike from a friend in Crystal Palace, take a bus there from Tulse Hill and then walk the bike all the way back home because she was too scared to ride it downhill?
Chris: That’s right Hugh. And now look at her. What a plucky athlete indeed.
Hugh: We join the race as Nicola navigates the backroads of Wokingham, nimbly avoiding the many potholes and dreadful road surfaces.
Chris: It seems strange that there isn’t more of a crowd gathering, Hugh? It’s almost as if the people of Wokingham didn’t know that this event was happening in their town today?
Hugh: Now look at this. We’re receiving information that Nicola is reaching speeds of 18.2mph on downhills!
Chris: She is way out in the lead here already. In fact if you look at the aerial shots we are receiving from the helicopter, it almost looks as if she is out there on her own.
Hugh: Yes Chris, I think it’s fair to say that she is in a world of her own right now. There are other cyclists on the road but they are so far behind her that they are still actually going in the other direction.
Chris: I don’t think any of them will catch her now.
Hugh: Now Chris not many people will know this, but Nicola was actually in the gym this morning doing some strength work. Apparently she not only worked her chest but also did some tricep work.
Chris: Hugh that is truly staggering. That’s got to hurt. Riding like that, at the kind of intensity we are witnessing here today, puts a lot of strain on the triceps. Nicola is going to be in a lot of pain right now but obviously an athlete of this calibre will not let it show.
Hugh: Ah, look Chris, she has got down on her aerobars, no doubt to take the pressure off those triceps. Now she’s shouting at a motorist! Goodness me, out in front in a race like this and she still has the energy to do that!
Chris: I like that she has matched her sunnies to her helmet, her bar tape, her shoes and the velcro bit on her gloves.
Hugh: Yes Chris, this little lady certainly has style. Do you know, I have even heard that her car is yellow as well.
Chris: Wow Hugh, that is amazing. Athletic and stylish! Who knew there were so many yellow cycling accessories?
Hugh: Interesting that she has chosen not to actually wear the official cycling kit of her country, Chris. Instead she’s just in some old shorts and a top which is riding up at the back. You could be forgiven for thinking she’s not actually in an Olympic road race at all.
Chris: And the crowd roar as Nicola puts in an incredible effort up the hill towards the winery! She’s up out of the saddle, really working hard for this, lungs burning and quads bursting! Surely no-one can catch her now.
Hugh: And that monumental effort has really paid off, she’s way out in front now but she won’t get complacent.
Chris: Look at her rattling through Hurst, Hugh. Even the potholes can’t slow her down!
Hugh: What’s this? No, can it be? Surely not! This is outrageous! She has a slow puncture in her back tyre!
Chris: I think you’re right Hugh, but all credit to this athlete, if she’s noticed she hasn’t lost her focus. In fact it seems to have made her ride faster. I guess that’s because she hasn’t got a pump or spare inner tube on her, and doesn’t fancy walking home in bike shoes.
Hugh: As we watch this race come back into Binfield, Nicola is still dominant. It’s incredible to think that she has led from the outset. That early burst of enthusiasm put her in good stead because, even though she’s tiring now, she still retains the lead.
Chris: Yes Hugh, and now here we are in the finish straight, just a few more motorists to contend with, one more roundabout and that corner with all the pebbles and broken glass.
Hugh: And Nicola is putting in one more final effort as she lunges for the line, yes, yes she’s done it! How about that Chris, have you ever seen anything like it? 17.5km in well under 40 minutes, that’s got to be something like an average of 27kph?
Chris: *shakes head in awe*
Hugh: Ah now look at this reception as she staggers off the bike! Isn’t that lovely?
Chris: Yes, that dog looks very pleased indeed to see her.
Hugh: Perhaps he needs to be let out for a wee.

How have the London 2012 Olympic Games inspired you today?

My Olympics: day one, cycling road race is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

How do others see you? 8 year olds on sport and fitness.

July 1, 2012

We all influence other people. Perhaps your job puts you in a position of power, or maybe you’re in the public eye. It could simply be that one person sees you as an inspiration. Whatever the reason, each one of us influences those around us. Hopefully in a positive way!

Have you ever wondered how other people see you?

When my friend Katherine – who’s a school teacher – approached me recently to ask if I’d help out with a school project, I said sure! I didn’t know what she had in mind but I’m always keen to help out with anything which informs or inspires kids about sport, healthier eating and activity.

So, “year 3” (for the clueless – like me – this means boys and girls of eight and nine years old) sent me a load of questions about the sports I’ve done.

Hi Nicola,

We have learnt a bit about you today and some of the sports that you have done. We have some questions to ask you about the things that you have done, and Miss Palmer says you have very kindly agreed to answer them! We loved your photographs on your blog, you must work really hard when you are doing all your sports. Here are our questions:

Some of the questions were hilarious, some were cute and some really made me think. Here are just some of them:

Do you enjoy being an athlete?
Do you have to work hard to do your sports?
Have you ever coached anybody else in any sports?
What did you see when you swam in the sea? Did you see any animals?
Were you cold in the ocean?
Were you exhausted afterwards?
Why did you enter the triathlon?
Is bodybuilding easy?
How did you grow such big muscles?
What exercises do you have to do to be a bodybuilder?
Do you have to eat healthy food to make your muscles bigger?
Do you go on the treadmill? Do you go on the exercise bike?
Do you have to eat different sorts of food when you are bodybuilding to when you are channel swimming?

I love their curiosity and imagination! I also think it’s really interesting that the “top three” questions for Channel swimming (goosefat, sharks and water temperature) didn’t crop up at all, and nor did anything about tan for bodybuilding. I wonder why adults tend have such a limited range of questions to ask (at least at first) whereas these kids presumably either understood why we wear tan, or just thought it was too boring a thing to ask – a waste of a perfectly good question 😉

So, I answered all their questions, unsure of what the project was or what would be done with my replies. I felt quite a lot of pressure suddenly! For all I knew, this could be the first time some of these children had ever learned about or thought about nutrition, being active, body image. I didn’t want to patronise, but nor did I want to pitch it too high and risk them switching off or feeling overwhelmed. I really wanted to encourage them, to spark some interest, perhaps even to encourage a dream of their own. (As I told them, I was exactly their age when I first thought about swimming the Channel.) Here was a great opportunity to get these children to realise that they have the power to achieve anything they want to, and that dreams should be dreamed big! I didn’t want to mess it up!

A few days later, my inbox was full of the most wonderful pictures and stories. They are just about the best thing I’ve ever seen. I’ve printed them all out and will keep them in my kit bag. I can only hope that I inspired and motivated at least some of Year 3. They have certainly inspired me.

Thank you, Year 3!

Read on for some of the pictures they sent me, as well as a few choice quotes from the stories they wrote.

This one is quite simply immense. The power! That triangle-me is owning that stage! I can only hope to be this large and in charge when I next compete 🙂

Crazy separation I’ve got going on there! As well as the most muscley shins I’ve ever seen. I think I need to work on my quads a bit more, though 😉

I’m so happy in this one! With good reason – I appear to be shoulder pressing two 80kg dumbbells overhead. I’m not sure what I’m wearing. I love that I am training outside on a beautiful sunny day, and also love that one of the podiums (?) says “well done” on it.

Just me and some crazy-cute seals hanging out together. Check out the whiskers on those seals! Adorable!

Hi! I’m swimming the Channel and there’s a really big tanker and I’m really happy about it all! 😀

Now for the words of wisdom. I should point out that these are not my words, they’re written by Year 3. They presumably read my replies to their initial questions and then let their imaginations go… Quite right, too. That’s the best way to write sometimes: just get going and start writing, then see what came out.

If you want sporting success, Musfirah tells us to “look insid, start being healthy!”

Imaan tells us that, to build muscle, you must “lift really heavy weights or small, digit number weights. Then you can enter the competition, but you will have to show off your muscals to the jujes.” He also reminds us of the importance of safety when cycling. “..she had to were a helmet for safety just in case she falls off.” What are you saying, Imaan? 😉

Jasmine has a few words to say about diet. “…lots of eggs, meat, fish and even kangoo – but it is meat, it keeps you fit. When you are a body builder you can’t eat cakes or choclett!”

Adeed has the impression that I am a “musly millionair”, love him. Perhaps he has had some sort of premonition? Fingers crossed. He chronicles my 2011 season by saying that “on her first day she won a trophy and she was proud of her self.” Well, yes, I suppose I was, and should be more often! “Eat meat, fresh eggs, kangaroos, healthy food and sports drink,” advises Adeed (as opposed to rotten eggs, I assume!)

Elliot keeps it real. “If you want to be a body builder, get to that gym!”

I’ll leave you with these simple truths from Haiden and Joshua W:

“Give it a go!”
“Always remmember, don’t give up.”

They said it!

What did you dream of doing when you were eight or nine years old? Have you done it yet?

How do others see you? 8 year olds on sport and fitness. is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

Peripheral vision

March 31, 2012

My most recent blog post (last week – sorry for going AWOL) saw me reunited with a friend from my previous life as an endurance athlete. My triathlon bike and I have been out several times this week, making the most of a beautifully sunny March.

Sport brings us a lot of lessons. Exercise, working out, training: whatever you call it, if you’ve done it even once, I guarantee it opened your eyes to thoughts and feelings you hadn’t had before. Perhaps it was that first endorphin rush (it’s true! exercise really does make you feel good!), the realisation that you’re stronger than you think, the joy of finding something, some time, some space just for you.

This week, whilst out on my bike, I realised how different sports teach us different things, all of them important at different times. As yet another car passed by me so close that I could see my reflection in the bonnet and then see the items on the passenger seat, I got to thinking about peripheral vision.

Training in the gym, lifting weights, we tend to focus on one spot. Staring straight ahead (usually into the mirror, if you’re a bodybuilder), we shut out distractions, noises, movements at the edge of our vision. We need to focus.

This focus is no good out cycling on the road. Stare ahead with laser-beam vision and you’re likely to miss that car coming up behind you, the squirrel in the verge, or that pothole to your left.

Different sports, different ways of seeing.

Tapping into your peripheral vision is actually quite calming. When we’re stressed or anxious, we tend to stare straight ahead, unblinking, focused on one spot, ready to run. When we open up our vision to 180* (or more – you need eyes in the back of your head as a cyclist), we feel somehow calmer, shutting off internal dialogue and just enjoying the moment.

Of course, there is a time and a place for that narrow focus. Like when you’re getting ready to lift weights, standing on the start line of a race, preparing to compete. It’s just nice to open up our eyes from time to time and take a look around.

If you’re interested in this kind of thing, a great book to read is “Mental Mastery” by sports psychologist Ken Way. I mentioned it here and you can get hold of it here.

Do you notice things around you more when you do certain types of exercise?

Peripheral vision is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

Cardio with an old friend

March 24, 2012

Today’s cardio session saw me reunited with an old friend.

Aloha Friday and I go way back. She’s my old triathlon training bike (the blacker, lighter and altogether more terrifying “Venus” is/was my race bike). Goodness knows how many miles we’ve ridden together, from training rides to triathlons and long sportifs.

It’s been at least a year since I last rode her. Today, the weather here is just stunning: more like June than March. So, after recovering and refuelling after this morning’s chest and triceps session, I unhooked Aloha from the wall, brushed the cobwebs (!) off her, pumped her tyres up and gingerly clipped in.

Success! We had a wonderful 55-minute ride and covered just a touch over 15 miles, which I’m really chuffed with given the amount of riding I’ve done in the past 12 months or so (…none) and the change in training, diet and body composition. And I didn’t feel rubbish! 🙂

I do hope this lovely weather sticks around for a bit so Aloha and I can revisit some more of our old stomping grounds.

This gives me an idea for a series of blog posts, and I thought I’d ask if it’s something you’d be interested in reading. Over the years, I’ve trained (at varying levels of seriousness and with varying levels of success!) at running, cycling, swimming, triathlon, open-water swimming, channel swimming and bodybuilding. I thought a “Training sessions from the archives” idea might be fun, looking at what I was doing on “this day…..1 year ago/2 years ago/4 years ago” etc. I’ve always keep some form of journal, so I’ve got it all logged, warts and all. Let me know if you think that would be fun(ny) to read.

Have you switched sports? Do you miss any of your old sports? Do you ever revisit training sessions, venues or methods?

Cardio with an old friend is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

A cautionary tale (why runners and bikers should always carry emergency ID)

February 17, 2012

Just one day after he was merrily giving you his opinion on rye bread, my husband came off his bike on a busy town-centre roundabout.

He’s (relatively) OK and in one piece. We’re both shocked, he’s in huge amounts of pain, but the main thing is – of course – that he is still here to tell the tale. He has one dislocated shoulder and several torn ligaments, but things could have been so much worse.

So, today’s blog post is a short but serious one. If you run, or ride a road or mountain bike, whether it’s every day to and from work like my husband or whether it’s once in a blue moon, my question to you is:

Do you wear some kind of emergency ID?

Happily, my husband was still conscious and just about with it enough to remember our phone number. And the person in the car behind him, who stopped to help, was a qualified First Aider. And he was (ironically) just moments from his work building. What if all of this hadn’t have been the case?

Who would emergency services – or that good Samaritan – call, if you slipped or were knocked down whilst biking or running? How would they know who to call?

Please, get some kind of ID tag which carries emergency contact details and other important information. It’s easy. Just click here for Road ID, or here for Cram Alert. Make it your Friday Thing To Do.

Happily, sandwiches can be eaten one-handed, so I think my husband will survive this latest scrape. But next time he gets on that bike, he’ll be wearing emergency ID. I’ll insist on it.

A cautionary tale (why runners and bikers should always carry emergency ID) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

The Fit Writer’s pick of 2010

December 31, 2010

Me and Richard of Richard’s Transrockies 2011 blogging amidst the New Year beer…and wine….and Bailey’s…and whatever else you can spot there in the background 😉

How was your 2010? I’m not hugely into resolutions (I prefer to make them as I go along, regardless of the date) but, as it’s the final day of the year, I wanted to look back at 2010 and pick out some highlights for you. A kind of a New Year’s Honours list, if you will. Without the royalty.

So here are The Fit Writer’s picks of the year gone by:

Favourite commission
Ooh, well. Most of my commissions are favourites (how’s that for diplomacy?), because I just love writing. But some stand out for being a little more unusual. How about a week in Croyde in August, training with the RNLI Beach Lifeguards to get a taste of what their qualifications consist of? (Hint: really hard work) That was for an article which appeared in Coast magazine. I also thoroughly enjoyed meeting, swimming with and getting some swimming advice from Liam Tancock later in the year. Judging by the search terms which lead to this blog, it would seem that many of you would like to do the same! You can find Liam on Twitter and he’s a jolly good sort of chap. Did I tell you that I tweeted I was on the way to meet him, and someone who follows me on Twitter said how much of a fan his daughter was. I told Liam, who was happy to pose for a photo for the guy’s daughter, and then said hello to her on Twitter. Nice guy 🙂

Favourite race
Another tough one. I really enjoyed getting into road cycling this year, completing several sportives having never done one before. But I think the Favourite Race gong has to go to the Folkestone Half Marathon: it’s in my home town, I was cheered on by my new nephew and I got a PB. What’s not to like?

Favourite event
Speaking of new nephews, event of 2010 has to go to the birth of my nephew Henry. Nothing to do with sport, I realise (although, a few weeks later when I was struggling through the Little Woody half Ironman triathlon, I did draw on the strength I’d seen my sister demonstrate during labour!) Nephews rock, particularly mine.

Favourite bit of fitness kit
Although I’ve been asked to review lots of lovely bits of kit and gadgetry this year, the award for favourite bit of fitness kit has to go to my kettlebells. You saw me using them during my 10,000 swing kettlebell challenge, and I use them regularly for both strength and CV work. So handy!

Favourite training session
I’m a bit of a hermit. So it takes someone fun to persuade me to give up training solo for once. And when I end up crying with laughter, I know I’ve found a good training partner. So props to Kat Millar, PT and now a good friend, with whom I trained a month or so ago. Second place goes to one of the many beautiful road bike rides I did back when it was burning hot and sunny: just lovely.

Favourite sporting moment
I watched as much of the Commonwealths as I could, and cheered as loud as any of you when Rebecca Adlington won both the 400m and 800m freestyle. Whadda woman!

Well, that’s it. I can’t bear this super-slow internet connection any longer! I will bid you a very happy New Year’s Eve, a great evening and a fantastic start to 2011 – and I’ll see you on the other side. Thanks for reading!

The Fit Writer’s Pick of 2010 is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Away for New Year? Keep training!

December 30, 2010

Every year, we go away with a group of friends to a big old house somewhere for New Year week. In many ways, it’s a bigger deal than Christmas (there’s certainly more food and drink!) In the face of all the beer, wine, port (and cheese), nibbles and massive portions of dinner, you could be forgiven for thinking we might give up on exercise altogether for the week. Not us!

Amongst our party, we have two mountain bikers, one runner-turned-mountain biker and one Personal Trainer. Oh, and me. So I thought it might be useful to show you how we keep a balance (a kind of “detox/retox”, if you will) and keep training whilst we’re away from our respective gyms and out of our routine.

1: Bring bikes, running kit and other outdoorsy stuff

Even if all you want to do is go on long walks with the dogs, make the most of the fact that you’re somewhere different. We always end up somewhere pretty remote and very beautiful, and running/cycling/walking is a pleasure. So it would be a shame to find yourself with no kit. Pack the running shoes!

2: Pack indoors exercise kit

I brought my kettlebells, Personal Trainer friend Jo brought her Z-Trainer (a suspension trainer – review to come soon) and more kettlebells, and Gliders. I put a few exercise DVDs in my bag I’d been asked to review. It’s all stuff we’d rarely use at home, but being away from the gym and running a totally different routine is the perfect time to experiment with other bits of kit. And, of course, having a Personal Trainer on hand is too good an opportunity to pass up!

3: Plan your exercise

I know, this sounds terribly dull. After all, we’re away for the week with friends and meant to be enjoying ourselves. But our group of friends do enjoy training, so it’s no hardship. We have all day to do whatever we want whilst we’re here, so 30 minutes here and there making up a new routine with kettlebells is all part of the fun. The rules are there are no rules, just the opportunity to train if you want. Two of our party don’t exercise and really aren’t interested. That’s OK, we still love them 😉 Every day, one or more of us will be heading out for a run or a bike ride, or heading to one of the larger rooms to do some indoor training. Anyone can join in, but no-one has to. It works for us! (And it makes that first beer of the evening taste all the better….)

My friend Jo (one of the group I’m away with for New Year) is a Personal Trainer. Here’s her advice on training whilst you’re away from home (she’s the PT):

“Keep it simple: you really don’t need a lot of time, space or kit to stick to an exercise routine whilst you’re away. Don’t forget that you carry the best bit of gym with you all the time – your body! Put together a routine of simple, compound bodyweight exercises (any kind of full or modified squats, lunges, press ups, planks, triceps dips, step ups) and work hard – job done!

“Write down what you want to do every day so you have a plan to stick to which can become part of your day. That way you’re less likely to find that the day has flown past without you getting your exercise session in.

“If you’re training for something, don’t panic that you might not be able to get your regular training session done. You won’t lose any fitness or strength in just one week. It’s far better to do something than nothing at all, however short and however different to your normal training it might be.”

I’ll do reviews of the various bits of kit and DVDs we do whilst we’re away this week.

Oh, and a note to all the burglars reading: yes, we’re away from home but neighbours are keeping an eye on the house and popping in from time to time! 😉

Away for New Year? Keep Training! is a post from The Fit Writer blog

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