The Winter Meh – pt. 2

Ok, so this one is more about the cycling and less of the political ranting (it will happen from time to time). I managed to save the saucepan by the way. Phew.

The end of year can throw up lots of conflicting emotions. I have a tendency to be backward-looking and it’s all too easy for me to fall into the habit of seeing the change of year as a loss, a leaving behind of all those great times I’ve had over the last 12 months and them being submerged into my personal history. There’s part of me that would like to bottle up those joyful moments like a perfume, or a single malt, to be intermittently savoured. I know there is a ridiculousness to this. I know that there will be plenty of forthcoming awesome times. Very generally-speaking, anxiety is future-fear – all those ‘what-ifs’ which can become overwhelming.

Anxiety can infiltrate every aspect of your life, prevent you from making big, long-term plans (some many variables!) to the minutia (so many variables!) and I find even going out on a short bike ride will involve plenty of pre-pedal analysis. What is the weather going to be like? What combination of kit shall I wear? How much food and liquid? Which thickness of gloves? How long shall I go out for? Where shall I go? What do I need to do when I get home and will I have the energy to do it? Do I have time? Can I be bothered?

Thing is, all this takes up a lot of energy and time as it is and it becomes alarmingly easy to talk yourself out of doing anything at all. The key, I’ve found, is awareness of your own situation. It doesn’t come easy, it’s quite a learning curve. Identifying when you are sliding into over-analysis is one thing, doing something about it is another. I try and pull myself up short and just go. Sometimes I counter the what-ifs by actively positive thoughts… if I go there I will see that bit of countryside I love, if I do that route I’ll get that fab downhill run that makes me feel like I’m flying…

It’s different now I’m now I’m not training for racing though I still find myself setting targets in terms of distance or hours. When this seems too much I refocus and try a more mindful approach – taking in the countryside, observing changes in the flora, delighting in random views along the way. I turn the bike ride from a means to an end to an end itself.

The weather plays a bigger part the older I get, the seasons too. Grey, cloudy blargh I find difficult, I’ll take a freezing cold day over mild temps and low cloud any day. I’m learning not to always dash around feeling that I need to be super-active any time the sun comes out, but getting out of the house is definitely worthwhile – even just sitting on the terrace outside a local café in Crystal Palace basking in the winter sun has its merits.

There’s always something to observe, how ever long or short the ride, whether in the countryside or town. Drink it in. Observe and delight in your surroundings. React to them. Stop for that coffee if you want to. Allow yourself a little leeway.


Wishing you a fab 2018, everyone. 🙂


The Winter Meh – pt. 1

Well, I was going to make this blog post about winter grey and the urge to hibernate but I’ve got derailed a bit. I saw that Daily Mail headline via twitter and at the time I just shrugged to myself. Just another piece of shitty journalism from a rag too unsanitary to wipe your arse on.

The more I’ve thought about it the more angry I have got. Not just at the DM and all that it stands for but because this is just one of many areas around which advances have been made, stigma has been gradually broken down, and WHY THE ACTUAL FUCK are we still having to challenge these headlines and why is is even published in the first place?! The tabloids continue to discover new depths to which they can sink. Marianas Trench ain’t got nothin’ on them.

I see it partly as a symptom of the regressive era of Brexit politics where the intolerant, the right wing, the fools who would gleefully describe themselves as ‘politically incorrect’ and others have been handed implied permissions to voice those backward opinions which they’ve been clinging onto for dear life since the 1990s. For some it goes further back to civil rights and development of feminism in the 1960s and 1970s or even earlier. All the advances by out groups of various kinds, so hard fought for over the years, seem to be in danger. I am hoping that this is not the case and that when those currently in power are gone we can get back to some semblance of sanity. Worldviews can take much longer than a single generation to evolve, however. *waves placard*

Anyhooooooooo. The thing with the DM article (which I presume follows a standard model for this type of health-related tripe they churn out) is that:

  1. Happy Pills. As if they are an instant fix. Ecstasy be happy pills, not ADs.
  2. I’ve got so into my rant the water in my boiled potatoes evaporated and I think I’ve ruined a saucepan. Shit.
  3. No real attempt to consider why AD use is so high until a way down the piece, probably banking on most people not actually reading that far down – particularly online, with ads.
  4. Underfunding of NHS a glaring omission, of course.
  5. ADs are not only prescribed for depression – they can help in cases of OCD, ADHD, eating disorders… NHS info on ADs
  6. Personally, I’ve never been ‘fobbed off’ with ADs. I’ve walked out of the GP surgery with a prescription after a discussion with my doc. Yep, waiting lists for therapy can be months long. IAPT services are generally aimed at treating low-moderate anxiety and depression, ADs tend to be aimed at more severe cases.
  7. Levels of depression and anxiety tend to rise during times of financial strain. I wondered how much the political decision to impose a regime of austerity has impacted on national health over the last 8 years? The recession before that also had an impact. Re England (abstract only):  Social Science and Medicine and here’s one report from Scotland looking at austerity and the impact on patients and GP practices in deprived areas: Employability in Scotland
  8. I’ve been wondering how much tabloid reporting contributes to anxiety levels? Has any one out there come across any academic studies on the subject? Tabloid: doesn’t taste nice but easy to swallow… Tabloid – a bit on Burroughs Wellcome

If you are still here and haven’t got bored yet… yay! So how does cycling fit into all this? Well, after such a great evening at Look Mum No Hands back in November I felt particularly frustrated. There had been such a selection of articles, personal accounts, and so on around mental health – and I’m aware of how difficult it is for people to be open and honest about the subject – so it seems especially headdesky when reading something like the DM article. It’s difficult to see how it couldn’t be anything other than deliberate tabloid trolling.

(Self-interruption here – I’m planning another cycling/mh evening at Look Mum in March. If you would like to contribute please get in touch. If you are near Manchester then you might want to keep an eye to the Rapha Mancs events – planning one there in late Feb.) Aaaand, we’re back:

At times like this I do use the bike to pedal off a bit of steam, though today it was the gym that came in handy. I have been cat-sitting for a friend for the last couple of days and spent quite a lot of time drinking tea and watching telly.

This is Mo. Mo likes a crackly plastic bag.

So, yes, winter. It’s a bugger innit. I am wary of giving out advice with too much of an air of authority. I’ll say what works for me and if it’s something you haven’t tried you might want to consider it. Each to their own though – it can take a little time to work out what’s best for you though I daresay there will be plenty of overlap amongst us cyclists.

I try and get out for a ride one morning of each weekend. Usually Saturday but I check the weather and swap the days around if necessary. My ride is generally shorter in the winter too – 60k as opposed to 80-90k on average. I’m fortunate where I live in South London in that I can clear the surburbs in about 20 mins. This makes a substantial difference when dredging up motivation. I have a minimum I ride, which is up to the edge of the North Downs and back. This makes me feel like I have done *something* even when I might have initially planned to do more. Very occasionally I’ll do less even than that if I find I’m pedalling squares after half an hour.

Speaking mainly to the club cyclists here, I guess… The major activity I use to keep fitness during Oct-April period is group turbo sessions – Turbobeat Classes You can even spot my sweaty mug on the vimeo. It’s social, it’s fun, it’s a coached, quality workout that doesn’t take up all of your evening. I actually look forward to finishing work and heading over to the The Lodge at Crystal Palace Sports Centre once or twice a week. Again, I’m fortunate because it’s less than 5 mins from where I live. If I was to give advice at this point 😉 it would be to identify the nearest or easiest to get to places where you can ride or do other related exercise. At home even – lots of folk I know use Yoga with Adrienne .  There will be times when you just don’t wanna. Sometimes you can work through this because you can be fairly sure you’ll feel good afterwards but sometimes… you just can’t. I guess the practice here is to try and gives yourself the props if you do get out but try and avoid beating yourself up if you don’t.

There’ll always be another day.


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