We often only read after the event about the great lengths of physical endurance people go through to raise money for charity. Rarely do we hear from them before the adventure begins. We don’t hear how people stay motivated and prepare their body and mind for the challenge ahead.
I am one such person taking on a daunting challenge for charity. From May to July this year I will be cycling around the entire coast of Britain. My previous blog explained how this journey of over 4,000 miles, my Great Tour of Britain, is all with the goal of raising £20,000 for Prostate Cancer UK. This is a cause very close to my heart, doing amazing work around the UK funding vital research and awareness programmes.
As the big day approaches, I wanted to reflect on my training so far and ask what lessons we can all learn when going the extra mile for a good cause.
Putting in the hours
Training for a cycling challenge of this magnitude is no easy task. I will be on the bike for 7 weeks. This will test the strength of my whole body, from my cardiovascular strength through to muscles in my back and core.
To get myself ready, I have undertaken a programme of multi-modal training. In essence, this means training across a range of different areas – not just the bike! In partnership with my personal trainer Rob, I have mixed up cycling with days focused on weights, High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), and running. At times, this has meant 5-6 days of exercise per week – in month two I had completed 32 hours’ worth of exercise.
And it has not always been easy. When it started out it was really hard work, my muscles were left achy and burning. But slowly but surely, the effort has started to pay off.
The statistics showcase my body is now in a strong position. My weight is down under 12 stone (somewhere I have not been since my 20s), I have gained more than a kilogram of muscle mass and my body fat percentage has dropped significantly. I also now have a resting heart rate of 46 – a drop of 10% from where I was previously. Together, these changes put me in a great position for the ride. It is not about being the fastest. This work will prepare me to be as efficient as possible and avoid the looming possibility all riders fear most: injury along the way.
You are not alone
Completing a feat of endurance such as my Great Tour of Britain can, at times, feel incredibly daunting. The logistics of a 7-week ride are no mean feat. That is to say nothing about the physical reality of training: it is just you against your own body, battling to stay motivated. In life there is something particularly difficult about jumping out of bed at 7am, 5-6 days per week, to keep training ticking over.
But you stay motivated by always bringing yourself back to the big picture. I know that this time spent training on tired muscles will build up the muscle memory I need to get into a rhythm when I am out on the road; when I cycled Land’s End to John O’Groats, I found by Day 8 that I wasn’t sure if I was going up hills anymore. And of course, the biggest boost of all is knowing my temporary struggle is all for the greater good of raising money for an incredible cause like Prostate Cancer.
Above all, I have been so blessed along the way by the support I have received. 30 riders will be joining me at various points around the coast of Britain. We have come to form a tight-knit community of riders, sharing knowledge and experience, and generally keeping each other motivated. It has been fantastic to see everyone focus on their own individual challenges; they won’t be joining me for the full 4,000 miles, but for some riders reaching 100 miles in one day will be a challenge. Technology plays a key role in our community, with video conferencing helping us to coordinate across the country and fitness apps gathering health data to track our progress.
Raring to go
I am now in the final weeks of my training. As I near the beginning of my journey, I will start to taper down my training regime, ensuring I am well rested and ready to go.
The whole process of training has convinced me more than ever that physical exercise is such an incredible boon for mental health. If you look after your physical health, mental health will follow. I would encourage everyone to get out there, step outside your comfort zone, and get active for a good cause – it does not have to be an adventure quite the scale of my own!
If you would like to donate, my fundraising page is here, and stay tuned for updates over the coming weeks!