Gyms, How to start exercising, Losing Weight, Walking

Hugely helpful if you’re knees are playing up

Hi, and welcome back.  This is a very quick blog.

If you read my last article you might have been expecting a comparison of weight loss diary apps but I’m afraid I haven’t had time to do this yet, so maybe another day soon.

I,m pleased to say that I have light at the end of the tunnel.  If you’re a regular reader or at least a now and again browser you’ll know that I had knee pain from embarking on an ambitious fitness regime at what some people call a silly age (to care about or start exercise).

If I’d known at the start what my physio (brilliant guy) told me on my first session a couple of weeks it may have all been different.  It turns out that I have Patello femoral Pain Syndrome (explained in more detail here for those that would like to know more).

He explained that the knee joint and its surrounding muscle and cartilage were just not up to the job (largely because I hadn’t worked on my quads enough) of keeping up with the exercise programme I had surprised them with.

The solution is specific types of exercise – leg press and leg extensions, combined with warming up properly (which I hadn’t been doing very well), anti inflammatory Ibuprofen and gym exercises that don’t antagonise the condition – cycling, walking and rowing, which all helps to strengthen the knees and surrounding musculature/cartilage.

These are starting to make a difference, and the exercises help with walking.  I have to say they were bloody murder when I started!


I was concerned that I had an injury which was going to be permanent and exercise disabling but it looks (at least so far) like this isn’t the case, which is a relief.

If you’re taking up exercise late in life, I’d invest some time looking at the article above, particularly with regard their advice on preventing the condition developing.  You want to avoid it if you can.

I am also pleased to say that MyNetDiary is managing to be very helpful keeping me on track with regard losing weight, and I’ve now dropped off 5lbs to get myself back to 12 stone, which is seven pounds away from my goal of being 11 stone 7 lbs.  So I’m getting somewhere, and it shows that using phone based assistance can be valuable, particularly when its to do with maintaining enthusiasm for the weight loss regime during and following injury.

Anyway, like I said this is a short blog this time (or at least shorter than my normal ramblings), so … if you’d like to share you experience of this condition, and particularly if you have marvellous tips for battling it, it would be great to hear from you.

By the way, I’m not being paid to see how many times I can get ‘particularly’ in this article, but if you’re counting its now five.

Lastly have a great Easter!




How to start exercising, Learning Power Kiting, Losing Weight, Power Kiting

And again with the wind

Hi and welcome back.

Last week I introduced the idea that you could lose weight and have fun at the same time (no not that) by flying stunt kites, and there was a promise at the end to show you something that took more energy still.

You can expect a stunt kite to become much more challenging to fly when it reaches its performance threshold in gusty weather.  It will then react very sharply to every manoeuvre that you try to do and there’s a good chance that one of the lines will snap which then heralds a very rapid crash.

Strong winds are therefore to be avoided.  Not so with their larger cousins which are called power kites, e.g.


Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

These are as you can here, generally much larger and are effectively like curved wings.  As they are struck by wind, they produce a power coefficient which lifts them perpendicularly.  Kite surfers channel this energy by directing it with their boards.

This guy’s out of the ocean and just hanging on.  If you are connected on the other end, they pull you, as demonstrated in this picture.


Notice how much he’s leaning back?  That takes energy and that’s just moderate wind he’s in.  The first time I flew one of these I was amazed at the energy it produced, and it needed a lot of effort to prevent it pulling me along.

These kites are so powerful that they’ll lift you into the air (which unsurprisingly is called an “air”:


On land, the power kites energy can be used to pull buggies and land boards


Now all this looks very adventurous (ok last guy doesn’t look like he’s barreling along I admit), but you can just stand in a field (like the one we discussed before) and fly them without going anywhere – although the kite will have different ideas about this!

The calorie use is half from rigging and derigging and half from just holding on to the kite.  Much the same as the stunt kite in the last article, you have to put the kite down and then walk the lines out behind it until they’re all unraveled to their maximum length.  The difference is that the lines are longer, this time there’s four of them and while you’re walking them out you’ll become convinced that sometime between you connecting the lines to the kite and starting to walk back, a tiger jumped inside the kite and started doing gymnastics – ok its just the kite reacting very easily to the wind but it doesn’t feel like that at the time, so its a very good idea to have good weights to hold it down with.

Notice again what you’re doing – lots of walking, and using energy.

This is what a 5 metre kite looks like up close:


Finally you’ve walked the lines out.  You then stake them into the ground, and carefully walk back to the kite and release the weights you left on it.  Wait a minute you say, isn’t the kite going to try to take off while you’re doing this? It would were it not for the reason for the four lines.  Two lines connect to the top of the kite, and two to the bottom.  These all connect to two handles, one for the left side of the kite with top and bottom, and the same for the right hand side.  When you’re flying the kite you pivot the handles to accelerate or decelerate the kite.  The more the top of the kite is pulled towards you the faster it will go and conversely, the more the bottom of the kite is pulled towards you, the more it stalls.  To prevent the kite flying away, you position your handles before you take the weights off, so that they put the kite or wing (which is more what it looks like) in the stalled condition.

Okay, now you’ve removed the weights, and are back holding the handles (probably 150 to 200 feet away).  You then pivot the top of the handles towards you and with a reasonable wind, the kite will launch straight into the air at high speed – until you get used to how to control the stall it will just shoot straight up and you’ll be pulled instantly by it.  You have to firstly, hold on and then brace backwards.  Do this for a few seconds, let alone minutes and you’ll see why kiting takes a lot of energy.

When you start, you just line up the kite so the winds directly behind you, but when its a strong wind day you set the lines up so that the wind is off to one side.  This helps you to avoid the rocketship takeoff because without the wing facing directly into wind, it develops less power.  You can then steer it into the best wind.

Once you’ve mastered takeoff and just holding the kite in the air, you can start to do stunts with it.  The difference between stunting with a power kite and a stunt kite is the power that power kites develop when you’re maneuvering  them.  Turn the handles sharply enough and you’ll induce a corkscrew.  This generates energy which you have to keep from pulling you along the ground and out of the field you’re standing in, otherwise you’ll be through hedges and all sorts.

If you fancy trying power kites, I’d strongly recommend that you join or visit local club beforehand.  Firstly so they can assist you with your first flights, and secondly if they have a kite you can borrow, it’ll save you the expense of buying a kite  for £150 to £200 and then finding out its not for you.


If you buy a power kite and aren’t devoted to only using it on the sea, get a helmet – I guarantee you’ll take a tumble and its better to look a bit odd with a helmet on than wearing a neck brace in hospital because you didn’t think it was needed.

Roller skaters often wear joint armour which fixes by elastic.  they do this to prevent elbow and knee damage.  If you’ve already got this kit wear it and if not seriously think about buying it.  You’ll understand why once you’ve been pulled by a kite.


Probably before both of these I’d say by some safety cords – (these aren’t dungarees for extremely careful people).  These cords connect to your wrists and to the bottom of each of the handles.  If a powerful gust hits your kite it can catch you off guard and start pulling you alarmingly fast.  Without safety cords you’re at the mercy of the kite and whatever juxtaposition the handles are in.  With the cords its simple – you just let go of the handles.   Each handle is connected at the bottom to the cords connected to your wrists and the result is the brakes are applied as the kite has no option but to stall.  If you buy nothing else with regard safety gear but your helmet, buy the cords – they may save being dragged across a fence or through bushes or worse across a road.

I guess the difficult thing with this is assessing how many calories you’ve used.  To at least get the walking part of it, you could use a pedometer.  Map my walk isn’t so reliable here because it adds calories as you stand still and it’ll give you a false reading.  If you’re moving the effect isn’t as pronounced.   Any questions, please leave a comment and if you’ve liked this, please like or follow.  Tata for now and keep


Gyms, How to start exercising

Its raining! What do you do?

Hi and welcome back!

This article is about gyms – how to find them, and how they can be an inexpensive alternative to walking, cycling and exercising especially during the evening and in bad weather.


unsplash-logoMaria Fernanda Gonzalez

The word Gym comes from gymnasium which itself comes from the ancient greek word gymnos meaning naked, and when the greeks used them, they exercised naked in preparation for public games.  I think most gyms would now take a particularly dim view of this, so some hunting out of long put away adidas gear may be necessary.

If you’re a little older than average like me, the thought of using a gym might be quite daunting, but it shouldn’t be.  When I go there’s a mix range of ages and shapes attending.  If you’re a little self conscious of the piled on pounds I wouldn’t worry, after all the fact you’re in the gym means you’re doing something about it.  On top of which I’m fairly confident most people there aren’t paying very little attention to what anyone else is doing.

Finding a gym

The first stage is finding a gym, and there’ll be some damn expensive ones so watch out – if a reasonably priced one isn’t on your doorstep, a little bit of mileage in the car may mean you can go to a much less expensive but still perfectly useful alternative.

Local authority gyms are reasonably priced but they can be rudimentary, so don’t go looking for jacuzzis afterwards.  Their equipment can vary in terms of how recent it is, but they do offer the advantage that they often have several sites that you can use, obviously not all at the same time, but if you commute to work, an alternative gym site can be useful if its on the way to or back from work.  Their staff are extremely helpful too, and able to build a fitness programme for you if you’re unsure of how you’d like to exercise.

You can often tailor your experience to your taste so that if you want or don’t want swimming or other services, you can add or leave them out.

Places for People Leisure offer reasonably priced gym and swimming pool membership, and have a handy blog article on handling Xmas eating.

In the USA, you may find it useful to read this article on affordable gyms by Well & good Editors.

Warming up

Whatever exercise you prefer at the gym, it is worth warming up first.  Sudden frantic activity on machines is not something your body can accommodate well unless you warm up first, and if you do it often you risk injury.  Simple stretching exercises will help.

walking by nina barough




This marvellous book is written by Nina Barough and includes comprehensive sections on preparation including stretching exercises.

Useful calorie control exercises

If you walk, run, cycle or row you can do that at the gym, on treadmills, rowing and cycle machines and steppers.


If your experience is normally changing scenery, a treadmill may sound awful but if you have music with you, or there’s video media on the machine you can zone out from the repetitiveness of it.   You can set a specific pace or set it to varying.  You can also set target time or distance or heart rate.  Heart rate can be monitored and is useful if you want to remain within certain limits.

fitness-series-1-1467452-1280x960 (1)

If you have trouble running, e.g. damaged knees/shin splints, and walking just doesn’t seem energetic enough (after all you can only walk so fast without looking comical) you can use more calories by steepening the angle of the treadmill walkway, as you simultaneously imagine striding up Skafell Pike. (shown below courtesy of The Enlight Project on Unsplash ).


A word of warning though –  If the machine gets away from you, and it can do even with steep walking, you’ll run off the treadmill backwards.  Unless you have that capability that cats have to look cool even in their most embarrassing moments, you can prevent this happening by clipping the safety string on.  This stops the machine immediately if the string is tugged – it does the same as the Stop button).  If this is just too uncool just be careful with the speed settings.  NB: These can be different at different gyms, so you can’t always use the same number.

You may find that you’re still moving when you step off the treadmill! Or at least it feels that way.  This is caused by the fact that despite all your frantic activity on the belt, in terms of position you haven’t gone anywhere. Your brain, clever thing that it is, temporarily changes the way message feedback is handled (to prevent you feeling ill).

People who get car sick will recognise this – to prevent yourself getting car sick as a passenger you have to look outside now and again to provide your brain a reason for the motion of the car that it can detect but cannot see.  Otherwise it gets very confused about what is happening and gives you motion sickness to let you know.

The treadmill is similar but there’s no feedback possible, (unless you’re at a real swanky gym with moving scenery on a screen in front of you) so your brain makes its own artificial feedback to cope with movement that isn’t natural.  The problem is that its not quite so quick to switch it off when you finish which is when you can feel a bit funny at the end, as you step off.   Give yourself a minute – normal service will resume.


It isn’t like being on a bicycle.  There’s very little noise, no moving environment, feedback from the road, bumps, pedestrians, dogs or lunatic car drivers.


unsplash-logoMartin Barák

You may find that putting your hands on the ‘handlebars’ helps.  Of all the machines at the gym, I find cycle machines the least satisfying – probably because I’m a rider and the previously mentioned feedback isn’t there.  The plus thing is that you’ll get through calories a lot faster than when on the treadmill.


I find that these return the highest calorie count for exercise and as you’re the speed regulator you’re in full control.   I tend not to use the swinging handles and do most of the work with my legs which is probably wrong but I’m not working on my arms so its fine for me.  Some machines are better than others and can get you stepping in unusual gaites – some you can adjust, and for those that you can’t and can’t live with, you’re probably better using a different stepper or different type of machine.


Surely that’s all arms I hear you say! It isn’t if you’re doing it properly.  Your legs should be doing the majority of the work.  You’re pulling the row handle with your arms sure, but only to a certain point when your legs moving into the straight phase.

Curiously row machines in gyms don’t simulate single handed rowing. What they do is more closely represent skulling on a team boat with a steering skipper like you see compete in the Oxford/Cambridge race.

Be careful to set the weight on the machine to something you’ll be comfortable with for a while.  Unless you set a fast pace and a lot of weight, rowing is a relatively poor calorific exercise so it takes a while, and you don’t want to risk neck strain or back pain by overdoing the speed or weight.


Swimming is great for losing calories and involves less stress than most other exercises.
I can’t really go into it here because I’m not a big fan of swimming for exercise.  If people who are reading are, and would like to share their experiences please feel free, and I’ll add them here for you.

Not all on one machine

Its worth saying you shouldn’t spend your whole session on one machine – try doing 100 or so calories on 3 or 4 machines, dependent on how many calories you want to burn, or the time that you have.  I notice time flies at the gym.

Don’t go Mad

If you’re used to specific local walks or cycling circuits, there isn’t an underlined stop point.  If you set each of the machines that you exercise on, to show you calories, add these up as you go and aim to stop at the calorie count you’d normally walk/run/cycle.

Don’t overdo it.  Gym exercising is different to other types of exercise and its not so easy to work out when you’ve done enough.  When you reach your calorie count, it may feel like you’ve not done enough – you have, stop and get on with the rest of the day.  If you still feel ok to carry on, set a point to re-evaluate and check how you feel again when you reach it.


You’ll probably be more comfortable exercising in shorts and top so ditch the tracksuit before you begin.  You’ll need to put it on when you leave though because you’ll cool down really fast when you finish.

Use good trainers as you would ‘on the road’.  You’re not travelling anywhere but your feet are still in locomotion and need the support and protection of good footwear none the less.

Gyms provide either towels or disposable cloth for wiping away sweat.  If you take your own you’ll find it easier.


Its normal to dry down gym equipment when you’ve finished, otherwise sweat of your hands is left on the apparatus which isn’t cool for the next person using it.

If there’s only a small number of machines which are in high demand, there may be an enforced time limit.  If not, bear in mind that other people may be waiting to use the machine you’re using, so be fair.

Last and not least …

This is the last article of 2017.  I hope that these 2017 blogs have been informative.

Please feel free to share comments and if you’ve enjoyed this please Like or follow – WordPress have a short registration process before you can do this.


Have a smashing Xmas and New Year, especially to the followers.  Nice to know this blog  is appreciated guys.

I’d say take it easy, but hey its Xmas! Enjoy!


See you in 2018.   Best wishes.  Ian.

How to start exercising, Sportives

Proof of your accomplishments

Hi and welcome back!

This article shows how to use Strava to measure your cycling activity, how to find cycling clubs and places to cycle, and lastly Sportives – what they are, why you should try them, how you enter and what they’re like to take part in.


Strava is a GPS based measurement app used to record cycling and running activity, and I wouldn’t think of not using this app when I’m cycling now. The orange themed app is downloadable on Android and at Apple’s App Store.  The following images have kindly been provided by the Strava app on phone or on their site.

Once you’ve installed the app and registered for free, launching it displays your dashboard.

strava dashboard

URL for Strava Dashboard

This is where you can start what they call a feed, to register distance and direction in figures and map display.   This auto pauses if you stop your bike and restarts once you get going again.  You have to stop it though, at which time you can decide whether to sync and save the run.

strava trip 2

Initial Strava screen

Once recorded and synced with your account you can review your miles online at .

Strava detail 1

Strava Dashboard

Its a lot easier to use and review progress on Strava if you get a mount for it.  I use one from Topeak.

photo of topeak phone mount on stem of racing bike

Topeak Mobile Phone Mount

If you set your phone to permanent display, you’ll have a readout that’s on all the time.  It consumes 30% of battery power over an hour on my iphone – just check that you’re charged up before you mount it, or if you’re out for a while, connect up your battery pack.

Strava allows you to see sections of road on your runs, and your relative performance against other people using Strava who have navigated the same stretch of road, giving you a ranking (mine as you’ll see is miles down the list).

Strava detail 3

It also gives you metrics on height, speed and power during a run, which is useful if you want to see your relative performance on different elevations.

Strava detail 4

There is much more to Strava including a video they send you annually of your achievements throughout the year, and premium contracted services offer a further tier of services for those who take cycling seriously.

Cycling Clubs

The fastest way of finding cycling clubs in your area is  to use the internet.  Three useful sites are Meetup, British Cycling and Cycling UK.

Meetup is an online organising tool for people with similar interests and was founded in 2002 by Scott Heiferman, Matt Meeker and Brendan McGovern as a direct response to the 9/11 attacks, in order to bring people closer together.  You can search for cycling clubs in a radius from a given town, and hotspots to local clubs allow you to see their meetup pages, e.g.

meetup 1

Image kindly provided by Meetup.

British Cycling was mentioned in the last article and besides its wealth of information on cycling in general, it allows you to pinpoint clubs and cycling events near you.

Cycling UK also dedicates part of its site to finding and joining clubs in your area.


So you’ve put in all the cycling miles to lose weight.  If you want to have a go at a non competitive race to see how you’d do over a longer distance against the clock, perhaps you’d like to try a sportive? Want some visible proof of your accomplishments? Read on.

I suspect you’re wondering why its a race if it’s not competitive? Technically its not a race but get yourself in amongst hundreds of riders and its difficult to resist the competitive spirit, even if there aren’t prizes or ranking position points which are the requirements for an official competitive race.  They actually contain 2 or 3 separate ‘races’; short routes of around 25 miles, one for 50 miles plus and a longer one of 75  miles plus.

Sportives do allow you to meet other riders, tackle distance you may not have had time to do before, have a ride out with a large number of riders, and provides freebies for entering.  Normally you’re presented with a medal, and free products from companies using the race for marketing.  Sometimes t-shirts, bandanas or socks are given away.  Most sportives cost from £25, depending on distance, and results are displayed after the race on the organiser’s website.  There are normally photographers on the course taking snapshots of every rider which you can buy online a couple of days after the event.

I’ve competed in six sportives throughout the South East in the Wiggle series, but this isn’t the only series.  The text following describes prep and race on one of Wiggle’s runs.

Entry is online, and they’ll add you to their list of riders for the event and send you confirmation of entry details, including route.


I prepare the night before as its usually an early start, and if the race is some distance from you you’ll obviously need to take this into account when determining time to set off in the morning.

I usually check the bike over; tyres, drive train, lights etc, and then because I’ve got a small car, remove the wheels and pack the bike so its one less thing to do first thing.

I also check the weather forecast on the BBC to see what it’s sensible wearing first thing.

Packing List

  • Printed entry confirmation and route map.
  • A spare tube or two and rim removal tools.
  • A mini pump.
  • Waterproofs that are small enough that you can carry them with you.  Legs are not as important as upper body so if you’re packing only one take the top.
  • A thermos for coffee/tea. (Race organisers do have catering at the race but its normally a distance from the car park).
  • Headgear.  (This must have a US Snell B90/B95 or European standard CE test label).
  • Portable USB charger (for lights and phone should they run low).
    Water bottle(s).  If you can take two do so.  Better to need water and have it than the other way round.
  • Dry clothing including socks (for when you finish).  (Drive to the event in your race gear).

On the day

Plan to leave contingency time for bad traffic.  You can start the ride after the start time periods (there are different ranges of time for each of the rides) but if you finish the race after the organisers have packed up their marshal stations, you won’t have an official finish time or be able to collect a goodies pack.

When you get closer to the race, you’ll see signposts for car parking.  Once you’ve parked up, leave the bike where it is, pick up your headgear and go and register.  You’ve entered, but the organisers will need to tick you off on their lists and slap a self adhesive transponder sticker with your race number barcode for their tracking mechanisms on your headgear.  If you enter late, you may not be on their list.  If this is the case, go to their ‘on the day’ race entrance table, and they’ll issue your headgear barcode.

With some races, dependent on whether you entered weeks in advance or signed up for particular deals, they’ll also give you whatever you’ve also bought or become eligible for, e.g. water bottles, energy bar packs.

Once you’ve registered, the time is yours to use as you wish before the race, remembering to leave enough time to get your bike assembled, your riding gear on and race number attached.  Organisers usually have bike gear and clothing stalls on site, and there’s catering of some sort if you’ve not had breakfast.

The Race

Join the other riders at the start line, listen to the race safety briefing, set Strava on if you’re using it, and you’re off!


If its a longer distance than you normally cover, its best to pace at the start, and adjust your speed depending how you feel after a mile or two.  Its not a race but they’ll be riders who are moving at a fair rate to beat personal times (or friends).

Depending on the length of race you’ve selected they’ll be a number of refreshment stations where you’ll get free drink and energy food, and facilities if you need them.

If you’re calorie counting and its food that isn’t packaged, you can note down roughly what calories these are.  If you have a diet app, this makes this easier.  Personally, I figure that its unlikely I’ll break my diet limit as the 30 mile races I enter use about 750 calories, so I don’t usually count on race days.  It does give you a bit more freedom about what you can sensibly eat before and during the race.

Race Etiquette

  • Its normal to overtake on the right and warn people if there trajectory looks like you might collide.
  • If you can, on less busy roads, warn other grouped up riders ahead of you if there’s a car coming.
  • Ride singly where you can.  A fair proportion of the race will be on normal roads.  I find that riders double up on narrow double white line stretches because it forces traffic to overtake sensibly.
  • You’ll find that riders stop for puncture repairs and to rest.  If you see another rider in obvious difficulty, ask them if they need assistance.
  • Don’t stream riders you don’t know.  Streaming is riding close up behind someone else to benefit from their slipstream and reduce pedalling effort.  This should only be necessary and done by groups of riders who are taking turns whilst in a competitive race.
  • Queue at the start and at junctions.

The end of the race

wiggle medalCycle through the finish line to get your time recorded and be presented with finishing medal (and usually goody bag).

Stop Strava and save the session.  Relax, and congratulations for finishing!   Maybe mutter ‘Never again!’ but weeks later register for your next event.

If you’re calorie counting, add the event’s calorie count to your stats.


If you think you’re going to get into sportives, waterproof overboots are invaluable, as is a neck warmer for downhill segments.  You only need one puddle to get drenched, and in a long race high speed gets your face and neck cold very quickly.

Take a break from exercise on the following day or two days.

Next Time

All about gyms.  How to find one, what they cost, what you can expect and how you can use them as part of your calorie controlled diet.

Thanks for reading, and if you think this article is useful, please like the page, and choose follow if you’d like to be advised when new blogs are available.  There’s a short registration process with WordPress.


How to start exercising

How to start exercising Part 2

Welcome back!

In the last article I showed you my take on how you can use walking for exercise, including tips on preparation, how to find where you can walk, mobile apps to assist you and what to do with the calorie count you’ve expended.  This time we’re looking at cycling and what the ‘bank’ in Bank Diet is all about.  I was going to include information on Strava but this is now going to be in the next article.


If you want to go a little further with your exercise as part of a calorie controlled diet, cycling will allow this, but how do you start?  Is it simply a case of dusting off the bike and taking to the roads?


It all depends to start off, with whether you have a bike.  If so, half your decisions are already made for you.

If you have a mountain bike or MTB for general riding, you can do road and forest, though your speed on the road will be compromised because of the weight of the bike.  Saying this, MTBs are not standard and vary greatly on gearing and width and tread of tyres.  Optimum tyres in a forest are wide with a lot of tread, which gives better handling in slippery conditions.

These are not however good for the road because they use greater surface area and slow you down since more of your bike is in contact with the road.

If you have a racing bike, odds are that you are already using it on the road.  If you’re dusting it off, you’ll no doubt already be aware that it is ill fitted to forests because of its gearing, handlebars and thin tyres.


If you are lucky enough to own a hybrid bike you can do both forest and road without too many disadvantages, but you’ll miss out the better performance of road or MTB bike in their favoured environments of road and forest respectively.

If you don’t own a bike, how do you go about getting hold of one?

Unless you know the exact specifications of the bike that you need or have enlisted the aid of a bike fitting service, I’d say that you’re better off going to a cycle store as opposed to ordering online.  The cycle store staff will be able to assist in selecting a bike type and size to match your requirements, and if you have problems, you can take the bike back and show them in person what is wrong.

One thing chain stores don’t tell you is that there are specific times of the year when prices dramatically drop.  I am talking by 60%, where they need to clear last season’s stock in anticipation of next year’s bikes.  (Bikes are like the current season’s shirts in premier league – they go out of fashion and sometimes only because they’ve changed the colour or there’s been some equally inconsequential change which fanatics cannot do without).  I bought my Boardman bike for 60% of the standard price and got £100 of free goods as well, so it pays to pick your time.

Also … If you’re buying from Halfords or Chain Reaction Cycles, join British Cycling first!  Their membership card or proof of membership will get you 10% off ALL prices in store, not just cycles and equipment, along with:

  • Liability insurance and legal support (Race Gold, Silver & Ride) for daily cycling
  • Get 10% off purchases at Chain Reaction Cycles
  • Discounted bike insurance
  • Priority access to tickets for major cycling events
  • Save 10% with Direct Debit


This is down to personal choice of course but I’d recommend that you try to wear light or reflective clothing, or at least a reflective bib.  This may seem overkill but motorists simply don’t see you until the last moment.  Just about the only thing that motorists easily see on their side of the road is a parked car.  I read somewhere that motorcyclists are involved in head on collisions more often than cars because drivers are not looking for something the width of a motorbike, despite bibs and headlight.  From my experience it really isn’t that different for drivers coming up behind a cyclist so the more visibility you can create the better.

If you buy a racing bike, I’d advise that you buy racing bike clothing, both to stop trouser material ending up in the crank, and because it will make you feel more comfortable from the perspective of having breathable material which will cool you down efficiently and because you will look and feel like a race bike rider, which if you don’t use the race bike to commute to the shops and work, is what you now are.

If you’re riding a mountain or Hybrid, and don’t have narrow legging trousers, I’d recommend using a bicycle clip (at least on the right hand side).




Ok its daylight – what do I need lights for?  The lights aren’t for you to see but for others to see you.  The more high intensity the better.  My front lights put out 150 lumen (measure of the total quantity of visible light) which is about 1/2 of that of a car headlight.  (I have these for forest riding in the evening, and its like daylight).  You don’t have to go to these lengths, but the more costly the lights, usually the higher lumen they are and the better you will be seen.  In daylight use both front and back lights in flashing mode if they have it.  Try to lower the lights so that they aren’t shining directly at opposing direction car drivers.

If you have lights on (flashing during the day) it also means that there’s less chance that opposing drivers will try to overtake a vehicle coming towards you, forcing you in to the side of the road.

What to carry with you

You should carry as a minimum:

  • Water or other drink.

In case of puncture:

  • A pump.
  • A spare tube.  (Its far easier to fit a replacement tube than to try to fix a puncture on the side of the road).
  • Tyre irons or levers. (To prise the cycle tyre off of the rim to let you get to the inner tube.


  • Spare clip lights in case your light’s power source runs out.
    A gas kit.  If you don’t fancy all the pumping (especially to get race bike tyres up to 100 psi).
  • A mobile phone with map app downloaded or an O/S.
  • Chocolate or sweets in case you get really tired.
  • Waterproof jacket and trousers.  (The ones that bundle up to take up no space at all).
  • Either a backpack or a small carry bag on the bike.  I’m not talking a saddlebag here – more small bag which fits below the seat, or a triangle bag which fits below the stem.
  • A small first aid kit.  (it might not be you that needs it).

Road Safety


It is inevitable that you’ll have car drivers pass to close.  Its unlikely that they’re going to hit you but it is unnerving when they get really close.  I’ve found that flashing high visibility rear lights help, but what makes a difference is carrying a camera, e.g. a Go Pro.

If you have a camera, mount it so that it is facing rearward.  Drivers behind can see the red running light and will work out that you have a camera, and are slightly more likely to treat you considerately when passing.  Also, if they have managed to hit you or your bike a forward facing camera won’t pick this up – only what happens afterwards, so your ability to provide corroborating evidence to the Police and insurance companies is compromised.

I actually found by happy accident (when I couldn’t find my Go Pro) that all you need to get passing traffic to give you more room is a camera sticker – similar to the ones you see a few hundred yards before speed cameras.  You don’t need to have a Go Pro on you at the time – the sticker is enough because drivers don’t know you don’t have a camera and they have become conditioned to pay attention when they see the camera sign.  You put the sticker (which you can get off of Amazon or Ebay) on the back of your backpack or jacket).

In the country, if you’re turning a left bend, ride slightly further out in the road than normal.  Following motorists will spot you quicker as they follow you in to the turn.

Be especially careful on dual carriageways.  If you can avoid them do so. Your visibility to fast moving traffic is considerably reduced, especially during the day and at rush hour.

On other roads, if you’re turning right and it looks like you’ll probably have to wait for oncoming traffic, its better to pull over to the left and walk or ride across when traffic is clear from both directions.  You may be in the right as far as the highway code goes, in positioning yourself in the extreme right of your lane, but its dangerous (for you) to stop there and its no consolation if following traffic doesn’t see you in time.  Better to wait until the road’s clear and get to your destination late than not get there.

From my experience the fact that you’re in the middle of the road can exasperate drivers behind you, even though its perfectly legal, even though ordinarily they’d have no second thoughts about flying past you when you’re taking up the same space on the left hand side of the road.


If you decide to take up cycling more seriously as a training tool, you might want to invest in a pair of cleat shoes and pedals.  Basically, the shoes and pedals have a connecting apparatus which you click in similar to skies.  They’re really odd to get used to but you get 30% more drive when you’re pedalling so they’re well worth it.  I bought cleat shoes and then fitted full cleats to my racing bike and half cleats to my MTB.  Half cleats have the cleat on one pedal and normal pedal on the other side.  When I was learning to use cleats it gave me flexibility on whether to use cleat shoes or trainers on runs out.   Do remember to disengage at least one foot at traffic lights.  I thankfully haven’t done this but I have seen riders fall over when they forget.


One advantage of cleats that I wasn’t aware of is that you can get extra drive off of them when you’re going uphill, by slightly lifting your feet off of the pedals.  You’re still connected, but it concentrates power on the downstrokes.  I haven’t found the technique works on the level or when going downhill.   If you’ve never tried this, have a go – you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.  If anyone else has come across this I’d be interested to hear what your experience of it was like.

If you’re using cleats on an MTB, and you ride in the forest, you may them difficult to get used to, especially when disconnecting for obstacles and tricky ascents.  I’ve found it was better to preempt these by disconnecting well before, otherwise you’ll be off the bike before you know it, and its all the more agonising when you feel yourself falling and it takes ages, because there’s nothing you can do but look forward to hitting the deck.

Measuring your time on the bike


I use Strava to measure distance covered and calories consumed.  It is downloadable on Android and there’s information here on the Iphone equivalent which you can download off of their App Store.

If you don’t have a mobile phone that will allow you to use these apps, an alternative is to count 35 calories for every mile cycled. E.g. An 11 mile cycle will have used (roughly) 385 calories.   Apps like Strava assess calories consumed more accurately because they take advantage of your GPS to give both accurate distance and climb and descent information, for a 2 dimensional perspective.  There’s more in the next article on Strava).

When you’ve finished


Relax, put your feet up, have a cup of tea etc and then establish how many calories you’ve burn’t by cycling.  When you have the figure, add this to your allowed calories.  You wouldn’t expect to run your car without adding fuel and you’re just the same.  You have to pay (in calories) for that exercise.   The nice bit about the paying in this case is that you get a bunch of calories that you can add back into your diet.  Don’t worry – the diet will still work – you’ve used the energy already and now you’re putting it back.

e..g If you have a calorie limit of 1800, and have cycled 10 miles, you’d add roughly 350 calories which then gives you a new limit of 2150 calories.  Don’t forget to take off any snacks you’ve consumed while cycling.

The ‘Bank’ in ‘Bank Diet’


Ok, I called these slimming guidelines ‘The Bank Diet’ because using these techniques, you can add calories from exercise in to your limit, and either consume more calories to cover what you’ve expended, or  bank the calories for the next day.

As an example, say you ride 10 miles which will consume roughly 350 calories.

Now you have a choice, either add the 350 in to your limit, so if your limit is 1800, this would become 2150, or you can take the 350 and add it to tomorrow’s limit.  A third alternative is that you don’t add the calories and consume 350 less calories that day, but I wouldn’t recommend it – I did try this and found that I became hungrier as a result.

As with all banks, you can go overdrawn – say your limit is 1800 and you eat 2000.  You can accommodate this by subtracting the ‘overdraft’ from your following day’s limit, so in this example, this would mean that the following day you eat only 1600 calories.

It really is down to you because everyone’s bodies work differently, but you may find that ‘banking’ will give you more flexibility with your diet.  If you know that you’re not going to be able to calorie count the following day, try banking some calories in preparation – if you can do this off of calories consumed by exercise, this won’t affect your (current) day’s limit.

Next time

What its like to use Strava to measure your cycling activity, how to find cycling clubs and places to cycle, and lastly Sportives – what they are, how you enter and what they’re like to take part in.

If you’ve liked this article please click follow so that you don’t miss out on the next one.

Happy slimming!




How to start exercising

How to start exercising – Part 1

Welcome back!

In the last article I described why its a good idea to compliment your dieting with exercise.  In this and following articles I’ll suggest ways that you can do this, most of which are completely free, point you towards mobile apps that’ll help you count your exercise (including Strava and Map My Walk), and explain why this is called the Bank Diet.


The simplest form of exercise, that requires no lycra (unless you like it a lot), is to go walking.  If you have a dog or a particularly cooperative cat, you may be exercising just by walking them.  If not, then its simply finding somewhere you’ll enjoy walking and going there, and walking.  If you walk to your walk, then that’s even better.


I’m fortunate that I have country on my doorstep.  If you aren’t then you might want to visit your local tourist board’s website or simply google ‘best places to walk’ or similar to find a site that will advise on local walks you can do by driving to a start point, parking up and grabbing the walking boots from the back of the car.

A site that I came across that was easy to use is Walking Britain.  You simply add your town and it’ll find walks in your selected radius, e.g.

walking britain example map

Hovering over a red balloon on the map will give you a link which will then allow you to see details about the walk including how to get to it, and information on similar close walks with mileages and links to further information on them.

I know its probably teaching granny to suck eggs – after all what’s difficult about walking!  but, the following may be useful if only as a reminder.

If you’re looking to walk a few miles it pays to take a small backpack with water, the walks instructions, your mobile (charged up of course), some food in case you get hungry, waterproofs and perhaps a jumper in case the weather changes for the worse.  As its winter, its advisable to also carry a torch.  The key thing to remember is that there’s no downside to having more clothes than you need on a walk as you can always  take them off and chuck them in your backpack.  If you’re not a hat wearer and its cold, try to wear one as your head is more sensitive to changes in temperature than most of your body, and without one you’ll feel colder.

If you’ve heard that you lose 90% of heat from your head recent research alleges that this is a myth which began with incorrect US Army training manuals in the 1950’s.

If its pretty cold, take a thermos of tea or coffee.  If you’re walking in the country on exposed tracks, you’re subject to wind chill which will likely make you feel colder faster than you think.

Also, if you’re walking in the country, try to let someone know where you’re going and the time that you expect to be back, in case you run in to difficulties.

If you can find someone to walk with, all the better, as you’ll provide conversation and motivation for each other.   The Ramblers is a charity whose web pages say that their goal is to protect the ability of people to enjoy the sense of freedom and benefits that come from being outdoors on foot.  Their site includes information on local walking groups, which is why I’m including it here.





Try to take regular drinks before you feel thirsty.  If you feel thirsty then technically you are already dehydrated and this can disturb your energy levels.

I have read that you only need to be 2% dehydrated to lose 30% of your performance.  How you measure this is another thing.  I try to take a small drink every kilometre and this seems to work.

There’s no harm in taking more water than you need.   Getting thirsty with miles still to go is no fun.

Try to take snack(s) with you as well.  If you’re out for a couple of hours, snacking will keep your metabolism going.  Chocolate is a good snack while walking as it will provide fast energy should you start tiring.




If your walk is going to take you into dusk, try to take a torch and some bright or reflective clothing.  You may find yourself on a bridleway used by horses and mountain bike riders.  Mountain bikes can travel at some speed and may not be able to see you until the last moment if you’re completely blacked out.  Torch and reflective clothing also allows you to be seen by motor vehicles for those occasions when you need to take to or cross roads.

If you’re on a road without pavements, it makes sense to walk on the right hand side towards oncoming traffic but try to stay on the outside of corners, crossing the road beforehand if its necessary – traffic will see you a lot quicker.  If you can get hold of a red rear facing light you can clip on the hood of your jacket or backpack, this improves visibility to traffic behind you.    e.g. these lights from Amazon.

If you have a mobile with applications like Map my Walk or similar, then turn it on before you start, and just as important to your calorie control, stop it when you finish.  Nothing worse than finishing a walk, only to discover that you’ve been logging your footsteps around the house for a couple of hours afterwards.

Saying this, if you know what time you set off and finished, you can work out roughly how many calories you used.  Most people walk about 4 kms an hour and this consumes roughly 240 calories, or 60 calories every 15 minutes.

If you don’t use mobile walking apps, try to keep a simple log of how far you’ve walked.  It should show black and white improvement in distance and speed over time.

Walking Apps

There are loads of these and you don’t necessarily have to spend any money to get one.

‘Map my Walk’ is a good example and is downloadable from either the Google App store of Apple’s App Store.

map my walk example screenshots

It shows:

  • Duration
  • Distance
  • Current Pace
  • Average Pace
  • Calories Used

It also gives you an audio description of your stats every kilometre and shows you in map form where you have walked.  The map is useful if you’re not on a circular walk and need to check that you’re returning the way that you went out.  The app will also usefully let you takes photos of your location and let you add a journal entry describing your walk.  You can also see your walk history.

You can pay for premium analytical services which I haven’t yet tried, which give you services including:

  • Live location tracking
  • Interval Training
  • Audio Coaching
  • Heart Rate analysis
  • Routing services (Route Genius)
  • Mobile coaching

Paying means you get an ad free experience, but I haven’t found the free service’s adverts too intrusive.

I use the audio feedback every kilometre as a reminder to drink to prevent dehydration.

After you’ve completed the walk


Relax like Mr Tibbs above, have a cup of tea etc and then establish how many calories you’ve burn’t by walking.  When you have the figure, add this to your allowed calories.  You wouldn’t expect to run your car without adding fuel and you’re just the same.  You have to pay (in calories) for that exercise.   The nice bit about the paying in this case is that you get a bunch of calories that you can add back into your diet.  Don’t worry – the diet will still work – you’ve used the energy already and now you’re putting it back.

e..g If you have a calorie limit of 1800, and have walked 4 kilometres, you’d add roughly 240 calories which then gives you a new limit of 2040 calories.  Don’t forget to take off any snacks you’ve consumed while walking.

If you don’t have time to walk

If you don’t have time to get out and walk on an established route somewhere nice, there are other ways you can introduce walking as exercise.  On the way to work, try parking the car further away from work than normal and walk in.  When you arrive, take the stairs instead of the lift.  Go for a walk for half an hour at lunchtime.  Park at the Park and Ride and walk in (as long as its safe to do so).  You’ll be surprised how the calories tot up.

If this isn’t enough, and its too dark to go walking after work, you could join a local gym.  Perfectly good ones only cost around £20 per month, are invaluable when its raining, and have walking machines which give immediate calorie count feedback.

I’ll be going in to more detail on gyms in the next article, speaking of which …

Next Time

This article has introduced the use of walking as a form of exercise.  Next time there’ll be advice on cycling for fitness, detail of a mobile app to help you count the calories while cycling, a beginner’s guide for the use of gyms to keep fit, and how the ‘bank’ part of the bank diet works.

Hope to see you then, and keep up the diet!

All the best. Ian.

How to start exercising, Losing Weight

How Exercise can help you lose weight

Welcome back to this series of articles on turning your life around, getting your weight down and most importantly making changes to your lifestyle to keep it that way.

I think a lot of people think that to lose weight, you need to either undergo a strict calorie controlled diet or spend an inordinately long time at the gym or pounding the pavements.  In truth, to make reasonably fast progress on a diet, its a combination of much less of each of these.

The previous articles have shown how to understand what your ideal weight should be, methods for measuring food and drink intake and what to do on those occasions when diet plans don’t go well.  This article shows how you can use exercise in combination with calorie control in a balanced way, and introduces one of the fundamental principles of what I call the bank diet; swapping out exercise for calories to make the diet more flexible and maintainable.  (The bank bit is explained next week).

Why exercise is important, and how it makes dieting easier

You’ll probably already be aware that exercise burns calories, but did you know that it also changes how your body maintains its energy?  Metabolism is used to describe how your body turns food into energy and keeps you going.

If you exercise regularly, you’ll put on muscle as your body adapts to perform the exercise more efficiently.  In terms of moving towards your ideal weight, replacing fat with muscle is important because muscle cells burns more calories than fat cells, even when you’re resting.

In the first article, I said that the fundamental principle of successful dieting is using more energy than you take in and how important that is.  How your muscles use more energy is alongside that in importance.  If you exercise regularly, you’ll find calorie controlled dieting much easier.


I get it that the word ‘exercise’ looks intimidating, especially if its been a while since you’ve put training shoes and gym gear on for their original purpose.  It doesn’t have to be.  Success using the Bank diet doesn’t rely on you doing exercise, but it will be assisted if you are working out in some way or another and will aid you reaching your target faster.

I didn’t exercise very much when I started trying to lose weight.  However, when I moved to the south downs a year and a half ago, I thought that it would be a waste to not get out and see the local scenery, which had been one of my reasons for moving.


This isn’t my local countryside, (it’s actually in Ireland) and neither is the picture above it, but you get the idea.

I started by going out on a mountain bike for a few miles.  I found the closing stages of this hard work because I was out of condition and lugging around three and half stone extra weight.  I started what I now call the bank diet around the same time and the two went together – it was much more diet than exercise to start with, but this changed so that now I’m probably doing between 7 and 10 hours exercise a week and dieting as I need to, to maintain a BMI of 25.  I also do bi-monthly 30 mile cycling sportives, which I have to be honest were really hard work to start with, but have become easier, and they use an awesome amount of calories.

Where do you find the time to Exercise?


I read in a Telegraph article from 2013, that scientists had established that exercising for 30 minutes a day is more efficient than exercising for an hour.  If you do this over 5 days, this is 2 and a 1/2 hours and is actually a very small amount – only 1.5 % of the 168 hours in your week.  You might spend more time washing and refuelling your car!

Some of the rest of your time might be spent as follows:

Sleeping         56 hours.
Commuting   10 hours.
Eating             18 hours.
Working         40 hours.
Shopping          3 hours.

The remainder is 41 hours or so.    If you do 30 minutes exercise 5 days a week, this still leaves 38 and a 1/2 hours free, so you may have more time available than you think.

Cycling is a good form of exercise, and so are walking and swimming.  By the way you don’t have to be all togged up like this rider.  (The helmet is important though).


45 minutes on a bike will consume 200 calories.  A 3 kilometre walk will use up 180 calories.  If you walk to the shops 15 minutes away rather than drive, you’ll have burn’t up 120 calories by the time you get back.

The advantages of exercise

Increased Metabolic Rate

It does this by building muscle mass which consumes more energy than fat.  The grin factor here is that you’ll be able to consume more calories when you’re not exercising as well.

The exercise needs energy, and this comes off of your calorie count.  If you walk for half an hour you’ll burn 120 calories.  (Walking is a very good exercise in itself).

You have to pay for this somehow – this energy isn’t free, so in this case, you ADD 120 calories to your calorie limit.   See what’s just happened?  Exercise requires you to eat more in order to pay for it. You wouldn’t expect to run your car without fuel and the same goes for you when you exercise.


Photo supplied by Robert Linder at FreeImages.

So as an example, say you have a calorie limit of 1800 calories, and go walking for 30 minutes.  You now add 120 to this so your day’s limit is now 1920 calories.  You are now almost up to ‘normal’ calorie intake but still losing weight!

By now you’ll appreciate what 120 calories represents – a nice yogurt or a banana or a two slice kitkat.  If you do an hour’s walking this is doubled.  Think what you could do with this extra 240 calories!


Muscle Tone

If you exercise consistently, you’ll find that your body definition will change, and you’ll actually be able to see your muscles, where before they may have been masked with fat.


I was really surprised by this.  I’m not talking about the kind of definition body builders have, or that displayed in this great statue, but you will see a marked difference in how your body looks and feels if you maintain a reasonable amount of exercise every week.

Feeling happier

That sounds daft right? How is exercise going to make you happier?

Cute dog that looks like it's grinning

When you exercise, your body releases endorphins which are morphine like substances that dull pain experienced following exercise.  The side product of this is that they produce a feeling of euphoria.  The British Heart Foundation corroborates this in their Good reasons to cycle article.

Feeling more awake

I found that exercise, (which I thought was the last thing I wanted to do after working all day) was great for giving you more energy for the later evening, whilst still allowing you to drop off to sleep.  An article in the science journal Scientific American supports this and says that we think and learn better when we walk or do another form of exercise.

Getting out of the house

Exercise allows you to get out in the fresh air for a while, and gives you the opportunity to appreciate your surroundings.


I find with my bike – that although you’re still aware of whats going on, you kind of zone out after a while as your body gets into the rhythm – its a good way for your mind to drop all the clutter from the day for a while.  The only thing I’ve found that’s similar is when I’m drawing portraits and get so caught up with the picture that everything else fades away.  If you exercise in a group, its also a way for you to keep up with friends, and being together adds extra motivation to stick to your exercise plans.

The next article (due Saturday the 25th of November)

So, here we’ve discussed the reasons why its a good idea to compliment your dieting with exercise.  In the next article I’ll suggest ways that you can do this, most of which are completely free, point you towards mobile apps that’ll help you count your exercise (including Strava and Map My Walk), and explain why this is called the Bank Diet.

If you want to get started before that, and haven’t exercised for a long time, take it easy to begin with and try gentle walking to get your body and mind used to the idea of regular exercise again.

If you like this article and would like to see more in the series as they are published, please click the follow button and supply your details, and you’ll be notified by email when future articles are published.  I promise your details will not be redistributed or sold on.

The more followers and likes the articles have, the higher the articles will go in Google’s search engine listings and the more people will see them.  At the moment they’re way down the bottom so there’s a really tiny audience, so any help here would be really appreciated.

All the best and don’t give up on the diet.  You will get there!