Oh no, it’s that time of year again – when about half the women I know are getting ready for their summer holiday, working hard in pursuit of the Beach Body. This seems mostly to involve drinking a protein shake for breakfast and eating a ‘light’ yoghurt for lunch, before caving in mid-afternoon and having a Kit Kat, then going to the gym to work it off. I can only wonder how things pan out in the evening. I’m exaggerating slightly, but you get the picture. We all know them. You might even be one of them if you’re a woman. If you’re a man your holiday prep probably consists of little more than buying some board shorts and Euros, which is great. You don’t feel the same media pressure to look like Gwyneth Paltrow in a bikini.
I’ve made my feelings on the Beach Body known in the past – that we should eat well and exercise all year round and not just when we’re about to get on a plane to somewhere hot. Despite this, I am currently preparing my own body for my summer holiday. But don’t worry, I am attempting to create not a Beach Body, but a Mountain Body! Or, more specifically, Mountain Legs. Next weekend we are going away to the Haute Savoie area of the French Alps and taking our bikes. Plus, in a rash moment a few weeks ago (possibly under the influence of Pinot Noir) I entered the Mont Blanc 10K, which is coincidentally taking place while we’re there. It would probably have been a good idea to look at the course profile beforehand, because it appears that the first half is pretty much all uphill (who would have guessed?!), but the deed is done. If I come last, so be it – at least I’ll have plenty of time to admire the scenery.
So I’ve been preparing my Mountain Legs by cycling and running up and down as many hills as possible, which hasn’t exactly been easy. For those of you not familiar with the topography of Yorkshire’s capital city, it’s as flat as the proverbial pancake round these parts. We pretty much have one hill within striking distance of where I live – which, admittedly, is a great one, with a working windmill on top of it – but that’s about it. So for running purposes it’s been reps up and down there lots of times, plus some work on the treadmill with the incline set to Quite Steep. I’ve also been trying to get out of town on the bike as much as possible in search of more and longer hills. Actually, my problem on the bike isn’t so much climbing as descending – I’m scared of it and therefore absolutely hopeless at it! Probably because I don’t do enough proper cycling. Steve, who is a really great cyclist, is very patient with his wimpy wife, although we usually part company at the top of a big hill; he swoops gracefully down like a bird of prey, tucking in and taking the curves like a pro, and I… let’s just say I sometimes stop to rest my hands! Then we meet up again at the bottom. But I am determined to tackle an Alpine col or two on holiday. If only someone could pop up to the summit in a car to take me back down again!
Incidentally, I’m sure some of my friends think I’m completely mad for being in training to go away. The idea that a holiday should consist of more than lying on a beach with a book and a cocktail seems crazy to them – and they could be right! Perhaps if I was the sort of person who’s willing/able to lie on a beach all day and not an easily bored/easily burned ginger I’d feel more need to have a Beach Body – but I’m not. Each to his or her own I say.
So, do any of you cyclists out there have any tips for helping me become a better and less fearful descender? I’d love to hear them!