Top tips to keep you in the saddle

Tried walking, hill-walking, running, hill-running, swimming and going-to-the-gym-ing, and hated them all? Now try cycling

Cycling can be as tough or gentle as you like, but you need some discipline. Photograph: Thinkstock

Cycling can be as tough or gentle as you like, but you need some discipline. Photograph: Thinkstock


I have tried them all: walking, running, hill-walking, swimming, the gym and even 10-minute hits in the sitting room at 6am. But, to be honest, my attempts of halting the onslaught of middle age were all doomed to failure.

Walking just took too long and to make any real difference you should go walking every day of the week. No time for that. I still do a bit of hill-walking every so often, but it is a pursuit that realistically you can only do a handful of times a year.

I ran, as part of The Irish Times Get Running programme, a while back, but hated it 100 per cent. Swimming is good gentle exercise but requires getting to the pool at all hours and it was hard to build up regularity for somebody with a busy family life.

There is always an excuse when it comes to exercise so I needed something a bit more achievable – something that was both enjoyable and challenged me physically. This is when I came upon cycling. Thanks to the bike-to-work scheme, I found myself the proud owner of a Trek road bike.

Now, I’m not one of those cyclists who yearn for the Alps d’Huez. I just want to keep a little bit fit. That’s the thing about cycling – it can be as tough or gentle as you like.

But it is important to put some disciplines in place if, like me, your best skill is finding a new excuse every week. Here are five tips to keep you in the saddle: 1 Find a cycling buddy. Join a club – or, better still, find a friend or group of friends to go cycling with. There is nothing quite as effective as being shamed into getting out on the bike. 2 Sign up for an event. I found once I had signed up to the Console East-West cycle to Galway last summer I ensured I got out for a decent cycle at least once a week for months in advance. Knowing you won’t be able to take part without some training will focus the mind. By the time this event came around in June 2015 I was regularly biking 60km to work and the occasional 100km trip at the weekend. It meant the event itself, while definitely not easy in hours of driving rain, made it manageable. 3 Don’t push yourself initially. I built up my competency on the bike over time. I went 15km on my first trip and was delighted with myself. It steeled me to go out and do 25km the next time and then 40 or 50km was easy enough and 100km or 200km events were within reach. If you haven’t been on a bike for a couple of decades and then head out for a 100km cycle you may be put off for life. 4 Get the right gear. It’s Ireland and it will likely rain so get yourself a rain coat and over shoes to keep the extremities dry at least. Get the correct cycling shoes that clip into the pedals. Make sure those tyres are rock solid to avoid punctures and get your handlebars and saddle adjusted for your height. 5. Eat right. If you are cycling long distances, make sure to eat the correct food. I have found slow-release food like porridge help and regular sips of fluid booted by electrolytes as you go are really important. If your body hits the wall it’s already too late.