Avoid being run over


As I write this, the Tour de France is in full swing, with racing cyclists breaking collarbones as they crash into each other or the surroundings. They should have learned by now that doing it by car is quicker and less strenuous. After all, the T de F pedaled off in 1903, sponsored by a newspaper called L’Auto, so it was probably all part of a publicity stunt to show that it really was quicker by car.

Unfortunately homo sapiens, as a group, are slow learners.

True stories – an acquaintance of mine turned 40, decided he wasn’t fit, bought a bicycle to ride to work each day and was run over by a bus.

But this fascination with bicycles persists. I have two friends who should know better who regularly post in the social media just how far they rode this morning, and how long it took them. My reply is always the same – it’s quicker by car. And another plus for the anti-bicycle movement is it is also drier by car (the rainy season is upon us), and you don’t have to wear those ridiculous lycra outfits while driving.

As a means of getting “fit” bicycles do nothing but harm to the knees (ignoring the collarbones from clumsy dismounts), so should be banned by the Health and Safety wallahs anyway.

Now don’t get me wrong, I am not against getting “fit”, it is just the means of doing it that I question. I have attended a gymnasium – twice! Once was for three months, after I promised the gymnasium instructor that I would try it for the proscribed period. I have to say that pedaling an exercise bicycle to nowhere I found a giant bore. I was glad when the three months were up. I did not feel any “fitter” either. The second time was before a Four Hour race at the Bira Circuit, to tone up my neck, back and arm muscles. That I found a giant bore as well, but I did feel that the muscles were stronger and did last the race without a problem.

Probably the commonest advice a doctor gives out at the end of the year is to lose weight and get some exercise. Was that part of the advice after your annual physical check-up? Very likely.

Unfortunately, there seems to be very little real understanding of what exercise should consist of, how often, what type, how long and what about sex? However, getting a little serious, exercise will be good for you, provided that you pick a form of exercise that is not harmful for you!

Now I know that looks as if I have put my money on both horses in the race, but take that sentence at its face value. Enough research has been done to show that regular exercise is beneficial for everybody, in both the physical and psychological aspects, but, and it is a big ‘but’, all forms of exercise have relative bodily risks, and this has to be taken into account before you buy a pair of expensive jogging shoes and the lycra and tackle a 10 km trot in the middle of the day.

One important factor is never exceed your limit. Remember that it is not the harder the better. If you have acute medical problems (such as fever, or pain), stop exercising. If you have chronic medical conditions (such as hypertension, diabetes, ischemic heart disease and arthritis), seek advice from your doctor or physiotherapist beforehand. All of these I agree with. If you are happy to take your body to your medical advisor when it is sick, take it back to your doctor for advice on how to tone it up as well.

Do not over-exert yourself. Forget about “powering through the pain barrier”. Leave that for drug-fuelled cyclists in France.

The form of exercise should be one that you enjoy, and I recommend swimming as it does not affect the knees and ankles.

As well as the form of exercise, there is the frequency. At least three times per week, 20-30 minutes (or more) is necessary each time, to derive the maximum benefit. And sex? A fitter body means better sex. OK?