Return to world class cycling after appendix surgery

British cycling star Lizzie Deignan is taking part in a championship today in Norway today – four weeks after her training was disrupted by emergency surgery to remove her appendix.

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The 28-year-old had to pull out of an event in Holland to undergo the operation on 30 August.

Lizzie, who won Britain’s first medal – a silver – at London’s 2012 Olympics under her maiden name Armitstead, has shown Olympian-style determination in securing her place in the starting line-up – admitting she needed to take to her bed following training sessions for the Norway event.

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Lizzie posted this picture on social media after her operation

In an interview with BBC Sport the reigning Commonwealth road race champion admitted it came as a shock – but she couldn’t stop thinking ahead.

She said, “It’s quite bizarre to be in such form, in such fine form – I was really going quite well – to wake up the next day in a hospital bed and think ‘right, that’s it, it’s over’.

“And I just had this small bit of hope that I could make it here and it wasn’t something that I was ready to give up on.

“Every day I was analysing how I was feeling, which isn’t probably the best thing for your recovery – I should’ve just let it go for a little bit, but I didn’t and I fought on and I’m here.”

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Lizzie at the 2012 London Olympics where she won Britain’s first medal (Photo: Cycling Weekly)

After around 13 days of bed rest, she realised she’d lost around two kilogrammes of muscle – something she admits was frustrating given the fact her training regime involved “sacrificing other races” in order to build up her strength.

Subsequent training resulted in Lizzie “being in my bed every hour after each bike ride just thinking ‘oh, that was painful!'”

But her motivation to line up as part of the seven-strong women’s team remained strong.

Lizzie told the BBC it was partly the enthusiasm of the Norwegian fans that made today’s event attractive, plus the fact did a recon of the circuit back in May and reckoned it would be “perfect” for her.

She added “My career is coming slowly to an end – there’s a few more years in me yet – but I know that if I look back in a few years I would definitely regret not giving it a go.”

I don’t know about you, but it’s pretty good going to make the starting line-up of a world class event within weeks of being confined to a hospital bed.

THE UPDATE..

Predictably, Lizzie wasn’t victorious, finishing 41st in the event, after “fading” in the final lap.

In a Guardian article, she reflected, “My team-mates kept me going. If I wasn’t in a team as strong as that I would have been tempted to pull out. But I thought: ‘I can’t let these girls down, I have to be there as long as I can’.”

The surprise winner was Dutch cyclist Chantal Blaak, whose “day job” involves working as a domestique for for Deignan in the Boels-Dolmans squad.

Now obviously as an outsider to cycling I thought “domestique” meant something like “domestic” so I had visions of Ms Blaak on her hands and knees scrubbing floors but no, the term apparently means being something like a pace-maker for other, higher-profile cyclists.

How unusual then to find yourself actually winning when you’re there to help other people do it!

One could argue it was little wonder Chantal Blaak burst into tears at the finish.

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Winner Chantal Blaak weeps (Photograph: Jonathan Nackstrand/AFP/Getty Image

 

The Dutch woman’s victory came despite a heavy crash earlier in the event which drew blood on her right shoulder.

Afterwards she told reporters she thought the race was over for her at that point.

Lizzie Deignan paid appropriate tribute: “I am so pleased for Chantal…

“She had such a hard crash we heard that she was out. And yet there she was! I am really chuffed for her. She’s a great girl and she deserves her stripes.”

Both women evidently will not let illness or injury stand in the way of their sport.

 

 

 

 

 

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We’re still not doing enough – apparently!

Women are 36 per cent less likely than men to be physically active.

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Are we stretching ourselves enough?

That’s according to new research by the British Heart Foundation which claims this lack of physical inactivity in both sexes is likely to cause as many deaths as smoking.

And the study goes on to say a third of British people are at risk of heart disease because of a lack of exercise.

Now if you look at the date my last blog post you’ll see I’m guilty of a lack of blogging activity!

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Feline fine  – I have no exercise statistics for cats

My observations would simply be that if you don’t really like exercise then it’s hardly going to be a regular part of your life (just like the “strict diet” we’ve all announced we’re going on at some stage and which usually lasts the best part of one morning).

We are told two million Brits are apparently not meeting government targets of how physically active we should be.

Government targets? Yes, apparently they do exist for fitness. (Take a look at the NHS-recommended ones here.)

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Nobody LIKES burpees

The idea of the government telling us to get fit and healthy (almost Orwellian!) – once inspired me to write an article for BBC News on how MPs get fit. Do they practice what their employers preach?

Of course I’m going to come back to why it’s women who are taking significantly less exercise.

I don’t see a marked lack of females when I do my Guerrilla training. If anything the men are outnumbered, especially in the morning classes and at weekends.

So what’s happening?

After all, this report has highlighted the fact that even “active” people are at risk if they don’t do vigorous exercise.

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No it’s  the other way round

Now while I’ve yet to meet anyone who actually enjoys doing things like star jumps and burpees – it’s stuff like that that can really make the difference – and, as many women will testify, gives them more body confidence when they hit the town or get into their bikinis!

Of course it goes beyond worrying about your appearance – Thank God – and I’d like to think we’re past the idea of exercise being unladylike or unfeminine.

Women’s sport is getting more coverage – just look at the Oxford/Cambridge boat race coverage at the weekend.

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We know, we know

But then I’m looking more at exercise being a lifestyle thing rather than something competitive.

Adele’s gone on the record saying she hates exercise.

And speaking as somebody who heartily loathed P.E. and sports days at school, I don’t think anybody should be forced into it.

So I’m wondering – could this element of feeling one is being coerced be the reason one GP-referral programme of council-funded fitness classes was recently axed?

South Tyneside Council said only 17% of participants completed it and less than 10% became more active.

But whatever the reason, I’m pretty sure it had nothing to do with gender!

 

 

It’s That Time of (New) Year Again

A long, long time ago I used to dread Thursday nights at the gym.

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Because that was Boring Couples night.

The protagonists would dress up in gym gear (so far so good) – and sometimes they’d even use the equipment! But most of the time they’d just sit on it chatting.

The whole impression was that of a Cocktail Hour in Lycra.

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Had any one of these wretched single units that comprised the whole entity of the Thursday night invasion at any one point thought for itself and formulated the dreaded New Year Resolution?

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I’ll never know. But I’m pretty sure that now, yes right now* – years later at the very start of 2017 – gyms, keep-fit classes and the like across the UK will be simply bulging with the predictable influx of people who simply wouldn’t be interested at any other time.

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I am fully expecting to be struck down in the most Karma-like way imaginable for what I’m about to say next.

But in January my aim is always to avoid these New Year Resolution types if at all possible – if only to protect my sanity.

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Anyone who reads this blog knows fitness is one of my coping strategies,  a way of controlling the bits of my body I’m no so keen on.

And those wobbly bits  need tackling 365 days a year – they don’t just suddenly appear on New Year’s Day like a late delivery from Santa!pejo3hh7nq2dsjlkgmhpImagine then, what it’s like to suddenly have to compete for time/space in what’s often a very personal fight.

So let’s say you do normally do an evening class and you rock up as usual….

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Welllll, in January  suddenly you can’t because it’s full – OR you’ve wised-up to the fact that too many sets of flailing arms in a limited space where you’re all holding hand-weights is just a tad dangerous.

(Trust me I have experience of both – and I hope the latter stays back in the nineties!)

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As already said, I expect to be sent blazing to Hell for my arguably uncharitable opinions regarding what almost feels like a fight for territory but if YOU exercise regularly here are some tips to handle the New Year Resolution brigade:

10 New Year’s Resolution-ers To Avoid At The Gym including “Smart phone dummies”, “wannabe fitness models”, my pet-hate “the couples” and the inevitable “temps” (though hopefully all these characters will be temporary!)zoolander-the_look_you_have

And then there’s Men’s Health’s Crowded Gym Survival Guide – maybe a bit more brutal than I’d be but then hey, I’m not a body-builder…

I have no problems with anyone wanting to get fit (and I’m pretty sure the vast majority are not stereotypical pains-in-the-backside)  but, when it’s a significant amount of people at the same time, then – well, I’m just going to have to shut up, aren’t I?!

My tactics?this-guy-at-the-gym-just-did-four-sets-of-selfies

Remember that, for most, the keep fit good intentions are as seasonal – and as short-lived, as the Festive Period itself

Plan around it – go to the earlier, less popular classes. Do more solo running

Be philosophical – it’s not that bad

Remember the reason I started this blog in the first place – I broke my foot. It’s mended!

For any people trying to avoid the gym hoards in the Bronx, NY, there’s GoJimgo on Twitter – which states: “Know before you go. We tell you how many machines are available at your gym. In real time.”

I’d love to know if this can work in practice – or in the UK!

*”Now”? Yes now! There are gyms that open 24/7!

A life-saving device? It’s up to the community

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Action taken within minutes can save lives

Imagine if somebody collapsed in front of you – and you had the chance of stopping them dying.

 

Having an accessible, fool-proof machine that could save a life installed in your community should be a no-brainer, right?

Automated External Defibrillators, (AEDs), mean people who are not even trained in first aid can still keep a cardiac arrest patient alive until ambulance personnel arrive.

They work by “shocking” a person’s heart into restarting within the crucial first few minutes – and can ensure a 60 to 70 per cent chance of making a full recovery.

Ambulance bosses want these to be as common as fire extinguishers.

I am told the 999 operator will give you the code to unlock the device from where it’s mounted (so it can’t be stolen, obviously).

Then the machine guides you through with spoken instructions. – once you’ve attached the pads to the patient – the machine will assess the need for CPR, and only deliver the shock should it be needed.

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You don’t have to be a superhero

In other words, anyone who’s inclined to panic (and let’s face it people do!) being reassured they will not be making the situation any worse.

Ambulances bosses I interviewed said the number of AEDs needs to be boosted five-fold in the county (there are currently about 1,000).

But they stressed that local people must come forward and tell them where they’re needed.

So of course, I thought – well, why not moot the idea of having one where I live? Obviously the easiest way to get the discussion going was – in my local!

The first person I spoke to, apart from emphasising that yes, the devices were fool-proof, said that ordinary CPR was just as effective, but as we were literally just up the road from the local ambulance station, he wasn’t sure that a request to have a community defibrillator would be approved.

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The 999 call handler should be able to give the unlocking code (Pic: BBC)

Like, hello?

A charity offering support getting these things installed is specifically asking people to come forward if you don’t have one within 200 metres of where you are!

The issue of panicking is one that we all agreed was very pertinent, but would it stop people having a go?

I then made a point of approaching another guy who’s a key player in the local residents’ committee – and surprise, surprise, they’re already in the process of getting one, having only just discussed the matter at their meeting last week.

Which I am very glad to hear. I still passed on the relevant contact details.

Authorities say the number of AEDs in one local town is four – but when you get out to another rural area, that figure rises to nearer sixteen.

In other roads, there would appear to be more self-sufficiency in the remoter areas, whereas an element of complacency remains, the more urban you get.

That attitude did appear to prevail in my straw poll, although I’m pretty confident most people do not think “there’s an ambulance ‘round every corner”.

I’m hoping that, for everybody’s sake, we won’t be denied an AED because of the ambulance station down the hill. And that we really will “be getting one”.

(Please note: the views expressed in this article are my own and not related to any organisation I work for.)

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Machines like this one tell you what to do

Cold comfort – an etiquette dilemma

Someone in the office has got “that-nasty-bug-that’s-going-around” – and you don’t want  it.

Credit: Wellcome Library, London. Wellcome Images
Credit: Wellcome Library London

Or you’re in the (inevitable) queue in the Co Op waiting to pay and you’re trying to box clever and avoid the shop assistant who sneezes into her hand (“Att-CHA! ‘Scuse me”) then gives you your change – from the same hand!

Or maybe someone’s turned up at your Guerrillas class coughing away but still acting like a trooper and expecting a pat on the back for toughing it out.

tumblr_ni2zjtzhNx1su40qeo1_500Or maybe a sympathy-seeking friend’s put on FaceBook that they’ve got “a little poorly girl” who’s had to stay off school today. Aw, bless – NOT!

Or is it simply a dilemma of having to shake someone’s hand when they’ve obviously got a cold?

If you do get this bug, it’s going to completely ruin your training plans because if it’s serious enough you simply can’t exercise – and you know it.

It’s not as you actually dislike any of these people!

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Looks like I’ll be spending more time with the pub dog!

But you feel like you have to choose between being polite – or staying healthy.

Solutions regarding the workmate (who by now  is coughing so hard she’s had to terminate a phone conversation) include being the Office Good Samaritan & offering cough mixture, surface wipes, throat sweets etc and/or making sure you use your hand sanitizer religiously.

And if you do shake hands with Mr/Ms “I’m-so-full-of-flu”, just hightail it to the Ladies’ and wash your hands thoroughly ASAP!

I speak as one who’s so far been off exercise for a week with lungs full of phlegm – not good.hand_cleaning

But then I’ve stayed away from Guerrillas so it doesn’t spread there – and in the office I scrupulously wipe down my workstation and the phone with antibacterial wipes when I finish work.

That’s not to say I haven’t been caught out!

So if you don’t want to pass on your germs then good advice includes: the “Dracula” sneeze into your sleeve and, if required to shake hands, telling the person you’d rather not because you don’t want to infect them.

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Do I need a leper’s bell?

(BTW there’s more colds and flu prevention advice for athletes here)

And regarding exercise, I usually deploy the “neck check” when deciding whether or not to go ahead (ie if all of your symptoms are above the neck you’re usually good to go, but still use some common sense).

Unfortunately for me, and as said already, that means I’m off until this chest clears.

The pub it is, then!