Aerial Yoga (Iain)

On vacation I tried aerial yoga. Which is also known as trapeze yoga, flying yoga or “OMG, I’m going to die yoga!”

It’s a modern style of yoga that incorporates a low-hanging soft fabric hammock as well as a mat. Moves are done on a combination of mat and hammock or just hammock.

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Not me

There was only four of us in the class. My partner, who is a yoga teacher, a German girl who is a yoga teacher and the yoga teacher. I’m not a yoga teacher, I’m not even a particularly good yoga student. I realized I was more out of my depth than a dolphin summiting Mount Everest.

The teacher asked me to test the aerial hammock by sitting in it and then spinning round 360 degrees in the air so he could see if my head touched the ground as I spin past the floor. This didn’t seem the most safety conscious method of testing a hammock. It’s like testing a gun by pointing it at my head and asking if I see a bullet comes out when the trigger is pulled.

I spin 360 degrees in the hammock. My head flew past the mat. My hair nearly touched the mat. The teacher said “you need a higher hammock!”

He adjusted the height higher to remove the risk of decapitation but kept it low enough that there was still a chance of serious head trauma.

We started with some sun salutations. Some moves were done with the hammock i.e. leaning on it, or putting a leg up to it. This meant the moves were harder and more intense than a normal sun salutation.

“Good. Now you are warmed up we can start the class.” The teacher said.

I thought that was the start! I looked at the clock to see how long I had to wait until I could escape my aerial  deathtrap. Those salutations better count towards my time.

“We will do some inversions. Sit in the hammock. Put your hands like this.” He demonstrated a way to wrap the hands round the hammock. I copied him.

“Now spin round. Don’t worry, you won’t fall out”

I wasn’t worrying about falling out. I was too busy concentrating on my hands but, now that he’s mentioned falling out, that was all I can think of!

I tried to spin. I failed miserably. I can’t get my legs over my head. The instructor came over. He watched as I feebly tried to do it again. When I failed he grabbed my legs and before I could say “NO! I DON’T WANT TO DIE” he’s spun me 360 degrees!

“Excellent,” he looks pleased. “Now do it by yourself”

He went to help someone else. I tried to spin. I failed. So instead I stomped my foot loudly on the ground. He assumed the noise came from me stopping after doing a spin. “Did you succeed?”

I looked him straight in the eye and told him the truth “Yes – all the way round. I did it twice just to make sure”

“Great. Do it again so I can see.”

“Umm. I’m tired now….ummm…I’ll show you next time.”

The others stare at me knowing that I cheated.

The teacher heads back to the front of the class. “Lets do some High Intensity Interval Training….”

“Let’s not,” I think.

He demonstrated an upside down hanging in the air stomach crunch.

“Do it 20 times!!!”

I successfully crunch zero times.

Whilst hanging upside down trying to crunch I notice a man staring into the studio. I imagine he’s saying.

“Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No – its Superman….sorry. No. On second glance it’s not superman, it’s Iain. It looks like he’s hanging from the ceiling in a hammock. He doesn’t look well. His face has turned a funny color of red…”

At the end of the class the teacher asks “how are you all doing for time?” He doesn’t wait for an answer “Great. Lets continue!”

Noooooooooooooooooooo!

After another ten minutes of “flying” we get to leave. As I head my partner asks if my stomach muscles hurt after doing the HIIT crunches. I say “No – they feel fine!”

They did feel fine….until the next day when I feel like I’ve been used as a punchbag by Anthony Joshua.

Cycling Mount Teide (Iain)

Last week I visited Tenerife. It’s the the largest of the Canary Islands, 200 miles off the west coast of Africa. It’s a four-hour 30 minute flight from Glasgow which meant I had time for two beers, a bottle of coke, a packet of crisps, 100 pages of my book and an episode of The Grand Tour.

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The day before my holiday

For years cyclists such as Bradley Wiggins have come to Tenerife to escape the bad weather at home. Lance Armstrong used to come to escape drug testers (allegedly).

I wasn’t here to train but, as it was snowing at home, I was glad to escape the bad weather. I was on a family vacation but I was allowed one day off to cycle.

I decided to attempt the iconic Mount Tiede climb. Tiede is the a volcano that dominates the island landscape. The road to it reaches a height of 2250m. Its not the highest road climb in Europe but it is the longest continuous ascent as it starts from sea level and doesn’t flatten out or go down until you get near the top.

I was staying in the southern town of Adeje.  I had an all inclusive deal which meant the hardest part of the ride was resisting ordering free beers the day before.

Initially I’d planned toe climb Tiede via the most direct route i.e Adeje to Los Christianos and then TF-28, TF- 51, TF-21 but I’d driven that route previously and got scared by a) the amount of traffic on TF-28 and the steepness of TF-21.

I frantically googled other options and settled on a longer climb which was supposedly on a much quieter road: Adeje to Guia de Isora via TF-82 then up to Aripe to join the TF-38.

I set off as soon as the sun came up. I was slightly apprehensive as cycling on Spanish roads always scares me due to the speed at which cars approach and enter roundabouts. The climbing started from the moment I left the hotel. The first section to the TF-82 was very quiet. I barely so a car or person.

The roundabout at the start of TF-82 was scary. Multiple lanes and lots of fast cars. I did what any coward would do in my situation. I got off my bike and used the pedestrian crossings to get round it. Once on the TF-82 the road was quiet all the way to Guia de Isora. The road has a large hard shoulder so even when a car did pass at speed it didn’t come near me.

It was at this point I realized I’d made an error and forgotten to take any money with me. I had two bottle of water and seven gels. I decided that would hopefully be enough and if not I could always ask another cyclist to lend me a euro for water.

The next section was very difficult. The town of Aripe was so steep I had to push my bike through it. I made the mistake of leaning my bike against a wall to take a picture to demonstrate how steep it was. Unfortunately the bike fell and one of my water bottles fell out and rolled all the way back down through the town. I had to walk down and then do the climb again!

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A quick rest

Once onto the TF-38 it’s a straightforward 23KM climb up onto the volcanic desert of Tiede. The road surface was amazing and there was hardly a car on it. The road cuts through the forest below Tiede which helpfully meant a lot of the ride was shaded from the sun.

I climbed 5KM at a time before stopping to admire the view and drink some water.

The last section was the desert. Great views but busier roads.  I cycled until I reached Los Rocques. The last high point before it dips down to the road to the cable cars that take tourists to the top of Tiede. I didn’t bother with that bit as I’d been there by car. There isn’t much to see other than a toilet and a load of tourists queing for tickets and the loo!

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My Top!

I went down the direct route to Los Christianos. The road was busy the closer I got to sea level. By the end it was a little too busy for my liking. On the way down I spotted some professionals going up. Team UAE, Team Astana and Team Chris Froome! He’s a team as he was the only one I passed who didn’t have team mates.  For some reason he was training by himself with just a Sky car for company. It’s as if he’s got something to hide…

All the teams were going up the hill faster than I was going down. Which shows you how quick they are and how much of a big Jessie I am when descending.

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The Route

Know Your Place (Andrew)

Here’s an ethical question for you: is it okay to use the disabled toilet if you are not actually disabled?

Not that I would. Or did. Or do. But, if I had or was thinking of doing so, then I would know that it’s much more spacious than your average loo. It also comes with its own sink I’m guessing, not that I would know…

It’s a kind of like a special private deluxe toilet for those who want, well, a special experience. a touch of luxury, and, if they  went to the disabled toilet in my last office, a selection of toothpastes and condoms from a vending machine.

The strange thing was that the normal toilet didn’t have a vending machine. Only the disabled toilet, which was on the other side of the hall. Why the disabled toilet were offered a range of goods for ‘her pleasure’ was never explained. It was a mystery matched only by electrical wiring that meant any flick off a light switch was a lottery as to whether you had to flick up or down to switch a light on.

But not as strange as another office where, in response to transgender issues, decided the only way to sort out the toilets was to change all the disabled toilets in disabled/other, which I’m pretty sure is offensive to everyone involved.

Anyways, I was thinking about toilets because they’re one of those everyday things where we have to decide on what is the right thing to do. There is no law which says a disabled toilet has to be used by a disabled person. We all decide what is right and what is wrong and make our choices accordingly. The only thing about our choice of toilet is that it’s usually a private moment. Not something you do in public. Unless you’re Paula Radcliffe.

Runners though have a very public moment when they need to make a moral choice. At the start of every race they must everyone and position themselves to match their expected finish time.

While most people will be honest, there are some who try and move to the front and start with faster runners just so they have less people ahead of them when they start running. If anyone could enter the 100m at the Olympics I bet you now that someone would stand in front of Uisean Bolt on the basis that “Stuff him, at least I’ve got a clear view”.

This selfish view is one I don’t understand because those runners are missing out on one of the big thrills of running – and that’s running faster than other people.

I think there is a macho problem to running which makes people skip ahead. at big races there are boards boasting of the times that you’ll run. 1 hour 40 minutes. 1 hour 35 minutes. If you start next to here then you’ll be seen as a fast athlete. But start at the three hour point and you want as well say “Wait, you don’t expect me to run this, do you?!”.

That’s why I’d change the signs to the number of people you’ll run pass. Join the two hour sing and find out that you’ll run pass 200 people. Join the 1 hour 30 minutes sign and you’ll only run pass 10. If you’re looking to boast look no further than boasting about the number of people you beat.

Start at the back and you’ll enjoy your race much more than trying to stay at the start. It’s more fun. It’s easier to run. In fact, there’s no other choice, if you want a little convenience..!

Don’t be dull (Iain)

The phrase “all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” famously featured in the film The Shining. I thought the phrase was written for the film/book but it was actually first used in a book by James Howel in 1659. Little is known about James other than he worked with a man called Jack who was boring as f**k!

The phrase is equally true when applied to sport. Some people can be so obsessed with their running/biking or yoga that they have no other interests.

I know because I have been that boring bastard.

Back in 2012 I took part in the annual L’etape du Tour bike sportive. A race that allows amateur cyclists to ride a closed road stage of the Tour de France. It was my ultimate bike race. The one I needed to do over any other.

I became obsessed with race to the detriment of any other interest. I trained every weekend, I read everything there was to read about it.

I did the race and then….I became depressed.

I’d done my life cycling goal. Do I do it again? Do I do it faster? What next?

I thought maybe a different race is what I needed so I researched other big races. None of which excited me. I was still depressed.

Then I realized it. I wasn’t depressed. I was bored of myself. I’d become a one dimensional person. I was a biker but nothing else.

If I was bored of myself then Christ knows what anyone else thought of me!

So I vowed from that moment on to always vary my interests. For every sporting hobby, I have to have a non-sporting hobby too.

Since then I’ve tried stand up comedy (badly), acting (badly) and painting (badly)

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My art tutor taught me how to paint fruit and how to paint people so he shouldn’t have been surprised when my graduation piece ended up being a fruit that looks like a person!

Both my girlfriend and Andrew’s had nightmares after seeing what I’ve entitled – Lemon Maradonna. Which makes me slightly proud. At least its not dull.

The Didnae-try-athlon (Iain)

There are many different types of triathlon event. The regular one is the swim/bike/run format but there is also:

The Wanderlust (https://wanderlust.com/gbr/) – A 5K run followed by a 90 minute yoga session and a 30 minute meditation. I’d spend the 30 minutes meditation thinking: “When can I leave?”

The Macnab (http://www.macnabchallenge.co.uk/) – A triathlon for the hunting/shooting set. It’s so posh it should be called ‘Downtonman’. To achieve a Maacnab you have to shoot a deer and a brace of grouse and catch a salmon on the same estate in a 24-hour period. If you’ve done a Macnab then shame on you. You’ve killed Bambi.

The Didnae-try-athlon – Everyone has one of these. An event you entered, you had high hopes for but, on the day, you just did-nae try.

My didnae-try-athlon was the 2008 Rat Race. This was a combination of orienteering, mountain biking, climbing and canoeing.

I did it in a team of three. None of us had ever done an adventure race. We were not well prepared. One friend had a bad back, one had a broken bike and I had a terrible hangover from an after work drinking session.

The first part of the race involved a bike ride to an office block. We had to abseil down the side of the office. This sounded good but, in reality, it was a short bike ride then a long wait in a queue for the 60 seconds it took to abseil down.

We then biked to the next point where we had to climb down a rock face. This again sounded good but, in reality, it was another short bike ride and another long wait for a very short climb.

I asked the organizer of the event what would happen if we skipped the task.

He said “Your team gets a 15 minute penalty.”

“Is that the same for all tasks?”

“Yes,” he confirmed.

The next task was four miles away. A 15 minute penalty was much less than the time it would take to get there and do the task. If we missed out all the remaining tasks it would only be a penalty of a couple of hours. That would have been much less time than it would take to do them all.

I conferred with my team. Should we just go straight to the finish and win this? Even with penalties we’d be hours ahead of anyone else.  They thought this was a great idea so we went straight there… via the pub.

After a delicious burger/pint and dessert we made it to finish.

I’d like to say the organizers were pleased to greet ‘the winners’. They weren’t. They didn’t think what we were doing was sportsmanlike. I’d argue that it wasn’t our fault their rules allowed this to happen! We were disqualified.

After the organizers had finished being annoyed with us, a camera crew came over. “Are you the winners of the race? We’re here from Brazilian TV” To this day I have no idea why Brazilian TV was at an event in Edinburgh.

I owned up and said “Sorry, no. You’ll have to wait a while for them. They won’t be here for a few more hours”.

The Brazilian TV presenter looked unhappy and said “We need to leave now. Can we just interview you anyway?”

I like to think millions of Brazillians saw my interviw where I said: “It was good race. I’m pleased with our victory especially as we didnae try”.

And they all turned to each other and went “what the f%&K word is didnae?”

Sweet tooth (Andrew)

Sunday lunch in Yorkshire a couple of months ago: a warm inn on a dreich day as I tuck into a hot plate filled with slices of roast beef, vegetable and pudding – the identifier Yorkshire being unnecessary in this plain speaking Shire.

“Yorkshire puddin’? It’s jus’ puddin’ round these parts! There ain’ no other kind o’puddin’!”

And, for pudding itself (the sweet kind, not the suet kind, thus proving there is more than one type of pudding) I choose a selection of cheeses, because I am a triathlete and trying to be good.

(Also all the puddings had nuts and I can’t eat nuts because of a mild allergy, but I told myself I was being strong for races).

“Do you have any biscuits to go with the cheese?” I ask, not unreasonably

“Of course”, says the waiter, and then, unexpectedly, he pulls out a large flat drawer from a cabinet against the wall to my left, and places it with a flourish in the centre of the table; not batting an eyelid or pan lid at this impromptu act of dismantling dining room furniture.

“Enjoy”, says the waiter, leaving the large drawer on the table; which I now see is filled with open packets of water biscuits, oatcakes and crumbly digestives.

How strange.

I can’t help but wait until the waiter’s back is turned before I peek into more drawers –  just to check if they contain a similar surprise hoard of savoury snacks. I want to find a pork chop in a folio desk; a cabinet stuffed with nothing but carrots; or condiments in the cupboard, saucy and secret. But, sadly, they are empty.

I wonder if this is what Ann Summers means by ‘edible drawers’ but I don’t want to go into one of her shops to find out.

But why are all the biscuits contained in this drawer? And why bring the drawer out and not just the biscuits?

Perhaps I was witnessing the act of a snack-aholic. Hiding biscuits away in unusual locations so that no one knows exactly how bad their snacking has become. A real crack(er) addict.

Or perhaps the drawer was just a marketing gimmick, a unique way of making you remember the meal long after the taste has long been forgotten.

Remember that restaurant in Yorkshire, you’ll say.

What restaurant?

The one with a drawer filled full of biscuits!

Oh, that one! How delightful and quaint! A meal that was – *groan* – truly top drawer!

Anyways, I tell this story for one reason only – watch out for savoury snacks, even when you’re trying to be good, always order a proper pudding!

Welcome to the Velodrome (Iain)

“This is not a race! Do not treat it as a race. There will be no winners or losers. Are we clear about that?”

I was with a group of about twenty people. We were doing the “Introduction to Track Cycling” course at Glasgow velodrome. The man giving the instruction was the track cycling coach.

“Get on your bikes and do not race! I’m judging you on your ability to ride safely not quickly.”

We were all ready to start. One of the other riders was in full cycling club team kit. Even his socks were branded with the name of his cycling club. He wore sunglasses indoors. He looked like a twat.

“Are we ready to start?” Asked the coach.

A man suddenly appeared next to twattymactwatface. He too wore full cycling kit. He turned to his identical twat and said: “You can win this.”

No – you can’t. Its not a race! Did you not hear what the coach just said?

He started giving Luke Twatwalker a pep talk: “Take it easy on the first lap and then use your power on the second. Don’t be afraid to cut people up.”

No – don’t cut people up! Take it easy on the first lap and then even easier on the second. Demonstrate you can do this safely!

He then added “Fuck them up!” and slapped Encyclopedia Twatania on the back.

ITS NOT A RACE! NO ONE IS GETTING FUCKED UP!

The ‘not a race’ started. Everyone set off at a steady pace except Lance Twatstrong. He shot off. I could hear him mutter: “You can do this”

There’s nothing to do! It’s not a race. It’s a bunch of middle aged men living out a Chris Hoy fantasy. We just want to spin about a bit and then go home for tea.

His mate started shouting “YES! You’re at the front. Keep it up!”

Twatasuarous Tex soon caught up with me. We were both about to reach the tiered banking. He pulled out wide to go round me but he was going too fast and couldn’t control his bike. He hit the top of the track. His bike slipped and he came off. I looked up. The bike and him were now sliding down the banking towards me. I did what any man would do in this situation. I closed my eyes and hoped for the best. Track bikes have no brakes and even if they did I couldn’t use them on the banking.  I had no way of avoiding being hit.

His bike went through mine. I fell off. I hit my head of the wooded boards of the banking and scraped the skin off my arm and shoulder.

The coach came running over. He took one look at the two of us and asked “Are you ok?” My head hurt and I had a bit of skin rash from the slide but nothing serious. Twatzilla looked surprisingly chipper all considering. We both said “I think so…”

The coach thought for a second and said “Thank fuck for that. Now imagine how sore it would have been if you’d been racing!”

I’ve never been back to the velodrome since that day.

How to not lose (Iain)

For the last five years I’ve played squash every Friday lunchtime. I play the same man at the same time with the same result – I lose. I occasionally win but it’s very rare. One year, I did not win a single match.

People ask me – why do you play if you always lose?

I play because our matches are very competitive. The result feels like it could go either way even though it only ever goes one way.

Last year I asked myself – how do I stop losing?

I concluded that I needed to stop giving away silly points. If I stop giving him points then surely I’d stop losing.

I didn’t. I kept losing. I lost every week until I realized I had asked myself the wrong question. I shouldn’t have asked – how do I stop losing? I should have asked – how do I start winning?

My mentality was wrong. You can can’t win by trying not to lose. You win by trying to win.

So I came up with a plan to start playing with my head, not my hand. Think about where the shot should go. Play shots that will win the point.

Since making the change I’ve won every match.

The more matches I win, the more my opponent has become tetchy and annoyed. He now shouts and yells when his shots go wrong!

What he shouts the most is:

“IT’S NOT A TENNIS BALL!!!!”

This occurs because he plays tennis and sometimes miss-hits volleys because of the different weight of a squash ball compared to a tennis ball.

Despite repeatedly shouting this during matches his volleying is still costing him points.

I could tell him how to fix the problem but I’m quite enjoying my current winning run and don’t want it to end.

So I’ll wait a few weeks and then tell him he needs to change his mentality. He needs to shout

“IT’S A SQUASH BALL!”

The fastest boy in school (Iain)

One of the signs I am getting old was seeing my Secondary School and thinking how much it had changed since I attended it. It was a very minor change – the Council had knocked it down and built a new one!

Previously, a road ran past the front of the school. The road has been replaced by a very large building. This is very annoying as the road was a shortcut from my home to the shops in town.

I did think about cutting through the school to save me a five minute detour but for some reason schools frown upon middle-aged men roaming the playgrounds.

That road has a special place in my sporting heart and history. It was where I became the fastest boy in school history. How I felt when I saw it was gone is how Andy Murray would feel if Wimbledon was knocked down and replaced by a Tesco Metro. He’d probably need a sit down – although that might be due to his dodgy hip.

It happened during my 5th year of secondary school. During PE lessons the class would take part in a 100m race. The  course was setup on the road outside the school.

The PE teacher picked one of the other boys to go out with a measuring wheel to mark the start and the end of the course. Once it was setup the class lined up at the start.

I don’t think I warmed up before the race. This was the 1990’s. Warming up hadn’t been invented yet.

We didn’t have blocks so it was a standing start. The gym teacher blew his whistle. I started running with all the forward momentum of a conservative MP stepping forward in support of Theresa May i.e. I dithered a bit and then when I noticed everyone else was doing it I stepped forward too.

I covered the first 50M swiftly and was soon near the front running alongside a boy wearing Joe Bloggs jeans. He’d forgotten his shorts but he didn’t care as he knew the Jeans made him the coolest guy in our year. I knew he’d slow down towards the end as he wouldn’t want to get the jeans sweaty.

In the last 10m I was Eric Carmen! No not the kid from South Park but the man who wrote and sang All By Myself. {NOTE: I thought the reference would be less obscure but as I’ve gone to the trouble of googling who sang All By Myself then I’m going to keep it in!]

And then I was over the line. I couldn’t believe it. I’d won. The teacher couldn’t believe it. My time was unbelievable!

I was so fast my name should really be UsIain Bolt Todd.

What neither I nor the teacher knew at the time was the boy who’d been sent out to mark the course didn’t know how to use a meter roller so he’d just taken a guess at how far 100m was. He’d actually created a course of 81m.

This was discovered when another PE teacher heard about the time and realised that a runner as slow as myself could not possibly have run the time claimed.

I was the fastest boy in the history of the school….for about ten minutes and then it was annulled.

‘Tis But A Flesh Wound (Andrew)

Running with an injury should just be called ‘running’. Runners are always injured.

Ask any runner and they can talk for hours about their creaky knees, dodgy ankles and wonky hips. “But it’s always been like that!” They’ll add, forgetting that it wasn’t like that before they started running.

Runners are basically the Black Knight from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Despite how many limbs are chopped off the knight still cries ’tis but a flesh wound!’ and battles on.

That’s why there are certain stages that runners go through when they run with injuries… sorry… when they run normally.

It Doesn’t Get Any Worse When I Run

At the moment I have a pain in my left foot. It falls into the category that I call “It Doesn’t Get Any Worse When I Run”.

This is an injury that’s just as sore when you walk as when you run. That mean, and this is logical, I can run because running doesn’t make it any worse! (Don’t think about the logic, just trust me!)

These types of injury also tend to fall into the related category of…

It Doesn’t Get Any Worse If I Run On Alternative Days

Again the logic here is sound. If the injury doesn’t get any worse because you only ran on a Monday and Wednesday then clearly you can’t be injured at all. An injury would hurt all the time so, if it only hurts on alternate days then it can’t be an injury at all. Simple.

After Five Minutes It Doesn’t Hurt When I Run

This is a tricky injury because it does hurt when you run. Usually quite painfully and in a way which suggest amputation may be in your future. However, after five minutes, all the pain goes away! (Though it does tend to return an hour after you stop – and ten times worse than it was before).

I’ve had this injury. I hurt my knee and every time I tried to run it would be very painful to put any weight on my leg for the first five minutes then everything was okay until I stopped and had to cry with the pain of it all.

However, as it wasn’t sore when I ran, or at least most of the time, it wasn’t an injury at all!

It Hurts When I Lie Down

Wimp! If it only hurts when you lie down then you know what to do – go for a run!

It Hurts All The Time

Okay, a runner may admit this may be an injury and will book an appointment to see a physio in three weeks time. In the meantime: keep running! You never know, it might heal on it’s own!