Exploring on Foot

Wow, it’s been a while since I posted here! All my focus lately is on looking after the two littlies and searching for a house so even the idea of getting out on my bike has fallen by the wayside. Cycling is firmly off the table until the weather improves – icy roads are not for me and I need my MTB buddy back before I can go and explore the trails – and rarely have 10 minutes free even for a quick twirl of the hoop, let alone a short yoga or kettlebell session.

What I am managing to do more of though is walk. With DD wanting – no, needing – to get out and burn off some of her never-ending supply of energy and us otherwise cooped up in the teeny-tiny little gite we’re renting (see my other blog for the low down on all that) I am often on my feet, even if its just chaperoning her down the road in the hameau for a short ride on her bike or to watch while she whizzes round and round in the square. This is good because it means I’m regularly hitting or nearly hitting my 7,500 daily step target, to the extent that I’ve considered upping it to 10,000. Maybe I’ll do that once the weather improves.

We’ve also been making more of an effort to get out and go on something resembling a proper walk. Nothing too strenuous as having two small children in tow makes the chances of getting around a longer walk less likely – just exploring some small circuits on local trails.

Part of the appeal of this area is that every village seems to have it’s own network of waymarked walks. On arrival in the village there’s usually a board with map showing the available routes and giving information on their gradings (following the green, blue, red, black gradings common to ski runs and bike trails) and navigation information. The navigation system is new to us as we have no such system in place in the UK, but it’s very intuitive and makes following a route fairly simple and relatively safe (with map and compass packed alongside, of course.)


There are also extensive trails, usually marked on maps, which I’m told are effective rights of way unless a landowner states otherwise. French neighbours have informed me that you can pretty much follow any track or trail unless it has been fenced off and marked as private. Cool! I’m still not totally relaxed about this approach as I’m so used to the very prescriptive attitude to rights of way in the UK but we have started to venture onto some local paths, making up our own walks, and I’m sure we’ll do more of that as time goes on.

So where have we been? Well, we’ve done a number of short walks worthy of mention, all between two or three miles, over easy terrain, so nice to do as a family.

First we walked from Rouvenac where we followed the Sentier de Plâtriers route, which sounds very romantic but actually translates as the Path of Plasterers! This took us up from the village towards the ruined moulin (mill) and into a quiet, open valley before bringing us back round the hill and down through fields and woodland towards the village. Beautiful. It had plenty of “features” to keep us interested.One of family “catchphrases” is that We Like a Feature Walk, and this one ticked our boxes.

More recently we went off to Nebias to walk the Sentier du Labyrinthe Vert. Strava conked out on me just two minutes into it so I don’t have a track for that one, unfortunately. It was a great walk though, really laden with features and in a quite extraordinary landscape, so we’ll definitely go back to do it again.

Next, I’ll write up each of the walks and share my GPS tracks. Until then, a bien tôt!

Strava Food

I went cycling again, yippee! It was the perfect day for it and pretty exciting as it was an off- rather than on-road adventure. I figured when we moved here that I’d be riding on the road for the most part for the first half a year or so and that DB (that’s my hardtail) would only get the odd airing when riding easy trails with DD, pulling the trailer, but as luck would have there are other mountain bikers here. Not just that, there are other female mountain bikers, which is really cool because something I knew I was going to miss was my girly nights out on the trails. It turns out a couple who moved here at about the same time as we did – currently living in a caravan while they build their straw bale house – are also a bit bike mad. They also have a baby that’s of a similar age to my DS, meaning one of my new friends just happens to be in exactly the same position as me when it comes to bike fitness. It’s like hitting the new friend jackpot, frankly.

On the day of the ride, by three in the afternoon the sun was still pretty high and it was warm. No, scratch that, it was hot; hotter than many of the hottest summer rides I ever did in the UK. I’d been hiding in our place all day as we were detoxing from caffeine, so I’d mostly been rolling around on the bed groaning and clutching my banging head, and the outdoor temperature had been lost on me. Thinking I’d need something warm – just in case (well, it is nearly November) – I set off wearing my leg warmers. Hah, silly me. It was scorchio! I was so hot by the time I reached their place I was also regretting my other clothing choices, which even though “summery” by UK standards, were still pretty warm. As we were planning to hit a trail, I also had one of my flourescent windproof gilets on as The Hunters (literally, middle-aged men with guns roaming the countryside taking pot-shots at wild animals) tended to be out and about on Saturday, so we wanted to make sure we were visible. Not a good look, frankly, and also not the coolest getup!

We set off, whizzing down the hill. It was great fun. My new buddy is fast too, which was nice; I basically had to chase her down the road! After a short stretch on the road we wiggled our way through the village and up towards the trail. I had a rough idea
where we were going but had been too busy feeling sorry for myself to consult a map before we set off, which turned out to be a mistake. I had planned for us to follow a route that I’d walked from the other direction but when we got to the fork in the path I noticed there was a VTT marker with an X on it, which I took to mean it wasn’t a mountain bike trail. In hindsight I think that was more about it not being the mountain bike trail, as in one of the waymarked routes, and that we could have gone that way, as I don’t think the French as concerned with segretating walkers, cyclists, and horse riders in the same way as the Brits; so that’s a route for another time.

We followed the VTT signage round the corner, up the hill and, at the next fork, decided to branch off to the left. It had another one of these VTT signs crossed out on it but we were both a bit sick of climbing by then and it appeared to be going down, so decided to chance it! By now we’d already been gone about 15 minutes and since we said we’d be gone for no more than an hour (actually, I think I said 30 minutes, but really – hah! fat chance!) Luckily An’s fitness is about as terrible as mine, so after crossing a ford we got off to push up the slightly rocky path (normally rideable but NOT on the first post-pregnancy ride in over a year!) then got back on when it flattened out. Not long after this – now 20 minutes into our adventure – we stopped for a rest before carrying on. It was turning out to be one of those climbs that just keeps going; the one where you think we’ll just go to there and it will be the top but it never is the top because there’s always more climbing hidden away over the other side. We stopped to admire the view, now nearing 30 minutes from our starting point, and decided to turn back. It’s never a good idea to return to screaming babies on your first adventure away from them. We whizzed back down the hill we’d mostly just pushed up and it was really good fun!

Back at base, with Strava uploaded and after having a little sniff about online I discovered there are no Strava segments on any of the trails I’d just ridden. Absolutely nothing! There are few segments around but they’re all on road and all of a fairly decent length, certainly nothing like small segments for all the cheeky little climbs and descents on favourite local mountain bike routes I’d been riding back in the Peaks. Well, that’s about to change with the first of many new Strava segments that I’m sure will originate from my rides. They’re not the most inspired from a mountain biking perspective as they’re both on tarmac and both climbs but we didn’t really ride a full off-road descent and I don’t like using tarmaced segments for descents, since you’re likely to encounter cars on such routes; cyclists hurtling head long down the hill on routes shared by motor vehicles is just an all round bad idea in my book. Climbs on the other hand are fair game, so my first contribution is to create two new Strava segments for short sharp climbs. You’re welcome 🙂



I rode my bike today ☺

Nothing spectacular, but I wanted to spend some quality time with DD, just the two of us, and I also had a bunch of empty milk bottles for the recycling bin. Voila! A plan was formed, DS woke up and was fed, then we set up and rode off on our mini adventure. It was short, just 4 miles, but I was pulling the trailer and none of it was flat so I expect I’ll be crippled tomorrow. I’m officially back in the saddle. DD enjoyed it too. Happy days. Here’s a Strava widget to celebrate.


The distractions continue

My kettle bells are in a box. The bikes I have with me are locked up on the balcony. Lately, the fitness journey has taken a detour as we’ve been busy not just moving house but relocating from England to France (more about that on my other blog.) Although I’ve not been doing anything organised or sticking to my programme, it has been an exceptionally busy and physical time, packing and moving boxes, hoovering and cleaning while carrying a whiny and clingy baby and occasionally a toddler too. Now we’ve moved I’m enjoying a bit of a rest, trying to unwind a little, getting some naps in the afternoons alongside my babies, and getting acclimatised to this wonderful weather. As always, I’m planning rides; long, lovely rides on quiet roads in good weather. As luck would have it there are other bike mad people in the place we’re staying, which is great as it means I may have some company when I’m ready to venture out onto the local trails, of which there are many.

It’s an exciting time but, with my baby only 6 months old and his big sister going through some crazy developmental stuff while also adjusting to a complete change in her reality thanks to the move, it’s still early days when it comes to planning days out in the saddle. That time will come. I know it will and I am doing my best to be patient. Still, An (one of my new bike mad friends) and I are going to try and escape, to leave our little ones with their daddies, for a short ride later in the week. There are some fantastic trails around here and the marked routes are generally good for both walking and cycling, not restricted or designated for a specific purpose, in the same way that UK rights of way are. In addition, there are some other routes that are not public but accessible on permission of the landowner. Since our current home is a tiny hameau where everyone knows everyone that means that it’s okay to walk on the many tracks and trails in the vicinity, so we all went out for a short walk the other day – just one mile but with 150m of elevation! – in search of a nearby waterfall with a pool for swimming. It’s a magical place and I’m so excited about being able to raise my children here, where enjoying the outdoors is the norm and there is so much to do, with so many new places to explore.

An hour of family fun at the BMX Track

I had visitors over the weekend and where I’m usually all about getting outside in good weather this particular weekend I was really hoping for some rain so there’d be an excuse to take my nephews for a session at the indoor BMX track at the National Cycling Centre. Lucky for me, given I live in what was once described to me as “the wettest valley in England” (which may well be true), the weather man delivered so on Monday we all headed off with the boys excited about their session.

Despite not really having any idea what they were in for the boys were excited to be going to the “home of British Cycling” and the possibility of spotting some of the pros hanging around the cafe or maybe even seeing them in action. Of course that was pretty unlikely, given the Olympics are on in Rio this week, but the eldest of the two was excited to be riding the same track anyway. What an experience!

The session was an hour long, beginning on time with no small amount of faffing as the coaches tried to get everyone kitted out with knee and elbow pads, helmets, gloves and bikes. Luckily the boys were happy with the bikes they were given and there were other kids of similar ages given the same setups, so the younger one had others of the same age group to compare himself too (rather than comparing himself to the older ones, which usually happens, and then getting into a strop.) Once kitted out they headed round to the other side of the arena for a pep talk and a basic skills assessment. The coaches wanted to see that everyone could handle their bikes — starting and stopping and riding over a small ramp — and talked about pedal positions for cornering and riding the ramps, and explained about pumping the bike rather than pedalling round. The boys were fine, so the next step was to ride the track!

They did great! The best part of an hour later we had two tired and hungry boys on our hands. Success! There was only one strop (the little one, of course) which was soon recovered from and they both enjoyed themselves. The eldest was signed off from the Intro 2 BMX session so would be able to go onto a more advanced session, learning to ride the start gate and in a group, in future. The little one had the hang of it by the end of the session and would easily have been signed off after anuter hour; he was a little nervous to start with, riding seated instead of standing, and it took him a little while to figure out how to pump the bike and when to pedal. It’s a shame we won’t be up this way long enough for them to come back and ride it again. Hopefully there’ll be something similar for them to ride when the visit us in France. I hope so for my sake too, as it occurred to me after signing them up, while they were getting kitted out, that I could have joined in too! Oh well.


10-steps for a gentle post-partum recovery

Here’s a post I started writing a few months ago, shortly after giving birth to my lovely baby boy, and recently posted to my other blog, Leap Into the Void, which is all about our moving plans for this year. Seeing as it’s been a week since my last post and that it’s a good fit for here, I thought I’d copy it over. I hope you like it!

I wrote it as much as anything as a reminder to myself to take it easy and not overdo it, especially as I was feeling so well at just three weeks post-partum, which was a big contrast to my first pregnancy, which took much longer to recover from both physically and emotionally. Given our moving plans and how much we have been doing, I’ve tried to keep the below 10 points in mind, despite not always managing to be quite as gentle on myself as I’d like – but at least I’m off work and not in the horrible position of having to consider a return to work in just a few weeks.

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Do pregnancy hormones have any effect on weight loss?

I learned something I probaby didn’t want to know earlier today. Thanks a lot, Google.

Basically, I was sitting here wondering whether pregnancy hormones (or the flushing out of pregnancy hormones) was one of the triggers for post-partum weight loss. I was wondering that solely on obvervations of my own weight, which stayed put pretty much static for the first couple of months until about 6 weeks ago when I started steadily losing about 1 pound per month without really trying. Yes, I’m trying to be more active and have been careful about what I eat but not really any more than usual as I’m also conscious of the fact that I’m breastfeeding two (yes, two) children, so I started weighing myself to ensure that I wasn’t gaining but also to ensure that, if I was losing, that I wasn’t losing too rapidly, as that would affect my supply. I was also aware that the linea negra was still visible and, knowing that that’s hormonal, was curious about whether that disappearing would coincide with any weight loss.

Anyhoo, that’s the background to why I was Googling “pregnancy hormones weight loss”. So what did I find? Well, of all the faddy, bonkers things that people do, I never in a million years considered that people would actually inject themselves with pregnancy hormones (HCG, or human chorionic gonadotropin) as a means of losing weight. I mean, seriously? As if that’s no mad enough, the programme that advocates using HCG as a weight loss method (I don’t want to name anyone because I’d hate to drive traffic to them) provides the course of hormone injections while also stipulating that the client restricts their food intake to just 500 calories a day. Yes, that’s right – just 500 calories, which as many extra calories as I’m supposed to eat in order to sustain my milk supply. And as with so many of these miracle diets it will set you back more than $1,000 for the privilege. I mean wow. So you can take these injections and – while also not eating – lose weight. Go figure. Some people swear by it (duh, you’re not eating) and others just felt conned. Those were probably the hungry ones who didn’t quite manage the 500 calorie thing.

And after that short detour into madness I’m still no closer to finding out whether the release of pregnancy hormones from the body has any impact on post-partum weight loss. Oh well. Time for a healthy snack and maybe a few minutes on the hula hoop.