Health and other benefits of cycle touring

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On completing 1000 km in France

When we were working my wife and I always believed if we could get a month away on our bikes it would transform our fitness.  Over the years into middle age we had both put on pounds in weight and inches around our waists. The trouble was work made such a trip impossible. It would have to await retiral.

We have now been back from our first ‘big’ tour for a couple of months –  29 days spent cycling 2246km from Paris to the Algarve in Portugal.  So how did it work out for us?

We have been slow to realise just how many benefits we gained from the trip.  Only now are they coming home to us.  Here are some of the more important gains:

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Arriving in Algoz, after 2246 km

We both lost weight and bulk.  About a stone and a couple of inches around the waist in my case, and, ‘a dress size’ in Jacqui’s.  We have managed to keep most of the weight off and being lighter has helped us keep up more exercise since we returned.  I am able to enjoy my running again and Jacqui is back swimming, doing pilates and yoga.

We both gained suppleness and lost aches and pains.  I had suffered from a painful right hip and Jacqui from arthritis in her thumbs before we set off: amazingly, both disappeared in the last weeks of the tour.  So far, they have not returned.

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Now, where’s that hotel…

We both gained in confidence and self-esteem.  In our 60s we had both begun to consider ourselves, ‘passed our peak’. Managing to cycle out of Paris, crossing the Pyrenees, managing all the travel logistics and solving problems as they arose on the road all boosted our self image and belief in ourselves.

We learned we could cope with adversary. Faced with a 100 plus kilometre day, riding into a bitingly cold headwind or driving rain was a challenge: but, somehow we got it done, on more than one day.

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Nobody said this would be easy…

We came back closer as a couple.  We relish the fact that we did the trip as a pair, pedal stroke for pedal stroke all the way.  Now, we even have to watch that we don’t get smug: it’s all too easy to convince ourselves that we did something exceptional.  Our trip was hardly that, but it was special for us and has given us a host of shared memories that we can enjoy when they pop back into our minds.

We laid down a starter for 10.  This will not be our last trip.  No way, with luck.  We want more of the same.

Perhaps the biggest gain of all is the realisation that at 60+ you can do things that you did not get done in your youth and thought had perhaps slipped beyond you.  That must be a great message to take away from our trip.

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