PHIL CALVERT: Time to burn off the lard as the weather improves

Phil Calvert . S090606/5
Phil Calvert . S090606/5

IT is very easy to get complacent. Physically working hard this spring means I have managed to over-indulge in biscuits, chocolate, crisps, indeed carbohydrates and fats in general and pull off the impossible.

All that bending lifting and stretching over many weeks means I have managed to get trim and lose weight. Throughout April, the wonderful dry weather and sunshine has meant the days have been hard and the hours long. I have become fit.

This comes as something of a relief as the annual lads’ long weekend away cycling (and the odd pint) has appeared on the far-distant horizon (September actually). Surely there is loads of time between then and now to train up you might think, but there are so many calls on my time. While my fellow athletes and colleagues on the tour are dusting down their bikes, hauling their lard-enhanced forms into reluctant lycra cycling gear, my bicycle remains locked in the shed collecting dust. They hold regular evening outings and have already had two training runs including one over the Lakeland passes while I have been unable to participate.

The reality is, I will be unable to get out for a decent ride until July and I will have much ground to make up. Joining them will be increasingly feasible then, but it is not pleasant to drop off the back of the peloton and see your supposed mates disappear into the distance leaving you desperately trying to catch up, but in reality spending most of the day alone, and when I eventually meet up with them, rested as they wait for me to rejoin the group, they then move off again. It can be very disheartening.

It gets worse when Johnnie phones me to talk about how he is about to cycle across parts of Europe and tackle the Pyrenees, having just lost two stones of winter blubber. By July he will have hundreds of practice miles under his belt while I will only just be getting going. As an ex-rugby player he is a tough cookie and a hard act to follow.

And then there will be family outings, together with home and work commitments which limit the amount of time I can commit to get into shape. The cycling tour will soon become a near future reality.

Having said that, I said I had got into shape. That is true enough but just as April was a very busy time for me, May has been more disappointing. We needed the rain, but it has been difficult to coax a tired body into ever greater exertions when the wind has blasted us from every direction and when the heavens seem to have been permanently open. It is far more enticing to stop at the door, look at the grey skies dropping stair-rods of rain, reflect, turn around and put the kettle on.

Sitting sipping tea as the rain hammers down onto the ground, it is natural to eat the odd biscuit or ten. As the rain continues, we are much less “distracted” by customers. Slowly, imperceptibly, lethargy creeps in. Wearing heavy waterproofs and battered by the weather, everything becomes an effort. Gone is the adrenaline-fuelled action of those glorious April weeks. The present reality is much more depressing. Wet, cold and increasingly fed up, you cheer yourself up with (yet) another cup of tea and perhaps a nice cake from the shop. That salad for lunch holds no appeal as you huddle trying to shelter from the rain. Chips – they always taste at their best when it is cold and wet, and rarely disappoint.

The result is an ever steeper decline into less activity and more calories and inevitably I have started to pile on the lard again – nearly a stone in three weeks, and with it everything becomes more of a drag. Meanwhile the lads are out on their regular training runs getting fitter and fitter. Johnnie will have become a man of iron.

Thankfully there is reason for hope. This cold and wet spell looks like coming to an end as we head towards the weekend and with no mention of frost in the forecast perhaps I can pull myself together, shed a few layers of clothing and get stuck into planting summer in my own garden. The ground has been softened by the heavy rain and should be perfect for bedding out as we head towards the Bank Holiday weekend.

Tubs and baskets all await my urgent endeavours to get them planted up with summer flowers and trailing plants. It is a strange truth that the busier I get at work, the greater my workload, and the longer my working day, the easier I find it to motivate myself to get into the garden when I get home. I may have spent 12 hours on my feet at work, but with the more pleasant weather it is difficult to contain my enthusiasm. I often work in the garden until midnight catching up, planting up this, trimming that. Only an in-built common sense demands I pack in, get washed and go to bed, otherwise I could keep going all night.

Yes it is very easy to get complacent and slip into lethargy, but whether it is working long days at Reedley, putting in the hours at home in the evening, getting stuck in is the best way to shake off the blues and the pounds and generally make you feel life really is worth living. And if we do get a decent patch of good weather over the next few weeks I can see me running on adrenaline again, burning off that recently acquired lard and feeling like I can take on the world. So those lads over in Yorkshire in their comfy office jobs better keep training hard because come July when I join them for my first training run, they won’t know what has hit them – just so long as it stops raining!