We all face challenges in life. Cerebral Palsy is mine, but it hasn't stopped me from becoming a keen recreational cyclist and playing an active role in my local clubs. I'm actually an active skier and, a few weeks before a ski holiday, went along to a local cycling club to try and build up my fitness for skiing. After spending a day with them I got hooked, and now I spend as much time as I can on my bike.
I cycled as a kid and was lucky that, by the time I got interested in cycling, I didn't have to learn to ride from scratch. I started going with a local club who were tremendously supportive and encouraging to me and seemed to have no end or patience and would regularly wait for me and never leave me on my own. I joined Edinburgh Road Club (ERC) and have been cycling with them since.
The benefits that cycling has brought me has been enormous. I feel fantastic both physically and mentally. Despite having two academic degrees, I find it difficult you secure employment opportunities so cycling has increasingly taken a bigger place in my life. I cycle a few days a week with friends and sometimes on my own. Initially I was uneasy about cycling unaccompanied. I have difficulty changing punctures and was generally worried that anything went wrong. I have gradually built up my confidence however and regularly cycle on my own and actually really enjoy it. I enjoy the space to myself and to freedom this gives me.
After cycling on a regular basis with ERC and finding it difficult to keep up, I began to look at cycle training and how I could improve my fitness. With guidance from other club members I began cycle training in order to try and a reasonable standard that I could keep up with the bunch. I knew I was going to have to put in more effort than most in order to achieve this, but I wanted to work at it. So I have embarked on a long journey to try and get my fitness up.
I now train several times a week and, using a heart rate monitor, record my progress. I attend Spin classes twice a week at my local gym and have an indoor turbo trainer that I use over the winter when the weather is bad. I try to vary my training from day to day so that I don't get bored. Some days I go out and do long 50 or 60 miles runs to get my stamina up, other days I will do much less mileage but will concentrate on climbing doing as many hill reps I can stand.
Its difficult to know how much or how little my CP affects my cycling. I struggle to keep up with the pack, particularly on hills, and its difficult to know whether this is due to my CP, or because I'm not fit! I have searched the Internet for information about the affects of exercise on CP, however there seems to have been little studies done. I have discovered that one of the manifestations of cerebral palsy is sometimes a reduced lung capacity and, if this is the case, may affect my performance.
I'm not even near where I want to be yet but am beginning to see signs of improvement. Its will take a long time to get my fitness to a place I can keep up with many of the able-bodied people that I ride with but I am on my path now and want to stick to it. I have made tremendous strides forward in the last 12 months so I'm hoping that I can make similar progress in this coming year.
As well as recording my training data, I write a cycling blog. In doing this I hope to make note of my cycling experience while, at the same time, promote cycling to other both able and disabled people. I would like to use my blog to motivate people and describe how cycling has helped me and how others can benefit too. The address of my blog is www.davidcreilly.com