With the recent Tour de France victory for Welshman Geraint Thomas, the ever growing hype around club music-soundtracked spin classes (hello, Psycle) and the popularity of bike shops/coffee stops (the Rapha Clubhouse Cafe in London’s Soho, The Commute Cycle Cafe in Ilkley, North Yorkshire) two wheeled transportation has never been more now.
Which is good timing. Because former EastEnders actor and ‘I’m A Celebrity’ star Larry Lamb, 70 and his TV presenter (Football Tonight, Generation Screwed) son, George, 38, are back for a second series of cycling travelogue show, Britain By Bike. The first saw them head all over the country’s national parks, from the Yorkshire Dales to the Scottish Highlands. Now, we’ll see them explore spots like the Isles of Scilly and the Outer Hebrides.
Larry hopes that the Channel 5 programme encourages people to get out and about around the nation. “It’s a beautiful thing for parents and children to go out together. If the show inspires people to get out and be active then that’s a huge positive for us,” he told HuffPost UK, when we spoke to him and George over the phone. While touring the country in the saddle sounds intimidating, trying it out for a couple of days is a good shout. “Don’t over do it in terms of what you’re going to attack. Find some level areas, first, just to test yourself out, don’t start trying to climb massive hills. And if you are a bit older, get an electric bike!”
George is evangelical about the experience. “I guarantee if you go at it with the right attitude, you’ll have one of the best holidays you will ever have in your life. Britain is as beautiful as anywhere I’ve been in the world and the British are amazing. People should be more inclined to stay here and have a great holiday, rather than jump on a plane.”
Being in his seventies, Larry’s helped out by one of the electric numbers he recommends. And staying fit as you age is something he is very much into. “I try to walk as much as I can,” he says. If he can’t do that, he’ll get on an exercise bike or the rowing machine, or “whatever is available - frankly, too many people spend too much time figuring out too many ways to give excuses as to why they don’t exercise.”
George agrees. “If you can, walk, take the stairs, don’t take the escalator. Go for a run before work, on your way to work, take a Boris bike instead of the bus. My cousin’s a Royal Marine commander PT and he says just make it [time to exercise] and that’s the end of it. If you really want to, you’ll do it.”
The pair are adamant that your brain and your body are interlinked. “Exercise and fitness are so important for your mental health,” says George. “When I’m in my best state mentally, I’m in my best state physically.” Larry concurs. “I feel terrible if I’m not active. As you get older you don’t have the same energy. You have to cut back on things. But I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables and I exercise every day.”
Mental resilience is something that George has worked on, big time. As part of his training for this year’s London Marathon, he collaborated with Olympic long distance running champion Sir Mo Farah and personal trainer and cookbook author Joe Wicks, AKA The Body Coach, on an Audible audio series, titled: Mo-Joe. This saw him trained up on fitness and nutrition by the pair, as well as spending time with other names in the field, like Dame Kelly Holmes. His major takeaway? Getting through your physical barriers is: “All in your head. That’s the reality. If you get your head in the right place, your body will follow.”
Meeting crazily inspirational people every week for the show helped, of course. “You’ve only got to hang out with a couple of Olympians before you realise that you’re looking for this magic thing that they’re going to tell you - and they just tell you that it’s all in your head and you’ve got to decide how much you want this.” For George, he’s adjusted his outlook. “At some stage, whatever you’re doing, your head is going to tell your body that you can’t do it - and you have to have the capability to turn the volume down.”
As to any mantras or thoughts he focused on, while he was running the race? “I don’t know why, because I didn’t support them [Manchester United] growing up, but Alex Ferguson was quoted in a book as saying ‘if you quit once, you’ll quit twice.’ So I found myself going ‘if you quit once, you’ll quit twice!’” Not that getting through it meant it was easy from there. “How did I feel when I completed the Marathon? Sore. It woke me up in the middle of the night.”
For Larry, finding the fitness activity that you can have fun with is key to sticking with it. “I think enjoying your exercise makes an awful lot of difference,” he says. But he and George are on the same page when it comes to embracing your inner get-up-and-go. “Whatever it is, it’s all about discipline. If you don’t take charge, it’ll crumble away.”
Catch George and Larry on Britain by Bike on Fridays at 8pm, on Channel 5, or catch up on my5.tv.