Tag Archives: health

Training: gaps

I am in Ghana this week. No bike. No training. Sitting in meeting rooms most of the day. The departure date is getting closer and every month between now and January I have big chunks of travel for work. There will be big gaps in my training. This can’t help. Last week in Dar I cycled every day. I felt good. But fitness can disappear so quickly and then takes so long to get back. I look at the map of the tour and I get excited. I look at the training gaps in my schedule leading up to the tour and I get a little anxious. Perhaps both are good.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

ChipIn: Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania

See # 10: Dr Julie Makani – Africa innovations: 15 ideas helping to transform a continent | World news | The Observer

Africa innovations: 15 ideas helping to transform a continent | World news | The Observer

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

ChipIn: Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania

Sickle Cell Centre of Excellence

I had an excellent meeting with Dr Julie Makani of the Sickle Cell Foundation yesterday. We have done two new things. We have wrapped the Alan Knight Tour d’Afrique fundraising campaign for the Sickle Cell Foundation into the larger, US$2.7million fundraising campaign for the Sickle Cell Centre of Excellence at the Muhimbili Hospital here in Dar Es Salaam. And we have put together a corporate sponsorship appeal and have begun to go out to corporate sponsors.

This is all very exciting. The Sickle Cell Centre of Excellence is desperately needed in Tanzania. The team at the hospital and the Foundation are doing a great job of raising awareness and establishing a a world class facility. It is inspiring to see their dedication and professionalism.
If you would like more details on the Sickle Cell Centre of Excellence Campaign or the Corporate Sponsorship Appeal, let me know by sending a note to alan@taylerknight.co.uk

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

ChipIn: Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania

Getting serious about training

I am starting to get a little anxious about training. In the past my only training has simply been to ride and then ride some more – with a little stretching.  And on longer rides there has always been an element of riding yourself into better shape. I accept that. But with my current work and travel schedule my riding comes in spurts.  I am home for three weeks and try to ride a lot. I am then away for two weeks and don’t get on a bike. I also don’t go on every ride I should. I was going to go on a ride this morning but missed the call to say when it was starting and before I knew it I hadn’t lifted my head from the computer for four hours and it was lunch time.

And then today I got a message in my inbox advertising fitness courses at a club I belong to. I typically delete these things without reading them. But today I read it. It was offering a number of courses, such as:

BODY TONING & STRETCHING – Helps strengthen muscles, joints, ligaments as well as the cardiovascular system, where stretching helps maintain flexibility.  These exercises will help prevent neuro-degenerative disease and muscle tension, and will increase blood circulation throughout the body.

Wow! But regardless of the excessive and questionable claim of preventing neuro-degenerative disease, would it be useful? I may change the habits of a lifetime and join a fitness class. Will I have to wear a neon colored leotard? I’ll let you know how it goes.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

ChipIn: Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania


More and more bikes

According to one source, “there are more than a billion bicycles in the world, twice as many as automobiles. In recent years bike production has climbed to over 100 million per year (compared to 50 million cars).”

Go to  http://www.worldometers.info/bicycles/ to see up to date data on bicycle production.

One would like to think that this means that bikes are overtaking cars and that the real answer to climate change is the bicycle. Not really.

Unfortunately the usage trend may be going the other way. China is the biggest owner of bikes with over half a billion on the road. But if you have been to China lately you will have seen that roads that used to be rivers of bicycles twenty years ago are now clogged with cars.

The Japanese, Korean and Indian car manufacturers all see China as their major growth market, to say nothing of the emergence of new Chinese manufacturers.  Some facts published in the Daily Telegraph in Aug 2011:

  • In 2009, China surpassed the US as the largest auto manufacturing and consuming country in the world.
  • In 2010 China’s automobile output and sales volume both exceeded 18 million, setting a new world record.
  • Currently, there are more than 72 million private cars on the road in China, and a total of 217 million vehicles.
  • In 1999 the country had just under 4,000 miles of motorway, now it has more than 40,000 miles.
  • A total of 11 cities, including Beijing, Shenzen, Shanghai, Chengdu and Tianjin, have more than 1 million cars.
  • Beijing itself has more than 4.6 million cars, and recently introduced restrictions on the purchase and use of vehicles in an attempt to limit pollution and congestion.
  • There are now 60 private cars for every 100 families in the country.

This is happening in Africa as well. According to one estimate, there were 36,000 cars in all of Tanzania in 2001. There are now close to 30,000 cars arriving at the port of Dar Es Salaam every month and there are now 1 million registered cars in Dar Es Salaam for a population of 4 million.

Bikes never really took off in Africa the way they did in China – in spite of their popularity is some pockets. As an Economist article from 2008 said: “Africans tend to turn their back on bikes as soon as they can afford anything with an engine.”

And if you have a car you tend to use it. The widely accepted average for car use is 12,000 to 15,000 miles a year.  How many miles did you ride on your bike last year? Too many bikes sit in the garage or shed unused from one week or month to the next.

Bikes and cars also compete for the same road space. Who do you think will win? Research done in Australia shows that 87% of car/bike accidents are caused by cars.

In the UK in 2011, 107 cyclists died as a result of accidents involving motor vehicles and over 19,000 were injured. In the US in 2010, 618 died and 52,000 were injured. And these stats come from countries that take bicycle safety seriously and provide bikes lanes.  I don’t have stats for China or Africa. I don’t think I want to see them. But a month ago, here in Dar, a friend was knocked off her bike by a water truck. She is now ok. It could have been much worse. But it is symptomatic.

So what do manufacturing numbers really tell us? In general, bicycle riding is shifting from transport and work to leisure and sport. In developing countries those who can afford it leapfrog to anything with an engine as soon as they can. In emerging nations that once depended on the bike, cars are taking over. In developed nations lots of people have good intentions about getting fit. And there must be storage sheds full of bikes somewhere. What will the Martians think.

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

ChipIn: Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

Sorry to be late

Sorry I have been silent for so long. I have been away on holiday for almost a month and have just returned to Tanzania. But I am now back at work and the kids are back at school. Time to think about bikes again.

While I was away I visited a few bike shops on the off chance that something that hadn’t come up during my research would jump out and say ‘buy me’.  But it didn’t happen.  So, after looking at a dozen or more options and seriously considering three, I have decided to get the Genesis croix-de-fer https://alanknighttourdafrique.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=177&action=edit . It is the closest to what I have been thinking of and nobody has suggested it is a bad idea.

I have now been in touch with a bike shop in the UK that I have used often in the past and asked them to see what they can do for a full bike plus spares package. Hopefully it will all be set up and with me by the end of September so that I can put a few miles on it before the TdA starts.

All of a sudden January doesn’t seem that far away. I have now sent in almost all of my forms and other paperwork to the good folks in Toronto who run the TdA. I am sure they try to keep bureaucracy to a minimum but there is still a fare bit of bumph:1) RIDER CONTRACT; 2) RIDER RELEASE; 3) HEALTH AND FITNESS QUESTIONNAIRE; 4) RIDER INFORMATION; 5) NEXT OF KIN INFORMATION; 6) INSURANCE INFORMATION; 7) TOUR INFORMATION; 8) BICYCLE INFORMATION; 9) FUNDRAISING INFORMATION; 10) GETTING TO KNOW OUR CLIENTS FORM; 11) RIDER QUESTIONNAIRE; 12) PHOTO AND TEXT FOR THE TdA WEBSITE; 13) COPIES OF PASSPORTS.

It is now time to start compiling lists of all the other things I will need. I can’t wait. When will I have time to ride my bike?

Don’t forget to donate to the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

ChipIn: Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

Alan’s TdA SCFT film on Vimeo

The first cut of the film is here. Have a look.

Alan Knight Tour d’Afrique 2013 on Vimeo

The donation page is also now active. Click on ‘Donate to SCF TZ‘ at the top of the page and then click through to the ChipIn page.

ChipIn: Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania.

We are looking for companies who might want to sponsor this ride for the Sickle Cell Foundation of Tanzania. If you know any companies that might be interested please contact me at alan@taylerknight.co.uk and I’ll send you the sponsorship bumph.

Thanks very much to Denise Donlon and Chris Morgan for putting the film together.

Bums or Clocks

Do you chase bums or clocks? I am not a racer. But I do check my performance today against my performance yesterday and the day before.  It helps to motivate and it gives a sense of achievement. If I know it took me 13 minutes to get up a certain hill the last time I rode it and only 12 minutes today, I am happy – even if somebody’s grandfather left me standing half way up. So I look at the clock, but not only the clock. I also enjoy riding with a group because I often find that somehow I ride better with a group. So what drives better performance? Riding against the clock and pacing yourself to challenge your personal best? Or chasing the bum in front, that is, riding with a group and working to support and push a pace?

In a fascinating article in the July/August issue of Walrus (“Racing Against Time” www. Walrusmagazine.com ) Alex Hutchinson looks at recent research into what drives best performance. In the past, performance was evaluated in relation to physical capacity and limits. Training was designed to increase capacity and limits and improvement was measured against the clock. Race strategy was based on performing at the edge of your limits so you could achieve the best time possible based on your capacity.  The limits to capacity were understood by measuring when and to what extent muscle, heart and lung performance began to drop off. This drop off was understood to be a purely physical phenomenon.

As Hutchinson points out however, new research, much of it lead by a physiologist named Tim Noakes who runs the University of Cape Town’s Exercise Science and Sports Medicine Research Unit and who Hutchinson characterizes as ‘a controversial exercise physiologist whom some peg as the greatest of his generation,’ suggests the mind is an equally important player. In the article we follow the Canadian marathon runner Reid Coolsaet as he attempts to meet the qualifying time for the London 2012 Olympics. The Olympic qualifying time is 2:11:29. This is new territory for Coolsaet. He has trained hard to achieve a pace of 3:05 per km over the 42.2 km race. His race strategy is to set and maintain that pace.

The race is the 2011 Toronto marathon. The field includes several Kenyans and Ethiopians capable of running 2:05 to 2:08. The night before the race Coolsaet goes to his coach and says he wants to throw the plan away and run with the leaders. He does and comes third, well under the Olympic qualifying time; and this included a stop at 22km to take a dump.

What Noakes’ research has discovered is that performance limits are not purely physical. When you chase the clock, the mind closes down effort before the muscles are damaged. But with the added motivation of living competition the mind will alter the thresholds and enable more effort.

So my hope is that riding with the rest of the Tour d’Afrique riders will provide the extra motivation to pass the EFI threshold. One can always hope.