Thrills and spills at Alton Water

WEEK Seven of The Evening Star's fun fitness programme, challenged a 26-strong group to get on their bikes and head for the great outdoors. Features editor TRACEY SPARLING reports on a slightly scary adventure at Alton Water.

By Tracey Sparling

WEEK Seven of The Evening Star's fun fitness programme, challenged a 26-strong group to get on their bikes and head for the great outdoors. Features editor TRACEY SPARLING reports on a slightly scary adventure at Alton Water.

THE morning could have seen a peaceful pedal round the lake, watching the wildlife and enjoying the scenery.

As it happened, we did spy a herd of deer, whizz past bluebell woods, and spot many bird varieties on the reservoir at Alton Water. But much more probably went unseen, as the Spring Into Summer squad powered round an eight-mile route, with our heads down and intent on keeping our hired bikes on the gravel tracks.

When one reporter felt her bike skidding on a bend, she aimed for a patch of green to avoid hitting a tree - and ended up in a bed of stinging nettles.

As we got to grips with the gears, a chain came off one of the bikes but we managed to fix it. One group ended up in a field, when they misread the map and lost the path temporarily.

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When the track split into two routes, some people failed to find the easier option and ended up facing a series of short steep slopes, which left them jumping off bikes to walk instead.

But all the 19 readers- two of whom arrived on their own bikes - three Swallow Belstead Brook fitness instructors and four Evening Star staff, managed to complete an adventurous bike ride, and felt fitter for it.

Some even resisted the temptation to buy ice cream as a refreshment, and several people who discovered the delights of the setting pledged to return another day.

Graham Day, 55 from Stowmarket said it was 25 years since he had been on a bike, and surprised himself by achieving the challenge.

Brian Blacksell, 59, from Dorchester Road, Ipswich said he had really enjoyed the cycling and being outdoors.

Some squad members brought their family, to enjoy a walk round the lake while the event was going on.

Owner of the cycle centre Derek Carter, has run the 12-year-old business for five years.

He offers more than 100 well-maintained mountain bikes, to cater for all age groups.

He said: “We give people three hours so they can stop and enjoy the scenery, maybe take a picnic or stop for a drink along the way.

“There is lots of wildlife to see; you can often see deer and water birds so it's an ideal setting for a family day out. Cycling is a great exercise and you can take it at your own pace.”

He added: “I cycle round two or three times a week - I'd like to do it more often but we get very busy!”

If one third of all short car journeys were made by bike, national heart disease rates would fall by between five and ten per cent.

Regular cyclists enjoy a fitness level equal to that of a person ten years younger.

Cycling at least 20 miles a week works the heart, and almost halves the risk of a heart attack.

Cycling helps reduce obesity, high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure.

It promotes self-esteem and reduces stress or insomnia.

It builds strength, especially in your back and legs, and promotes the mobility of hip and knee joints.

Bikes are cheaper than cars, produce no pollution, and can be parked just about anywhere.

Alton Water Cycle Hire has mountain bikes for adults and children, child seats, trailers and tandems.

If you want to try something a bit different try a go kart, or a balanz bike which is like a go-kart but you use your body weight to steer it.

It is open every weekend, school holidays and bank holidays, from 10am (apart from December), and bikes can also be hired at other times if you book in advance.

It is situated off Holbrook Road in Stutton.

Bikes cost from £4 depending on size, for three hours, or from £6.50 for a day.

Take your own helmet, or borrow one which fits, from a friend, to be safe. And take a small rucksack to carry a drink and mobile phone in.

Contact 01473 328873 or 07957 862660 or see www.altoncyclehire.co.uk

Name: Peter Chenery

Age: 48

Lives: Renfrew Road, Rushmere

Occupation: Lorry driver

Q: What do you hope to achieve with Spring Into Summer?

A: I want to lose weight and hopefully find some sort of activity I can do on a regular basis to stay fit.

Q: What stopped you keeping fit in the past?

A: Lack of time really. I am a lorry driver so I haven't got much spare time. It is difficult to find something you enjoy enough to get you out of the arm chair.

Q: Have you tried any sports before, and if so, how did you find them?

A: Not recently, not since I became a lorry driver. I used to do karate at one time. I used to be in the Navy and then I did lots of things. I didn't like the compulsory exercise in the navy because it was like being at school but, at every base, they have got good sports facilities and you usually have plenty of time to take things up.

I used to do swimming and just general fitness work, but I never got into one particular sport. I have never taken any sport seriously before.

Q: How are you getting on with the group?

A: Great. It is a really good mix of people and they are all friendly and get on with one another. We all came for similar reasons.

Q: Is weight loss part of your aim? If so, how have you tried before and did you fail or succeed?

A: I tried before with varying success. I will be successful at the time but once I have achieved my goal, or nearly achieved it, I will fall backwards again. Either that or Christmas come round and ruins it.

I just do it by eating less. I have high cholesterol so I have to try to stick to a low fat diet. That is not easy because you can always get a burger or bacon sandwich but anything else is more difficult.

Q: What is your favourite food - and is it good for you?

A: I suppose roast dinners are my favourite - roast beef and Yorkshire puddings and I don't suppose that is very good for me.

My diet is something I struggle with. I like healthy food but I generally find it takes preparation and if you have to eat away from home, like I often do, it is harder to find a healthier option and when you do the portions often aren't as filling. You end up eating something else to fill you up.

Q; How has the nutrition advice helped you?

A: It was quite interesting, but if you read up on things everyone seems to have their own opinion and often there are contrasts - it is difficult to know what to do for the best.

The main thing I was surprised about was that they mentioned dairy. You are always led to believe dairy products are not so good for you, but you need to have some according to the advice.

Q: How have you found Spring Into Summer so far?

A: It has been very interesting and I have enjoyed all the sessions.

Q: Which event has been your favourite so far, and why?

A: I don't know if I have had a favourite. I have enjoyed them all equally.

Q: Which event has been the biggest challenge for you, and why?

A: My least favourite was the aerobics - I couldn't get on with that. I have done Keep Fit classes before and done similar things but I can't remember it being so hard, maybe being younger helped!

I found it difficult to keep in time with the instructor because she seemed to move on so quickly, before I could even get the hang of anything.

Q: What have you gained from the programme?

A: I do feel fitter already and I have lost some weight. I have met a great bunch of people and am having a really enjoyable time at the sessions.

I hope I can keep it up when the programme finishes.

A regular session like this motivates you, but whether you can put off decorating the spare bedroom to do it once the programme finishes, is another thing. It is a shame there isn't something like this that continues throughout the year.

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