Training for the Tour… Motivating Myself to Stay Fit

Less than a week to go now, before the start of the Tour de France. I’m a big fan. But you probably already know that if you read my blog regularly. A highlight (actually two highlights) of our recent trip to France were the days we drove up Alpe D’Huez and  Mont Ventoux, two of the most famous mountain climbs of the Tour. I wrote about that part of our trip in a post which you can read here, if you’re interested. And now the Tour starts in a few days. Well, five days if you’re counting. And I am.
tour de france 2015, map
Hubby and I love to bike. We’re not great cyclists, we don’t do road races or climb mountains. We just love to be out there… in the fresh air and sunshine… riding our bikes. It’s fun and great exercise and something that we can do together. And when one is over fifty… nudging up to sixty, even…as I am… staying fit and healthy isn’t as easy as it once was. So, we’ve been in training since we came home from France. Training for the Tour. Well, kind of. Mostly we just ride our bikes like we always do, twice a week. We plan our week on Sunday, around our respective schedules, and the weather, so we can dedicate two days to biking.
We’re spoiled for choice, with respect to biking trails, around Ottawa. Sometimes we ride the Trans Canada Trail, that follows the old railway lines. And then hooks up with a local trail that snakes through sun dappled bush.
Ottawa cycling and walking trail
We often ride on weekday mornings, and then we have the trails mostly to ourselves. Last week we followed this trail that crossed the Green Belt outside of the city…
Ottawa cycling trail
And ended up at the Ottawa River.
Ottawa River at Shirley's Bay
Last Saturday we biked along the Rideau River. While the Ottawa River is wide and fast flowing, the Rideau is bucolic, even placid.
Rideau River near Burritt's Rapids
We crossed the river on this single-lane bridge dating from the 1890’s.
bridge over the Rideau in Burritt's Rapids
And tooled around the tiny village of Burritt’s Rapids
cycling in Burritt's Rapids
We stopped for lunch at the locks just outside Burritt’s Rapids. Boaters can follow the Rideau Canal system from Parliament Hill in Ottawa, where the Rideau River meets the Ottawa River, all the way to Kingston on Lake Ontario.
lock on Rideau near Burritt's Rapids
This is the view from our picnic table. It was a perfect day. And since it was still June, pretty uncrowded, I’d say. The lady on a boat tied up near here, said she and her husband had spent the night here. And were  moving downstream the next day, with an eye to being docked in downtown Ottawa on Canada Day. That would be pretty special, sipping a cold glass of wine and watching the fireworks on Parliament Hill from the deck of your boat.


lock on Rideau near Burritt's Rapids
After lunch we hit the road again. Past farms and a field of animals of all sorts. I think this must be the year of the donkey, for me. And yes, that’s a llama.
animals in a field near Kemptville, Ontario


And eventually rounded a bend … to see an osprey nest on a platform on top of this pole. We’ve seen several of these nests in the surrounding countryside. But this one was occupied. And the mother’s feathers were a little bit ruffled by our continued presence, so we hopped on our bikes and headed for home. 
osprey nest on River Rd, near Kemptville, Ontario
But the Tour de France hoving into view on the horizon, makes our rides special, these days. We laugh and say how we’re in training for the Tour. When we ride, I always lead, because I pedal slower than Hubby and he has trouble knowing what pace to set if he’s in front. Then, if it’s windy and I’m struggling, I flick my elbow… just like the boys on the Tour… a small motion that says, “Get up here and lend me a hand.” And Hubby comes up to be my “domestique.” If you’re not familiar with cycling lingo, “domestiques” are the riders who work for the benefit of the team and the team’s lead rider. They help the cycling stars to win races: they ride in front so the big name rider can save energy by riding in their slipstream; they selflessly surround and protect the star, who then gets all the glory. A “domestique” is quite literally a “servant” to his or her team. 
So sometimes Hubby responds to my elbow flick, and plays the servant, and I ride close on his back wheel, making it much easier for me. Yah. I like that part. Sometimes I pull out from behind him like a shot and try to sprint away. Playing the part of that famous sprinter Mark Cavendish. Otherwise known as the ‘Manx Missile’, because he’s from the Isle of Man. I usually shout as I speed by in a blur (I hope) that “Burpee is making a break-away.” Sometimes I win and Hubby can’t catch up. But not often. I’m not actually much of  a ‘Manx Missile.’ More of a Burpee Bomb. Ha. Well, at least I try. And it makes our rides more fun. And when it’s fun, staying fit is so much easier!
This was the route we took the other day. Past lush green cornfields, under a perfectly blue sky.


corn fields and blue sky around Ottawa
Past an old farmhouse where the retired farm machinery makes a wonderful planter. I’m pretty sure this is a manure spreader. Quite appropriate, eh?


repurposed farm machinery, a planter
This is my favourite house on our route. I love the old brick, the clothesline out back where the grass slopes down to a small creek. There’s even a lovely swing in that big tree on the right. 


heritage home in North Gower
Seriously what could ruin this perfect morning? Nothing …except my stopping to take yet another picture of this sky with one single cloud. One cloud. “Ahhhh. How great is that?” I murmur.


corn fields and blue sky around Ottawa



And then Hubby’s voice admonishes me for stopping yet again. He’s been circling waiting for me. “Come on, Suz! Let’s go.” And I zip my camera into my pack and pedal off after him. I should know better; we are in training after all.  



I do other stuff besides biking to stay fit, and still fit into my jeans. I power walk one morning a week with girlfriends, and ride my exercise bike three times, combined with at least one weight workout. And I take one day a week off.  Retirement means that I can’t count on all that calorie-burning running around that I would normally do in the course of my day at work. And running around burns a heck of a lot of calories. It’s a battle. But it’s so much easier to fight the battle if I can find ways to make it fun. 



Because of course we’re not really in training for the Tour de France. You might say we’re just getting into the spirit of the event. Gearing up, so to speak. Being silly, pretending we’re famous cyclists, acting like kids, you might also say. Yep. You’d be right about that. 



Check out this great blog about cycling. Suze, read my travel posts about France, about Hubby and I driving up Mont Ventoux, and sent me her story about doing it for real…on a bike. You can read her post here.



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30 thoughts on “Training for the Tour… Motivating Myself to Stay Fit”

  1. How fun to plan a bicycle trip together. My husband and I did a big ride early in our dating years. Makes for great memories.

    1. We don't do big rides, although I'd love to do one of those trips where you bike from one village to the next and someone transports your baggage and gives you a lift if you get too pooped.

  2. You've got some wonderful scenery around there & mostly all to yourself . I admire all your keep fit work – mine consists of walking the dogs five miles a day – I never did master a push bike .
    Wendy in York

  3. Hi Sue, what a lovely post! I didn't know any of that stuff about the Tour de France, the domestiques etc., very interesting. Our family did a week-long bike trip along the Danube a few years ago – that was fun, but also memorable because hubby and I both had the 'gastro'! We somehow held it together while we were on the bikes, but as soon as we reached the hotel each evening …. Also, our boys (teens at the time) kept going ahead and once, on a route which took us away from the river, we lost them for the best part of the day.

    My husband and I just bought new bikes but so far we've only been around our small town. We have friends who know some good routes and trails, so we are planning to get out with them sometime soon – but jobs are still in the picture. It would be nice to go out on a weekday when the trails are empty. Happy cycling!

    1. Weekday cycling is one of the benefits of retirement. Sounds like your Danube trip was memorable…talk about motivation to reach the finish each day!

  4. Such pleasent suroundings you live in! Your reading is so tempting to mount immediately a bicycle. We have neglected cycling for some years and started again last year – being more often in countryside since then (I do not like cycling in a city). Greetings from Mary-Rose/Vienna

    1. I agree…cycling in the city, especially on streets with traffic is not enjoyable for me, either. I love the open fields and small towns best.

  5. Beautiful scenery! Everything looks so lush and green. I ride on the Silver Comet Trail (near Atlanta, Georgia) at least once a week, but sadly there are no river views. I remember a cute movie from the 70's about bicyle racing called Breaking Away. Have you seen it?

    1. Riverside trails are great this time of year…but much better on a bike than walking. That's the only way to outrun the mosquitoes! I have seen Breaking Away…isn't that the one where the dad gets so exasperated with the Tour de France obsessed kid who keeps speaking French to him?

  6. What a gorgeous ride! The scenery is spectacular. I've been wanting a bike for several years and keep putting it off. We liive in a hilly area and I hate the thought of loading it into the car. Going back to look at your gorgeous pictures now. Have a great week!

    1. Thanks Jennifer. We have to load our bikes in the truck each time we ride…unfortunately. While we live outside the city, on a busy road with no shoulder and pavement that is in poor condition. At it's worst it's dangerous, and even on good days not enjoyable. So we load up the bikes (actually they stay in the back of the truck between rides), drive for 10 minutes some days, or sometimes 20, to a trail or a safer route. It's funny but if we lived in the city there would be better choices for riding our bikes to the trail. But we'd probably still drive sometimes because we like variety.

  7. Ah, I'm so envious of the beautiful countryside you have available for biking! (And to have the time to do it.) We both really enjoy biking and always try to schedule at least one bike tour when we travel. Your photos are just lovely; thank you for sharing them!

    1. Time is the best part. Between driving the truck to the trail, unloading, riding, and driving back home, we're talking about a good part of the day. Or if we decide to do a long ride and take a picnic…all day. But that's what retirement is for, having time to do those things. And I know we're lucky to be able to do them.

  8. What a beautiful route to cycle …. You're so lucky that it's close to home and you can do it regularly. Your fitness regime sounds fun … and sociable! I walk early morning through parkland by a river … Perfect way to start the day! I have been meaning to try cycling again and your post has motivated me!! Hubby and son go mountain biking but your sort of cycling really appeals 🙂 Hope the results of your CT scan are ok. I had a sinus one recently too. Enjoy the Tour de France….have a good day

    1. Thanks Rosie. I love morning walking as well…just not too early! We have a great trail near here, a 2 minute drive. I love walking while listening to books on my i-pod…unless I'm with someone of course.

  9. Cycling through such beautiful scenery must be very relaxing despite pressure of training for the Tour! Lovely photos and amusing account of what is a potentially boring topic (not a great lover of exercise myself, necessary evil rather than pleasure). You seem to have found a variety of activities which work for you and I think that's key in sticking to any exercise plan. Enjoy the TdF. Iris

    1. Thanks Iris. Except for the cycling… I agree, to a certain extent. If I couldn't listen to books on my i-pod or read them thanks to the lectern that Hubby built on my exercise bike to hold a book, I'd pedal a lot less. And it would be a lot less interesting. As it is now, I use it as an excuse to read.

  10. Love this post. I think I mentioned in a past comment about my family trip to France and the Tour. I get the lecture from my husband too, but not for taking pictures. I can't help myself from inspecting various flotsam and road kill along the way. Biking here where I live in California is wonderful from Oct. to May. Summer months not so much, just too hot. Sally Henry

    1. Thanks. Yes…I remember your mentioning that trip, Sally. I guess your extreme heat in summer keeps your exercise indoors like our extreme cold does in winter.

  11. Can't wait to "virtually" follow the TDF wuth you! And, lucky you that hubby wants to ride with you. Mine is soooooo not interested! BTW, do you know PedalDancer's site? You might enjoy it for tour coverage … and France when Karen is there. If you don't find it, there is a link on mine. Who are you rooting for this year? I may get a front wheel, even a bit of toe into Canada in late July, will be riding he northern end of Lqke Champlain with 2 friends.

    1. Thanks, Suze. I will definitely check out that site. I haven't chosen a team yet…depends on who is riding for whom….I'm so fickle!

    2. Just reread your post … thanks so much for the mention of my climb!! Somehow I missed it first time I read yours.

  12. You could do the Tour, you know. There's a UK charity called Tour de Force that takes people round the actual Tour route just before the race itself. You can do a few stages or the whole thing. They have soigneurs and the whole package. A friend of ours did it last year and it was an epic achievement, especially the mountain stages in the heat. Have a look at their site: and who knows!

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