You remember, ages ago, I said I was going to cycle across America on a journey of sporty, spiritual, lady-empowerment? Then I repeated the sentiment a month or so later? I thought it was probably time to reiterate again, just so you know I’m not pissing around, because I’ve even decided on a route, sort of. When I say “route”, I mean a vague set of directions (I settled on Alabama, FYI) spanning approximately 2,500 miles, that I hope will translate into actual roads and paths and all that. But these are minor details and presently I have more pressing concerns.
While experiencing some erratic sleeping patterns recently, I took it upon myself to spend these bonus witching hours googling “dangerous animals in north America”, an issue which you’ll know from my last post has been causing me some consternation. The good news is the number of annual fatalities in the US caused by snake or spider bites, scorpion stings or other rampant reptiles is low. The bad news is that almost every state I’m passing through is a “gator state”, which I figure must skew the odds against me.
But according to my insomnia-borne research, while it’s true that crocs are absolute bastards, gators are pretty lazy. Gators won’t usually attack you, but if they do, you can probably ward them off by a. running away, or if you’re unlucky enough to find yourself in the grip of their steely jaws, b. punching them in the face (this is genuine advice). So at least I’m prepared.
What I’m less prepared for are the people who Phil, husband of Important OCJOG Lady Ruth, is worried will hack me to death in a rusty bath tub. I’d like the record to show that bezzie Vera will be tracking me on Strava (for those not acquainted with the dark arts of bicycle-geekery, it’s an App that tracks your bike rides so you can passive-aggressively demonstrate your cycling prowess to pals) for the duration. HAVE THAT, baddies. PHEW.
The other thing I’ve been thinking about is my fitness, having made the questionable decision not to worry too much about cycling loads, now – I don’t want to be bored of cycling by the time I get out there! So I took myself off to the Surrey Human Performance Institute to analyse exactly what kind of nick I’m in, via a fairly unpleasant ramp test, a gas mask and some small incisions in the ear lobe, conducted by Annabelle, Jordan and Matt, kindly students working at the Institute, who did a marvellous job at minimising the pain.
It turns out I have better VO2 max (summat to do with your body’s ability to transport oxygen – the thing Lance Armstrong was dicking around with, with all those ruddy blood transfusions) than predicted for my age/sex/weight etc but it’s still not that good; my performance threshold is shite (i.e. I’m slow and I’m even flipping slower when it comes to hills), but on the plus side, according to the rather undignified measurement of variously located skinfolds, my level of body fat is “excellent” for a normal person and “good” for an elite athlete. With a personalised training plan under my belt, I’m excited to compare aforementioned nick post-stupidly-arduous-journey.
But, as well as confirming I’m not as fit as I’d like to be, my bizarre fixation on body fat percentage brought something else into sharper focus, for me: The Point Of It All. Admittedly for those of us who aren’t experts, the more scientific side of performance analysis is harder to engage with because we don’t understand it so well, but after being told I wasn’t fat, I found it hard to really care about any of the other results. Sod my fitness and performance – so long as I’m skinny it’s all good. There was a moment of fist pumping and an audible “Yeeeeeeesssssss!”, followed by a longer reflective period of wondering why I still felt, as I always have, like a bit of a chubber.
Let’s not be silly about this, I’m not daft – I know by looking at myself in the mirror that I’m not overweight, and “puppy-fat” aside, I’m not even sure I ever have been – but I have always felt it. To now have it conclusively and scientifically proven that not only do I not have a huge surplus of body fat, I’d be doing ok if I were an elite athlete, this probably should’ve been enough (in fairness I did redress the balance as soon as I got home by stuffing my face with cake). So the fact that as a rational, sensible human being, I had to force myself to accept this, might be a little worrying.
I could therefore only really conclude, as I have for some time now (and this is probably a bit of a no shit Sherlock moment), that the media is making us batshit crazy about our appearance by bombarding us with images of beauty that are beyond unattainable and in fact not even real. The focus on women’s looks over and above any other offering we might make society continues to be so pronounced that it’s now apparently necessary to digitally re-master the celebrities and models adorning our magazine pages, as if they were a dodgy 70s science fiction movie that would be enjoyed more if the original artwork looked a bit less like the spaceship was a cardboard cut-out, selotaped to an ice-cream stick.
There are so many things wrong with this. For a start, I love that ice-cream stick – I think it’s fucking charming. Secondly, lest we forget the reason everyone cares so much about how we look is because society still believes we are to be seen and not heard, with little else of value to offer than the ability to mix and harvest gametes for 9 months. That spaceship is your mum, your sister, your daughter, and you’d be the first person to recoil in horror if she were condensed to nothing more than a pair of tits, perfect or otherwise. So, that’s The Point – I’m bored of being undermined and undervalued and the prospect of raising young girls under this regime is terrifying. Consider this an appraisal, if you will, of an estimated sum of our immeasurable worth and a celebration of the beauty of women’s achievements.
I underwent a cycling performance analysis courtesy of the Surrey Human Performance Institute, which offers a range of services. More information can be found on their website.