When it comes to food and exercise, I take my inspiration from the ancient Greek saying 'pan metron ariston' – everything in moderation. Admittedly, I exercise more moderately than I eat. So when my local gym offered a chance for members to participate in our very own Tour de France (albeit on the exercise bikes gracing the flat terrain of our suburban gym), I only gave it a cursory glance. The idea was that you did ten cycle classes within the 23 day period of the actual Tour. But as I continued to read the flyer, I saw there was a chance to win two bikes, and a night at the winery Chateau Yering, including dinner for two. I did the maths – the chances of winning were much better than Tatts. And there was a food prize to be won. I was in.
So I pick up my pass, which has to be stamped each time I do a class. And then school holidays start. I’d forgotten to factor that one into the equation. The family eats more comfort food than is probably good for us. The adults drink a few too many glasses of wine. And we all watch more than the daily recommended allowance of reality television. I get to the gym only sporadically. And so my pass remains largely unstamped and the promise of a night for two at Chateau Yering is all but a distant fantasy.
But once the kids go back to school, something happens. I hop onto the scales and see that the comfort foods weren’t actually disappearing into some mysterious ether – I have gained weight. I reason that if I did a spin class almost every single day for the next 10 days, I could get my stamps and perhaps even redress the weight balance. Could I do it? I was damn well going to try.
So I plan my days around classes, forfeiting sleep-ins on the weekends, rushing the kids out of the house in the mornings so that I could get to the gym, and sweating it out in my bike pants like I’d never sweated it out before.
Now the idea of doing so many cycling classes over a short period might sound boring to some – but our gym offered distractions. Like the special guest instructor who was described as ‘eye candy’ by one excited participant; each of the classes reproducing the stages of the Tour (some flats, lots of hills); and the often colourful descriptions of French countryside by instructors to help us forget that we were surrounded by four walls. But my very favourite distraction was food talk. During one class, our spin mistress Helen told us that if we rode hard, she’d let us stop to eat a slice or two of a baguette, a piece of cheese, and a glass of champagne. This was so much better than my lame fantasy about what I was going to have for brunch after class. But then she gave us the sobering facts: a serve of brie is 91 calories; a glass of champagne 87 calories; and a slice of the baguette a whopping 175 calories. We would have to work really hard to earn our rest stop. The information is disconcerting, given that it takes me an hour of excruciatingly hard riding to work off a mere 600 calories - and that I can polish off the above feast quicker than you can say 'French food'.
With around a week to go, I’m hoping to complete my ten spin classes and earn my own metaphorical 'personal best' yellow jersey, even if I don't win the prize. And what am I going to do to celebrate when I get there? I’m going to have a glass of champagne. Calories? What calories?