Saturday, 15 January 2022

Lab rat

lab study vo2max ftp

At the end of last year I was sent some info on a health study being run at Kent University.

It was to study the effects of ageing on Physiologic complexity, mitochondrial capacity, and muscle function.

A little explanation; I didn't know what it meant.

Physiologic complexity, mitochondrial capacity, and muscle function are important physiological measures to our understanding of the aging process. Aging has been shown to result in a loss of physiologic complexity, mitochondrial capacity, and muscle function. This diminution in physiological functioning, potentially underlies frailty and a reduced health span with age. There is, however, promising evidence that exercise may provide an effective intervention for maintaining and/or restoring the functioning of these key physiological measures with age. The PhD aims to explore the effect of physical activity levels and aging on human skeletal muscle function and adaptability. 

The first of three visits to the lab was on the 8th Jan. 

It included a session on a device that measures my functional threshold power or FTO. It is the average number of watts that a rider can sustain in an hour, and acts as a current measure of fitness. I was completely shattered at the end of the test; which is how the test ends. The bike steadily increases the resistance until you can't pedal anymore. The face mask allows the measurement of VO2 max, or maximal oxygen consumption. That is the maximum amount of oxygen that an individual can utilize during intense or maximal exercise. This measurement is generally considered the best indicator of cardiovascular fitness and aerobic endurance.

What is physiological complexity?

Outputs of physiological processes (such as muscle contractions) measured over a time-series produce complex fluctuations in their signals, which appear self-similar over multiple measurement scales. The ‘complexity’ of these signals can be measured, with a ‘complex’ signal producing irregular self-similar fluctuations. Whereas a less ‘complex’ signal produces more regular fluctuations and may have a narrower frequency. Physiological signals have been shown to become less complex and lose information (i.e., narrowing of frequency) with age, which may reduce the ability to adapt to acute stressors and potentially lead to a loss of physical function and eventually frailty.

What is mitochondrial capacity?

Mitochondria are the ‘power houses’ of cells and are central to the conversion of energy by oxidizing substrates and creating the chemical energy ATP, which is crucial for physiological functioning and exercise performance. Mitochondrial capacity or function is the mitochondria’s ability to generate ATP. Several methods can be used to measure skeletal muscle mitochondrial capacity. Recent technological developments have allowed for non- invasive measurements using the rate of muscle oxygen consumption. A method which will be used in the current study. Aging results in a reduction in mitochondrial capacity and is known to be a key mechanism for a loss of physical function and exercise capacity. However, exercise has been shown to maintain/improve mitochondrial capacity and potentially reverse age- related losses.

What is muscle function?

In the context of the current study, muscle function is the ability of the muscle to generate force. This can be measured using an isokinetic dynamometer with an individual’s maximal force/torque being their muscle function. Aging is known to result in a loss of muscle mass, particularly in less active populations. Maintenance of muscle function with age is important for the continued performance of daily living tasks, physical activities, and the extension of an individual’s health span.

resistance measurement
isokinetic dynamometer

I didn't use the static bike again. That was very tough. I'm glad I did it though. I can add structure and goals to my cycling, especially when on the indoor bike and continue to improve.

Session two started with forty minutes of heart monitoring; I had a lay down and relaxed.

Then back onto the machine above, this time with electrodes attached to my leg. This recorded the strength and consistency of the nerve impulses and how long I could sustain them.

The least comfortable test was using an inflatable cuff normally used to check blood pressure. In the instance it was used at high inflation to restrict blood flow, a device like the one you see on a smart watch, but much more accurate tested oxygen usage.  

Next week will be the same. In this way the tests can be assessed for their accuracy.


FTP: 248 watts

VO2Max: 51.1 

Being active is health improving. This study will explain in more detail just how it works. As we get older this is more important. I'm very pleased to have helped in some way.

Friday, 31 December 2021

Doubled up in the studio


studio photoshoot

First studio shoot since August 2020.

We spoke a few weeks ago about getting together for a photoshoot. It was good to explore a few themes. Saskia had outfits prepared and poses in mind, as always we quickly found out rhythm.

This session had a twist; James, a friend of Saskia's came along.

male studio shoot

He wanted to experience a shoot, and brought some great ideas. The main one was monochrome, simple poses and contrast.

Saskia was interested in bright and colourful, although I couldn't resist one with the colour removed.

black and white monochrome

I haven't photographed many male models, no particular reason except there a less of them. And I must admit I find it harder to pose them. The standard images are very macho inspired, I try to portray inner strength and confidence in my pictures. 

James definitely brought this mindset. Saskia knows what she wants to achieve. For me translating their ideas into pictures; adjusting lighting, making suggestions about angles and poses is something I very much enjoy.

A description delivered.

Moving lights and position made a big difference to how dark the background appeared. In reality it was much more vibrant when lit more directly.

Another simple shot; showing vulnerability, and confidence.

Once we had the wind machine setup and some wild hair under control we kept firing away to capture movement.

wind machine movement

We start off a set with an idea and move around, the smallest change can have a big impact.

I am incredibly pleased with how it worked out. As I write this I haven't completed editing, so await feedback. I hope they like the results as much as I do. 

Saturday, 18 December 2021

Not lucky; very lucky

train home from Ford

It all started so well. I wasn't going to ride this years winter solstice century alone. Peter from Oxted CC was joining me. It got better; the weather had improved, and Peter had a route via Littlehampton that for the most part was on quiet lanes.

We met at 08:30 and were in Steyning two hours later for coffee and cake at Victoria's Sponge. If you are in the area, they are very friendly and the coffee and cake were delicious.

steyning coffee and cake

A steep climb was rewarded with some great views.

views near steyning and bamber castle

Here is one of me.

Then on into Littlehampton for more coffee and beans on toast.

Then across the River Arun.

River Arun

It in was the village of Ford where the bad luck started. At first just a loud clunk from the back wheel, and a slack chain; that sorted itself. Then as we came to a halt at the level crossing for local station complete failure. The pedals spun but no drive. No way to fix it meant a walk on to the platform to check the timetable.

I would be on my way on fifteen minutes, if the service was on time. Peter continued riding, and I was seated in a carriage a quarter of an hour later. It took me to Redhill, the closest the line went to my house. Peter had said that once he got home he would drive to pick me up. And at first that was the plan. The taxi rank was lined with saloons, no good to carry my bike, and the train to Purley where I could change for one to Caterham had been cancelled. The taxi's changed quickly and a people carrier soon arrived. The driver said it would be no problem to drop the rear seats to make enough space. I texted Peter to stay at home, and thanked him very much for the offer of a lift. Twenty minutes later I was locking the bike in the garage.

It will be Tuesday before I can get the problem looked and hopefully quickly fixed.

Monday, 6 December 2021

Feeling it

feel the sound

Sitting on the couch listening to Lenny Kravitz recently was a kind of eureka moment. I had the sound turned up, and playing through my stereo system. I was completely immersed, like I had been as a teenager at concerts. You feel the music as much as hear it. Obviously it wasn't venue filling loud, the dial only goes to ten, not eleven. If I had the room I'd get a subwoofer or two; really feel it. I don't think you get the same experience with headphones.

It's the same with my other interests: cycling and photography.

It's the reason I like to ride fast, not for the adrenaline of speed, but the exertion it requires. I become immersed in the moment. That's why it works for the trainer in the garage, I'm stationary afterall. 

I have experienced a loss of motivation lately, only partly weather related. If I were riding on my own, I'm not sure I would be riding as often as I do. The weekends with Oxted cycling club and Matt have kept me going. After work means I'm fit enough to enjoy the weekend. Although last Saturday and especially Sunday the poor weather did test my resolve. It wasn't too bad with Oxted, but Sunday Matt was busy so I went out in the rain on my own. I guess my determination isn't as damaged as I thought.

I have scaled back my photography, a few photowalks have been the extent of it this year. I don't see that changing much in the future, I have even contemplated selling the equipment. 

I found myself just going through the motions, the exceptions being two shoots I did in 2020 with Alex and Saskia.

I have a studio session later this month with Saskia. We met recemtly to discuss some ideas she had. I am looking forward to it, it'll be a chance to reawaken the creativity. Prove to myself I can enjoy it again.

It's only a couple of weeks, we'll be over the winter equinox, and the days will start to get longer. I hope January and February are mild next year. 

I have some upgrades for my bike to install, but they will wait until the better weather returns. 

Hopefully that will reinvigorate my motivation.

Watch this space for the reveal.

Sunday, 28 November 2021

Chilly walk

goalposts sunrise november

A very cold Sunday morning in November with errands to complete meant no cycling. I did have time for a short walk. I hadn't anticipated how very different the temperature was going to be compared to Saturday. It was freezing, I didn't stay out for long; the cold soon getting to my hands and feet.

The first picture I took, the one above, seemed to convey how outside space is abandoned at this time of year. It will be a few months before this pitch will see any use.


This bench will likely remain unused for longer. The few dog walkers I saw didn't look keen to hang around.

icy puddle.

I didn't see frosty grass, or much ice covered puddles. Just a few patches in sheltered areas. This was a surprise, the night had definitely been the coldest so far.

There were still patches of green amongst the yellows, golds and reds of autumn.

green fern amongst autumn colours

The golden hour as the sun follows it's low trajectory across the sky only appears to add warmth. This was the last picture I took before packing up and heading home for a hot drink.

golden hour sunrise

I must try to get out more with my camera next year.

Thursday, 25 November 2021

2022 challenge update


Solstice route 2022

Back in July I mentioned my plans for another ride on the longest day next year to raise money for the mental health charity Mind. Here is the link.

There have been some developments.

I've booked the time off work.

Decided I'd ride back rather than get the train. It seemed too much stress could be involved, and it isn't much cheaper than two nights in B&B's.

Booked accommodation for two nights.
Sponsorship page created. See just below main site picture.

Let me explain why I'm not returning by train; I mentioned it might be stressful. I couldn't guarantee a carriage for the bike and even if there was one; the design is not well thought out. It could cause damage, or be full. They are built with the expectation to hold more bikes than actually fit in the space. At least that's what I've read.

I wanted to have time to appreciate the countryside as I rode. The outward journey would just be focused on getting to the end. 
After a couple of days with my sister I'm taking three days to return.
to colyton
Return day one
At first I considered staying at two locations from a hotel chain. I thought it would be cost effective, and easy. Lenny Henry may like them, but they were more expensive than I anticipated. They mention arriving by bike on the website. I could store it in my room, unless it was dirty. I'd be responsible for getting it clean if that was the case. I wasn't sure how I'd achieve that at the end of the ride. So looked for owner run B&B's, and I'm pleased I did. Friday night will be in a small village called Colyton. I asked about secure bike storage. No problem was the quick reply from both places. 
Colyton to Salisbury
Return day two

Saturday night will be in Salisbury.
Salisbury to home
Return day three
I'm really looking forward to this. The challenge of the first day, seeing my sister, and exploring the countryside on the way home.

I might meet up with a fellow bike adventurer, if we can organise a place and time. He writes a cycling blog that I read. He lives in Devon and leads bikepacking trips, produces route guides, sells t-shirts that he designs and I'm sure much more. Here is the blog.