As Father’s Day is approaching we caught with our Head of Product and Operations Department, Alex to discuss how he maintains an active lifestyle as a father.
My name is Alex, I am 45 years old and a dad to 2 boys aged 6 and 8. My team and I create and deliver all the travel packages to the world’s best running and cycling events that you can currently see on the sports tours international website. www.sportstoursinternational.co.uk
We work with the 6 Marathon Majors, the 3 Grand Tours of Cycling and the 5 Monuments of Cycling. We offer the biggest selection of cycling hospitality days and we also offer fully supported packages or just things like entry or airport transfers to the major Cyclo-Sportives in Europe.
As it is father’s day, I do a lot of cycling and running and I am a father to 2 young boys, I was asked to write some words about being an active dad. To explain what I do and what works for me I will first of all explain how I got to work for sports tours in the first place.
Moving to the UK from France and starting with Sports Tours International
In July 2011, my wife and I were working for a ski tour operator in the French Alps. My wife as head of admin and reservations and I as area manager. Our eldest son had recently been born in Albertville, France and we felt that it was time to move back to the UK. We chose the north west of England as my wife is from near Clitheroe, Lancashire.
It is remarkably difficult to convince UK based companies of the transferable skills of a guy who has just been working for tour operators all across Europe for 15 years. It’s just something you do on a gap year or to bum around, right? I set my goals high and decided to just contact various companies I really wanted to work for on the off chance that they had a suitable role.
Chris Bird got in touch to say that Sports Tours international could have a suitable role and that he was in the area as a big cycling event that I had never heard of called the Etape du Tour was taking place in a resort called Val Frejus. We had a chat over a coffee and that November I was the ‘Head of Tours’ at Sports Tours International in Manchester. Thanks Chris for taking a chance on me. It seems to have worked out alright?!
Nearly 7 years later I know everything there is to know about the Etape du Tour as I have worked on the last 6 in a row and I rode it in July last year (boy was it hot on the Col d’Izoard!!) and I can confidently call myself an expert in sports travel. My brilliant team in the UK consists of Ironman athletes, former ski- and summer seasonaires and flight and reservation experts. Our overseas team of running reps, bike mechanics, drivers and hosts do a cracking job looking after our customers.
We are the best at this sports travel game and we’ve got the customer feedback emails and letters to prove it!
Exercising around work and family life
So we moved from Bourg saint Maurice in the French Alps to Chorley. I never had that in mind when I set off from Holland on my first ski season in 1996 but life works in mysterious ways. As we started with a clean slate in the UK we made some choices about how we were going to live and work.
We only bought one car as we thought it made sense for environmental, economical and health reasons
We searched for homes within 20 miles of the Sports Tours office (cycling commuting distance)
I bought myself a nice bike instead of a car. Happy days!
My daily commute above
Some bike commuting tips
For the last 6 years I have cycled on average 10,000 to 12,000 km every year, mainly by commuting in and out of work. The summers are obviously quite pleasant but the winters can be difficult, especially during the period that you leave in the morning in the dark only to return at night in the dark as well. The main problem is that the UK road and train infrastructure are not made for cyclists.
Obviously cycling is good for you and in terms of options to get to and from work every day, driving is the only option people will consider, especially given the poor and expensive train services.
The one major thing which is holding others in the UK back from also commuting to work on their bikes is that the roads are a very inhospitable environment for cyclists. Undue emphasis is put on what cyclists have to wear and do which is not helpful, may put new cyclists off and deflects from the real issue – infrastructure needs to improve.
Wearing a helmet, hi viz clothing and lights are not the answer to improving conditions for cyclists. When assessing risk by using the hierarchy of hazard control measures, PPE (personal protection equipment) should only be used as a last resort
Some other tips
Get a bomb-proof aluminium or steel bike for everyday commuting and expect punctures. I have a Ribble Audax bike with mudguards and panniers and I can now change a puncture at the road side in less than 10 minutes
Use an app to track your progress and keep motivated. Use the security settings on Strava if you don’t want to get your bike robbed out of your shed however
Cycle defensively. Always expect the car driver to do the worst possible thing
Never respond to aggressive behaviour or abuse
Stick meticulously to all traffic rules
One other very important thing is that you can’t do this every day unless you have the support from your employer. Here at Sports Tours International we are lucky that we have showers and changing facilities at work and the opportunity to take part in events throughout the year. We are also very lucky to get some great gear. We have just received our new Santini cycling kit. They will see me coming in the orange waterproof!!
Even though I cycle a lot because I commute every day, I want to run as well but I don’t want to spend too much time at the weekend. I did my first marathon in Berlin in 2015 and I was a little bit disappointed with the time of 3.49 so I’ve always wanted to do more. I like to keep my weekends clear to spend time with my family so how to fit in all this running? The answer is either running to and from the train station but the trains have been very poor this year so that leaves LUNCH RUNS (Runch).
We have a nice park next to the office so ideal to escape for 40 minutes during the day to arrive back refreshed and ready to go for the rest of the afternoon. At the moment I am averaging about 55km of runs per week with 200km of cycling commuting.
As you would expect, Sports Tours also provides some nice branded running kit to running staff to give some extra motivation to get out and about.
My lunch run above
People are different and everyone’s personal circumstances are different. The above is just what works for me and the most important thing is that I actually enjoy cycling and running and I find that it allows me some to think and to clear my head before during and after work without taking too much time away from spending time with my family. Like with work if you find an activity that you enjoy then it will never feel like a chore.
Great Read Alex, thanks for sharing
Written by Cameron Phillips, 13th June 2018 - Reply