Make Space For Others To Shine
Plus the Asian squat, Cistercian numerals and dismantling the patriarchy
And a warm welcome from a squatted perch overlooking the ocean.
Following on from last week’s appeal for healthy habitual alternatives to any form of knee-based self-care, I have started using a squatting desk.
Inspired by a 2017 article by physical therapist Carrie Williamson, this is an almost certainly marketable term for ‘swapping my chair for an upturned kettlebell’.
Since December 2019, I have recorded 772 at-home yoga sessions, at an average of 16 minutes per day (currently more like 8 minutes).
I’ve been amazed at what a difference this investment of 1 percent of my waking time has made to my flexibility.
The fact that I can get into the Asian squat position is a minor miracle considering that, three years ago, I couldn’t sit cross-legged on the floor.
But there is a gross story about why I started stretching on the daily — you want to hear it?
In summer 2019, I cycled with Thighs of Steel from Paris to Bordeaux and then from Ljubljana to Athens.
Every night for four weeks, we’d wild camp — along with everything that entails.
Sleeping under a scrap of canvas, washing in rivers or lakes, eating high-carb meals under the stars as the sun set and dawn rose.
And, of course, pooing into a freshly dug hole in the ground.
This isn’t where the story gets gross.
At first, the pooing was fine.
My flexibility wasn’t up to much, so I wasn’t able to position myself over my poo hole very comfortably, but that didn’t seem to matter so long as I dug the pit near a tree against which I could balance myself.
But then all that high-carb food caught up with me and I got a touch of constipation.
Constipation is uncomfortable enough, but, with a relaxing toilet seat unavailable and physically unable to squat, I found myself straining harder than I usually might.
And this is where the story gets gross.
One morning, after porridge at a beautiful riverside camp spot in Croatia, I strained so hard that I slightly tore my anus.
The discomfort stayed with me for the rest of the ride — and I can tell you that one thing you really don’t want while cycling for ten hours a day is even a slightly torn anus.
When I got home to the UK, I vowed that I would do something about my inability to defecate comfortably without a throne.
So began my daily yoga sessions — and now look at me. Not only can I take wildly adventurous poos, but I can even write gross stories to you while crouching in a kettlebell-supported squat.
Start from where you are, and start today.
For those of you new to these pages, hello 👋 My name is David and I’m a writer, outdoor instructor and cyclist-at-large with Thighs of Steel. I write stories that help you and me understand the world (and ourselves) a little better.
I sometimes write about poo.
Welcome to edition 346.
Make Space For Others To Shine
Summer feels like a loooong time ago, eh?
It’s dark outside and the windows are misted up with rain. Our tans have faded and even our steely thighs have turned to jelly.
As all but the freshest or most cursory reader will know, I’m one of the infamous community of cyclists that make up Thighs of Steel and every year I help organise what is almost certainly Europe’s longest charity bike ride.
Last summer, our 93 cyclists not only rode 5,428km from Glasgow to Athens, but also raised a record-breaking (for us) £114,632 in solidarity with grassroots refugee projects through charity MASS Action.
I know that many TDCN readers contributed to the pot, so thank you: £114,632, including £12k in Gift Aid, is such a significant amount of money.
It means that MASS Action have been able to give a big YES to no fewer than sixteen solidarity projects, covering pretty much every aspect of the movement for migrant social justice:
Community centres offer everything from nourishing meals and legal support to bus tickets and hot showers in Thessaloniki (Wave Thessaloniki), Samos (Just Action) and Athens (Khora)
Several projects provide accommodation or work to improve living conditions in Sheffield (ASSIST Sheffield), Glasgow (Scottish Asylum Seekers Resident Association) and Athens (Chamomile and Mazi x FORGE For Humanity)
The Babylon Project offers drama, storytelling, film-making and dance in the UK, while Musikarama connects people through music in Athens
Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group supports people during and after immigration detention
Hakoura Organic is an ecological cooperative farm established by refugees in the countryside northwest of Athens
No Evictions Network, No Borders Network and Calais Migrant Solidarity take direct action to support the rights, safety and dignity of people on the move in the UK and France
In Scotland, LGBT UNITY is a peer support group made up of LGBTQIA+ refugees and asylum seekers in Glasgow and Bike For Refugees runs cycling community hubs in Glasgow and Edinburgh
Phew! Hard to believe what a couple of months’ cycling can achieve.
It’s so significant that we couldn’t even display every project on one pie chart, so please hurry along to The Reason and read more about what all that money is doing out in the world.
And — YES — this isn't even the whole pie. There’s still £7,445.23 for MASS Action to distribute after this summer’s ride, wherever the need is greatest.
Sorry, did somebody say ‘this summer’s ride’?
Once again, we’ll be facilitating the highlight of your summer, starting in Glasgow on 14 July and finishing a continent later in Athens on 17 September.
We open for signups on Friday 17 February at 6pm — but ONLY if you’re on our special secret early access email list.
The most popular weeks sell out minutes after going live, so get on it!
Humanity is a team game. We don’t have to do it all — we can’t — but we can choose to play our part.
I’m lucky that my part, right now, is to help put on a bike ride that makes space for others to shine — not only the ninety-odd cyclists who surprise themselves with their own strength, but also the people and projects making change happen on the ground.
Everything we do in life either brings us one step closer together or pushes us further apart.
Go Team Human.
This Weeekend: Thighs LIVE!
This weekend, thighs have not one but TWO speakers at the Virtual Cycle Touring Festival. Both free, both online, both at 5pm, both awesome.
Flight Free UK’s Anna Hughes on cycling Lyon to Milan via the Alps
5pm Saturday (tomorrow!)
Last summer, Anna Hughes cycled with thighs from the plains of Lyon, up and over the Alps, and down into the historic Italian city of Milan: mountain passes, river swims, extreme heat and epic camping spots. Plus no planes ✊
Register here to join Anna on Zoom
Making Refugees Welcome: A World Record Breaking GPS Story On Bikes
In 2021, 63 thighs cyclists rode 2,208km across southern England on a route that spelled out REFUGEES WELCOME. It was the world’s biggest GPS bike artwork and raised £81,428 for refugee solidarity projects.
But what did Radio New Zealand, celebrity chef Gordon Ramsey, and infamous immigrant-baiting redtop The Sun make of it all?
Register here to join me and Georgie on Zoom
Set your Zooms for thighs o’clock and see ya there! 💚
100 Days Of Adventure 2023
Three Small Big Things At The End
Dismantling The Patriarchy One Group Ride At A Time
Until there’s a group ride happening every night of the week, there’s work to be done.
The New Forest Off Road Club show us how.
800 years ago, a Leicester-based monk from an influential order of Catholic reformists introduced a numerical system that could encode every number from 1 to 9999 as a single glyph:
Not especially useful, but you can’t deny it’s clever.
The Safest Decade In The World… EVER!
This mind-scrambling graph was shared in the latest Future Crunch newsletter:
If you’re ever feeling like things aren’t going your way in the news media, turn to the Future Crunch archives.
I highly recommend searching the annual archives for your home country or a topic you particularly need to hear good news on.
Searching for the UK in 2022 turns up 25 matches, including:
£15 billion of new offshore wind farms announced at record-low power prices
Five major nature recovery projects are underway to restore a whooping 99,000 hectares of land across the West Midlands, Cambridgeshire, the Peak District, Norfolk, and Somerset
The UK has pardoned all gay and bisexual men convicted under a law that criminalised same-sex relations until the 1980s
Or browsing last year’s archives for ‘vaccine’ pulls up 30 matches, among which:
Ebola has been defeated thanks to vaccines and effective clinical treatments
Over one million children in Ghana, Kenya and Malawi have now received one or more doses of the world’s first malaria vaccine
Thanks to measles vaccines, an astonishing 56 million lives have been saved since 2000
I mean. Talk about impact.
That’s all for this week. Thanks for reading and I hope you found something to take away with you.
This newsletter is supported directly by readers like you. Join ‘em with a £30 or £5 contribution. Cheers!