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Are you looking for the perfect challenge this year? We have found the ideal one for any super cyclists who are eager to raise money for charity. It is time to get on your bike and sign up for the annual Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle. Participants are now being encouraged to sign up for the annual fundraising event, which is both a test of endurance and an unforgettable experience.

Registration is now open at www.ringofkerrycycle.ie for one of the nation’s favourite charity cycles with organisers looking forward to welcoming returning hardy perennials who have taken part in this epic cycle more than once, as well as newbies eager to prove their mettle on the 175k route around the stunningly scenic Ring of Kerry. 

“The Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle is considered a ‘bucket list’ experience by veterans of the annual event,” said Bridget McGuire, Chairperson for the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle. “The route will undoubtedly test your fitness and endurance, but the camaraderie of fellow cyclists that travel all over the world just to take part, encouragement from spectators, and the knowledge that your fundraising efforts can make such a big difference to deserving charities is all the motivation you’ll need to get you around the route!”

Each year, six charities are shortlisted from a long list of applicants to become approved beneficiaries of the Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle. This year, cyclists can choose to raise much-needed funds for the following charities:

  1. Ard Chúram Day Care Centre, Listowel – A daycare service that operates from Monday to Saturday and caters for older people in a purpose-built centre in Greenville, Listowel.
  2. Banna Rescue – A voluntary inshore and land rescue unit covering one of the busiest and best beaches in the country.
  3. Breakthrough Cancer Research – An Irish medical research charity focused on raising vital funds for cancer supports and services.
  4. Cunamh Iveragh – A respite home for adults with special needs in South Kerry.
  5. Down Syndrome Ireland (Kerry branch) – Helping people with Down Syndrome to make their own futures as bright and independent as possible by providing them with education, support and friendship every step of the way.
  6. St Francis Special School – Providing educational programmes in Beaufort for students with moderate/severe/profound general disabilities. 

Registration for #ROKCC2020 costs €100 plus a 3.5 percent service fee per entry. Cyclists can fundraise with an official Ring of Kerry Charity Cycle 2020 sponsorship card or through the online fundraising platform, www.everydayhero.com. While the six main beneficiary charities benefit thanks to the efforts of the cyclists, an additional number of charities will receive funds raised through the registration process.

With an entry limit of 6,500 cyclists this year, places on Ireland’s favourite charity cycle are expected to sell out quickly, so participants are encouraged to secure their spot soon. The #ROKCC2020 team will be posting regularly across its social media channels, where they’ll offer training tips and hints on how cyclists can boost their fundraising, highlight the beneficiary charities, and introduce followers to a number of cyclists ahead of July 4, so be sure to follow and tag as you prepare for the big event.

For more information and to register visit, www.ringofkerrycycle.ie. To set up your fundraising page, click here.

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Travelling solo is something we’ve all yearned for, especially those of us who have read Eat, Pray, Love at least three times. However, the fear of the unknown can prevent us from exploring all this planet has to offer. That’s why the team at Shemazing have teamed up with some of the most inspiring and empowering ladies, who have travelled alone. Their stories will educate you, inspire you and leave you itching to catch the next flight out of your hometown.

In the second instalment of our series Travelling Light, we speak to Lauren Pears about her solo cycle from London to Istanbul.

Travelling solo has been a dream of Lauren’s since she graduated from university, but she was apprehensive about going on her own, until she realised that she’ll never get to see the world if she waits around for someone else.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Lauren Pears (@laurenpears_) on

“I've learned that if I wait for someone else to drum up the time, money and interest to accompany me on a trip I want to take, I'll never end up going! Particularly for this bicycle journey, I didn't know of anyone who wanted to join me. So I went by myself. In many ways, I actually prefer solo travel as I can do my own thing and I don't have to make compromises with anybody else. 

“Solo travel seems to be romanticised all over travel blogs and Instagram these days, which I think makes it easier to find inspiration and confidence to do the same.”

Lauren took on one of her biggest adventures to date as she cycled from London to Istanbul this summer, which was the journey of a lifetime for the writer.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Lauren Pears (@laurenpears_) on

“I've cycled through some beautiful scenery, met some amazing people, and visited some of Europe's greatest cities. Bratislava and Istanbul were my favourite cities, whereas the Wachau Valley in Austria and the Djerdap Gorge in Serbia were the most spectacular sights.

“It sounds cliche, but I really do feel like I learned a lot about myself. Cycling solo nearly every day gives you a lot of time to just think, and so I've managed to come to terms with a lot of problems from my past, and feel that my confidence and independence have grown. I felt a huge mixture of emotions over the past three months; loneliness, joy, liberation, pride, anxiety… It's been quite the whirlwind.”

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Lauren Pears (@laurenpears_) on

The challenge seemed daunting at first but Lauren was met with nothing but support and kindness throughout her travels. She was greeted with open arms and friendly faces as she cycled across Europe by herself.

“Nothing bad happened. Nothing bad even almost happened. It just reminded me that I'm a perfectly capable person who can take care of herself. I'm aware that cycling solo comes with some risks, but I always listened to my instincts and took precautions.

“I remember cycling past the Serbian border feeling very defensive – a lot of people had told me that Serbia was an unsafe country and that I should be extra careful there. It turns out that Serbia is home to the most fiercely warm and hospitable people I've ever encountered on my travels, and I shouldn't have listened to other people's misconceptions. People would shout "welcome to Serbia!" as I cycled past; a truck driver handed me some oranges at a petrol station; I was greeted with coffee or juice at every campsite I stopped at. The world isn't out to get you, as some people seem to believe.”

The main aim of Lauren’s solo cycle was to raise awareness about sustainability and eco-friendly travel. She hopes to show people that you can see the world without relying on trains, planes and automobiles.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Lauren Pears (@laurenpears_) on

“I wanted to find alternative ways of travelling; ways that didn't harm the environment so much. My dad is a keen bicycle tourist, having cycled through Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. I'll also never forget the day he said "I'm going to go to the Pyrenees," packed a tent and some clothes on his bike and went! 

“He made me realise that cycling is a feasible – albeit slow – way of exploring a region, and has little to no impact on the environment. And, given that continental Europe is just across a narrow stretch of sea from England, I realised I could take my bike across and cycle the entire continent. So that's exactly what I did. Plus, it's a lot cheaper than interrailing!”

Lauren hopes her adventures will encourage people to be more eco-friendly when they travel.

We should be positively impacting the environment, local culture and wildlife when we travel, not causing more harm to them.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Lauren Pears (@laurenpears_) on

She advised eager travellers, “This can be as basic as ensuring you don't litter, respecting the local culture and wildlife, and to shop and eat locally. It can also be bigger things such as thinking about how we travel. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as an eco-friendly flight. And, if you travel, it’s likely you use aeroplanes. Wherever possible, try to use land-based modes of transport to get from A to B – not only will this reduce your carbon footprint, but you’ll also get to see more of the country! If it’s not possible to avoid flights, try to take direct flights wherever possible. Layovers are worse for the environment as take-off and landing use more fuel than when the plane is cruising.”

You can follow Lauren’s solo adventures on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. Read more about her travels on her blog.

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Buying a bike is a big commitment, and while cities are equip with infrastructure to support a cycling lifestyle, there are a few things to consider.

5. Insurance

Bikes, along with their various accessories, can be expensive. 

Bike insurance is one way to cover yourself in cases of theft or damage, and can cost less that a fiver a month. 

Shop around for the best insurance to suit your needs, or ask the person you buy the bike from if they have any recommendations. 

4. Route

Knowing your route is essential, especially fi you're planning on using your bike regularly to travel to work. 

Even in th biggest cities, not all streets and roads have cycling lanes, so you need to brush up on ths etiquette regarding cycling on the road vs on the path depending on how safe it is.

Knowing where to look out for merging lanes or side roads is essential too. 

3. Public transport

Cycling in the city can be a handy way to get around, but you may sill have to rely on public transport occasionally. 

If this is the case, a folding bike is a great option. 

It gives you the freedom to decide whether you're goinh to cycle home or get the bus or train, and means you don't have to risk cycling home under the influencer if you decide to head out to the pub after work for a few hours. 

2. Security

While purchasing the right bike is a decision enough in itself, how you keep it safe is another. 

Never scrimp on a decent lock for your bike, or you might just arrive back to wherever you left it and find it very much stolen. 

Some places also offer bike lockers, where you can store your bike, safe from the elements, for up to 12 hours. 

1. Cycle to Work scheme 

If your company is part of the cycle to work scheme, take advantage.

The tax incentive scheme encourages employees to cycle to and from work, with employers paying for bicycles and bicycle equipment for their employees.

The employee pays back through a salary sacrifice arrangement of up to 12 months. 

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So, we're all aware of the physical benefits of cycling.

The low impact exercise can greatly improve cardiovascular fitness, increase muscle strength and flexibility and even lead to lead better posture and coordination.

But, the health benefits don't end there. A new study has found that choosing a bike over a car for your morning commute could actually help reduce stress and improve your work performance.

Researchers at Concordia University compared how different modes of transport affected the stress levels of workers.

The results suggested that cycling to work is the best way to start your day if you are feeling stressed.

Lead author, Stéphane Brutus, said, "Employees who cycled to work showed significantly lower levels of stress within the first 45 minutes of work than those who travelled by car.”

123 employees at Autodesk, an information technology company in Old Montreal, were asked questions about their mood, perceived commuting stress and mode of travel through an online survey.

Researchers only assessed answers from respondants who completed the questionnaire within 45 minutes of arriving at work to ensure a more accurate report.

Brutus notes that this time specification was the study's major innovation.

"Recent research has shown that early morning stress and mood are strong predictors of their effect later in the day," he explains.

"They can shape how subsequent events are perceived, interpreted and acted upon for the rest of the day."

He added, "There are relatively few studies that compare the affective experiences of cyclists with those of car and public transport users," says Brutus, an avid cyclist himself. "Our study was an attempt to address that gap."

What's more, previous studies have found that cyclists perceived their commute as being less stressful than those who travelled by car.

So, if you find you're constantly starting the day off on the wrong foot, a pedal-powered commute could be the answer you've been searching for. 

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There’s no denying that cycling has many benefits: it gets you up off the couch, allows you to cheat traffic and is a form of work out and transportation all in one.

But unfortunately – as with everything – it is possible to have too much of a good thing.

According to one 2012 study, cycling can negatively effect a woman’s sex life because all that time in the saddle can actually desensitise the vagina.

While comparing a group of female runners to a group of female cyclists, a team of Texan scientists found that when women regularly rode 10 or more miles per week (that’s around 16km) their “vaginal and labial genital sensation” was reduced.

According to Cosmopolitan, bikes on which the handlebars were set at a lower level than the seat were found to cause the most damage and this unfortunate news applies to both real bicycles and the ones you use in the gym.

So the next time you find yourself eyeing an exercise bike, maybe consider the cross trainer instead!

Feat image: Seek Sherpa

GIFs: giphy.com

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There are those of us who can think if nothing better to do than don a tiny pair of running shorts and hit the spinning class the second their work day ends. Then there are also those of us who see the shorter evenings as an excuse to catch up on our TV shows and enjoy warm snacks.

If you are one of those people who doesn’t particularly love the thought of the gym after a long day (or before one, early morning gym people can be the worst), then we have good news.

You can still get fit and healthy, and you don’t need a gym membership.

Go for a bike ride:

It doesn’t have to be incredibly strenuous, Also, you’re probably less inclined to notice you’re doing so much physical activity when if you pick a scenic route.

Take the stairs:

If you’re at work or just out and about, make the effort to take the stairs and not an elevator. You’ll burn more calories, and possibly save some time if you work in a busy office building.

Park further away:

It seem like a nuisance, but if you’re going to be desk-bound all day there’s no harm in spending an extra minute or two walking from the car park.

Laugh more:

This is probably our favourite study that we’ve come across yet. While research maintains that you can’t eat fast-food every day and expect to have rock hard abs after a few giggles, they do say "every calorie counts". Laughing raises your energy expenditure and increases your heart rate from 10 to 20 per cent.

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Do you love cycling? And Big Macs? Well then, this is the invention for you.

McDonalds has designed a new type of packaging, specifically targeted at those on two wheels.

It is reported that McDonalds is experiencing a dip in popularity – meaning it's had to get inventive to entice people back. And this is the sort of inventive we like!

Those pulling up to a drive-through on a bicycle are given their food in a handy box which has room for a burger, chips and a drink. Better still, it can hang off your handle bar.

It was launched in Denmark recently, and will soon be hitting The Netherlands and Japan. It hasn't been announced yet, but hopefully Ireland will be added to the list soon.

And surely cycling cancels out the McDonalds your about to eat?

 

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Exercising can get boring, especially if you are running, walking or cycling the same route. Here are some great tips to spice it up a bit:

Make the most of steps
When you are walking or running outside make the most of any steps that you come across. Instead of running or walking for 5 kilometres do 4k and run or walk up and down the steps a few times.

Go up hill
Going up-hill is tough so make sure you add it into your route. It will require you to push yourself that bit harder and and you will have to use different muscles in your body.

Go off road
For a really exhilarating experience go off-road. Ditch the pavement and spice up your regime with a trip up the mountains, across the beach or through a forest. Your body and mind will thank you for it.

Grab a friend or two
If you normally go exercising on your own grab a friend once or twice a week to really spice things up. If your friends aren’t into it, join a group or club.

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