Canaries’ fitness coach Mike Watts gears up for charity cycle ride for Help for Hospices
After helping Norwich City's footballers through a strenuous Premiership season, the Canaries' fitness coach is training for a gruelling physical challenge of his own to raise money for charity.
Mike Watts, the club's head of fitness and conditioning, is preparing for a 300km cycle ride from London to the Eiffel Tower in Paris to raise money for Help for Hospices.
He will leave on June 22 for the three-day ride to the French capital – his first long-distance charity ride since taking up cycling last year.
With the help of the City players, Mr Watts has already secured almost �1,500 in sponsorship and hopes his pedalling can push the fundraising total beyond �2,000.
'The lads have had a whip-round,' he said. 'They have been really generous, actually. They have seen me coming in a few times on the bike and they are always asking about it. It's quite nice for them to see the fitness guy doing something that's quite challenging, rather than just telling them what to do.'
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Mr Watts' commitment to the cause was underlined during a recent visit to the East Anglian Children's Hospice at Quidenham.
'There are children there who are terminally ill, and it was a massively humbling experience to see children in that phase of life who are so full of life,' he said. 'It was a real privilege to go and spend some time with them and it reinforces what a worthy cause it is.
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'It focuses the mind to know that while it is nice to do things like this, the main idea is to raise as much money as possible for the hospices.'
Mr Watts, who worked for Sheffield United for three years and spent two seasons in the Chinese football league before coming to Norwich two years ago, caught the cycling 'bug' after taking it up as a hobby for his 30th birthday last year. He now cycles two or three times a week and says it is an important part of the fitness regime at the club.
'We often take the players for 'spinning' sessions on the static bikes,' said Mr Watts. 'It can be used as a recovery day after the players have played on a Saturday. It re-energises you and helps the blood flow through the legs.'
Mr Watts said the other cycling fans at the club included defender Russell Martin and goalkeeper John Ruddy, although the latter will get little time to indulge his new hobby after his call-up for international duty at the European Championships.
He said: 'John bought a bike this year and it was his plan to go out and do that this summer. Fortunately for him he will be in the England squad instead.'
The charity effort is being supported by Rob Taylor, manager of the Cycles UK shop based on the lower floor of Pilch Sports in London Street in Norwich, who has supplied Mr Watts' lightweight bike, along with other equipment and advice.
'It is a completely new experience for me, so everything helps,' he said. 'I have put a lot of training and hard work into it, and I would like to challenge myself and see how quickly I would do it really. Realistically it is possible to do 25km per hour so I should be able to do the whole thing in 12 hours, spread over the three days.'
?Donations can be made at www.virginmoneygiving.com/michaelwatts or Mr Watts' training and progress can be followed on Twitter: @mcw_fitness.