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Want to lose those Christmas pounds? Saddle up for a charity bike ride with Embarrassing Bodies' Dr Dawn Harper

By Weekend  |  Posted: January 05, 2014

  • Embarrassing Bodies star and Stroud GP Dr Dawn Harper

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Want to lose a few of those Christmas pounds and get healthy? What does TV doctor Dawn Harper prescribe? Saddling up for a cycling challenge....

For TV doctor Dawn Harper, cycling started as a prescription to recover from a hit and run accident.

That was a decade ago and now cycling is a passion. Every year she sets herself one cycling challenge which has seen her saddle up for Cardiff, Paris, Brussels and Land’s End.

This year’s challenge is closer to home – and closer to her heart. She will take part in the 100km Harvey 100 Star Cycle Challenge on April 27 to raise money for the National Star College at Ullenwood, near Cheltenham.

The event is named in honour of Dawn’s son Harvey who has cerebral palsy. Forget TV success and all the trappings that go with it. For Dawn the true inspiration and joy in her life is her son’s steely determination to be charge of his own life.

While chatting to WEEKEND, Dawn, who hosts Channel 4’s Embarrassing Bodies, receives a call from Harvey telling her he has passed his driving test. Her face lights up.

“I’m a better doctor and a better person because of Harvey. Of course, like every parent, I would do anything for Harvey not to have cerebral palsy. But he is so incredibly positive and determined.”

Harvey attends mainstream school. He is taking his A-levels and plans to attend university in the autumn.

When Dawn was asked to attend a fundraising ball for the National Star College she decided she needed to see the facilities first hand.

“I met a student who had complex disabilities who, thanks to eye-recognition technology, could control his wheelchair, ask for a drink and have some control of his life. It was then I fell in love with National Star.

“Harvey has true grit – as do all the students I meet at National Star. What the college provides them with is the confidence, skills and education to take control of their lives and to make their own decisions, to do the things the rest of us simply take for granted.”

So when the discussions started about holding a 100km cycle challenge through the Cotswolds to raise money, Dawn was ready to be part of the team.

“In the past she has held the Harvey 100 to raise money for charity. She decided now was the ideal time to combine it with the college to create something special.

The route includes some steep climbs at Bisley, Sapperton and Caudle Green and takes in scenic routes around Kemble, Chedworth, Bibury and Cowley. It is the perfect challenge for anyone who wants to shed those extra Christmas pounds and to get fit for spring.

“I am no athlete. If I can do it, anyone can. You have 16 weeks to prepare so that you can have a sensible training programme and build up slowly.

“Use the challenge as a motivation to get fit. It’s perfect as you can see the goal you are trying to reach – and more importantly it is a realistic one.”

Dawn cycles 50-100 miles every week, trying to include a couple of good hill rides. It is not just about aerobic fitness she says with a smile – it’s about being “saddle fit”. That’s a delicate way of saying one’s backside needs to get used to the bicycle.

She suggests starting with short rides building up the mileage slowly.

Most importantly of all says Dawn is to enjoy yourself.

“There’s no point doing something if you loathe it. Find what you love to do and stick at it.”

“I have seen how National Star transforms young people’s lives. But they can’t do this amazing work without community support,” says Dawn who also still works as a GP in the Cotswolds.

* The cycle challenge costs £20 to register in advance and cyclists are asked to raise a minimum £80 in sponsorship.

* To register call National Star on 01242 524478 or email fundraising@natstar.ac.uk

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