On the right day, parents with prams or joggers in Victoria Park will spot a Premier League footballer on a bike as he escapes the world for half an hour.
Pablo Fornals treats the bike rides as a meditation, far removed from the battle to keep West Ham United in the Premier League top four or the demands that come with being a first-time father two months ago. What started with teammate Michail Antonio is now more of a way of life for the Spaniard, whose itineraries include hitting his favorite park in East London or venturing further into the city to Tower Bridge.
“Honestly, after cycling with Mike (Antonio) I never stopped doing it because it gives me life, it gives me 20 to 30 minutes to be on my own, without thinking about what I’m doing. have here or at home, just put it all out of my mind,” Fornals said.
“When I go to cut my hair, I go there with my bike. When I do something, I do it with my bike. It’s meditation but also concentration because here there are bike paths on the road. I have to be 100% concentrated!
Fornals could be forgiven for wanting a slice of alone time to reflect on a whirlwind few seasons. His place at West Ham looked in doubt when David Moyes took over, but he worked his way into the manager’s plans as a starter and was called up to the Spain squad last year. He did not take part in the November international break as his wife was giving birth to their son, Martin. New inspiration came for the 25-year-old midfielder, along with a different sleep schedule.
“I’m a guy who loves his wife and I just wanted to make it easy for her too. This thing changed me as a person, as a player, in everything. You have another thing to fight for,” he said. “And you want to be a good example, you always want to try to put on your best face because your child is going to learn from you. It’s another Spanish Cockney, it’s not yet a real Cockney.
“So I try to be as good as possible in all aspects of my life. It’s a big change. This has not been easy. I played less but that’s because I had to adapt to this new thing in our lives. Now I feel really good, I feel like before – or better than before because I have something else to fight for. I’m really happy to be back to my best form.
Fornals was forced to spend time away from his family recently after testing positive for Covid, which saw him slowly back into action after the lingering effects of being out of training for some time.
“To be fair, the only thing I had was double red lines in a test. I didn’t feel anything. I was training in my room as usual, on the bike. I had no symptoms , cold, nothing. I didn’t understand anything,” he said.
“The test said I was infected. The only thing I wanted was not to be a problem for my teammates or my family. I had to do it (isolate) because my wife was not infected. That’s the only thing I wanted: not to be a problem for them or for the team. All the players, the staff, the people who work around us, they all have their own families.”