I’m one week into my training for two long-distance bike rides this summer. And I’m also on a weight loss journey because, hey, extra weight on the bike, is a no-go. I thought it might be time to provide a little more history and context regarding my physical status, health, fitness, etc. at the beginning of this journey. By the way, if you don’t know what this is all about, start here.
I’ve wanted to write this for a long time. Years actually. And it’s finally time. It’s time to practice what I preach and let you follow along on what may be my greatest personal transformation to date. I’m planning to lose roughly 70 lbs and ride two (because for some reason one wouldn’t be enough)…
Status Update – Week 1
I started my cycling journey on Feb. 1 with a 3-mile leisurely ride on a comfort bike, in gravel, with my dog running alongside me. We are now up to a daily 4-5 mile run (he runs while I ride) in the morning and that helps me to warm up and determine what I will need to wear for a longer ride. And it makes him very happy and healthy! Within two days I was able to do an 8-mile ride. By the end of the first week, I had logged two 15-mile days (split between two sessions).
I use Strava to track mileage, speed, etc. My first week on Strava started on a Wednesday and ended on Sunday and I logged 27.5 miles.
This week I already have 31 miles and I’m only 3 days into the week.
I don’t own cycling pants (although they have been ordered) and it’s too cold for shorts, so I was a bit worried about how sore my butt would be. I’ve found by doing rides on my comfort bike (cushier seat), and increasing the miles gradually, I really haven’t had any muscle pain yet.
All of my training right now is on a comfort (mountain) bike on gravel. This makes the going much slower and I have to work harder but experience has taught me when I start this way, by the time I start riding my road bike, it’s a piece of cake! That, and I live in a rural area so there is an abundance of gravel available. Riding a gravel bike requires constant pedaling. Coasting is rare and greatly appreciated. Right now I’m riding on flat surfaces. There are hills in the area but I’m avoiding them at the moment.
I have a history of going too hard in the beginning and then getting injured so I’m resisting the urge to ride farther and faster. My goal for this full week is 35-50 miles.
If you are reading this because you are starting your own journey, I think it’s important for you to have a frame of reference regarding my health and weight history. Too often, we compare ourselves to others without considering their starting point. My goal is to be as honest and open as possible and I’m more than happy to answer any questions you have.
I’ve always struggled with my weight. I’m tall as well. Being involved in sports when I was young kept my weight under control but if I look at photos throughout my life, there was a direct correlation between my weight and activity all through my life. If we lived somewhere long enough for me to be on a team, I was a normal weight. If not, I was chubby. This suggests my issue is with food and the overconsumption of said food.
It’s been over 15 years since I’m been within my ideal weight zone for my height. And at that time, I got there by riding a bicycle.
I’ve always been active in one way or another. For the past few years, I’ve been doing a lot of hiking – 1.5 to 2 hours per day. I also have engaged in weight training off and on throughout my life. I love the outdoors and despise exercising indoors so the winters tend to revolve more around weight training and the spring, summer, and fall, are more around doing anything I can outside.
Plan & Strategy
Because I’ve signed up for these two bike rides (each over 500 miles), my weight loss and fitness strategy revolves around being able to ride 100 miles in a day without needing an ambulance to pick up my limp body at the finish line. Bicycling will become easier if I’m lighter so there is a natural incentive to get the weight off while cycling. I do have a few specific strategies that will no doubt be modified over time. Following is my general plan at the moment.
I’ve spent way too much of my life NOT loving my physical self. Even in peak condition, I would pick apart my body. The past three months have been focused on learning to truly love me. I’ll likely write an entire article about this but for now, let me just say that for the first time in my life, I wake up in the morning telling my body thank you and how much I love it for getting me through this life. I even apologized to my body as though it were a separate entity for all the hate I have sent to it over the years. Now I treat my body more like I would a valued friend. All of my training and approaches to this transformation come from a place of love as opposed to punishment and restriction. That’s why you’ll see I’m not focusing energy on things like “no pain, no gain.” It’s more about “I love this body and for that reason, I’m doing everything in my power to keep it healthy.” It’s kind of like when I was raising kids, I wanted to provide them with healthy food, lots of outdoor activities, adventures, experiences, and as much love as I could give. I’m now looking at my body the same way.
I have a weird relationship with scales so I’m opting out of using them on a routine basis. I can get really obsessive in an unhealthy way. I do have a starting weight and will weigh myself when the mood strikes. I’m focused more on fitness level, overall tone, and size. I took my measurements at the beginning of this journey and other than that, for now, I’m going with watching portion sizes, increasing fitness, enjoying the ride, and seeing how my clothes fit.
I’m not on any special diet but I do eat healthily. I used to be vegan but I’m eating meat periodically as long as it is hormone free. I hardly ever eat out and rarely have processed or packaged foods. I don’t eat dairy just as a personal preference. And I have a large garden so I eat a lot of organic produce. I rarely eat bread, not because I don’t love that shit. Who doesn’t love bread?! I’d just rather use the calories for fruit or nuts.
I’m not calorie-restricting very much. The last thing I need is to hit a wall when I’m 20 miles from home because I’m not fueling myself adequately. Mostly, I’m just decreasing my portion sizes a small amount. I’m not too concerned about fueling while riding until I get to the point where I’m riding more than an hour at a time. I’ll likely carry a few dates with me for those longer rides.
Daily I take Vitamin D3, NMN, and Resveratrol. NMN and Resveratrol have been shown to reverse signs of aging including inflammation which causes many diseases. I’ll refer you to research Dr. David Sinclair to learn more about this if you are interested as I’m obviously not an expert on this topic. I’ve been taking these supplements for about 2 years. If I’m not eating fish, I’ll also take a fish oil supplement intermittently. I’ll link the NMN and Resveratrol supplements below because supplements are largely unregulated and many are full of fillers. I’ve done a lot of research on this particular brand and feel good about it. I’m not a doctor and you should always do your own research.
I’m 58 years old and fortunate that the only medical condition I have is hypothyroid, which I take a daily pill for. I don’t have any of the issues lots of women have with hypothyroidism (dry skin, hair loss, low energy, etc.). Last year I did have a situation with an autoimmune-type reaction to the sun so I’m a little concerned about that with all the bicycle riding. I lavish on the sunscreen now! I don’t have high blood pressure, diabetes, or anything like that.
I’ve enjoyed weight training off and on for most of my life and had been strength training 6 days per week (3 days legs & abs, 3 days arms & back), for six weeks prior to starting my cycling journey. While I’m taking a brief break from weight training while I get used to cycling, I plan to incorporate it back into my routine within the first 30 days.
I’ve had routine physicals and blood work throughout my life to ensure I’m healthy in every way. You should, of course, do the same. Because I’m focused on loving myself, I don’t want to do anything that would risk my overall health and well-being.
I’m loosely following two training plans I found online. There was a 12-week plan provided by BAK and Ragbrai also had a similar but slightly more aggressive training plan (it lasts longer) that basically increases the total weekly miles you ride each week.
Most of my training will likely be with a comfort bike on gravel, to begin with. Once I get to the longer distances, I’ll start using my road bike.
Month One Goal: Get used to being on the bike, improve bike handling skills, and gradually increase strength, endurance, and mileage. By the end of one month, I should be riding 50 miles per week in a variety of conditions (wind, hills, rain, etc.).
Mindset and Personal Growth
In just seven days I find myself becoming mentally stronger. The first day I had to ride against 17 mph winds, I didn’t want to do it. I wanted to quit, over and over again. But I kept telling myself, this is all part of the training and I’m going to endure 17mph winds on the actual ride. When I made it home, I was exhausted but exhilarated. I did it! I rode against the wind! I can do hard things!
I’ll also say there was a part of me that didn’t want to be seen in public on a bicycle. I’m overweight. Surely, people were laughing at me as they drive past. But as time went on, I realized it didn’t matter. This is the body I’m working with right now. This is where I am. It is a healthy, vibrant body that has carried me for 58 years on this planet. It still has energy, it responds quickly to exercise, and it works efficiently. And hell, I’m riding my bike while they are driving a car! I don’t really give a shit about all that anymore.
The increased confidence has carried over into my work life. I write this blog, create videos, write eBooks, and design journals. I’ve never been completely comfortable putting myself out there, especially via video. I’ve found in just a week, I am more confident in all these areas. I’m also more focused and creative. It feels like I am thinking so much more clearly. And I’m doing all this with excitement and enthusiasm.
The results I’ve seen this past week help get me through the rides that feel like they are lasting forever. I know as I continue this process, I’ll continue to get my old self back. I’ve missed her and look forward to her return.