Just when I wonder if I’ll ever start losing weight again, along comes a guest post from Welshman Chris Spann. He’s got me revved up again.
As the kind of bloke who never really used to do any exercise, I would have been very surprised if someone had told me four years ago that I would now be cycling over a 100 miles a week, as well as doing pressup sessions that involved well over 100 of them every time. In fact, I would have laughed in their face. At the time, I was a mess who felt as though everything was beginning to wear out fast.
It’s not that I had always been such a lazy fat lump. I played Rugby at school, and my bulk back then had been muscle rather than flab. The problems came when I left school and went to university.
The appeal of running around getting beaten up in the mud began to diminish rapidly, especially when I could stay snug in the student union bar on a Wednesday or Saturday afternoon. Not playing meant that I also stopped doing any fitness work in the gym. Anyone suggesting going on a bike ride would have been given short shrift.
This pattern continued after I left university and began work in a career that involved sitting at a desk all day, after sitting on a train for two hours each day to get there. The job was great, but I hardly ever did anything that was good for me, I just did not have the time to get out. Nor did I want to.
That is, until I hit 22. It was then that the boozy, calorie-ridden lifestyle I had been living began to show. My waistline began to expand rapidly. Very rapidly. I went from having the physique of a young Richard Harris to once being compared to Orson Welles after I’d experimented with a beard for a couple of weeks. Although I laughed, that line really stung.
Soon after that, my girlfriend left. My weight had ballooned to almost 22 stone, (over 300lbs), which for someone who is only just six foot tall is not flattering.
However, it was then that I decided to buy a bike. Nothing special, just a bog-standard mountain bike from the local bike shop. I had been on my bike every day as a kid, even eschewing my dad’s offer of lifts to rugby matches so that I could cycle instead. I got on it actually expecting to be able to just get back to that kind of level immediately – that was how arrogant I had become.
Instead, I found that just pedalling the three miles from my house to the next village was agony. I had to get off and rest for five minutes twice. But I managed to get there and back, even though it took me something like an hour and half to do so.
Incredibly, I actually enjoyed the pain and the challenge. The endorphins had begun to flow again and I felt my sportsman’s blood actually respond to the test and begin to fight back. This was something that I realised that I had been missing for a very long time in my life. The feel of your body working, it running like a machine, is addictive, there’s no arguing that.
So I went out and got some sports kit to wear. Nothing special and certainly no skin-tight cycling shorts. Instead, a basic helmet and gloves for safety and comfort, some decent knee-length sports shorts and a T-shirt. They made me feel fantastic (although I can’t promise the view was great for others) and I began to cycle every day, even in bad weather.
It was a slow process. That was a year ago and although it has not always been easy, I have managed to lose something like seven stone – around 100 pounds – from those days of being told I looked like Orson Welles.
It did not happen just like that. There was a lot of pain and work, especially into head winds uphill in February – I live in Wales, where there are plenty of both. But if you really want to get fit then you will put up with that kind of challenge, then embrace it and then actually come to enjoy it.
Perhaps the hardest part of it all was watching out for my diet. However, with some sensible management of my carbohydrate and fat intake, I was able to complement the exercise with a more sensible refuelling regime. Lots of veg, fruit and lean meats, combined with just enough pasta, rice or boodles to make your meals interesting. I cook a mean stir-fry, and if I ever meet you I’ll cook one.
It’s been a funny old year, all in all – but I got through it. I even came out of it better off:- emotionally, physically, the lot. I’ve also quit smoking in that time, and I’m now working on stopping the nailbiting that I’ve done since I had teeth.
It’s the hardest damn thing I’ve ever done, I won’t lie.
Chris is a writer for moneysupermarket.com by day; by night he’s usually pedalling into head winds. In February. In Wales.