The Weight Loss Battle

BlountOnBikingGuest blogger Don Blount is serious about dropping some poundage.

WEIGHT_04-15-13One hundred ninety-six pounds (89 kilograms). That is what the scale showed as my weight on April 15, the morning I went in to see my doctor for a troublesome right shoulder. I mentioned previously that my doctor is also a cyclist. For him, the longer a ride is and the more climbing it has, the better. My doctor, who is in his mid-50s, weighs 136 pounds (62 kilos). I kid him that he is the size of a seventh-grade boy.

And each time I see him we discuss my riding, climbing and eventually my weight. And I always pledge to lose some. And I do. I have lost as much as five pounds. The only problem is I usually to gain it back.

I watch what I eat. I eat no red meat, only poultry and fish. And I don’t snack between meals. But it seemed that no matter how hard I tried I could not lose a significant amount of weight or keep it off. So I was kind of resigned to remaining in that low-to-mid 190 pound (86 kilo) range.

That is until that doctor’s visit. For some reason I left vowing to lose weight and to keep it off. Maybe it was because I was tired of struggling up hills. Maybe it was because I was tired of my little doctor chiding me. I don’t really know.

During the first two weeks I lost four pounds. I was pleased and prepared for the long, hard slog.

Then a friend, a former work colleague, announced that he had lost 74 pounds (33.5 kilos) over two years. When I asked him how he said: “Just what you used to always tell me, diet and exercise. There are no shortcuts.”

And as a throwaway line he mentioned that he also used myfitnesspal, a calorie-counting app. He suggested I check it out.

And I did.

WEIGHT_07-31-13One hundred seventy-eight pounds (81 kilos). That is what my scale showed on July 31. A weight loss thus far of 18 pounds (8.2 kilos).

What did I do differently? In short, I used the calorie-counting app to see exactly what I was eating. Quite frankly, I had no idea of the calorie content of some of the foods I ate. And although I worked out regularly, I often ate more calories than I burned. (Let me know if you want more detail and I will send it to you.)

And although these calorie counts are only estimates, they served as a good guideline for me to follow what I ate. For me, it became a daily goal – Win the day. To burn more calories than I consumed. It later became a guideline. Eat 2,000-2,500 calories a day and be active.

I made sure to consistently go to the gym and to consistently ride my bike.

From April 15 to July 31 I rode 1,802 miles (2,900 kilometers). That is 460 miles (740 kilometers) more than I rode during that same period last year.

I rode 505 miles (813 kilometers) in May, 543 miles (874 kilometers) in June and more than 573 miles (922 kilometers) in July.

Weighing less is better both in everyday life and for biking. I now look forward to rides I would not have considered just a year ago. (And don’t tell the hills but I no longer consider them evil, at least most of them.)

And although I am not yet at my final goal I am already thinking of how to stay at this smaller size.

As my doctor says: What comes off, stays off.

Rethinking Biking

If insanity is doing the same thing over and over, and expecting different results, I guess it’s time for me to make some changes. Specifically, I’m taking a serious look at taking a hiatus from weekly club rides.

Two weeks ago, I was left behind by the rest of the B’s, and not by just a little. Today, I was the only B to show up for the Sunday ride, and they dropped me within three miles. I had already alerted the club president that I would be turning around before the rest of the group, so that wasn’t a problem. I wound up soloing on a route of my own choosing. But if I’m going to spend most of my Sundays riding alone, why bother with the club?

The main reason is, the club ride is my long ride of the week. It’s also the fastest I ride during the week. Even though I’m left behind, I push myself to try to stay close. If I ride alone, I don’t push it.

That’s largely because of my aversion to training. But if I’m going to get back to the point where I can at least acquit myself as an average B-level rider, I’ll have to train.

But it’s one thing to say I have to train — and even to start some kind of training regimen. I must stick with it. That’s where I’ve fallen down in the past. I’ll do intervals on a certain day two weeks in a row, then I’ll stop. If I’m riding alone, it’s easy for me to turnaround early, and turn that planned 58-miler into a 45-mile ride. Frankly, 45 miles would be pretty good for me these days.

Today, I got an added incentive to whip myself into biking shape. My wife and I are planning a European vacation next summer, and this morning she decided that it would be fun to spend part of it on bikes — as part of an organized bike tour. A great idea, I think. She’s already started her own brand of training for it — she found a new Pilates studio. I’ll just be more diligent about my riding.

I’ll keep you posted on my progress in the coming months.


Time to Drop Some Poundage

Today’s club ride went out on the Fitzhugh route again. I say again, because we just did it two weeks ago, and we don’t usually repeat a route so soon. But after yesterday’s rain, the weather forecast called for stiff wind from the northwest, so our club president suggested a route that would give us a tailwind on the way home.

I felt good about riding Fitzhugh. Last time, I had little trouble with the rollers that characterize the route, and felt strong for most of the ride. But with only one other B rider showing up, in a group of 24, I figured I’d be hard-pressed to keep the peloton in sight.

We did a good job of sticking with the group until we got into Granada Hills, a neighborhood about three or four miles from the start. As its name implies, it’s not flat. Pretty soon, I saw the last of the pack rounding a corner at the top of a hill and disappearing. By the time Brian (the other B rider) and I got to the intersection with U.S. 290 that marks the end of Granada Hills, they had lost us completely.

That was okay. Fitzhugh is an out-and-back route, and I knew we would meet up with them again as they were on their return leg. But I was a bit concerned about my riding today. I didn’t anywhere near the pep I had the last time, and it was a struggle for me to top the rollers.

We made it out to the intersection of Ranch Road 12, which is the traditional turnaround for B riders. I’ve gone beyond before, and rode out to the A turnaround, but didn’t feel like it today. I was tiring already, and we had to battle the rollers on the way back. On top of it, a light mist was coating our glasses, and it looked like we would be contending with wet conditions on the way back.

Brian and I took turns in the lead on the way back. I was well warmed up by now, even though the temperature was falling, if anything. I found it a little easier to pull myself up the hills. But when we got to the gas station at Fitzhugh and 290, I was glad to stop a bit.

In a couple of minutes, another of our group pulled in. New York John doesn’t like to ride in the rain, and he turned back before the rest of the A group. We set off for home.

John took the lead most of the way. He’s smaller than me, and his bike is lighter. While he pedaled at a good pace, it wasn’t too fast for Brian and I to keep up with. But on one slight uphill stretch, John easily cruised well ahead of us.

Brian has an excuse. He works on offshore oil rigs, and doesn’t get a chance to ride regularly. “When I’m home, I ride every day,” he said. “But it seems like I can’t get any better. I’ve got my pace, and that’s it.”

I, on the other hand, do have a regular riding routine. I haven’t been getting better either, but today bothered me. I just didn’t have the energy to keep up with John. And I had to confront the unhappy reason for that. I’m overweight.

Right now, my weight is more than it’s been all summer.  It’s clear that I finally have to do something about it, because I know from experience that if I were to drop just 10 pounds, I’d be riding better.

So that’s what I’m going to work on. I want to drop 20 pounds by the end of the year. It’ll be difficult, but I think I can do it. I promise I won’t turn this into a weight loss blog, but I will let you know from time to time how I’m doing.

Losing 100 Pounds – In One Year – On A Bike

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 by day; by night he’s usually pedalling into head winds. In February. In Wales.

Winter Weight Gain

Throughout the summer, my biking weight stayed close to constant. Oh, I gained and lost a few pounds here and there, but it was within a narrow range a little above 200. I was satisfied with that.

That was summer. Now, it’s winter. Even in frying pan hot Texas, we’ve got cold air coming down from the north, and I’ve been bundling up on rides lately. But I’ve also been eating the kind of comfort food that is so well suited to cold weather. And an unsurprising thing has happened since Thanksgiving — I’m once again putting on my winter weight.

This is a pattern that I’ve gotten used to over the years. I slim down in the summer, and gain it all back — and more — in the winter. The saving grace for me is that when I ride, I know I can knock off some poundage. Just yesterday, I came back from a brisk 18-mile ride, hopped on the scale, and found I was down three pounds from the previous day. Now, I know those three pounds were back on by the time I’d finished off supper, but it was nice to see the needle on the scale move in the right direction for a change.

My wife gets into the same rut. She complains every year that she’s getting heavier around the holidays. But unlike me, she actually does something about it. She’s a terrific cook, and about this time every year she starts making meals that are light on calories and long on flavor. I can eat to my heart’s content, and still have a good shot at dropping some of that excess turkey weight.

So, I guess winter brings me the best of all possible worlds. We get to keep riding our bikes, even though we’re bundled up a bit more than usual, I get to keep eating well, and with any luck, I’ll start the riding season in March or so at a weight not appreciably higher than it was when I ended the serious riding season in October. I’m looking forward to the next few months.

It’s Amazing How Fast You Get Out of Shape

Rode this afternoon with my wife. It was my first ride in a week. In fact, it seems that the only riding I’ve been doing for the last month has been on the weekends, and this week, I didn’t even ride Saturday, because of a day trip out of town.

All that time off the bike is finally catching up with me. Man, am I out of shape! The out of town trip was to visit some relatives, and four of my cousins were there – so we took the obligatory cousins pic.

I’m not running it on the blog, out of deference to them. Suffice to say, it shows five American males in their mid to late 50s, all with substantial girth. In a couple of cases, the gut hangs over the belt buckle.

My wife looked at it, and said, “Well, you have the skinniest gut of them all.” Her definition of skinny differs from mine. I ain’t skinny. I suppose I am the least rotund.

My weight, which usually goes up in winter anyway, is true to form.  I’m about 10 pounds over my good summer biking weight.

That contributed to the way I felt on today’s ride. Oh, I felt good enough – but it seemed that I was putting much more effort into the ride than I normally would.

Disirregardless, the ride served as a needed wake up call.  I know I can get back on track by doing two simple things:

Riding more.

Eating less (junk).

All the nifty organized rides that I want to be on have opened registration. Time to start signing up. Time to get back in shape.

What’s Your Biggest Health Improvement From Biking?

I picked up my mountain bike from my neighborhood bike mechanic this evening.  It had been shifting poorly, and he took care of it.  Getting the bike was important to me, because I’m still not riding my road bike.

In case you missed it, the front derailleur on my road bike broke over a week ago.  I haven’t received the replacement yet.  Maybe it’ll be all set in time for the weekend.

But as long as I have one bike in operating condition, that’s a good thing.  Because biking is good for me.

How do I know?  I look at the numbers.

I recently had my annual physical exam.  I have some health issues that I pay close attention to.  My cholesterol has been high as long as I can remember.  So has my blood pressure.

I could count on a typical blood pressure reading of around 151/90.  My cholesterol used to be as high as 250.

Just 36 hours after I rode in the Outlaw Trail 100 last month, my BP was 113/69.  A year or so ago, my doctor would have been happy to get it to around 135/85.  In fact, for awhile, that was our target.  Now, we’re shooting for much lower readings.  I’m normally in the 120/80 vicinity these days.

Is it all because of biking?

Not completely.  I’m on blood pressure medication, but at my last physical, the doc told me to stop taking one of the two types of pills I was on.  He says that while the meds brought the BP down, it’s the biking that is keeping it in the target zone.

He was also pleasantly surprised to note that my resting heart rate is 56.  That’s all due to biking.

Ditto the cholesterol.  I take medicine for that, too, but it’s the smallest dose made — 5 milligrams.  The doc says it might as well be a placebo.  He credits biking and diet for my recent big drop.  Oh, I forgot to mention — it’s now 158.

(I’m still not super careful about diet, but I do eat smaller portions than before, and I don’t snack as much.)

How about weight?

I don’t have a super weight-loss story to tell, but I have lost about 12 pounds from what it was at the beginning of the year.  One of my New Year’s resolutions was to get below 200 pounds.  I’ve done that, but I didn’t stay there.  Right now, I flirt with it.  By year’s end, I should be there permanently.  More gratifying to me than the weight loss is the girth loss. I’ve gone from pants with a 40-inch waist to pants with a 38-inch waist.  And depending upon the brand of pants, some of those 38s are fitting too loosely.

So that’s why I was glad to get one of my bikes in operating condition this week.  I’ll be out on it soon.  While the main reason I bike is for the fun of it, the health benefits can’t be ignored — especially at my age.

How about you?  What kind of health benefits have you enjoyed as a result of your biking?