With the Argus being ridden this weekend here is a great story from one of our community members who put his head down and cycled his way through his limitations! WELL DONE CALVIN! Calvin is also Associate Editor at Top Gear Magazine South Africa – Over to you Bud….
CYCLING. A CATALYST FOR WEIGHT-LOSS. OH, ALSO A SPIRITUAL JOURNEY
by Calvin Fisher
TWENTY SEVEN KILOS.
At least that’s what the scale says, and it doesn’t take into account the muscle I’ve regenerated since my life re-cycle began. You join me now on a typical gym free-standing bicycle. They’re not ideal but I find as a writer they provide a good catalyst for note-taking, or in this case letter-writing.
Ah yes, it was on 7th January 2012 that I decided I would do the Argus Cycle Tour – just two months away.
Background info reads like this; I weighed 135kg on that day and since acquiring a bicycle three months prior had managed to accrue about 20km of usage thus far. That same night I doubled the tally, came back exhausted, broken, and with a saddle-ravished bottom. But also I was giddy because I’d just managed 20km in one go and lived to tell the tale – that was a fifth of the Argus, give or take. Oddly and optimistically, this was all the convincing I needed.
What followed were two months of training based on knowledge I had accumulated via the Internet and Bicycling magazines. Did I mention I didn’t have a road bike, and all this trundling was done via a Giant Thermo 2 mountain bike?
Armed with my own gym routine and limited saddle time I managed to drop to 122kg by race day – that’s 12kg burned in around nine weeks. And I completed the Argus Tour, emphasis on tour, in seven hours and forty five bloody minutes. But, crucially, I completed it. More importantly I was hooked, smitten with cycling.
By now the weight was my enemy, a deterrent for climbing hills. By the way, when you’re this far overweight, everything is a bloody hill. If I could ride every day I would but being an office worker with a job that involves a ton of travel plus having three boisterous lads at home to preoccupy me – the best I can manage is one ride of varying distance a week, two closer to race days.
Oh yes, there have been six race days this year including Die Burger, but that’s a different story for a different day. Gym has proven to be the most convenient supplementary form of exercise – cross-training if you will, mind you it doesn’t beat time in the seat. Nothing does.
It’s worth noting that at some point around February, I began looking at food differently. No longer was it something delicious to distract me from the fact that I’d more chins than limbs, but now it had become fuel.
Carbs, proteins and such – all to be used by my body in conjunction with training. Timing of meals became important. Soon I learnt that nutrition was key to transformation, and this too would help me up those bastard hills. That old saying “it’s not a diet, it’s a lifestyle.” I get it now.
I stopped browsing my usual motoring and gaming websites and registered at SleekGeek, ditto all the local health mags and started bookmarking every fitness site I could find. I discovered that the changes don’t have to be drastic, just incremental – but, and this is important, it has to be consistent and for this you will need to be committed.
The more research I did, the more conflicting stories I found, so I stuck to the common truths and things that just made sense to me. In the end, my diet evolved, without too many sacrifices. I still eat what I like, I just find the stuff I like now are healthier than before. The fact that I’m leaner, more active and have bigger muscles means my metabolism is firing better than it ever has, and even when I’m not training I’m melting off the fatty stuff. Hmm, I think this calls for a list of sorts.
THE TRAINING BITS
1. Get on your bike! If it’s a mountain bike – even better! Keep those knobblies on and they will help you train harder as they offer greater resistance, and you’ll reap those rewards sooner
2. Get a gym contract. There are so many things you can do there to help your body cope with the rigours of cycling and you can squeeze it into your schedule so much easier than a ride. Bonus! It will help you burn more unwanted fat and make you a stronger rider
3. Conquer the hills. For me these were the toughest, and I firmly believe in the ethos of ‘Turn your weakness into a strength’ so that is was I set out to do. Sure it still takes me ages to get up Suikerbossie, but I haven’t had to push my bike in months.
4. Again, get on your bike, if there is any trip you can make with it instead of your car, do so.
5. Or else walk, take the stairs – again it is that incremental improvement in your lifestyle that adds up.
6. Do a spin class. In fact do several. They do a good job of simulating a ride due to their usage of intervals. HIIT – high intensity interval training really works.
7. Don’t ignore your core. If you think it’s enough to spin your legs, or play on the leg press and extension machines – well, it’s just not. You need a total body workout and for this I recommend functional training. My biggest gains in flexibility were made the day I picked up the medicine ball and learnt how to use it properly.
8. It has to remain fun. When all bike rides are regarded as training, then maybe you’ve gone too far. Dial it back and just enjoy the ride. Stay smiling.
AND IN THE KITCHEN
1. Do the obvious stuff. That means;
2. Avoid junk food like the plague. No more McDonalds, KFC and so on. If you’re looking to treat yourself, get a grilled half chicken and mielie from Nandos instead. Or something similar.
3. Pack a lunch. I hate it, but once you climb this hurdle, eating healthily and cheaply become easy.
4. Oats. They’re not for everyone, but they’re cholesterol free, a good source of protein and keep you feeling full like bread does. I keep a box in my drawer and make a bowl whenever the job of making or buying lunch goes awry.
5. Avoid bread, or at least minimise it. Seriously, it is almost certainly the number one reason I picked up so much weight to begin with. Gone are the days of eight slices of cheese sandwiches. Now I’d most likely open up two slices and top them with grilled Ostrich burgers and a ton of salad. Feta, avocado – you have so many options and you’ll find yourself eating far more exotic meals as a result.
6. Avoid fried food, but mostly hot chips. This is the second biggest culprit of my past. I realise now just how evil the combination of a white roll filled with hot chips and masala spices was. Chip rolls are basically a starchy Lucifer.
7. Eat more (smaller) meals. Oh, and;
8. Drink more water. Both of these tips will keep your metabolism revved up all day. In the past it was common for me to just eat two big unhealthy meals a day. A big mistake as your metabolism drops to accommodate this infrequent intake, then doesn’t know what to do when a big meal eventually passes your lips. And it starts at breakfast.
9. Stick to the rule of plate; half your meal should be vegetables, a quarter protein and ditto for carbs.
10. Be lenient on yourself. Come on, you’re making big changes here. Give yourself room for error, for being human.
I am not a nutritionist, a personal trainer or a professional cyclist. I’m a fat guy on a bicycle, but less so since eleven months ago. It is true that no two people are the same, and therefore what works for me won’t necessarily work for you, but I do believe that there are enough common truths to make what I’ve written relevant.
The biggest trick, the greatest secret I learned all year that was that there is NO big trick, NO great secret. Once you make peace with the fact that this is hard work, there are no short cuts and that you’re going to soldier on regardless, that is the moment when it becomes not only possible, but easy.
Yes, I said easy. Sure, it can be very disheartening, very demoralising when the scale points north, but every occasion it did so, I had to admit to myself that I knew exactly why. It was because I strayed. And straying is ok too, because you need to be lenient and you need to be realistic.
Food is delicious, I love the stuff. But the taste of success so much more so. The feeling of fitness and achievement is what defines my 2012, and all I had to do was get on my bicycle to get it.
- Calvin is Associate Editor at Top Gear Magazine South Africa
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