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How I Stay Thin… Specifically, How I Do What I Do…

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December 2013
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I read a post the other day that really touched me.  I didn’t know much about how the world worked when I was younger but I had it set in my head that being skinny was a bad thing.  I had it in my head that being a thin guy was on the same level of “society looks down on you” as being an overweight woman, so I set to working out at the college gym with a friend of mine who was quite big.  I did progress – I pushed heavier weights (up to 250 on the bench – and for a 6′ tall 135 pound guy, that’s pretty good) but I didn’t gain a pound.  I stayed stringy and after several months, gave up on it…  Right when I should have stuck with it.  In hindsight, I probably wasn’t eating enough.  Of course, this was back in the days when my money was going to a liquid diet.

After I got sober and quit smoking, I found out that food tasted really good.  Then I went the other way.  I went from 150 pounds to almost 200 before I realized how big I’d gotten and the fact that I couldn’t see a way that I’d stop, at least at first, before I hit 250 simply shocked me into action.

I started running shortly thereafter and lost much of the weight but I was never really able to get to where I wanted to be…  I wanted 160-165 and I was hopelessly stuck at 175.  I just had that gnawing feeling that if I could just knock of ten more, I’d be right where I wanted to be…  I was so close – but so far.  I tried for the better part of seven years to get my diet and exercise right to no avail.  Enter cycling – that sweet, minimally painful way to burn an absolute buttload of calories, and it just so happened that I loved to ride a bike.

After my first five months I’d dropped every pound I wanted to.  I was my estimation of perfect.  The next season, 2012, was more of the same and my mileage increased from 2,000 to more than 5,300 for the year but I had the same problem heading into the summer.  My weight dropped from a healthy 164 after the winter to 160, to 158 and I started panicking at 153.  I was down to 150 pounds when I bit the bullet and added fast food back to the menu during the riding season and I managed to stabilize at 160.  This year, same thing again:  Pizza, Burger King on Tuesday nights, Wendy’s every now and again…  The sky wasn’t the limit but I had some serious fun eating – and maintained a perfect 160-161 all season long.

Now, the first secret to my success is my diet.  I naturally eat just enough calories in a day to support a short 30 minute workout.  I’ve crunched the numbers before and I’m just that lucky.  I don’t bother with which foods are considered good or bad, I still eat pizza every Wednesday night for dinner (three pieces deep dish in the winter, four in the summer).  When we have nachos, I have a decent plateful but nothing ridiculous…  The point is, I don’t eat a lot.  I eat until just before I’m full – not uncomfortable full either, and I push myself away from the table.  Also, if I feel I’ve eaten a lot – especially during the off-season – and I’m still a little hungry I wait five minutes before getting seconds.  If I’m still hungry after those five minutes, I’ll go back.  80% of the time I’m full by the time the 5 minutes are up so I skip seconds.

The second secret to my success is the cycling.  I cycle hard and I’m a lot faster than most – I put some ass into those pedals.

First, for the winter, I ride my bike on the trainer four or five days a week 45 minutes a day minimum.  To fight boredom I watch movies while I ride.  Then I run on Saturday – nothing special 3-5-10 miles.  For the workouts I vary degree but it’s all by perceived effort (I do check my heart rate from time to time with an Azumi App on my phone).  Monday is a hard effort 150-160 bpm with spikes up to 185 for the full 45 minutes or as long as I can take it – I’ll slow down for a few and then pick it back up (21-22 miles)
Tuesday is an easy effort 130 bpm give or take (about 15-16 miles)
Wednesday is a medium effort around 14o-145 bpm (about 17-18 miles for the 45 minutes)
Thursday is a hard effort and Friday or Saturday is easy.

This works out to about 1,500-2,500 calories burned a week but I only use the winter to maintain my fitness for the spring.

Now, in-season I follow the same alternating hard, easy and medium workout schedule.
Monday is off
Tuesday is my 38 mile club ride (5 mile warm up and 33 mile ride) – and that’s one tough day…  The warm up takes 17-18 minutes and I get the 33 miles done in less than 1-1/2 hours.
Wednesday is an easy 16-18 miles in 52 minutes to an hour.
Thursday is a medium effort (16-20 miles 50 minutes to 1:06
Friday is an easy ride with my wife – 20 miles.
Then Saturday and Sunday are my big mile days.  30-100 miles.  If I ride 100 on Saturday I’ll take it easy with a 20 on Sunday.  If I’ve got a long ride on Sunday I’ll only go 30-45 on Saturday.  The efforts here vary by how the group goes on the long ride but it’s usually above a 20 mph average and I’ll stick to 18.5 or so on the other.

Roughly, depending on how many miles I can put it, we’re talking about 8,000-11,000 calories or 2-3 pounds each and every week from April until I slow down in November.  When you’re burning calories like that and not overeating, losing weight becomes easy.  Many would argue that they can’t find the time but for the most part, during the week, we’re only talking about an hour a day after work.  The weekends are a little tricky sometimes but I manage.  Sometimes I have to trade-off or ride early (or later) to make scheduling work – the important thing is that I make the time.

Finally I believe a lot of the success I’ve had is due to the amount of effort I put into cycling.  I’ve never used a cycling computer but I do track my rides with Endomondo on my cell phone.  I’ve never used a heart rate monitor either.  I do everything by feel – and go with the assumption (on the hard workouts) that I’m never working hard enough – I’m always leaving something on the table.  I don’t necessarily kick my own ass with it, but I’m not easy on myself either.  Where most people will go out for a comfortable ride and average 110-120 bpm, my easy ride is around 130-140.  A mid-range ride is 140-150 and my big efforts are 155-175 on average…  In other words, I work harder, which takes more effort and burns more calories to maintain that effort…  I wrote a post the other day highlighting a study that showed 1 hour of a hard workout at 75% of a person’s max heart rate is the equivalent of 50 hours of easy walking.  75% of my max is 142.5 bpm – going by that study even my easy rides are at the study’s high-end definition of “rigorous activity” so every hour I’m on the bike – up to 13 hours a week – would mean I’d have to walk for more than 500 hours to get the same benefits.  In short, the fact that I can work that hard has a lot to do with how easily I can stay svelte.  All of this, again, I did naturally without the help of electronics – the only thing I had was my Endomondo app to track my workouts.  I only figured all of this out after I successfully dropped my weight.

Now, if that isn’t enough to go by, I wrote a post where I broke down my caloric intake on a couple of average days – I did the math.

And here are two months from this year (August was a personal best of more than 800 miles while September was closer to average for the summer at 658):
August Mileage September Mileage


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