I love watching the commercials for the internet “bid to win” websites. If you haven’t read the fine print, I do: On every single one of those ads, at the exact moment they’re advertising how little you can “win” a laptop for, the fine print reads “Results not typical”. Of course they aren’t, the truth is most often you might save a few bucks, if you’re lucky, after the dust clears.
On the other hand, when it comes to physical fitness and losing weight by turning to cycling, stories of people dropping anywhere from 20 to 80 pounds in a season are common. Ten to 30 pounds is typical. The results are almost as good when you look at running (I lost 25 pounds myself) – and obviously a lot less expensive.
Where this gets difficult is trying to find the right, delicate balance of diet and exercise that will get the desired results, then implementing them without giving yourself a coronary in the process. To find the balance, the tendency is to start out slow and stay slow. When this doesn’t work or it produces minimal results, too often we see people drop off and go back to their old way of life which can lead to and increase in weight, depression or worse.
So, what’s the trick? How can one find that balance? The way I see it there are two separate aspects to the balance, fitness and diet.
Fitness is the most complex because if you’re in a spot where you want to lose a lot of weight, you’re likely worrying about your ticker also. Add to that, you have to pick something to do as well. Concentrating on cycling, we obviously want to work with a physician and start out slow. As I described earlier, the trouble is when we stay stagnant in our activity. Intensity is everything. While you can’t go all out all of the time without hurting yourself, you can go all out a few times a week, midway a couple of times a week and easy once a week (that’s six riding days, plan on building up to an hour a day). To add to the complexity, many of us simply try to go by feel. I’ve spent the last six months without tracking devices and I can tell you for certain, I’ve slowed. The simple truth is, and I’ve been at this fitness thing for somewhere between 13 and 14 years, many people (myself included) can’t rely on perceived effort and hope to increase intensity. With a tracking device, be it a cell phone, fit bit, a simple watch or anything else, results are tangible. The faster I became, the harder I could work at it, the easier it was to shed weight – in fact, I became so efficient at dropping weight I ended up 20 pounds lighter than my ideal weight… I actually had to learn how to eat more so I could maintain my weight. Let me tell you something folks, that’s a good problem to have right there.
The next part of the balance is diet and unfortunately, a lot of this one comes down to choice. When I decided I was as heavy as I was ever going to be at 195 pounds, shortly after I started running I started eating less. I’d just quit cigarettes so food tasted good for the first time in a long time and this wasn’t easy. Worse, my whole youth was spent with a metabolism that worked more like a smelting furnace – I had never before been required to “watch what I ate”. After a few months I stagnated so I started cutting some deserts out, then I stagnated again but at a decent weight. I got into triathlons a little bit and my whole outlook on what I ate (or drank) changed. I cut everything that I thought was “bad” fuel, soda pop, deserts, candy… That’s also when I started putting in serious miles on the bike (5,000-6,000 miles a year). I dropped 20 pounds in a matter of two months.
Weight management is a fickle thing, it’s a lot like a marriage in that you get out of it what you put into it. This is how it worked for me. I don’t claim that everyone will be the same, but I do believe that there is a balance possible for everyone. The trick is finding it before you quit.