Losing weight is hard! Cycling makes it easier.
First, a bit of background. Those who did not know me 10 years ago may not realize this, but I used to be much heavier. Frankly I’ve been at least a little overweight ever since I can remember myself. The stresses of high school and college, though, really took their toll on my body, sending my weight up to over 240 lbs. For a variety of reasons, things finally changed for me when I started grad school. I started purely by dieting, eventually adding exercise when dieting alone failed to extend my weight loss, and got to my adult-time low weight of 190 lbs.
I more-or-less maintained this weight throughout the rest of grad school. I believe I was once again at 190 on my wedding day, and haven’t been there since. At first I spent a few years at 195, then we had a child and I reached 200. Later we moved to New Jersey suburbia, land of the car, and my weight slowly crept up and up. By the time I started cycling I weighed 212 lbs.
Initially my cycling was infrequent and irregular, and so the weight loss was slow. Except for some very occasional workouts on a home elliptical machine, I hadn’t really exercised in about 2 years. For years I had planned to submit the paperwork for my employer’s gym, but for one reason or another I never got around to it. Exercising at home, when we had a house, was never a great option because the temperature in the house was never right for exercise. It also felt lonely, and there was always something going on with the wife or kids luring me away. When we moved to an apartment, we lost the option of exercising at home, but gained the option of exercising in a windowless “gym” in the belly of the building, which still did not seem very appealing.
Cycling outdoors was exactly the exercise option I was looking for. Furthermore, the need to shower after cycling to work spurred me to finally get that paperwork filled out, if only for access to the gym showers. Eventually, I started going to the gym on the bad weather days, balancing my lower body cycling workout with some cross training.
Truth be told, I have not stuck very well to a diet. As each holiday came around (Sukkot, Thanksgiving, Chanuka, Purim, Pesach), I did not watch what I ate, and I gained a few pounds. Thanks to the cycling, though, I quickly lost it again. Besides, I’ve always enjoyed food, and having a solid exercise regimen helps me enjoy holidays with a bit less guilt. My weight loss progress could definitely be faster, but on a few days that I’ve tried eating very little I’ve had some phenomenal difficulties finishing my ride. Since I’m cycling in order to commute, bailing out or stopping to eat or rest is not really an option.
Even more than the weight, though, the transformation in my physical fitness and my cycling abilities has been dramatic. The clearest indication of this is my ability to climb the really steep hill in Inwood on my way home. Early on, I started chatting with a (relatively fit) guy riding down the hill with me. He only commutes 3 days a week by bike, he tells me, because he can’t manage to climb the hill more often than that. At the time, I was very confused. After all, I had never managed to climb the hill. I had to dismount and push the bike up each time, and after a number of failed attempts I figured it was just impossible. Now I always manage the climb, 5 days a week, and now I don’t understand how a seemingly fit young guy couldn’t build up the quads for it, too.
So where do things stand now? Well, I still haven’t reached 190 lbs, but I’m finally at 200 again. Nevertheless, even as my weight has stopped going down, I’ve continued to lose inches off my waist while gaining inches on my quads. It’s finally getting warm, and that means beach and pool weather. I’m not quite there yet, but maybe this year I can finally hang out at the pool without feeling self-conscious.