Life from an outsider's perspective…

How to get back into cycling.

Middle aged weight gain, and how to lose it.How to lose fitness:
I don’t know what happened to me in the last year. I seemed to lose all motivation for riding my road bike. It’s the same old story: you turn 30 and your belly starts to accrete fat molecules like an asteroid belt orbiting a big planet. So here’s a little spur-of-the-moment article I’ve put together that can possibly help loads of people.

I was so busy with &, I didn’t get out as much & gained at least 5kg body mass in the last year (and none of it was muscle). Probably it was more like 7-10 kg, but I conveniently forgot what my starting weight was (~67kg?). All I know is that, suddenly one day I hopped on the scales and the little dial moved in a manner in which I’d never previously witnessed: it lurched forward and then backward and then forward again, swinging like the pendulum of a miniature grandfather clock, giving me enough time to realise that I’d definitely gained too much weight. By the time it settled I wasn’t happy about the decision to weigh myself. At this point, I could only imagine the level of guilt truly obese people feel.

Road bikes are fitness machines – if you aren’t in top shape, they’re more difficult to ride. It’s easy to lose motivation if you can’t see any improvements in your fitness. So once you lose a little fitness, naturally you don’t feel like getting out there on the road and you can quickly end up in a downward spiral.

I am certain that the majority of riders & sportspeople will simply not understand this paragraph, but another factor was that I suffered a bout of depression recently (in 2006/2007). I’m pleased to say that I haven’t taken any anxiety and/or depression medication for > 6 months. Like everybody, I still experience ups and downs, but it’s not what I’d call depression. I feel a lot better for having taken it. I really believe that it helped me get out of a major rut in my life – although one side effect of the medication I was taking was weight-gain. Unfortunately, I now tend to associate some bicycle routes with that horrible condition.

Reasons & Excuses:
At least those were my excuses! And they’re just that – EXCUSES. Excuses are not valid reasons. Excuses pile up, one on top of the other, until like me you end up procrastinating beyond belief. Learn the difference between real reasons not to exercise and mere excuses.

A reason not to go could be that you have a firm commitment to something else equally important. For example, a good reason not to ride your bike: “I have a broken leg”.

On the other hand, an excuse is nothing more than “rationalising” a decision in your favour. For example: “it’s not a perfectly sunny blue-sky day, so I won’t enjoy myself as much.” or “my favourite jersey is dirty” or “I don’t have enough time” – RUBBISH!! People today have much more leisure time than they realise. Modern homes are suprisingly automated. So skip the TV/playstation/internet and get out outside. If chief executives can make time for exercise, so can you too!

The Turning Point:
What happened to me? One day, I ran out of excuses! I don’t know the exact moment, but it dawned on me that I actually started to invent reasons not to go, yet I had absolutely nothing to do. I was bored, completely lousy. I tried to think of something to stop me going, but it was time to get real: WHAT WAS I WAITING FOR???

Somehow I had to overcome this huge “activation energy” lump that I’d developed. I just couldn’t fool myself any longer. In reality, it should be the other way round. You should look for reasons to GO and exercise… you won’t have to think much before you realise that it’ll obviously be worth the effort. If you’re thinking of reasons NOT to excercise, you really need to take a long hard look at yourself, and if you really want to change or not.

I suppose the movie Wall E was somewhat of an inspiration. A race of fat people too lazy to do anything themselves. Is it any wonder they’re fat? No. Isn’t this just the way we’re headed? Yes. Isn’t this what I’ve always thought about repercussions of advanced technology? Yes.

Something Philosophical:
If you find that you’ve completely lost your get up and go, consider each day as a turning point in your life. Imagine two timelines forking out from this very moment in time. One timeline rises up as you become fitter, and the other falls as you become more out of shape. Think about this for a moment. Most variable conditions are in a state of flux – they’re rarely constant. You can choose either path. If you keep choosing to procrastinate, you’ll certainly be on the low road. Then, next week, when you’re inevitably feeling even lower, will you be more or less likely to change? The answer is probably less. Let’s come back to the present. If you choose to excercise TODAY, then at least for one day, you’ll be on the way up! Tomorrow or quite possibly the day after, you’ll find that you have more energy than before, not less. For one thing, you’ll be proud of yourself because the first steps are always the hardest. Looked at from another perspective, if you had have chosen not to do anything where would you be? Certainly no better off, that’s for sure.

Keep thinking of each decision in terms of a turning point, and take things one step at a time. The idea is that the incremental fitness boost will give you a much needed motivational boost as well; once you start the upward slope, it becomes self-sustaining, even addictive (as impossible as that is for you to belive now). If you have nagging thoughts that you’re not getting enough excercise, listen to them!

The World’s Simplest Training Plan:
I’m proud to say that last week I’ve started a new training regime. Keep in mind that I’ve never had a strict training plan and never kept training logs either. What happens to me is that I become a slave & I get bored too easily with those. So I have purposely kept my training plan simple. I can sum it up it four words: “ride your bike more”.

I try to get out on my bike at least 5 times a week. Even if it’s just a 5-10km ride, Tenerife serves up a bunch of hills for me to climb. I look for ways to avoid mechanised transport and use my own muscular engine. If I need to do a chore, I go by bike instead of by car or bus. If I need something within a 2km radius of my house, I walk there and back. If I skip a day, I only have to think of the time line again…

I must confess that finding the motivation to get out the first few times was tough. I think the first 3 rides are always the hardest, and after I do about ten fitness sessions I know I won’t be hurting so much. I recently turned 31, and it’s definitely not as easy as when I was younger, but I can already feel that I have more energy than before (and more importantly, more desire to continue with my new training regime). I can honestly say that I have never sweated so much in my life: I think I’ve already lost the first kilogram! Part of me feels like plotting the progress, but I’m reminded that the extra time it demands might give me one more excuse not to ride. And that would take me away from my aim.

I reassure myself with some much-needed common sense – that big changes don’t need to be measured, the results will speak for themselves. I don’t care about how much I weigh or my resting heart rate, I just want to lose the overwhelming guilt. I simply can’t live with it anymore. It’s easier to excercise than to live with that horrible feeling.

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