9 Years ago or so, when I got back into cycling the previous time I remember asking for advice on how to do better up hills. It’s a major struggle. You know, these skinny bastards pay thousands of dollars to shave 1 or 2 kilograms off the weight of their bikes, that’s how important they believe just a few kilograms are. Well, I know lots of people frown upon BMI as a measure, but just as some rough idea – according to the ideal BMI for my height, I’m more than 50kgs over my ideal weight. That’s a hell of a lot of weight to carry extra up a hill. And being 6’2, even my BMI weight is over 90kgs which is pretty heavy for the average cyclist.
So yeah, it’s painful when these skinny guys say “there’s nothing to it, just switch to an easier gear and keep going”. Well back then when I was 20kgs lighter than I am now and I was quite capable of cycling 80-100kgs in a day (over many hours), hills were still a big problem for me. I can’t imagine what it’s going to be like now! Still, I’m determined to get back into it and truthfully, there’s not much that’s going to stop me even if it takes months before I can do any kind of distance.
9 Years ago I lived something like 2kms from the office and for the first few weeks I could only manage a 5km trip to the office and very often went straight home, walking up the hill between my house and the office. But once I was comfortable with that 5km trip, I found a longer loop that was 12kms and months later I increased that to an 18kms loop that went along the waterfront of the Newcastle (Australia) harbour until finally I was doing a 24km trip past the harbour AND an awesome beach and then a pretty decent hill.
It’s not an easy thing, getting into cycling when you’re overweight. but what I learned on my previous return to cycling 9 years ago was just to take it slow and keep at it. Ride as often as you can and enjoy that ride for what it is, even if it is just a few kilometers, and before you know it, you’ll be ready for the next distance.
My plan to get fit
1. Commute as often as I can (3-5 days per week)
My office is 8.5kms from home. No major hills, but a few ups and downs which might be hard work in the beginning.
Once I get my new bike, I will see whether I can do that distance in a reasonable time. If I can’t, I’ll go for shorter rides in the afternoon until I am able to ride half that route and back.
Then I’ll ride that 8.5kms morning and afternoon as often as I can during the week.
2. Increase the distance in the afternoons
8.5kms is not particularly far for the average cyclist, but for a big, unfit guy like me, it’s more than enough for a morning ride. I’ll rather not do too much in the mornings and reserve my energy for the day at the office. But once that 8.5kms feels manageable, I’ll increase my afternoons rides bit by bit. It’s not difficult adding an extra block of finding a slightly longer route in the city to increase your ride with as much or as little as you like. So I’ll do that with the aim of increasing my afternoon ride up to 15-20kms, but I’m sure it’ll take many months to get there. No worries.
3. Saturday rides
I know this isn’t possible for everyone, but my Saturdays are pretty much free, so I will take Saturdays to work on longer rides. Again going back to my previous stint 9 years ago, I found a 109km loop that I wanted to complete and worked on that most Saturdays until I was able to complete it. Bit of a story around dehydration with that, which I might put into another post, but anyhow. The first few weeks I did something like 30kms, then turned around and increased the distance until I reached the point where it was easier to keep going than to turn back.
4. Weekend Trips
So, if you don’t have Saturdays to spare, then you’re going to think this is insane! Once I’d covered my 100km goal for a Saturday, then next big thing would be to do 2 days in a row. So I found a B&B in a small town 90kms from home, cycled there on the Saturday and returned on the Sunday.
Sounds crazy now, but yeah, cycling became the center of my life back then and I want to do the same again. I want to get obsessed with cycling and do what I can to cycle further and further. I don’t care if it takes months or years to get back to those distances, but having the goal and being excited about it is a big part of succeeding for me. Obsession is a great way to get good at something.
5. High Intensity Training
One mistake I made previously was that I increased my distances quite impressively for a big unit, but I never was able to ride very fast. It’s a real problem for a heavy rider… Every hill slows you down to a crawl and it’s hard to keep a constant speed at any reasonable pace. Even with high cadence (legs turning fast in an easy gear as opposed to using force in a harder gear), I just didn’t have the aerobic stamina to keep it up. I mean I had some kind of stamina back then because I could keep going at a slow pace for 8-10 hours in a day, but not at speed.
So the one thing I plan on doing differently this time is to build HIT into my routine. Not right away, but once I can do the 8.5km commute, I’ll aim to put HIT into my ride back home. What does that mean? It means I’ll try to improve my speed on the way home by doing short sprints of 2-3 minutes where I try to go as fast as I can for those few minutes, then slow down until I’ve got my breath and composure back and then repeat.
They say you should only be increasing one thing at a time. so don’t try to ride longer, up steeper hills and faster all at the same time. I’m not even going to dream about hill just yet (other than nightmares about the ones I can’t avoid), but some days I’ll do a slightly longer route and other days I’ll do the 8.5kms with some HIT sprints in.
So there’s my plan. I haven’t even got a bike yet and I’ve got it all worked out… Will have to see whether I actually get to all of this.
My biggest concern is getting comfortable on a bike. Previously I spent a few thousand Aussie dollars on a custom built bike, had a bikefit before ordering the bike and another one afterwards, but never could get comfortable. The last number I remembered was 13 saddles ranging from very cheap to fairly expensive, including 2 Brooks Saddles. But as time went on, I got less and less comfortable on my bike. Long story, but that’s the gist of it and it’s why I immediately sold the secondhand bike which I bought last weekend as soon as I took the first ride and realized the frame was too small for me. Rather spend a bit more to get a larger frame from a bike shop and then we can fine-tune with different saddles, seatposts and stems etc. etc.
My second concern is Arthritis. A few years ago a specialist found signs of arthritis in my knees and said there’s nothing to do at the time, but it’ll get worse in the future. Haven’t even tried to Google whether I should be cycling with Arthritis, but my thinking is that being this fat and unfit is killing me anyway – at least I know that if I get obsessed with cycling, I’ll get fit and am bound to lose some weight.