How To Lose Weight Cycling

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Cycling is a fantastic way to burn calories and help you on the way to losing extra weight you may be carrying. In fact, a little over a year ago I weighed 136kg (300lbs). I have now dropped 75lbs in total, and am enjoying a much healthier, more active lifestyle. The photos above were actually taken about 18 months apart – cycling (and also Triathlon as a whole) has truly changed my life!

Now I don’t profess to be a weight loss expert and there are many things I don’t do ‘by the book’ and even more things that I should be doing much better, but at the end of the day, what I have done has had an immense impact on my life and if I can help just one person get started on their own weight loss journey then this post has done it’s job!

As such, I would love to share with you a few secrets to my success in a hope that it can help you follow a similar pathway.

How To Get Started

First things first, cycling isn’t a magic pill, however it does burn a hell of a lot of calories compared to other exercises, and is significantly more low impact that running, boxing or lifting weights. I spent many years ‘trying’ to get active – I joined gyms, start boxing, tried running (hello shin splints!), and even started playing football. All these failed as I didn’t enjoy what I was doing and as such, I burnt out quickly.

One afternoon I missed a boxing class and felt guilty, so grabbed my old hybrid bike and rode around the block…and I loved it! I probably only rode 5 or 6km and was absolutely shattered when I was done, but I had the bug and wanted to ride again the day after.

When you start out any old bike will do, and it will probably serve you for a while before needing to upgrade. The most important thing with any bike however is to make sure your seat is at the right height. If you are feeling pain in your knees or your quads, your seat is likely in the wrong spot (which is often too low). Get this fixed straight away as it can cause injury, as well as making you less likely to want to continue cycling.

How Far Do I Ride And What Do I Bring?

Any distance is better than nothing, so start small and build yourself up. I started on footpaths and probably rode for a maximum of 15-20 minutes at a time. As you start getting comfortable, increase your distance and time on the bike.

When starting out, just make sure you have a good fitting, quality helmet, as well as a comfortable pair of shoes. You could also bring your phone and download an app like Strava, which will help map your rides, as well as telling you your distances and pace.

Also, make sure you bring fluids – for a short ride water should be enough, but as you progress to longer rides (over an hour), you need to be having electrolytes and carbohydrates to fuel your rides.

As you progress to a more ‘specialised’ type of bike, you can then start transitioning to clip in pedals, cycle shoes, cycle clothing, bike computers and other things…but for now, let’s just start slow.

Lastly – make sure your tyre pressures are correct. Do not ride on flat tyres – this will make your job much harder when it comes to pedalling, and also make you more prone to punctures.

On the topic of punctures, I rode for around 3 months without knowing how to replace a flat tube, knowing that if I got a flat I would likely have to walk home. Once you start venturing more than 4-5km from your home or car, or start riding in a group, make sure you carry spares with you and that you know how to change a tube..but lets just take it one step at a time at first!

When Should I Ride?

While any time you can get out on your bike is better than nothing, it is well known that heading out to ride before breakfast can be a great way to kickstart your efforts in losing weight. When training while in a fasted state, your body is forced to use its stores of fat because there is no food in your system.

Aim to work up to a ride of between 30 minutes to an hour, remembering you will need to eat something if you’re going to be riding for much longer than that.

What About Goal Setting?

When it came to keeping myself motivated for cycling, I found having a goal to work towards was important. For me, I signed up for the WestCycle Dams Ride here in WA, which was a 56km ride with around 1000m of elevation. At the time I could ride around 10km, so it was a lofty goal at the time!

I dedicated myself to training for the event, both on the road and at Exercise Institute, which is a cycle specific training centre here in WA.

I completed the event, albeit slowly and then looked towards my next goal, which then led me to discover the world of triathlon!

Do I Need To Wear Lycra?

No is the short answer to this question! When I started cycling, I made a pact to not wear Lycra – especially while I weighed over 130kg. I bought a pair of mountain bike shorts (with a chamois pad in to protect the downstairs area from saddle pain) and threw a T shirt on.

I did, however give in when I started group riding, as I stood out as the odd one in the crowd. Once I did transition to proper cycling clothes, I did feel more comfortable riding, and the shorts make it easier to mount and dismount on the bike.

I found a company in the UK called Fat Lad At The Back who specialise in larger size cycling kits, until I lost enough weight to fit into normal sized cycle clothes, at which point I immediately became converted to Pedal Mafia and Black Sheep Cycle Clothing brands.

One Last Thing To Remember

Of course, cycling is a great activity to kickstart weight loss, but it doesn’t happen on its own. If you are replacing the calories burnt with more food, you won’t lose weight (or will lose a minimal amount).

Yes, you may get more toned legs and some sexy looking calf muscles after sticking with it for a while, but you need to focus on a caloric deficit to see proper results. For me, I did this slowly – first by cutting our sugary soft drinks, then by reducing portion sizes slightly. As I progressed I made some more changes, and was always mindful not to overeat on a training day, as cycling makes you bloody hungry!!!

So now you have a few tips to get you started on your cycling journey, you can hit the road (or path) and get to it. If you have any questions, comments, feedback or simply want some advice on your next bike or bike gear purchase, drop me a line to chris@thechubbytriguy.com

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