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Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Why Cycling?

What is this attraction I have to a contraption made up of tubing, with two wheels made basically of tensioned wire and an alloy hoop? I suppose, first and foremost, it's probably responsible for a large part of the progress I've made in the last 13 months. A bit over a year ago, I was basically just about dead! I had reached the end of what my body could handle, physically at least. Due to a metabolic disorder called Empty Sella Syndrome, I had gained a truly amazing amount of weight and was to the point that I required supplementary oxygen to function. If you've been following my blog, this will be old information if you started reading me when I started. The link above is to a medical article on Kallman's Syndrome, a symptomatic offshoot of Empty Sella. This may help you understand a bit more. I warn you, though, the writing style is, shall we say, a bit obtuse!

The Photos are from my first multimile ride last year and from when I did my short weekend tour in March

At the peak

At my peak weight, I had blown up to 581 pounds, and was literally unable to walk more than 50 feet without crushing chest pain and shortness of breath. I had to use a wheelchair to go any further. I underwent bariatric surgery to alleviate the weighht problem, which has been successful. I am now down to 241 pounds 13 months later. That's right, 241, I weighed today! There were risks to the surgery, but I was trading a life in hell for a chance. That officially gives me a 340 pound weight loss in 13 months and a fraction!

Why Cycling?

This brings me to the point of this article, why cycling? Well, that's both a simple and complex question. The simple part, first, I guess. My knees had so much damage from my weight that it plain hurt to walk! Imagine if you will, weighing 500 pounds and having your knees popping and grating every time you took a step. Imagine having your knees feel like there was sand in the joint grinding away each time you walked. Kind of hard to do, right? That's why I resumed cycling, aside from the fact that cycling also burns more calories than walking. It's low impact, and doesn't stress the knees so much if you have a good fit on your bike. I'm not saying it was easy to get started either. First, I had to figure out how to carry oxygen safely. My provider, Lincare provided me with a backpack sleeve to use while riding. This turned out to be just what I needed.

When I resumed cycling, after a 25 year absence, it was like an old friend came to stay, I rediscovered my passion for it. My family thinks I'm a tad bit fanatical, but my returning health tells me that while I may be a fanatic, this is a good thing. I am now 340 pounds lighter, as I said, off the oxygen completely, off the cardiac and blood pressure medicine, and feeling pretty good. It has required a commitment to very hard work to get as far as I have, and it isn't easy! If you have an obesity problem, believe me I know how it feels, been there done that and got the size 8X T-Shirts to prove it. The problem can be beat though, with a commitment to changing your lifestyle. Diets don't really work, for the most part, long term.

When you diet and cut the calories too far, your body goes into famine mode and starts conserving fat. You start burning protein instead, and this isn't really a good thing. Keep the protein intake to about 1 gram per kilo (2.2 pounds) body mass to prevent this, and keep the fluid intake high! Without enough calories and water, the fat burning machine in your body doesn't work properly.

When you exercise, like on a long ride, follow these guidelines:

* Drink about every ten minutes, whether you are thirsty or not
* Consume about 300 calories (kcals)/ hr to prevent the "Bonk" (This is when your blood sugars drop and you start feeling really crappy, and often you can't even think straight

Carry some Gatorade or other sport drink to keep your electrolytes balanced. You need sodium and potassium for proper muscle and heart action.

How do I Burn the Fat?

The Answer is actually quite simple! Increase your activity, there's a whole world out there for you to experience. Don't waste your life sitting in front of the TV eating junk! Here is a site to help you plan your riding sessions:

The Bicycle Speed and Power Calculator

Too technical? Try this one!:

WVDA Physical Activity Calculator

The bottom line is that for me, cycling has truly helped me get much thinner. I would likely have gotten here anyway after the surgery, but I wouldn't be as strong and I wouldn't have had as much fun! Each gain in endurance and new mileage milestone has given me a sense of both wonder and accomplishment. The feeling of triumph after my first tour this year was just incredible. All I can say is get on your bike and ride! The rewards are unimagineable

5 comments:

Christa said...

Great post, Tom :D
And you're right - there's so much more out there to discover.
I hope you'll continue to feel good and work up the strength and burn the calories. In the scale that you've done this it's far beyond a diet thing - it's the change of lifestyle and a big commitment.

jakalof said...

I am a newbie to your blog. Thats an inspirational post. So whats next for you?

Tom Stormcrowe said...

Welcome jakalof. I'm currently training for a bike race called the Lotoja. I expect to ride it in September, 2007. This year, I plan on riding the "Hilly Hundred, down in Southern Indiana. Feel free to come by anytime!

JHP2 said...

Great post. Curious how you were able to select a road bike? I worked with my LBS and never found one comfortable enough to buy. Went with a hybrid instead which is quite comfortable but I am not likely to put in huge miles with it.

Tom Stormcrowe and Crazylady said...

A lot of t is adaptation and training, as well as the type of riding I do. I do really long miles now, by most peoples standards, as like to go fast, so a road bike is a natural for me.

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