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40 – the stage of life when no one can help looking back a bit. For me, life is full of bounteousness. I’ve always been a Nature-loving guy. The urge to do more outdoors and immerse self in the Earth’s glories is a growing one.
As a proactive parent with two young boys scampering about the house, life was rather busy within. But when I stopped to consider, I realized I had let my body go. Overweight, yes, but more than the poundage, it was the state of being out of shape that got to me. Being active outdoors, hiking, and running meant nothing if I still felt the years hang heavily.
The greenery of the backpacking trails and the mists of the Smokies called out to me. The dream of setting up a hostel for hikers in the Appalachian Trail beckons and glitters.
Hello folks, I am Hobz Hooley.
I believe that well-being starts and ends with how you feel in your body and mind. I found an activity that combines my love of Nature and my quest for better fitness.
I tell you folks my weight-loss story because it’s eminently doable and perfect to get yourself out.
A little background on yours truly
I teach part-time. Irrespective of my work-hours, the urge to bring the outdoors into full view every so often is strong. For these moods, cycling is my go-to.
One storm after another seems to rampage the expansive plains of Iowa, not the least being the COVID-19 and the social distancing protocol that good sense dictates.
The latest on the block by way of widespread life-altering events was a derecho and the ensuing power disruption. Our home went into a blackout, while I cheerfully got on with clearing away the fallen limbs.
I couldn’t help thinking: such a task would have been much more challenging without my new-found fitness. That said, I am not all brain or all muscle.
Often, I need to unpack an experience at work or decompress from the stresses of COVID-19 restrictions. For such times, I find that I simply steer toward my bike. The gales urge me forward . . . . and I get back home refreshed. Upward and onward we go again.
Backing up a little further…..
My run-ins with the gym, workouts with buddies, even a diet thrown in here and there WORKED – in the short term. But each of these ended abruptly. Either a change in lifestyle or an injury put me off. I pulled a bicep trying out CrossFit. Then, the Achilles tendon took the brunt on the annual section hike of the Appalachian Trail. I lost 8 weeks to allow the Achilles tendon to recuperate.
Truth be told – I just didn’t have the urge to get back to whatever it was that helped me shed the pounds. It was plain I needed a holistic kind of work-out.
It’s a no-brainer: Cycling is that perfect combination; why:
It occupies the mind just as much as I let it. Our family of two working parents, a pre-schooler and another in primary school agree that getting active is not only interesting, but also necessary.
My older son challenges me to bike races. The younger one is picking up speed minus the training wheels and it makes me proud as punch to watch them.
My take on how an organic fitness journey goes
Iowa is characterized by dry plains. The summers are long but then, we have the regular canopy of clouds too. To match my exercise routine to the weather, I knew I needed a good part of cardio and toning for the muscles. I love using my limbs and torso to participate wholly in an activity.
At first, I took up a mix of running and biking to get back on track.
Self-quarantine as a family was an ideal time for me to hop on the bike and saunter off into the cornfield trails. I’d run for a bit, do a few quick laps. But I noticed that I couldn’t wait to get back on my bike.
It didn’t take me long, not even a week, to realize that biking won hands down. The rhythmic pedaling and the complete control afforded by my hybrid bike gave me assurance and cadence.
Half-marathons had been my jam but the soreness of limb and muscle that came afterward often made me turn away. With biking, this never happened at all. I could race along on the hybrid testing its speed limits. Or, I’d pedal leisurely through the flat surfaces. But I never got out of breath or sore in the back. The cardio workout was great, without the strain.
10 days in, I knew my body took to it like no other gym regimen ever did. It was an overall workout for the muscle groups without the telling, gnawing aches of the gym that persisted for several days on.
The decks were ready for action! This was it, I decided.
Time for some rules:
1. I always made note of the reading on the scales after the day’s ride
2. I ride 5 or even 6 times a week
3. I stay hydrated, regardless of the timing of my ride
4. I track my cycling activity through Strava
5. I conquer the miles as often as I can
I also decided I’d not have some other rules:
1. I didn’t always need to burn the rubber on the tire. Sprinting in the fastest gears wasn’t for me all the time. On some rides, I just held back and relaxed
2. I didn’t try to be mindful. If my mind went around in circles, I let it. Eventually, it’d quiet down.
3. If I needed to get out of my head, I’d race other bikers. My 24-speed made excellent time on dirt roads. It picked up on urban roads quite well too
4. I wouldn’t go nuts about the numbers. Sure, I started biking so I’d lose weight. But I didn’t allow the goal to make me lose sight of the enjoyment biking afforded me
5. I’d also slot the time to finish an audio book or listen to some peppy music
So yeah, my eye is on the prize. But I also enjoyed the solo activity for what it is. The bio-feedback of the moment is as satisfying as the long-term benefits of the workout.
The whole idea of coaxing myself into gym-gear goes out of the window. Phew!!
After the ride, I get back home, make the kids’ meals, do random cleaning jobs, or sit down to write my scripts with a clear head. Whatever I want to do, cycling allows me to do better.
My bike pick: Hybrid now, maybe a road bike later.
My lithe, nimble Trek hybrid FX2 bike was my milestone birthday present to myself.
It is faithful and rugged. Low on maintenance – smooth shifters, fast-acting brakes, and plenty of speed options. I don’t even use all of the speed combinations.
I didn’t hanker after a mountain bike. Perhaps, I never will.
It’s not just that I am new to biking. Iowa’s plains present a very little challenge against smooth pedaling. Even the few inclines I encountered are not hard to traverse.
A considerable part of my ride goes through an urban area. When I think of it, I envision buying a road bike someday.
I’d rather go faster than go rugged.
My riding companion: Nobody
I love to go around with my whole family. All four of us have bikes. We ensure that they stay in good condition.
Still, I don’t always take my family along on the rides.
Couple rides or family rides are for recreational purposes only. I don’t expect to burn off calories on such days.
I’m a biker and hiker at heart. It follows from a childhood love for greenery and woodlands. Often on my rides, I see raccoons, groundhogs, and deer. This is the ideal company – they aren’t disturbed by me. I am delighted by a glimpse of them. I can name most of the local birds on my route.
I don’t even think I am missing out on seeing exotic flora and fauna on my rambles in the Midwest. The black bear sightings in the Smokies were thrill-inducing. But I don’t hanker after rare breeds and their ways.
This attitude of peaceful coexistence between and animal without the FOMO feels right for me.
My choice of ride: Flexible
For one, I wouldn’t be able to go on 60 or 90-minute rides or long races with the children in tow.
Racing sometimes, pushing the miles most of the time. Inclines on the rare occasion.
What I take along
The usual gear – a helmet, protective shoes, perhaps a windbreaker. Our weather is pretty warm and I like to work up a sweat.
The one thing I remember is that I need to stay hydrated. For a refreshing thirst-quencher, I opt for the God-given elixir: water
Why not a sports drink?
I am sure my diet takes care of my mineral and electrolyte intake. Also, on the scale of intensity of workouts, cycling is not the heaviest. I surely don’t want to bring in added-sugar when I am sure I won’t burn off as much. As an alternative to water, I sometimes bring a bottle of coconut juice on my ride.
If my ride is longer than 40 miles, I might want to add a sports drink going forward.
That brings us to diet. You’ll be in for a surprise
What I eat
At the beginning of my gym routine, I tried the Keto diet for a short time. But it didn’t make sense for me to cut out carbs entirely.
I am the guy who’d enjoy a hearty roast and mealy meals.
Watching my weight meant that I did some essential swaps:
1. Whole-grain bread instead of white bread
2. No to the colas and sugary drinks
3. Staying away from overly-salted, fried foods
4. No fast food
Other than that, I don’t worry or get intolerant about the shopping list. White bread for the fam, wholegrain for me – our set-up for sandwiches is complete. We prefer lots of meat and veg. I’ve never had to have meals specially-made for me.
We grill on occasion, cook by the fireside, and enjoy s’mores. But such get-togethers are not greatly missed. I am happy to settle around the dinner table with a lot of tasty comfort food made by my partner.
What I ate most: sandwiches
Give me mashed potatoes, Indian meat curry and rice, any day!
If my food philosophy sounds unconventional to you, let me tell you the Why:
I had a running buddy who remarked that burning off the calorie intake is more important than worrying about what goes in.
This came true for me in the past months. I have come to see my rides as an escape – they help me refocus on my priorities. In short, I am refreshed. Feeling drained or moping around after a ride never happened to me.
The more we do with our limbs, torso, even the mind, the more calories we burn off. I am a big believer in speeding up metabolism. A well-nourished body burns calories at this rate. You simply don’t become sluggish when you are this active.
Sure, watch how much goes in.
To me, this approach worked great. I always pushed for a great number of miles or more speed.
When I followed my bodily cues, the body never troubled me with aches and sore muscles.
The gym gave me aches. I even sustained injury trying some rigorous routines. But the rigors of splitting wood, carrying logs, and working in the garden never gave me trouble.
This is why I believe it is important to listen to the body and give it the type of exercise and nourishment it thrives on.
It leads me to believe that my food philosophy and my general philosophy for life aren’t vastly different:
I am quite easy-going. It helps that I am not easily fazed by what goes on around me. My state of mind and equanimity are helped a lot by the fact that I am comfortable in my skin.
Do a little of everything, and a lot of what I love – at the end of the day, it produces the best sort of satisfaction within me.
Here’s what you’re looking for – the numbers behind the transformation
When I started biking in May 2020, I weighed 200 pounds.
The change began with wondering if my pants felt loose.
Hopping on my scales, I began to notice a pound or two drop in front of my eyes almost every other day.
It’s a great feeling. Without a real focus on the loss of pounds, I aimed for a good long ride. Hitting up more miles was the real focus after the first couple of weeks.
At this point, my family started to remark that I seemed to have lost at least 10 pounds.
What I Achieved
Come August 1st, I could see that my weight loss stood at 25 pounds.
Strava logs my average at 100 miles a week. For most weeks, it is higher than 100.
Duration: 4 months solid. Give or take 2 weeks.
Yes, it feels great! It looks awesome in real-time.
I earned the change through sweat but with near-zero pain.
And guess what? I know I can keep up this routine and lose at least 15 pounds more to get to my target weight.
Believe me when I say there were none.
Yeah, it looks like I might lose some time to clearing out the stumps after the derecho. The trail has become quite messy. But that’s only a temporary hindrance. I was only able to ride two days this week, and I miss it already.
Most people who talk about weight-loss mention plateaus. Not for me. My journey was pretty steady and consistent over the past 3-4 months.
What worked in my favour
- Burning calories by being consistent
- Logging miles, speeds, weight
- Long rides (30-50 miles on an average day)
- Not stressing about diet – but burning off what I ate
- Not stressing about anything – trust me it adds years when you take things easy
What didn’t matter (and this is a fine line for many)
- The number of hours of sleep – I was fine with 5-6 hours of sleep
- Missing a day – I just made up for it later in the same week
- Eating a big meal because I felt like it – seriously, folks, don’t stress over this. Just burning it off
My advice: Observe what works for you
Advice for those who wish to take up cycling for fitness:
Weight-loss can happen as a by-product of the bigger dividends of fitness, increase in stamina, and therapeutic activity for the mind. Whether you go in looking for one or the other, you’ll taste a whole array of benefits.
Just remember that the weighing scales or the Strava are not your enemies. Rather, cycling is a process and also pure joy.
To summarize my exploits:
I have got a rich repository of life experience, as well as awareness of what works well for my body. I am lucky to have a supportive family.
I can’t think of a single day I had to drag myself to the bicycle shed. That’s a huge mental plus for me.
I don’t think I’d ever give up a pursuit that pays back so well. Upward and onward I go!
With this fluency of physical fitness, I feel fairly hopeful about building that mountain-slope hostel in the distant future.
Hobz is a part-time teacher, actor, script-and-drama writer. He colors these jobs with his easy-going nature. A devout member of the church, father, and husband – these aspects make up the fiber of who he is. He lives in Iowa and is a born Nature-enthusiast. Backpacking, cycling, and art are a big part of his personality.