Starting a workout routine such as cycling is always tough, but can be tougher if one is overweight or “fat”.
One of the ways to get started is combine exercise and enjoyment and for this, cycling is at the top of the list when it comes to fat loss! It allows you to go places, socialise when cycling with others and stay entertained while working up a sweat. Also, it does not put pressure on your knees like jogging.
Check if you need to lose weight with this BMI calculator:
Note: A healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 24.9, but these numbers can vary for athletes, pregnant women, and between ethnicities.
Here are 10 tips to get start cycling as an overweight person.
1. Get a geared cycle
The idea is to start cycling small distances and then ramp up as your body loses excess fat and gets conditioned and your muscles get stronger. Just keep cycling and this will happen on its own. Push yourself within your comfort zone and avoid injury. Do not push uphill on single speed cycles, straining your knees. Rather, use a geared cycle that helps you go uphill, and helps your body get to the next level with ease. Go for a 21 speed bike or higher.
2. Wear the right clothes
Wearing the right clothes, compression gear that holds you together can make for a good ride. One great option is bib shorts that hold the cyclist together and with straps going over the shoulders, these shorts do not roll down the tummy. You can also get bib tights if you are riding in winter or simply want more coverage. For women a good sports bra can help a lot by reducing uncomfortable jiggling, especially over rough roads.
In a cycle jersey go for a club fit, which is shaped for normal people, not the body of a professional athlete. Enjoy the colors that cyclists wear; they’re a bright lot indeed!
If riding in winter or rain get cycling jackets that are longer at the back and keep your rear covered even when you bend forwards and ride. Sometime overweight people feel they should wear loose clothes and hide their body. It is actually the other way around. Just get your size in cycling clothes that are available up to 2XXL, and the clothing will make you look streamlined, slim and also enhance your performance by making you aerodynamic.
Wear a helmet with many vents (holes) so that if you are overheated, the heat can escape, you don’t get extra sweaty and you can continue to ride comfortably.
3. Eat Your Way to Better Cycling
Do not decide to starve and exercise your way to a fitter you. For cycling you need fuel, and hydration as you lose minerals too along with fat. Drink a lot of water mixed with electrolytes so you do not get cramps due to lack of salts in your body, lost in sweat. Eat before your ride so you are fuelled, and if riding for 2 hours or more, eat a little more then and give yourself instant energy to keep cycling. Post your ride, it is good to have protein for recovery so that your muscles do not get depleted. The way to lose weight/ fat by cycling is to go from 5km rides, to 20km to 50, 100km and more. Think long-term, for a period of a few months for weight loss with cycling. Having said that, fuel yourself just enough. Do not go overboard, with calories gained exceeding calories lost.
4. Get a Bike Fit Done
In a bike fit an expert adjusts your saddle height, your handlebar distance from your body and makes other such adjustments so that you cycle in the best position for your body. Some people get this done, some do it to some level intuitively with little tweaks and touches, and some don’t get this done at all. It is however a good idea, if you experience any sort of pain or strain. Overweight cyclists do put more weight on their wrists, knees and rear than others.
Read our article: Bike Fit | Top 5 Ways And Tips To Do It Yourself Properly
In the beginning you may have aches and pains anyway, as your body gets used to the cycling position. Don’t let this deter you. But if you feel something is fundamentally wrong with your cycling posture, or you are experiencing unusual strain, then look up “bike fit” online or get it done by an expert. Anyone can get it done, you don’t need to be a professional for this!
5. Prevent Chafing
As you cycle and your inner thighs rub against the saddle or each other, you may experience chafing. Use anti-chafing cream to prevent this. It washes off your shorts easily and keeps you comfortable during the ride. Along the same lines, wear clothing of skin-friendly, breathable material and keep issues like chafing and odour at bay.
6. Set Small Targets For Cycling
Nothing will kill your stamina and confidence like going on day 1 to conquer a big hill or a flyover. Pick easy roads and let your body just get used to the motion of cycling. It is like going to the gym and on day 1 doing all exercises with just 1kg weights. Keep going, try to do 20km comfortably on plain roads before levelling up.
7. Be Regular
At the end of one ride, or two, you may feel you have done a major workout but to get those pesky pounds off, it is key that you cycle regularly. Only when you have cycled regularly for some months will you start noticing changes. In general, one first sees changes in one’s stamina, and strength and gradually in one’s weight and look. On the whole it is a great journey of enjoyment from ride to ride.
8. Reduce Impact While Cycling
Make sure your tires have the right air pressure, that they are tight, else you can feel a “drag” when cycling. Bikes with wider tires will also give you a more cushioned feel. You can get a cycle with some level of suspension in their rear. If you get a cycle with lockout suspension then you can choose when you do not want suspension, like on smooth roads.
You can add cushioned grips on your cycle’s handlebar, that increase the surface area below your hands and help with weight distribution. You can also go for wider saddles and move to narrower ones as you lose weight, in keeping with your sit bones’ distance.
Also “ride light”, that is stand up on your pedals when going over potholes. The idea is to reduce impact on your body and joints.
9. Have a Cycling Trip to Look Forward To
And not just a weight loss goal. Pick a gorgeous ride, perhaps one in the Himalayas, or in the countryside around your city and train for that goal. Cycling is not just an exercise. It is a means of adventure and travel! Plan your goals the way you plan a vacation. If you will need to ride 40km a day in a 5-day cycling trip in beautiful valleys and hills, then train for that. This makes cycling much more fun as you have something to look forward to.
10. Find the Right Group For Cycling
If you look up cycling groups online, you will find many types. Some have serious cyclists that are competitive and go for speed. Other groups are for beginners. You can even make a group of two or three people, your friends or neighbours interested in cycling. It is usually good to find people who live around you so you can have a common starting point. With your friend waiting for you at a nearby intersection, you are more likely to get on your cycle and get riding!
Bonus: Develop a Thick Skin
Get started. Do not worry about what people will say, how you look, at the stares you may get. Cyclists get a lot of stares anyway, and usually it is the look of admiration! Remember people who don’t challenge themselves or are unkind will not change for you, and also remember that most people applaud a person breaking out of their comfort zone.
Realize that with every pedal push you are getting stronger, faster, fitter. Every minute you are going to be a little better than you were a minute ago. Your competition is not with the better cyclist on the road, it is just about you. Don’t even look for validation from others. They don’t matter. This is a private, personal journey with the best companion – yourself. You don’t owe anyone anything!
*Feature Image Credit: Jasveen Chawla