Tipping Point

One of the reasons I was interested in bike commuting, one of the big, vain reasons, was weight loss. When I rode my bike in Chicago, I had a flat stomach and I ate all the pizza I wanted. And isn’t that the dream? The AMERICAN DREAM?

Living in Los Angeles, land of the pretty people, one wants a flat stomach more than one might usually do. Living in Los Angeles, the pizza isn’t as tempting. Come on, y’all. Don’t pretend LA is a pizza town. Chicago is a pizza town. LA is great for kale smoothies and rumor has it Mexican food, but I am not sold on the Mexican food here. There are, however, a healthy amount of tiny El Salvadoranian restaurants tucked into corners and serving papusas, which is my favorite, and so anyways, what was I talking about? Oh, yeah. Weight loss.

But I am older and the systems don’t run so smoothly as they once did, and for the first few months of bike riding, I did not lose any weight. I actually gained weight. While well-meaning friends have tried to pretend I was gaining muscle, the fact is that I was pounding cookies. I was stressed and not feeling great about things, and my go to stress reliever comes in blue packages with Oreo printed on the sides.

Two things had to happen to turn the weight loss on. One, I had to stop the cookie thing, which meant, I had to manage stress better. I have been trying meditation, which has helped, and tightly rationed cookies to keep me from going hog wild. Nothing makes me hungrier for cookies than not being allowed to have cookies.

The second thing was I had to start riding more. The first few months of my bike adventure, I was riding a couple of times a week. But for the last few weeks, I’ve been riding five or six times a week.

See, bike riding isn’t necessarily great cardio. Bicycles were invented and designed to maximize efficiency. On a bike, you get the most out of each leg motion. A person on a bicycle is the most efficient creature on the planet, turning calories into motion at optimal levels. And weight loss is actually about being less efficient with those calories. Weight loss requires you to throw calories around.

Why add ankle weight to a run? It makes you spend more calories to do the same thing.

A person can ride a bike athletically, by riding fast, but riding fast isn’t what bike commuters are trying to do. I am trying to ride safe. I slow down at intersections and stop at lights. Also, I tend to ride in jeans, and I am not interested in being sweaty and winded when I arrive.

A five mile bike ride at an average speed of 8 miles an hour burns less than 200 calories. And one of the rides I do most often is a five mile ride.

Burning an extra 200 calories, or 400 round trip, twice a week, that’s a pretty weak exercise schedule. Easily defeated by one trip to Wendy’s for a four for four. I suppose I could give up Wendy’s, but no. Let’s move on to things that might really happen.

Like the fact that over the last few months, I have gotten stronger. Because I am stronger, that five mile ride went from an average of 8 miles per hour to 10 miles per hour, which made the ride take less time, and increased the calorie burn. Instead of being less that 200 calories, it went to around 275.

If you do something 2 or 4 times a week, and each time, burn an extra 75 calories, that’s 150-300 more calories, which is like working out an extra time. But if you are doing it 10 or 12 times a week, you are burning an extra 750 to 900 calories. That’s some serious calories.

Anyhow, this last month, now that the weight loss has kicked in, I’ve dropped five pounds with no extra effort. There are more cookies to work through, but there is something deeply motivating by a descending scale.