Thursday, 7 June 2012

The health benefits

There's no doubt about it, by the end of 2011, I'd become decidedly porky!

I used to keep myself in pretty good shape through regular martial arts training and irregular running. Just for reference, that's irregular as in frequency and not a "Ministry of Silly Walks" technique...

A change to my job in 2010 saw me working away a fair bit and putting in extra hours which meant that a lot of my training went by the wayside. Add to that the nights out and drinking while away and it's little wonder I began to get out if shape.

So, a large part of wanting to cycle as part of my commute had to do with getting some regular exercise and losing a little weight. Unfortunately, I knew that I'd piled on the pounds and developed a consequent fear of the bathroom scales so I have no idea how heavy I was when I began.

It really didn't take long before cycling daily started to yield some positive physical results. Although overweight, I was reasonably fit to start with and so being badly out of breath has never been an issue. My leg muscles were another matter though. There are a few hilly points on my regular route that had my thigh muscles screaming in the early days. I spent days walking round with decidedly achy legs too, especially after climbing a set of stairs. That stage didn't last long though and I was soon able to whizz up hills that used to have my legs bursting.

I've lost a fair bit of weight too. I know I have no idea what my starting weight was but I have several items of clothing, especially trousers, which now fit much more comfortably than they used to. Standing side on to a mirror no longer shows a t-shirt held out from my jeans by a burgeoning waistline. It feels good!

A bit of a Google found some useful online calorie calculators. By putting in your gender, weight and exercise, it tells you how many calories per hour you've burned. I put my figures in to find I am burning a staggering 600 calories per hour! Add to that the fact that, in total, I'm often on the bike for a couple of hours each day and that's 1200 calories on top of the usual a person needs to stay healthy. No wonder I sometimes feel tired on the home stretch! Furthermore as weight is a factor in the equation, even though I'm losing a bit of bodyfat, my rucksack sees to it that my exercise rate is still that bit higher on heavy-load days.

Bitter experience has taught me several times that if I was working at that rate but running rather than cycling, I would have been injured to the point of packing it in by now. On a bike I'm able to bang in the miles, burn off the calories, get slimmer, fitter and spend much less on petrol. A win all round I'd say.

It seems that the challenge is getting enough of the right kind of calories to fuel my journeys without weighing a ton. However, that's another topic for another day.

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