I am Sam, and I used to be fat. Not just a little big podgy, really really obese. There, now I’ve got that out of the way I can get to telling you the story of how I stopped being overweight and transformed myself into a slim, athletic cycling (and running) machine. Whether you are busy getting rid of the extra pounds you put on over Christmas, or you are looking to make a serious change in your life, read on to hear how I did it.
From 20 Stone to 11 Stone
In 2011, as every year, I was invited to take a medical by my then employers. What I was confronted with wasn’t pretty. 34 years old, 19 stone 9 lbs (125kg) and heading towards an early grave. As someone with 2 young children, a decent career and a desire to see as many more birthdays as possible, I was shocked into taking action.
I’ve dieted many times over the years – name a faddy diet plan, the chances are I’ve tried it and failed. Sure, I lost weight in the short term, but it soon piled back on along with more for good measure. This time though something clicked. I knew what I was after wasn’t a faddy diet plan or celebrity endorsed meal replacement shakes – no, what I needed was a complete and utter change of lifestyle.
The Secret Formula
That change came on two fronts. First – and most importantly – came the eating. Not a diet, but sensible, filling, balanced meals. Low in processed food, high in vegetables and fruit – pretty obvious stuff really.
The second assault was on the exercise front. Obviously, at 20 stone you have to be careful what you do. Risk of injury – or worse – is ever present, so small steps were taken – literally! I started walking, and hour or so every day at a reasonable pace. I also started getting back on my bike – bought years earlier at the start of a previous ‘health kick’ that didn’t last the distance. Not far at first, 2 or 3 miles was about my limit beyond that I was out of puff and had legs like jelly. It was frustrating, and at times embarrassing, but I kept at it.
From 20 stones to 26.2 miles
The weight started to drop off reassuringly quickly, and the exercise got easier every day. About a month into my new lifestyle I began to run – well I say run, the first time out I managed 30 second runs interspersed with a great deal of walking. I followed the well proven Couch to 5K programme ably assisted by the Get Running iPhone app, and built the running up each time and was walking less and less until, after 7 weeks, I ran for 20 minutes with no walking.
Soon I was running 5Ks, then 10Ks. Shortly afterwards, I completed my first half marathon in 2:07 in my hometown. To say I was emotional at the finish would be an enormous understatement. At that moment, on a grey and rainy September day, I truly believed I could achieve anything. Since then I’ve run 6 more half marathons and I’ve also run a full marathon in Edinburgh 2012 so from close to 20 stones to a marathon in a year.
A Cycling Obsession Emerges
However, my true obsession is now cycling. I now consider myself a cyclist who runs rather than a runner that cycles. I am totally cycling obsessed and everything in cycling excites me – from the daily commute, to a weekend club ride, to a long distance sportive, to touring, to racing – all of it.
I am sure most cyclists can relate, but what excites me most is the range of bikes and gear available. They say the correct number of bikes for a cyclist to own is n+1 where n is the number you currently own.
My own n is currently 5:
- A carbon road bike
- A winter aluminium road bike
- A steel cross bike/commuter
- A steel single speed rigid mountain bike
- A folding bike.
The Next Challenge : John O’Groats to Lands End
In June I will take part in the Deloitte Ride Across Britain – a 960 mile ride from John O’Groats to Lands End over 9 days with an average of 4000ft of climbing each day! To prepare for that, alongside my usual commute, I am putting in about 150 miles a week of riding and it’s only going to increase as the event gets closer. I am taking part in some pretty iconic sportives before the event to prepare so you can expect some tales of trials and tribulations along the way!
Oh, for the record, at the time of writing I am 11 stone 6 lbs (72.5kg) which is a loss of 8 stones and 3 lbs (52kg). I’d still like to lose a bit more – after all the less I weigh, the less weight I have to drag up the Great British hills in June!
[Andreas: Sam will be contributing to London Cyclist, bringing coverage of cycling gear and sportives (something I’ve always wanted to cover more of).]