Like most kids that grew up in the suburbs in the Brady Bunch era, I rode a bike all over the neighborhood all weekend and all summer long. And like most teenagers in the suburbs in the post-Brady Bunch era, I bought a car as soon as I could and left that bike to rust.
I did not ride a bicycle again until the very end of 2009.
In the 25 years between rides, I was constantly fighting a tendency to gain weight if I was not being active. I tried to keep it in check by doing fun things like snowboarding, tennis, and going to punk shows.
Turns out punk shows are more dangerous than snowboarding. I tore out my ACL at a show in 2006. Long story short, I was misdiagnosed at first and I did not push hard enough for a proper diagnosis. This meant I had an untreated injured knee that would fail on me when doing pretty much any physical activity. Things like mowing the lawn, walking across a dance floor, and this one time when I just turned to answer the phone and ended up lying on the floor.
My weight increased while my overall health declined as I got more and more sedentary, since there was not much left for me to do to stay active. In 2008, I went in for a checkup and had the following test results:
Resting heart rate 95
My weight at this appointment was 260, and it continued to climb through the year to a peak of around 265-270 pounds.
Finally in 2009 I decided to have the troublesome knee looked at again, where after just a couple of wiggles the doctor said “We need an MRI to verify it, but you seem to have a torn ACL.” Fast forward a few months past the confirming MRI, through the reconstructive surgery, and on to the physical therapy.
The therapist said riding a bike was great for rebuilding strength in my legs without putting too much strain on the knee. I was hesitant to start riding, because of a combination of fear of death by car and death by embarrassment of silly clothes. But being fat really sucked, so I figured I could wear normal clothes and keep to off-road paths and put my fears aside. I bought a cheap old hardtail mtb through Craigslist and headed out.
My first ride lasted about 10 minutes. But what an awesome 10 minutes. Every day I would go out on my lunch break and ride a little further, pretty soon I was riding for the whole lunch break and cutting into my afternoon’s productivity.
At the time I lived in San Francisco’s East Bay area. Way out in the far East Bay, where there are lots of multi-use paths and easy access to fire roads and trails right in my backyard. The funny thing is, I never saw any of it until I started riding.
It was like a whole world opened up right in front of me. The miles started to add up and the pounds started to melt away. Fast forward again past some more healthful dietary changes and a move to San Francisco, where I ride my bike for any errand and I ride as long as I can get away with on the weekends.
And now I do it surrounded by cars while wearing silly clothes, something that was unthinkable to me just a couple of years ago.
Between my last checkup last fall and the weight loss challenge last month, my current numbers look like this:
Resting heart rate 47
I weigh 193 pounds now, just about a pound and a half over where I bottomed out during Fatty’s weight loss challenge this spring. I know I have a bit more to go to reach my ideal weight, but I have not been trying too hard to lose while adding miles every week preparing for my first century- this year’s 100MoN.
In just about two and a half years I have gone from that awesome 10 minute slog to easy 50 mile weekends to gearing up for my first 100 mile ride. In the process I have lost over 70 pounds and managed to get my blood pressure and other health metrics all in check.
And it all started as therapy for an ACL reconstruction following too much fun at the punk rock show.
Surprise Part II, “How I Got Someone Else To Start Riding”
I told my wife if she ever wanted to see me on the weekends again, she needed to get on a bike and keep up. Luckily, she likes me and did.