Fat Cyclists – Bike Fit and Getting into cycling for the overweight

Fat Cyclist
Fat Cyclist

I have seen a lot of websites giving advice to cyclists, from bike fit, to technique, however none seems to apply specifically to people who are obese.
Being obese brings its own problems, from bike fit, comfort, to even just being able to get started and help your partner getting into cycling.
I have been both really obese, and slim, and cycled. I have helped a few people into cycling, and also seen some people put right off by over-enthusiastic friends trying to get people into it. Hence the reason for this post, just in case you are larger and need advice, or are helping somebody larger.

Getting the Bike & Bike Fit

When starting out, most people need comfort. If it’s a painful, or uncomfortable experience, they will not want to repeat it!
The bike fit is NOT the same as a normal person! You will need a stronger frame than usual, I would suggest alloy (lighter), or if you are particularly heavy, Steel. Don’t waste money on cheap bikes, get a good brand name bike, even if its second hand. Cheap bikes fall apart, often are not comfortable. Carbon is probably not ideal for heavy weights, its flexible and will crack.
A hybrid is a good option as it has a more upright way to sit, larger tyres, and better seats. Make sure you have 3 cogs on the front, you will need these for any sort of hill (be it mild or otherwise), and it will help stop you getting sore knees from hauling the extra weight.
Road Race bikes are not great for first timers, the fit is fairly aggressive which can put far too much weight on your arms (stomach pulling you forward), and not allowing you to breath when pedalling due to knees hitting belly.
Make sure the seat is as high as you can handle, as this keeps knees from hitting belly as much as possible, also helps with pedalling. Make sure you explain this to the person riding as it will feel weird at first, if they understand the why they will tolerate it much better.
Handlebars need to be higher than seat if you can, feel free to buy an Adjustable Stem so you can raise them higher to begin with, taking weight off the arms.
Make sure the seat is a larger (but not stupidly large) seat, preferably with Gel. Whilst thinner smaller seats are our goal, when you are larger this can cause back pain due to any road bumps travelling up the spine with the extra weight involved. Having a more padded seat allows not just the sit bones, but the rest of the buttocks to spread the weight over a larger surface. This means no one point is going to get sore, though it may cause chafing. If you can find a larger seat with good sized cut out, this should solve the problem. Mountain bike seats are good for this.

Starting out

When starting out, its good to find a good flat long ride, aim for 5-10km and what ever pace they prefer. Make sure the lower gears are used at all times, and spinning with very little weight is encouraged. It’s everyones tendency to grind a bit when beginning, using harder gears, but when a larger person does this it can very quickly end up hurting knees and other joints.
Spinning is a good habit, and it places the work on the cardiovascular system rather than the leg muscles. This allows them to get fitter faster, and enjoy the ride with less pain.
Make sure you accompany them on all rides, talk to them about anything and everything under the sun to distract them from what they are doing. Don’t push them into doing anything fancy, just let them get a few easy rides under their belt at their own pace.
If a person finds riding painful, hard, or boring, they are not going to do it again.
Avoid hills until they are ready to go on them, its extremely hard to do hills when larger, this is where those lower gears will be needed. Most newbies are also fairly scared of having to start riding on a hill, or going down hills fast. Make sure the hills are barely there to start with, and you give them options for if they need to bail.
The last thing you want is them to feel like a failure!
Make sure you have good gaps between cycling days at first, until their body has adapted and is not sore. Nothing is worse than going cycling 2 days in a row when you have chafing or soreness somewhere.

Moving on

Encourage them to have a local loop they can do by themselves, and then do larger rides with them. Put the bike computer in your back pocket to avoid clock watching, see their face when they are pleasantly surprised by how far they went.
Look into getting some Bone Conduction headphones, they can be used when cycling since they do not block your ears (I found aftershokz brand for $30-40 on amazon.com). This enables a person to ride solo and listen to music whilst cycling alone, with less chance of boredom.
Enter some races which are achievable, work out a plan to train for it, and allow for weeks when a bike may break, person maybe over tired or other problems.

Remember, you may have spokes break. Extra weight on a bike will eventually break spokes, its worth getting a professional to replace them and true up the wheel as soon as this happens. If the wheel is not fixed correctly, the weight is not distributed over the entire wheel and other spokes will break costing you more in the long run. Be aware to check for broken spokes every ride or two, not noticing them will result in an egg shaped wheel that may need replacing!

Hydration

Buy a backpack, camelbak or similar with water. Its easier to hydrate when learning, and carries a lot more water than a bottle. Larger people will need a lot more water to begin with, and the weight difference isn’t going to be noticeable. Pays to get one with bumps on the back so air can flow between the bag and your back if you can, but not necessary.

Clothing

Cycle shorts with padding are a must, and its worth splurging on decent ones (though not necessarily expensive ones). Make sure you let them know its fine for them to wear baggy shorts or 3/4 pants over top of the shorts – most larger people are very aware they have a super sized rear which probably looks less than desirable in lycra ūüôā
For the top half, a T-shirt may be more comfortable and look more flattering. Back pockets are not essential, get a bike bag for anything you need to carry. Most newbies are not adept at getting things from pockets when cycling anyway (especially when wearing a water pack on their back).

Bike Computers

Get a cheap one with cadence, since cadence is more important at this stage than anything much else. Otherwise go without, and have them keep their pedalling timed with your own. I have had a friend sit behind me and just make sure shes pedalling the same speed as me, and adjusting her gears to match which worked well, this also helped her stop clock watching.

The Bottom Line

Make the experience as pleasant as possible, even if it means gritting your teeth to not say something. The better the experience, the more likely they are to stick with it and get better. Compliment them on anything and everything they do well. Don’t force them into doing things they do not feel comfortable (hills, busy roads, groups) until they are ready for it, and give them an opt-out solution in case they change their mind last minute (eg short cuts around hills)

Show them the wonder of cycling, how amazing it feels, and how great you feel when cycling!

What is a calorie?

What is a calorie?

Calories are the little bastards that get into your wardrobe at
night and sew your clothes tighter…

MY WARDROBE IS INFESTED WITH THE LITTLE SHITS.

Feeding a family healthy food on a budget

I am always seeing in the news how hard it is to eat healthy whilst on a budget, and the prices of healthy foods are too expensive. I have to call bullocks, yes its gone up over years, however its not impossible, or even that hard.

I feed a family of 5, 3 are teens (ok one is just out of teenage bracket, but hes almost 13!), and do Cheerleading, which involves up to 5 or more hours training a week. One is gluten and dairy free, which contributes to some of the added costs for us, however we don’t generally have a lot of breads or milks (easier than paying the rip off prices they expect for gluten free bread etc)

My budget is $150 a week around about. I buy no junk good, no cookies, muffins, etc. I do buy whatever fruit is on special, and if no fruit is available we buy or make our own muesli bars. Because of the Cheerleading we need an extra meal for the kids at 4pm to keep them over until they get back from cheerleading, i usually give them 2 minute noodles due to time constraints, plus fruit or muesli bars to eat during.

As far as drinks go, we drink water most of the time. My husband has a thing for fizzy drinks and he does buy those from time to time (can’t live without his coke!) but thats probably the worst, and i refuse point blank to put that into my food budget or purchase it with groceries. This is a great rule of thumb for all junk food or extras, define them¬†separately¬†and refuse to put them in your groceries. Once you pay for them¬†separately¬†you actually realize how much you spend on them.

We have both normal milk, and powder milk. We use normal milk for the single coffee we have a day, and breakfasts, and the powder milk is so the kids can drink as much as they want or have milkshakes or other things.

I define ‘extras’ as anything you don’t actually NEED but you want, this might be bottles of wine, fancy cheeses, dried fruits, or other things which are generally over priced wants. The only time these should be in your food budget is when you are having a dinner party and they are required, or if they are perhaps a tiny amount as part of a meal (ie few seeds in a salad).

Plan your meal, and i do not mean sitting down at home thinking up ideas, but have a few set meals that are easy, quick, healthy etc. When you go to the shops, find whats meat is on special, and work around that. I budget $10-$12 per kg for each meal on average, this means I can have $15 steak one meal, and $5 mince for another type thing.

My usual meals vary from ‘I don’t need to spend ANY time’ (used for cheerleading nights) to ‘i want to spend an hour in the kitchen playing’. ¬†Being a mother, who works full time , most meals are in the 20-30 mins max category.

Here are a few of my regular meals

  • Nachos
  • Hamburgers (my own meat patties, tons of salad, pineapple rings etc. its DIY Hamburger which is fun!)
  • Burritos
  • Fish pie
  • Stew in crock pot
  • Roast (whatevers on special, leftovers go into lunches)
  • Stir frys
  • Quiches
  • Super thick vegetable soup (almost stew like) with bacon bone (also i do a mean pumpkin soup)

 

Have lists of things you run out of, and buy extra if you see them on sale (Pays to have a good freezer). What you spend extra one week should save you following weeks.

Don’t go down isle with junk food! Do not look at cookies, muffins, biscuits, or anything baked at all, you do not need it. Bread should be your only required baked item, and that includes precooked foods usually also.

Stop buying brand names! Often the cheaper brands taste just as good, try them and find which ones you can handle of the budget ones and which not. We are ok with Jam being budget branded, but not so keen on budget loo paper. If we suddenly start going through a lot of loo paper, then i revert to budget brand loo paper, the kids very quickly stop the wastage and the nice stuff comes back.

Buy things that do not go off, Frozen things are excellent. I usually only buy frozen vegetables because if i buy otherwise they cost more, take more time to prepare, and often get left in the fridge going off. Meat freezes, milk bottles freeze, leftovers from meals freeze also.

Have a set maximum price for items. I refuse to pay more than around $3-4 for 1kg yoghurt. You will find they have different yoghurt on special each week, and if they do not, i simply do not buy it. As above, i do the same for my meat. Breakfasts i spend no more than $3-4 for 500gms cereals (usually home brand rice pops, cornflakes, weetbix, oats, and things on special), no more than $1.50 per loaf of bread. This is a key rule for me, if i can’t get it at my price, i refuse to buy it and look for another option or another shop.

Shop around, there are always fruit and veg shops with good discounts on things that are not just fruit and vege shops.  I live in a small town, we have 2 supermarkets and one is far cheaper than the other. But since i do a lot of travelling to Hamilton i have started stopping at the Pak n Save on the way home which has much better specials on things i use more.

When buying or planning a meal, have a budget for each meal and try to stay within it. Try working out how much that meal is costing per person also.

When making meals, bulk them out with vegetables or other things. This is the recipe i use for my nachos.

  • 3 x 400gm tins of tomatos ($1.20 a can max)
  • 500gm lean mince $5
  • 1 Packet maggi Nacho mix (its pretty strong, no need for more) $1.20
  • 1x 700gm-1kg frozen vegetables $4 (my set price, and i buy in bulk when on special – usually the watties rainbow mix or similar)

Put it all in a pot and mix until cooked. All thats needed on top of this is the nacho chips $2-3 a bag, sprinkle of cheese/sour cream and you now have a meal that will feed more than 6 people at a total cost of  around $15 which is 80% vegetables.

We do eat some less healthy meals, they involve things like american hot dogs, these are the ones i was referring to as ‘don’t need to do anything’ meals other than heat and eat. One night a week i finish work at 4pm and need to leave for cheerleading at 4:15 at the latest, this is when we would eat something like that. More often ill put the slow cooker on in the morning though, or use the programming function on the oven so its ready when i get home.

We cook rice up and make a stir fry, we buy 1kg bacon bits for around $5-6 every couple weeks and throw these in, plus more of the vegetables. We do a large cook of this on the weekend, pack into small containers and this is what my gluten free child eats for lunches. The other children often eat this as well because it seems well liked.

I encourage my children to be creative and make their own lunches which also involves pita breads, wraps etc with variations of things in them. My youngest son loves to cook , so is often seen making poached, scrambled, etc eggs for breakfast, or a large bowl of porridge for us to share. He also helps out a lot with dinner (peeling, cooking, etc) which helps me when i’m busy ūüôā

One thing we never have or do is junk. We rarely have cookies of any type, chippies are for birthday parties, muffins, etc or anything baked just doesn’t happen much. We are not anti it, its just not in the budget, and i can cook it for cheap if i have time (which i do from time to time).

There are no lollies in the house, no Le Snack or otherwise, no cakes, no slices, no ice cream, no milkshakes, no chocolate, etc.

My budget for items is around the following

Muesli bars or school snacks: $3 or less per 6 items (usually $2.50 for muesli bars or $5 for 12 ish)

Fruit: Only if its $4 or less per kg, the cheaper it is the more i buy

Canned Fruit: $2 for larger cans, $1 for 400gm ones. We use this instead of sugar on breakfasts too.

Breakfast cereals: $3ish will get 500gms rice pops, cornflakes, cocoa pops, honey puffs, weetabix (whatever is on special)

Milk: 2-3 5litre milks at about $5.50 each, plus powder milk ($10 for 20ltrs or so every month?)

Breads: $1.50 max per loaf, or i bake my own or we go without.

Meat: $10 per meal avg, usually around 500-1000gms per meal, depending what it is. Roast chicken budget is $10-12 for size 18+

Potatoes: use up to 1kg per meal, sometimes we have rice which is cheaper. usually $5-$10 a week maximum (seasonal).

Catfood: $10 (was $15 but the the cheaper brand was better for hairballs) every fortnight (2 cats).

Tinned items: Moslty Tomatoes, some of the following beetroot, corn, pineapple, etc Рusually $2 or less for most, and $1 for tomatoes (400gm)

Flour or other baking things: usually home brand or basics brands, Whatever is cheapest. Yeast is one of the few i buy a brand name of.

Cleaning products: Dish washing liquid cleans everything, water it down in spray bottle for spray and wipe. Budget brand. Bleach is cheap, cleans & disinfects toilets and floors also.

Dish washer tablets: Home brand have a 30 pack for $8 at countdown, usually lasts 2 weeks.

Clothes washing: $2.50 for super concentrate 500gm or 1kg normal. Whatevers on special usually, and i buy bulk (up to 10 packs at a time … we use lots!)

Eggs: Should get a category of their own, they are a good healthy low calories snack or meal. Quiches, Bacon and egg pies, breakfasts, lunches, they go anywhere with anything. 1 tray for around $5 or we go without. usually on sale every 2nd week.

Every 2nd weekend or so (depending what we are doing) we have a cooked breakfast, its a family event thing. We have pancakes with fruit, yoghurt, maple etc, sometimes waffles, sometimes bacon, eggs etc. Because we eat late its more of a brunch and we skip lunch those days or have something snacky like scones for lunch.

Butter/Marg: only buy it when its on sale, and we buy in bulk that will last a month or so. $2.50 per marg (i like the low fat Flora) and real butter when its on special once in a blue moon (for baking).

As a summary, i’m sure there is things¬†I’ve¬†missed. Just ask. I could be cheaper for sure, by living on sausages and mince a lot, but i have to admit to preferring solid meats ūüôā