Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Link: The Seatpost Letters

The Seatpost Letters

I know I haven't posted in a while - I promise I haven't forgotten about my loyal readers (all three of you). While you are waiting jump on over to Historian On Two Wheels and read his conversation with an entertaining demon...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007


The last couple of posts discussed motivation, which to me means the things that help get you out there being active. Visualization to me means the ideas and thoughts you feed through your brain to keep yourself work hard or motivated while you are riding.

Merckx, Lemond, Lance, Zabriskie
Clearly, one of the most common visualizations is to imagine yourself either as one of your cycling heroes or to see yourself riding against them. I am particularly fond of visualizing Dave Zabriskie since I spend so much time riding alone and he is such a great time trialist.

In a similar vein, you can imagine yourself riding or racing in the classic locations of the pro cycling tour. For example, when encounter that bone-jarring section of potholes that always develops over the winter, you can imagine that you are riding over the cobbles of the spring classics. Charging up the local hill you can conjure the image of the great climbs of the Alps or the Pyrenees.

The Factory
This is my favorite visualization, especially when I am in weight loss mode. I imagine my legs as large pistons and my 'fat' as the little pats of butter you get at a restaurant sometimes. With each stroke I envision the pistons smashing the butter and forcing it out little valves in my feet.

I am not sure what a psychiatrist would say about this visualization, but for me it seems to work, and it ties my effort to what I hope is the source of my energy as well as my hoped for result.

Your Ideas
Spring has at least temporarily broken her in Utah, with temps today expected to be near 70. Add in the early switch to Daylight Savings Time and all of a sudden it seems we are in biking season. We all could probably use a couple more visualization ideas as we try to shake out the cobwebs, and realize that the wind is somehow slowing us down in a way that the basement fan never die. What do you visualize when you have to ramp up the effort?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Correction and Clarification

Turns out I made a couple of grievous errors in my last post about motivation. On the minor side it seems I misspelled the name of the author of one of my favorite blogs. That was an easy fix and the error was probably only noticed by him.

However, I checked in with his blog and in his post about my post (getting dizzy yet?) he wondered why I referred to him as a bad example. I went back through my post and realized the section in which I discussed Neil Brennen and his amazing weight loss gave the impression that I saw him as a bad example. That was not I intended at all, and I have changed the post to clarify my position.

It wasn't that long ago that I returned to cycling. I remember the first time I tried to ride home from work. It took me almost 2.5 hours to make it the 14 miles. My 'tush' was so sore I almost couldn't walk the next day. I never thought I would think of myself as a cyclist, but even though I have yet to lose the kind of weight that I hope, being a cyclist is part of who I am not just something I do. Even so, I can't begin to relate to the kind of transformation Neil B is going through.

So, my kudos to Neil Brennen and his inspirational blog. And Neil, if you read this one, according to the USCF, it looks like you are a stronger chess player than me as well.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Motivation - Part II

Catch up with Part I if you missed it...

Let's face it. Sometimes it's really hard to drag your sorry butt out onto the road, or into the gym, or away from the double cheeseburger. These are a couple more things that keep me motivated.

Other People
Other people can serve as motivation by setting both bad and good examples. First, a couple of bad examples. There are about 500 people that work in my building. A few of them are 'just like me', meaning that they are overweight, overstressed, and generally going down the wrong health road. There are a couple that are about ten years older than me and give me a perfect picture of what my health/life will be like if I don't make a change.

Another bad example: There is a guy waiting for the bus some mornings when I drop my son off for school. Calling him morbidly obese understates his condition. Every time I see him I have a "There but for the grace of God go I." moment.

Before I talk about the positive examples for me, let me say that these bad examples may be great examples in other areas of their lives, and even sometimes in this area.

I do have some great positive examples. I find a lot of motivation from Neil Brennen. He will probably always outweigh me, but has made huge improvement in his health while at the same time maintaining a balance in other areas, an ability I sometimes struggle to find. At work there are three people who have lost a combined 180 lbs. buy putting* the fork down, shutting the pie hole, and biking like crazy. I worship with another friend who lost 60 lbs and kept all but 15 off for over a year primarily by riding his bike.

Another inspiration are the hidden cyclists. These are the people riding bikes not so much as recreation, or as a transportation choice, but as a transportation necessity. As I commute to work I see a couple of cyclists coming the other way. There not all dressed up in spandex and lycra, nor are they riding the latest fancy road bikes. They are bundled up in regular clothes, riding heavy Wal-Mart clunkers. But they are always smiling and they never forget to wave. They remind me that riding in the snow and rain is always a possibility.

The Numbers
This is where I totally geek out. I love numbers. I have taught math and statistics, and I build econometric software for a living. So for me there are few things as exciting as seeing the results in a nice table or chart, especially if there is some neat statistical model involved.

A few years ago I first came across The Hackers Diet: How to lose weight and hair through stress and poor nutrition. The book itself is really just a common sense approach to dieting built on the simple yet oft ignored principle; if you expend more than you consume you will lose weight. On his web site he offers a set of spreadsheets as well as a PalmPilot based tool called the "Eat Watch". I have used the Eat Watch and really like it. I put my weight in every morning, and I can see what my 'trend' value is. The trend is much more important than my actual weight. It smooths out the large variations that can come through eating at a different time, being dehydrated, or any of the myriad other factors that lead to daily weight variations.

So, I get really motivated when I see a table like this:
Weekly Trend Analysis
Past Week-1.62

So when I say that I am losing around 1.5 lbs per week, I have empirical evidence to support my statement.

*As a person who was at one time at least conversationally fluent in two languages besides my native English I am occasionally amazed that anyone learns this language. For example, "He was putting pudding on the putting green." What kind of language is this where the only way to discern meaning and pronunciation is by a words context?

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Motivation - Part 1

In my last post I talked a little about NeilK being a motivator for me. I thought I would take a minute and expand on that theme and discuss what serves as motivation for me as far as my riding and health go.

I also have to be honest. There is no way I am going to get everything down in one post or in one sitting.

I am a little bit of a clothes horse by nurture (and maybe by nature, but how would I know?). Two of my first jobs out of high school were as a salesman at high end men's clothing stores. Between just being around that environment, having to look sharp as a salesman, and the generous store discount I had amassed a fairly large wardrobe. Then over the years as I gradually put on weight I replaced a lot of the clothing with bigger sizes, but never at quite the same quality.

Finally, last year as I reached the point where my waist size was a full 12 inches bigger than the last day at my last clothing job, I realized I had progressed to buying bad department store clothing.

On the positive side, even as I gained weight I have kept a few favorite items of clothing. I have a couple of pair of slacks size 38 and 36 (I lost the hope of hitting 34 again years ago, even if it is coming back now). I have a few size large t-shirts, and a couple of bike jerseys and bib shorts that are European size XL - thats an L or smaller compared to US sizes. In fact, I had a pair of Levis with a 38 waist on last night. They were still a little tight, but in a few weeks I think I may have to replace them because they are my smallest jeans I own now.

But my biggest clothing motivator is a pair of corduroy pants my wife bought me for Christmas about 4 years ago. I had come through the fall working out pretty well, and was a solidly comfortable 38 waist. The label on the pants said 38, but they were tight and I measured them at just over 36 inches. Rather than take them back and exchange them I told her that I was committed to my weight loss and would be in them in a few weeks... oh the shame!

I am looking forward to May, when I figure I will be in them comfortably.

Ah, food! I love to eat, and especially to eat out. But I know that the choices I make while eating out are usually not the best. I have found that I can use food as a great motivator and there are a couple of the ways I have done that.

For example, rather than eat fast food for lunch, I will bring chili or soup or some other lunch from home for 3-4 days. Each time I stay in at work and eat what I brought I put the $5 I would have spent at Burger King in an envelope. Then, when I get that urge to get out of the office for lunch, I take the money from the envelope and go to one of the nicer local restaurants or deli's in the downtown area. In that way I find I am saving a little money because the nicer lunch seldom costs more than $8-$12, and at the nicer places I can usually make a better choice for my meal.

I am also one of those people who rides to eat for sure. So, instead of just having a banana, I tell myself that if I go to spinning I can have a banana split after class. It's a little mind trick, because unless I made other high calorie choices earlier I would probably have the ice cream anyway. But by doing this I get the banana, and I get a little less ice cream because the banana takes up some of the space in the bowl.

Coming Soon
Two other things that motivate me are other people, both as good and bad examples, and the 'numbers'. Explanations will have to follow in Motivation - Part 2

Friday, March 02, 2007

Reports of My Demise Grossly Exaggerated

I cannot believe that it has been nearly a month since my last post. I have never had a month like this one. It's been one of those periods where you struggle just to keep your head out of the water.

Here is a little of what has been going on:
  • Mrs. GeekCyclist started working as a nurse at a local children's hospital. Her position is in the Neuro Trauma Unit, one of the hardest areas in the hospital. So we have been trying to adjust to changing schedules, changing pressures, and associated craziness.
  • February is National Scout Month, and as an active BSA leader at a couple of levels I have been involved in a number of meetings and dinners. Also, our troop did it's first of 8 planned 10 mile hikes.
  • We have entered a major push on a large project at work. There are probably 15 programmers working on this project and there are a number of complications as we try to upgrade a legacy database and data entry system while building a desktop and web interface in parallel.
  • Youth basketball season was in full swing. I coach and referee for a local league, as well as having two boys that are on three teams. Thats a lot of running around.
Maintaining Sanity
Working on my health and fitness has been one of the best ways to maintain my sanity through this month. I managed to get in at least 3 spinning workouts a week throughout the month. I also started doing a little light weight training as well. My free membership at the recreation center (a perk for being a referee) ends on the 19th of March, but I will either buy a membership or a punch pass. The punch pass is a good deal because its 30 visits for $45. I don't think I would ever use the gym enough to make the monthly membership more cost effective than the punch pass.

I have been fairly consistent in controlling my diet and weight as well. Obviously the daily value is up and down, but the log smoothed trend (can you tell I deserve the 'geek' part of the geekcyclist label?) has been very stable at around 1.4 -1.6 lbs a week. I think that 1.5 lbs per week is a perfect rate of weight loss for me.

Getting Compliments
A nice thing happened on Monday. Two different friends at work mentioned that I looked good and must have lost some weight. Is really only been 20 lbs since around Thanksgiving. But 20 lbs. is making a difference in the way my clothes fit and the way I feel.

I can't wait to experience life at my goal weight in the 190's.

Giving Compliments
Props to NeilK for hitting a major milestone that I am pushing towards. After starting heavier than me last September, he left the ranks of cycling's Clydesdale division when his weight broke through to under 200 this week. My loyal readers (all three of you) will recognize NeilK from past posts as a frequent ride partner, coworker, and an inspirational friend.

It looks like he is changing his blog right now, but I hope he posts about his success soon.