From Fat to Fatlete

Zavala_Best_Cropped_Bike_Photo_smallMy name is Ramon Zavala. I bike for transportation with exercise being a really nice perk of that transportation. I’ve never been in a bike race and I don’t wear skin-tight cycling clothes. My one and only bike is made of steel and weighs 30 lbs. with just the rear cargo rack. I ride to work with big red bike bags. This is my story of going from a fat non-bicyclist to a soft, but very healthy, bike commuter while expending very little conscious effort to do so.

 

 A Slow, Fat Realization

A couple years back, I was rummaging through a display of one of the now-defunct Borders bookstores. And while seeking out that $1 diamond in the rough, I found Jayne Williams’ Slow Fat Triathlete.

The title hooked me. “Raw, self-deprecating honesty? That’s me! “

At the time, I was only a year or so into bike commuting, but it was enough time to notice that a substantial amount of fat had disappeared from my body and I had grown some very powerful leg muscles. I felt “healthy” for the first time in years. I was still 230 lbs., but for a 6’1” male with new, hulkishly muscular legs, that’s not so bad.

I handed the book to my partner almost as a joke. You see, my partner used to be the type of person who, on a whim, would decide that she will have six-pack abs in one month. She would make extreme changes to her after life and then, a week later, give in to physical fatigue and for love of the couch. She used to be this “all-or-nothing” person when it came to her own fitness and she would always burn out before she met any of her goals.

She bought the book. 

The more she read, the more she began to understand that physical change in a busy life is possible with small, incremental changes. She told me about what she had read I began to think about my own physical change that had been happening without any explicit intention of my own.

Flabtastic!

My physical change came as a result of committing to bike commuting. At the time, I had a 4-ish mile round-trip commute down steep hills in the morning and a work out climbing back up those hills in the afternoon. That 20-minute commute was the only change for quite a while. No diet change whatsoever!

Then I started going on Tuesday night rides. No, not for fitness- but for food. My weekly 20 miles of commuting had 10-25 miles added to it by virtue of attending the Taco Tuesday Social Ride on the UCI campus. Over the following months, I continued to eat as I had, but the change in physical activity meant I had more energy through the work day and more energy when I got home. I slept better, I lost fat, and I put on muscle. I felt happier in my skin. I was happier and healthier.

As someone in the place to influence others and convince them to try out bike commuting, I often tell them this story and they invariably ask, “So when are you going to change your diet and fully slim down?” I always respond, “Meh…”

Unlike proper “athletes”, I like having random weekends dominated by beer, wine, cheese, and pastries. I like going out to eat and not having to count how many ounces of sour cream I’ve had this month.

Don’t let all my biking confuse you. I’m a fatlete, not an athlete.

I think it would be cool to be ripped, but I just don’t have the willpower to work out for the sake of my looks. Moreover, I like beer. I like wine. I like cheese and pastries. And that’s OK!

Every Day Since

Today, having integrated biking as my main form of transportation, I’m healthier and so much more fit than I thought I would be a couple years ago. In such a short time of casual riding, I’ve been able to turn my health from “mediocre” to “Today I rode 30 miles round-trip to pick something up in Lake Forest.”

My commute is now 8 miles round-trip, but only minimal inclines. I no longer attend those Tuesday night rides due to other time commitments, but I still bike commute and, more notably, I bike pretty much everywhere else I need to go. For longer trips that require a trip on the Metrolink or Amtrak, I ride to the station and bring my bike with me.

Since realizing that biking to a healthier self and being a foodie aren’t diametrically opposed, I’ve begun seeing others who scoff at the “get thin” compulsion. I’m a big fan of FLAB (Fat Lads At the Back) in the UK and the Clydesdale/Athena discussion group at Bikeforums.net. Check them out if you think you and I may be in the same proverbial boat.

Healthier, happier, and slightly less heavy,

Ramon Zavala

Ramon Zavala serves on the board of directors for the Orange County Bicycle Coalition and is a certified cycling instructor with League of American Bicyclists. He also leads the Sustainable Transportation program at UC Irvine while also serving as the campus’ Senior Bicycle Coordinator. If you liked what you read here, Ramon would like to hear from you. Contact him at zavalar@gmail.com.

 

CyclingSavvy class in Orange April 24th and 25th

Register Here

OCBC is proud to announce our first CyclingSavvy course of 2015 on April 24th and 25th in Orange.

CyclingSavvy is a program of American Bicycling Education Association, Inc. (ABEA). The course teaches the principles of Mindful Bicycling:

  • empowerment to act as confident, equal road users;
  • strategies for safe, stress-free integrated cycling;
  • tools to read and problem-solve any traffic situation or road configuration.

The course is offered in three 3-hour components: a bike-handling session, a classroom session and an on-road tour. The classroom and bike-handling sessions may be taken individually, the road tour requires the other two as a pre-requisite.

Sample Lesson

The object of the course is not to turn people into road warriors. Being a confident, competent cyclist has nothing to do with speed or bravado. You don’t need either of those things to have access to the entire transportation grid.

Even most confident cyclists prefer to use quiet routes when feasible. In many cases, it is only an intimidating intersection or short stretch of busy road which hinders a cyclist’s preferred route. This course is designed to show students simple strategies to eliminate such barriers, and ride with ease and confidence in places they might never have thought possible.

The philosophy and intent of our course is best described in this quote by Aimee Mullins:

…all you really need is one person to show you the epiphany of your own power and you’re off. If you can hand somebody the key to their own power… the human spirit is so receptive… if you can do that and open a door for someone at a crucial moment… you are ‘educating’ them in the best sense. You’re teaching them to open doors for themselves. In fact, the exact meaning of the word “educate’ comes from the root word ‘educe.’ It means to bring forth what is within. To bring out potential.

The 3 Part Course
Our course is designed to be taken as individual sessions or as a complete course. Train Your Bike (bike handling) and Truth & Techniques (classroom session) can be taken individually in any order. To sign up for a Tour of Orange, you must have taken or be signed to take the other two classes prior to the tour class. Individual sessions are $30 per session. A package of three sessions (the full course) is $75. A package may be used to take the sessions at any time.

Train Your Bike! (3 hours):

This session is conducted in a parking lot. It consists of a set of progressive drills designed to increase students’ control and comfort handling their bikes in various situations. Drills include:

  • Start/Stop, Power Pedal & Balance Stop
  • Snail Race, Slow-speed Balance
  • Drag-race, Gears & Acceleration
  • Ride Straight, One-handed
  • Shoulder Check
  • Object-avoidance Handling, Weave, Snap
  • Turning: Slow-speed Tight Turns, High-speed cornering, Emergency Snap-turn
  • Emergency Braking

The Truth & Techniques of Traffic Cycling (3 hours):

Through guided discussion with video and animation, this session familiarizes students with bicycle-specific laws, traffic dynamics and problem-solving strategies. Students discover that bicycle drivers are equal road users, with the right and ability to control their space.

Tour of Orange* (3.5 hours):

This session is an experiential tour of the roads in the city of Orange. The course includes some of the most intimidating road features (intersections, interchanges, merges, etc.) a cyclist might find in his/her travels. The students travel as a group, stopping to survey and discuss each exercise location. After observing the feature, discussing the traffic dynamics and the best strategy for safe and easy passage, the students ride through individually and regroup at a nearby location.

* The Tour session is only available with the full course. The other two sessions may be taken á la carte, in any order.

More information
Origins & Principles of CyclingSavvy

Register Here

 


Update!

To ensure that your bike is in perfect operating condition for the class, Jax  will extend a 50% discount on the labor charge for a “basic service” at any Jax Bicycle Center for anyone who signs up for a Cycling Savvy or TS 101 class. The basic service is $69.99. Jax will  provide a coupon to anyone who signs up for one of the classes for 50% off on the labor charge ($35.00). Any parts that are needed for the service will be at the regular price.

Email lci@ocwheelmen.org if you would like a coupon for a tune-up!

Joey Robinson Memorial Ride

Joseph Robinson was killed while riding his bicycle in Santiago Canyon last year on Super bowl Sunday when he was struck by a motor vehicle.

To honor & remember Joey Robinson, his friends and Jax Bicycles co-workers will be doing what Joey loved, riding… All cyclists are encouraged to attend Joey’s memorial ride.

We will be riding to Joey’s memorial “Ghost Bike” on Santiago Canyon to raise awareness that we are here & that we all need to SHARE the road.

The city allows Ghost Bikes to be placed on the anniversary of a cyclist death and to remain for 60 days.

When: Monday, February, 2nd 2015 – Meet at 6:30 am & Roll Out by 6:45 am (be back to Jax Irvine by 9 am)

Where: Jax Bicycle Center – Irvine – 14210-6H Culver Dr., Irvine, CA 92604

This will be a casual ride to spread awareness. Please share this ride information and we look forward to ride with you.

SoMoS: Santa Ana’s Inaugural Ciclovia

Last Sunday saw the first SoMoS, what will hopefully be a frequent, not just annual, “open-streets” event in Santa Ana. The city closed three miles of Main Street to motorized traffic from 9AM to 4PM and let people – on foot, on two wheels, on skateboards, on roller skates and even on kids’ yard toys – experience the street on a human scale and at a human pace.

If you haven’t done a ciclovia by bicycle before, you must. It is a different experience from anything you’ve done. You just can’t imagine how nice it is to be on a road, on a bicycle, without the noise and threat of cars pushing past. Three miles of road is more than it seems when you don’t have to do that obliging hurry along one feels the need to do when riding a bike among cars. When you leave, and re-merge with mainstream traffic, you might notice an interesting phenomenon: After experiencing a street on a human scale, you, on a bike, don’t feel out of place on other roads. It’s the cars that now seem out of place. Like football players at a ballet.

Oh, we (the OCBC) manned a tent and did our best to encourage more cycling. It was nice to sit and watch the myriad cyclists go by.

Some pics:

Happy cyclists

Cruising

Kids at the end of the day

One thing about October in Southern California: it can be hot. Witness the not-uncommon ice fight: