Healthy living for healthy riding can be the most important aspect of enjoying the ride over everything else you do to make riding enjoyable. Many riders, including myself, modify our bikes with items like grips, seats, footpegs, suspension, and the list goes on. We do this to attain a comfort level that makes our ride more enjoyable. Gear can be another item we can spend a lot of money on to further attain a comfort level that's suitable.
Single Factor Impact On Riding
As I've mentioned in previous posts, I ride a lot. about 22K miles a year. I've done all of the things mentioned to increase the comfort level of riding. The single factor that has made the greatest impact on my riding enjoyment and safety is personal health. From my experience, most riders don't even remotely consider the impact of what a healthy lifestyle can do for their riding. Think back on some of the rides you have taken and try to remember those times when you stopped for lunch.
The Effects Of Poor Eating While Out Riding
You may have eaten that enormous grease dripping cheeseburger oozing with condiments and a side of greasy french fries with a pile of ketchup, or mayonnaise as they do in Europe. Oh, yea! That tasted so good and now you're feeling the effects of the food, the weight in your stomach, the puffed out bloated feeling, burping, belching, and getting that sleepy nap time feeling. Along with this, you think that was a good meal (after all it had a tomato and a leaf of lettuce on it). Unfortunately, that is simply not the case and now you are riding impaired. Your level of safe riding and enjoyment will be affected negatively by it for the rest of the day. Now you'll be sleepy, bloated, sluggish, indigestion might settle in bringing some acid re-flux with it.
Your Body Is Trying To Warn You
These symptoms are not from a good meal as most people will claim. They are symptoms of poor eating and your body is trying to warn you not to do it again. Your mind and body are also now reacting slower. These symptoms will without a doubt negatively affect your ability to ride safely, recognize danger, react quickly, and enjoy the ride. It will also shorten the amount of time you can spend in the saddle. Your fatigue level will increase exponentially and muscle aching will set in quicker causing you to have to pull over and rest, catch your breath, stretch, and even take a quick nap. You might even keep an anti-acid with you to take during a break to relieve the volcanic bubbling in your gut. I've seen some people down cans of energy drink shortly after their lunch to offset the effects of what they consumed hoping to acquire enough energy to get home. Contrary to popular belief, this is not normal, and definitely not a normal healthy lifestyle.
The Factors That Led To A Lifestyle Change
Four years ago I developed a heart flutter that would spontaneously occur throughout the day. Often my heart rate would rise dramatically during the night, waking me up and keeping me from sleeping. This would affect me for the entire day. I also had daily issues with severe acid reflux and would gobble anti-acid medication like candy. I finally went to the doctor. She had me wear a heart monitor for a few days. Soon after that, I was put on a drug called Toperol to help regulate the elevated heartbeat and a prescription anti-acid. My total cholesterol was over 230 which if you don't know put me in a high category for heart disease. At 240 you're like a dead man walking and there's a good possibility you'll just drop dead at any time. It should be under 200 and preferably even lower. My sugar level was also high sitting at 127 with the normal range being 70-100. You can research all of these levels on your own, I am just mentioning this to tell you what prompted a healthy lifestyle change. I was pretty screwed up and finally accepted that fact.
The Medicine Messed Me Up
I am not opposed to doctors or medicine, understanding there is a need for both under certain circumstances, but that Toperol drug messed me up and I knew there was no way I could continue taking it. I had crazy nightmares, mood swings, anger outbursts, weird feelings in my head, and a bunch of other reactions. I couldn't continue taking it so we began looking in other directions for possible cures.
The Drastic Change In Diet
One of the first things we did was cut down our meat consumption. That was probably the most difficult part. I love meat as most bikers do. We now only eat 1-2 meat meals in a week and we usually reserve those for our meal during a ride. So if you consider 3 meals a day for a week, 21 total meals, 19 of those contain no meat at all. We also do not consume dairy. The only exception to this is a small amount of cheese with some meals. No eggs, no milk, nothing with dairy products in it (no ice cream either). Acid reflux, heartburn, and upset stomach are almost non-existent now. I also rarely have heart flutters anymore. We have nearly become vegans but still allow ourselves the occasional meat meal. Doing this helped us to lose and maintain our weight.
We also added regular exercise to our life. And I don't mean mowing the yard…. We do a program called Supreme 90Day System. It's hard, period. We don't get through each exercise of the program completely but we do what we can and keep doing it. I used to weigh 255 pounds. At one point with our diet and exercise, I got down to 205 pounds. Now I seem to maintain around 215-220. Not carrying all that weight helped my back pain and allows my heart to work easier to move the blood through my body. Want to know what it's like to lose 40 pounds? Next time your at the grocery store pick up 4 of the 10-pound bags of potatoes, 2 bags in each hand. That's how much extra weight I was personally carrying around and my heart had to pump harder to keep the blood moving through all of that fatty mess.
Juice For Health
The last thing we do daily is juice. We make our own vegetable juice using a Breville BJE510XL Juice Fountain Multi-Speed 900-Watt Juicer and drink it at least twice a day. And I'm not talking about fruit juice, this stuff is green! Kale, swiss chard, celery, carrots, parsley, radishes, spinach, along with other greens are the bulk of our juice. We complement this with a bit of fruit to give a sweeter taste. Do you want energy? This stuff will do it! Drink a pint of this when you first wake up for your body to immediately take in and you notice the difference.
You'll also find yourself eating less if you drink this before each meal. This translates into more nutrients. We got into juicing after watching the movie Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. This site was an invaluable help with the confusion that most people have about diet. I was fat, sick, and nearly dead, and with our diet change, exercise, and juicing my life changed.
Four Years Later
Four years later I take absolutely no medication, my total cholesterol is 160 (down from 230) and my blood sugar is 67 (down from 127). All of my other blood levels are perfect as well. Our change took a good two years to fully implement. Part of that was easing into our new diet and exercise routine. It's very difficult to spontaneously change, and though we tried to, it just didn't happen. Our upbringing and set lifestyle were both mentally and physically challenging to overcome. We decided in order to eventually come to an acceptable path to better health that we would slowly change so as not to give up. Even today we are moving towards better health. I don't believe that will ever stop happening.
What Does This Mean For Riding
What does this mean for riding? Everything! I don't have the effects that poor diet causes as mentioned previously in this post. I can ride longer because I don't suffer from discomfort and pains caused by being overweight. I can control my bike more effectively because I am leaner and stronger. This makes me a safer rider. I don't have to stop because of fatigue or the need for medication. I feel good after eating while on a ride and am energetic, alert, and responsive. I eat less during rides and don't suffer from the bloat and pressure from food effects. I can enjoy the sites along the ride because I don't have to concentrate on controlling my bike because of fatigue and food effects. I have the stamina and endurance to enjoy a long ride or multiple days of riding back to back. Recovery from extended rides comes quicker than before. I don't huff and puff struggling for breath when it's hot out or participating in bike events. I've even seen some guys get out of breath just getting on or off their bikes…
Still Want To Do More
I'm still not where I want to be in all of this. I still have Shiner Bock beer on occasion, and eat a burger or chicken on a ride, usually, the smallest size a restaurant offers or in a salad. No more double meat, double cheese monsters though. I don't graze on sweets, chips, and snacks throughout the day anymore, I just don't have the need or desire to. I've still got a belly that sticks out a bit but nothing like it used to. I am down 2 clothing sizes and had to buy all new clothes that would fit since my old ones became saggy and would fall off. We keep doing what we do, and riding becomes more enjoyable because of it.
Encouraging Riders To Improve Personal Health
I wrote this to encourage riders to assess their health and make a change. Not just for riding but for living. Longer life means more riding. Eliminating medical conditions associated with poor health means more riding. Lowering or eliminating costs for prescriptions means more money for riding. Better health allows a biker to be able to attend more bike events which means more riding-related activities. You can either ride to the doctor's office or ride to a new scenic destination every week, the choice is yours. My hope is someone will benefit from my story, live healthier, live longer, and ride longer.