School teacher seeks advice on his commute

Discussion in 'Commuting and Road Safety' started by centralmail, Sep 5, 2004.

  1. centralmail

    centralmail New Member

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    Hello All,

    I am a school teacher in England, who has led a pretty unhealthy life to date.

    I am 6ft tall and weigh 14 stones (= 196 pounds = 90 kilos), producing a body mass index of 26.6, which puts me in the overweight category ( http://nhlbisupport.com/bmi/bmicalc.htm )

    The school is 4 miles away from where I live and the commute consists of a variety of uphill and downhill stretches. I am achieving this distance in about 30 minutes, resulting in an average speed of 8 miles per hour. I am somewhat physically tired at the end of this ride.

    I haven't been on a bike for around 20 years (I am in my early 30s), and have been on my new bike only for a matter of days.

    I was wondering if the more experienced participants on this forum could advise me as to whether or not this is a very poor average speed, given my circumstances. I would also be very interested in hearing from people who had a similar fitness profile to me when starting out, who would be able to share personal insights with respect to how / whether they were able to increase their average speed and how long it took them to build up to a more respectable average speed of, say, 12mph.

    Thank you in advance for any comments.
     
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  2. razor_USMC

    razor_USMC New Member

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    Howdy there,

    I am by no means a Pro, but I have been where you are, and oddly enough, my commute is a pinch over 4 miles myself. First of all, what type of bike are you riding? Lots of hills, even if only for 4 miles can be a bear first thing in the morning, if you aren't warmed up and especially if you don't have a lower gear. I would recommend for starters warming up some before you go. I would also get a bite to eat 30 min before your ride if you can. If you burn all your stored gylcogen in the first hill, no wonder you are tired when you get there, and fatigue could be almost immediate. 8 mph? That depends on the grade of the hill. For me, 8 mph would be awful if I was warm, had a good gear selected and was a decent hill. If I was cold, it was my first hill, and had a huge gear going up a 70 degree incline while wiping the sleep from my eyes...I would be ecstatic. If I were you, enjoyment of the ride would be paramount. Next I would work on fitness. I would not use my first thing out of bed commute to be what gets me in shape. I would do it to be healthy, sure, but not as my training. I would recommend that you ride to work at a pace that you enjoy (invigorating or not, up to you) but use your after school, and weekend rides for your training. I have lost 25 pounds over the last 2 and a half months by cutting down my portions, eating right, hydrating and doing my training after work and weekends. Riding to work was just to help, but was not the meat of the training. Lose fat, don't worry about weight. I gained so much muscle in my legs initially I was going to shoot my scale, but I noticed my hands, face, neck and belly were thinner. Once you get into a routine, even your ride to work will get easier, but I would not use it as your gauge as to how well you are riding. The speed will come. You can bank on it. Your muscles will get tone and used to the riding, the weight will come off. Eat right and you will start feeling great. Don't worry about how you compare...do it for you and it sound as if you are well on your way.

    Regards,
     
  3. centralmail

    centralmail New Member

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    Dear Razor

    Thank you so much for your inspirational reply. As per your request, I am riding a Giant Expression, which has 18 gears.

    The uphills are not particularly steep, except the last one... but I walk the bike up that hill to the school.

    What kind of food do you recommend as part of my breakfast, 30 mins before the commute? Please elaborate upon this statement:
    "I have lost 25 pounds over the last 2 and a half months by cutting down my portions, eating right, hydrating and doing my training after work and weekends."

    Thank you and others for more insights.
     
  4. razor_USMC

    razor_USMC New Member

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    Nutrition for serious atheletes. Terrific book. Pick it up. Carbs for breakfast. Not a belly-full, but enough, and early enough to get your blood sugar up prior to the ride. Half a bagel, or piece of toast and small glass of juice. As far as cutting down your portions, its really quite simple. Don't pig out. Use a smaller plate and use a smaller fork and your small plate LOOKS full. Eat slower and drink plenty of water throughout the day. A lot of us eat when we're thirsty because we mistake the signals. I would eat 6 small meals versus 2 or 3 large ones. Your dinner shouln't be too big.

    I train pretty hard and I love to ride. I really don't count my commuting as training miles. I use them as a total count for the books, but as far as workout goes...nope. I try to train hard at least three times a week. Off days are either a light ride or swimming, etc. For me a long ride is 50+ miles. Carb up and drink plenty of sports drink. I don't drink anything else on my rides. Had a bad experience in the heat where I was plenty hydrated but lost ALL of my salt and starting cramping big-time. Let me tell you brother, there is no worse feeling than knowing you have been drinking enough, but being caked in your own chalky salt, cramping up, not being able to pedal one more stroke...15 miles from home!!! So now its only sports drink (cytomax) for me on the rides with plenty of H2O and carbs several hours before. Obviously I dont drink cytomax for a 4 mile commute, but, proper nutrition and hydration is the difference (at least for me) between a fun 30-50 miler and absolute torture.

    Initially, my goal was to lose fat. I did a month of 1600-1800 calories a day. I was ANAL about measuring and counting everyting. Had a journal. It's a MUST. Otherwise that handful of trail mix a couple times a day you forgot about adds up to 500 calories that you had been putting on. :eek: Now I need almost double those calories to feel good about a couple hours of intervals or a two hour ride at 18+ mph/avg. There are many ways to estimate calories burned in a workout, and remember you burn when you are off the bike and when you sleep too. To increase your metabolism though, you MUST eat. Otherwise you may weigh less, but it's because you are burning MUSCLE! You will be able to feel the difference. At least I did. I didn't feel "bad" I just ended up feeling sooo much better. You know the old saying you don't know what you've got till it's gone. Here the opposite is true. I didn't ever know how I WASN'T feeling until I started feeling so much better. Just keep up the riding and stay the course. You will do fine. Keep in touch.

    Best Wishes,
     
  5. kf5nd

    kf5nd New Member

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    You speed will magically increase, all by itself, if you keep riding to and from school. Give youself 60, 90, 120 days before you start analyzing in-depth how you're going. Have fun, above all.



     
  6. djwright4341

    djwright4341 New Member

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    Just keep it up brother. I've been lurking on the forum for a couple of weeks, and have just started riding about 1 1/2 months ago. I got inspired from reading about commuters and decided to do it myself. Started out riding a few miles from the house and back, then tried riding to work one day (11 miles one way). Took me an hour to get there at 4:30am and 1.5 hours to get home at 3pm. When I got home I was *exhausted* and my wife said I looked bad--almost heat exhaustion. Ooops. Rode more trips from the house and back for a couple of weeks before I commuted again. The second commute was 45mins to and 1 hour back. Just keep at it and you will get better. I'm 5'10" and around 245lbs. Don't know what my true body fat % is, but I'm trying to get into the U.S. Coast Guard and using their method of measuring body fat (using measurments of neck, abdomen, and height), I get about 25%. I'm trying to lose another 5 inches off my gut. I will. You'll meet your goals too. Just keep at it and try this site too www.kenkifer.com/bikepages/index.html. Lots of good info there.
     
  7. razor_USMC

    razor_USMC New Member

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    Good Luck DJ! I had to lose weight to get into the Corps. Awful feeling and I had a battle of the bulge the whole time. Constantly had to watch what I ate and the like. I would've killed to be one of those "skinny" guys, but I was built like a linebacker. Just keep at it when you're in the CG. Hard to cycle on water though, huh? :D
     
  8. I'm no pro at this either, but one of the things I did that helped me initially was to use a GPS to keep track of my average speed. Shortly after that I started using a bicycle computer to keep track of my average speed and cadence. Don't let yoursef become a slave to a gadget, but use it as a guide line and in addition to the bathroom scale over time it will show you tangible positive results.:)
     
  9. centralmail

    centralmail New Member

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    Thank you so much guys, for your very inspirational pieces of advice.

    This is an excellent site, and its truly wonderful to have access to a global community of cyclists.
     
  10. KMKS

    KMKS New Member

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    Central, i just started cycling and commuting in the past 2 weeks as well. My ride to work is about 4 miles as well and i'm 5'8" about 190, so also overweight. My average speed is about 10 mph and i'd like to think it's not so bad! Like other people said, i think it's best to just keep riding and you'll keep improving in terms of fitness and speed.
     
  11. centralmail

    centralmail New Member

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    I am delighted to report that I have brought my average commute time down to 25 mins for the 4 mile journey, thereby raising my average speed from 8mph to nearly 10mph.

    Also, I have lost some weight according to the weighing scales! (but I can't seem to work out precisely where I have lost the weight... however, my Body Mass Index still indicates that I am overweight :( )
     
  12. fbruno69

    fbruno69 New Member

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    Don't desperate, this process takes long and sometimes the visual results can't be seen in the short term.

    But you already are doing what is necessary - move!
    Keep with the commute and you'l soon see exactly where the weight is coming from.
     
  13. Brunswick_kate

    Brunswick_kate New Member

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    Yes, It's utterly amazing how quickly one's performance improves on a bike. Congratulations. Feels good, doesn't it??

    One of the things I've used to help my motivation is getting an inexpensive bike computer which records my total distance. It gives me a bit of an "atta boy" when I see how much I've accomplished "just" commuting. My commute is about the same length as yours, and with a few errands thrown in, I've put over 1500 kms since end May.

    BMI tablets...throw that crap out the window. Throw the bathroom scales out behind it.

    Seriously, those height/weight BMI thingies are designed with the sedentary in mind. They don't mean much for active people. In the past year, since I've taken up cycle commuting, I've dropped 3, probably 4 pant sizes, lost 5 inches of my waist and I haven't lost an ounce. .... whatever. I'm in the best physical shape I've been in during the last 20 years. I look good. More importantly, I feel good.

    My theory on the whole bit is "Rome wasn't built in a day and neither was my arse.". Yes, it's a cheap throw away comment but there's actually some sense behind the lame comedy. My weight problems are the manifestation of a completely toxic lifestyle that I wallowed in for 20 years. I ate too much of the wrong things. I didn't get any exercise. I smoked. By 40, I was diabetic, on high blood pressure meds and probably headed for an early grave.

    My mid-life crisis was about getting a bike. A year later, I'm still diabetic but my blood sugar has stabalized. I quit smoking. I've lost inches. I feel good and positive and healthy about my life. I assume it's going to take several years to fix the damage done over the past 20 years. I don't expect to see my "ideal" weight for another 4 years or so. It's okay. These life style changes are sustainable. I can live this way. I can live this way for the rest of my life.
     
  14. centralmail

    centralmail New Member

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    Truly inspirational, Kate... truly inspirational.

    Thank you for your great post.
     
  15. Shreklookalike

    Shreklookalike New Member

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    So far I've seen a lot of good advice on this thread and a number of stories fairly similar to my own. Maybe this will help too.

    Central, I suspect that as a school teacher, your "free" time after work may be taken up with grading papers, preparing for the next day's lessons etc., so you might not have much after work time for training. Personally, I average 60 hours of work between my 2 jobs, so my only time to train IS my morning commute. So what I did, after finding my 3 mile commute wasn't doing me much good anymore, was to start leaving the house a bit earlier each day and adding a few blocks at a time. Now, I'm doing an 11 to 13 mile ride to work each morning. I'm 5'10" in January of 03 I weighed 235 pounds and had a 42 inch waist. I now weigh 182 pounds and last week I bought some 33 inch pants -- they're still slightly snug, but I know that will change in a few more weeks.
     
  16. Brunswick_kate

    Brunswick_kate New Member

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    That's it exactly...baby steps, baby steps. Don't anybody be in big hurry to change everything overnight. Add a block. Cut out one fast food meal. Baby steps, baby steps. Build a solid foundation and make this sustainable.
     
  17. centralmail

    centralmail New Member

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    I must say that I love the freedom that my bike gives me in my commute.

    My intention is to lose weight over time, but the bike also saves me a lot of time and stress on my commute.

    As previously mentioned, I have got my 4 mile each-way commute down to 25 minutes each way.

    When the Weather forecast tells me that the day is going to be rainy, I decide to go for the bus. In London (UK) at this time of year, this happens a maximum of two days out of five. The walk to the bus stop takes 10 minutes, the (stressful) wait takes up to 10 mins (and when it takes longer than this, I am running the risk of being late to school), the actual journey 12 mins and the walk at the other end takes 13 minutes, a grand total of 45 minutes!

    The bike commute cuts 20 minutes off the bus commute and I get to go through a beautiful park and along dedicated cycle routes, which seem to have been built exclusively for me and a handful of other cyclists. The great thing about cycling is that I am certain (give or take a couple of minutes) when I am going to arrive at school. Its only slightly slower than driving a car, but I just love thinking about all those thousands of £'s that I will save by biking it in on my sturdy £180 Giant Expression hybrid bicycle and not driving a car!
     
  18. Number14

    Number14 New Member

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    Congratulations on the weight loss and improved commuting time. I've got an 8.5 mile commute, mostly on my own personal cycle tracks as well. Aren't the local councils generous in giving us our own path that we don't have to share with anyone!

    I've done the rainy pedalling and the alternative "dry" option of public transport. The bus is too stressful and you still get wet walking and waiting so I now take the get wet quicker option and cycle all the way to work followed by a quick shower and change. Nice and relaxed for the day until the phone starts ringing.

    It doesn't matter what you pedal or how fast you pedal - just pedal.
     
  19. Randybaker99

    Randybaker99 New Member

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    Right, I was thinking along the same lines. If you can fit it into your schedule, try to do some longer rides, either by taking some detours on your commute, or going on rides at some other time. You will be amazed at how quickly your body will adjust to longer and longer rides.

    Last year I considered a 20 mile ride to be a very long ride and I was plenty tired by the end. Now, I do a Sunday morning club ride that is 50 miles and I feel like I could easily keep going. So distance on a bike is all relative to what you are used to.

    What has worked very well for me is to keep a mileage log and try to gradually increase the miles per week. It is a good way to increase without risking injury and is also super motivating!

    So, keep it up, you have made amazing progress in a short time, and you are just getting started!
     
  20. centralmail

    centralmail New Member

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    Thank you to everyone for their kind words of praise and encouragement.

    Who would have thought that one's commute could be so much fun! As I have previously alluded to, I seem to have the monopoly of usage on the bike paths on my morning commute. I do meet the occasional commuter and the occasional fellow cyclist, but that's about it. However, I do come across many furry friends on the stretch of my commute that takes me through the park.

    In London the red squirrel has been outcompeted by its grey cousin, which is a real pity. Nevertheless, the park is teaming with grey squirrels gathering their acorns and other foodstuffs on my morning commute. The little critters are both cute and annoying, since they keep on running across the bike path. It sure keeps me alert when coasting down the hill at high speed. Have any of you ever ended up hitting a furry creature with your bike?
     
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