Will my exercise/commuting plan work?
August 28, 2008 11:25 AM   Subscribe

Will my exercise/commuting plan work? Maybe I just need some affirmation. Maybe I'm wrong and I need some advice. Let me know.

I'm a 6'0" female, weighing in just under 200lbs. For my body type [and from past fitness/weight levels], I'd say I'm about 35 lbs overweight.
I ride my road bike quite often (and I love it), but just not often enough. I've decided to accept a challenge of biking to work (17km/10miles each way) 4 out of every five days for a month. I've done the commute before, and it's a lot of fun.

I'm assuming that if I'm riding 10 miles in the morning and 10 miles in the afternoon 4 times a week, that I'll start losing weight [fat] fairly quickly and efficiently. This will of course have to be paired with better eating habits. I would describe my diet now as fair.

I currently ride 2-3 times a week, about 15 miles at a time. Will fast will I lose this bulk? My priority is feeling better, and I always feel great after a ride, but it's gotten to the point where my size is affecting how I feel.
posted by anonymous to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You'll absolutely shed some pounds, if you don't overcompensate by eating too much more. There's no reason why this plan wouldn't help. Go for it!

The days I ride to work I feel great as well. And I eat better when I feel better. And, like you, my size affects how I feel, so it's something I really need to stay on top of.

(I'm not going to do the math or anything ... I'm sure there is some formula for how many calories you burn per mile while biking and all that, but you can compute that as well as I.)
posted by iguanapolitico at 11:56 AM on August 28, 2008

Well, you'll be doubling to tripling the amount of riding you're doing (from 30/45 to 80 miles a week, right?).

Assuming that your current diet has you maintaining your weight, and not gaining, then you will lose some weight, most likely. It would help if we knew what pace you are riding at currently, and what pace you will ride to work. Assuming your rides to work are roughly as challenging as your other road rides, then the added mileage will probably result in weight loss. There is an exercise calorie counter here, which you can use to calculate how many extra calories you will be burning on your new plan.

If weight loss and looking better are a big reason for doing this, you might want to add 1-2 strength training sessions to the cycling every week. Adding muscle means that your body will burn more calories all the time. Generally, a mixed program of aerobics/cardio and strength training is best for fat loss.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 12:01 PM on August 28, 2008

You'll absolutely shed some pounds, if you don't overcompensate by eating too much more.

That of course if the trick...chances are you won't be able to eat the same amount and exercise more, so what you eat in addition to your current diet and how much you eat will greatly effect how much and how fast you loose the weight.

There are lots of variables in this so it would be hard to say what your weight loss rate. However I applaud you and good luck.
posted by mmascolino at 12:20 PM on August 28, 2008

I lost ~25 pounds, over about 9 months of riding my bike 5 miles to work and back, every week day.

I am now to the point where I feel weird if I don't have some amount of activity like riding each day. My weight has remained stable, and I haven't had to eat in any special way or go out of my way to work out.

Best of luck to you!
posted by everichon at 12:43 PM on August 28, 2008

My commute is about that distance, albeit moderately hilly, and takes about 45 minutes each way. I usually don't feel the need to boost my caloric intake on days when I ride and I don't eat while I'm on the bike.

Hopefully the route provides opportunities to get your heart rate up as that should increase your metabolism. On the road, it shouldn't be difficult to create interval training-type conditions once you're warmed up.

Would you be expecting 1 or 2 pounds of lost weight per week? That's "only" 8 pounds in your 4 week challenge. Consider making either bike commuting, more strenuous riding or more mileage in general part of your weekly routine.
posted by turbodog at 12:53 PM on August 28, 2008

Yes! For a period of time in grad school I biked to/from campus, about 5 miles each way. I was definitely leaner and more toned, and noticed that I didn't have to give a second thought to whatever I ate.

Small side suggestions: when it rains, disc brakes and an extra set of clothes are really handy.

Good for you!
posted by CruiseSavvy at 12:57 PM on August 28, 2008

Just another "You go!"

I started commuting by bike last March and have slowly been losing the 20 lbs I gained when my wife was pregnant(!?). My ride is only 20 minutes each way. With small hills.

One thing I did that helps me ride in bad weather is splurge on weather gear. The clothes I wear in heavy rain or hail are worth about 3x what I paid for the bike.

Good luck!
posted by nonmyopicdave at 1:06 PM on August 28, 2008

Maybe. Bicycling is a really efficient form of transportation, and a fairly flat commute at a relaxed pace is not very taxing. When I started a commute like yours (maybe a little bit shorter, like 7 or 8 miles) mostly on the level, the first few weeks were rough. My muscles were sore, and I was really hungry (I was not trying to lose weight, but I had to eat a lot more to maintain my weight; had I not eaten more I would definitely have lost weight).

But a month or two later, I could just zip home on my bicycle and not feel the strain at all, and my eating dipped back towards my normal amount.

Another time, when I had a really tough bicycle commute (lots of hill climbing in both directions), it was as if I couldn't eat enough, ever, and I lost weight even though I ate and ate and ate.

So I think it really depends on how strenuous your commute is, how your body reacts to exercise, how you eat, and so on.
posted by Forktine at 1:12 PM on August 28, 2008

it will as long as you are expending more calories per day than you are consuming. period.
posted by violetk at 1:30 PM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Bike commuting is a great idea to keep fit and save some money on gas. Just a little suggestion if you're not losing weight as fast as you would like/thought you would: On the ride home (probably not on the way into work, as you probably don't want to get all sweaty) see how fast you can make the commute. Time yourself and see if you can't beat that time a week later.
posted by nameless.k at 2:30 PM on August 28, 2008

It totally depends on what you eat versus what you expend. I did it for you here, it's basically a bunch assumptions, but let's go with it for the example:

Your daily caloric needs = 2100 (RMR - assumptions: you are 30, female, and not super active beyond your bike rides)

605 calories in 40 min (assuming 10 miles at 15 mph) x 2 trips = 1210 calories burned per day.

2100 calories + 1210 calories = 3310
If you want to lose 1 pound a week, subtract 500 calories per day = 2810
If you want to lose 2 pounds per week, subtract 1000 calories per day = 2310

There it is! I used caloriesperhour.com to get your daily needs and calories burned. Disclaimer: I'm an avid cyclist, and I find the burn rates on these online calculators to be very high, so you might need to adjust. Also, humans are not robots, so your results will vary.
posted by smalls at 3:21 PM on August 28, 2008

Basically, I think Forktine has it.

A few years ago I started cycling like mad, and improved my diet some. I lost about 30 lbs each summer, while maintaining weight in winter, for two years. I could still do to lose 20-30 lbs, but I've been maintaining my current weight for a while now.

I commuted over a similar distance during a contract a while ago. I found I couldn't eat enough.. With all the time working, cycling, recovering, and cooking, there wasn't that much time for eating :P I'm sure this helped in some of the weight loss, but I don't think it is a particularly healthy or effective way to accelerate the process. On days when I didn't get enough food, I felt much weaker on the ride, and much more tired at home.

It is also very important to keep in mind that how you ride has a huge impact. An average speed of 15mph takes more than 3x the power, and more than 2x the energy per mile, that 10mph requires.
posted by Chuckles at 4:42 PM on August 28, 2008

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