Friday, June 01, 2007

The Amazing Shrinking Man & His Bike Bond

When we started this blog, one of the first people to welcome us to the blogosphere was Tom Stormcrowe. We checked out his blog and were blown away by his story. We asked if we could reprint part of his story for our Unbreakable Bonds profiles and he readily agreed. He even added an update just for us at the bottom. If there is anyone who has a bond with his bicycle, it's Tom. He's certainly an inspiration to many.

Here's Tom's story, in his own words....

Why Cycling?
What is this attraction I have to a contraption made up of tubing, with two wheels made basically of tensioned wire and an alloy hoop? I suppose, first and foremost, it's probably responsible for a large part of the progress I've made in the last 13 months. A bit over a year ago, I was basically just about dead! I had reached the end of what my body could handle, physically at least. Due to a metabolic disorder called Empty Sella Syndrome, I had gained a truly amazing amount of weight and was to the point that I required supplementary oxygen to function. If you've been following my blog, this will be old information if you started reading me when I started. The link above is to a medical article on Kallman's Syndrome, a symptomatic offshoot of Empty Sella. This may help you understand a bit more. I warn you, though, the writing style is, shall we say, a bit obtuse!

At the peak
At my peak weight, I had blown up to 581 pounds, and was literally unable to walk more than 50 feet without crushing chest pain and shortness of breath. I had to use a wheelchair to go any further. I underwent bariatric surgery to alleviate the weighht problem, which has been successful. I am now down to 241 pounds 13 months later. That's right, 241, I weighed today! There were risks to the surgery, but I was trading a life in hell for a chance. That officially gives me a 340 pound weight loss in 13 months and a fraction!

Why Cycling?
This brings me to the point of this article, why cycling? Well, that's both a simple and complex question. The simple part, first, I guess. My knees had so much damage from my weight that it plain hurt to walk! Imagine if you will, weighing 500 pounds and having your knees popping and grating every time you took a step. Imagine having your knees feel like there was sand in the joint grinding away each time you walked. Kind of hard to do, right? That's why I resumed cycling, aside from the fact that cycling also burns more calories than walking. It's low impact, and doesn't stress the knees so much if you have a good fit on your bike. I'm not saying it was easy to get started either. First, I had to figure out how to carry oxygen safely. My provider, Lincare provided me with a backpack sleeve to use while riding. This turned out to be just what I needed.

When I resumed cycling, after a 25 year absence, it was like an old friend came to stay, I rediscovered my passion for it. My family thinks I'm a tad bit fanatical, but my returning health tells me that while I may be a fanatic, this is a good thing. I am now 340 pounds lighter, as I said, off the oxygen completely, off the cardiac and blood pressure medicine, and feeling pretty good. It has required a commitment to very hard work to get as far as I have, and it isn't easy! If you have an obesity problem, believe me I know how it feels, been there done that and got the size 8X T-Shirts to prove it. The problem can be beat though, with a commitment to changing your lifestyle. Diets don't really work, for the most part, long term.

When you diet and cut the calories too far, your body goes into famine mode and starts conserving fat. You start burning protein instead, and this isn't really a good thing. Keep the protein intake to about 1 gram per kilo (2.2 pounds) body mass to prevent this, and keep the fluid intake high! Without enough calories and water, the fat burning machine in your body doesn't work properly.

When you exercise, like on a long ride, follow these guidelines:
* Drink about every ten minutes, whether you are thirsty or not

* Consume about 300 calories (kcals)/ hr to prevent the "Bonk" (This is when your blood sugars drop and you start feeling really crappy, and often you can't even think straight.

* Carry some Gatorade or other sport drink to keep your electrolytes balanced. You need sodium and potassium for proper muscle and heart action.

How do I Burn the Fat?
The Answer is actually quite simple! Increase your activity, there's a whole world out there for you to experience. Don't waste your life sitting in front of the TV eating junk!

Here is a site to help you plan your riding sessions:The Bicycle Speed and Power Calculator

The bottom line is that for me, cycling has truly helped me get much thinner. I would likely have gotten here anyway after the surgery, but I wouldn't be as strong and I wouldn't have had as much fun! Each gain in endurance and new mileage milestone has given me a sense of both wonder and accomplishment. The feeling of triumph after my first tour this year was just incredible. All I can say is get on your bike and ride! The rewards are unimaginable.

Reprinted from April 18, 2006- The Amazing Shrinking Man, by Tom Stormcrowe ©2007

Updated for May 31, 2007
As I look back at this article, I think back to where I was, wheelchair bound and on Oxygen, and compare it to today, and I am truly thankful for the benefits cycling has brought into my life. My last weigh in was 215 pounds, giving me a total weight loss of 366 pounds and I am going to live to a much riper old age. Given how it has affected my life, all I can say is if it's an obsession, it's a healthy one!

I am departing Saturday on a 700+ mile tour, and am riding this year in Tour de Cure to raise funds for the American Diabetes Association as well. You can view my Tour de Cure webpage for more information.

1 comment:

Daisy said...

This is a fascinating post! It could not have been expressed better.