Hometown: Fort Smith, Arkansas
Occupation: Mortgage broker
Time Cycling: 5 years
Start Weight: 500 pounds
End Weight: 175 pounds
Reason for Cycling: Cycling was the perfect low-impact exercise that wouldn’t damage my knees during my 325-pound weight loss.
At my heaviest, I weighed 500 pounds. I lived in a world of self-delusion; I was an anxious, depressed, morbidly obese shut-in. I also had several undiagnosed endocrine issues, and although I had no ‘traumatic’ health failures, I felt certain they were just around the corner, had I not changed my life.
My turning point came after my father’s death. Before he became ill, he had lost some weight through changing his diet. He encouraged me to do the same, but I blew him off. Wanting to honor my father, and not wanting to end up in the plot right next to him, I started my journey in April 2013.
I started by counting calories, and through dieting alone, I lost over 200 pounds. I switched to the Keto diet a few years ago, and I found that really works for me.
By March of 2016, I wanted to start exercising, but I found that even walking at 300 pounds was tough on my joints. A friend recommended that I should buy a bike. I bought the cheapest bike that I could find at Walmart, and I rode it as often as I could until the bike fell apart (which didn’t take long).
I found the feeling of just being able to exercise exhilarating. When I was 500 pounds, just going to the mailbox and back would have me out of breath. Right now, I ride, run, swim, and do yoga, sometimes exercising twice a day. I have completed several organized events for both cycling and running, and I am looking to participate in a few triathlons this year.
I find enjoyment in meeting physical challenges I set for myself. However there’s nothing quite like riding hard—that feeling of speed can’t be duplicated by running or swimming.
So far, I’ve lost 325 pounds since April 2013. Right now, I follow a modified version of a low-carb diet—when I am preparing for a major effort (half marathon, marathon, metric century, century, triathlon, etc.), I eat plenty of whole grain carbs that don’t cause my blood sugar to spike.
Joel’s must-have gear
Specialized Tarmac SL7 Comp - Rival ETap AXS — This is just a really nice bike.
Specialized Power Comp Saddle — I LOVE, LOVE the Power Saddle 155mm from Specialized. The best thing that can be said about a saddle is ‘I don’t notice it’—that’s exactly how it feels!
The Black Bibs — The Black Bibs are $40 for a legit pair of bibs. Good quality for a more than reasonable price. I highly recommend.
The Black Shorts — Like the Black Bibs, good quality and price.
Right now, I ride at least five days a week. Some are C-pace rides that I organize for my 501(c)3 non profit organization cycling advocacy group, Iron Sharpens Iron Cycling, to encourage others on the same journey. Others are faster (20 mph+ for 60 or more miles).
I formed Iron Sharpens Iron Cycling to encourage others to live healthier, longer, and more fulfilled lives. The original intention was to take donations for the purchase of bicycles, then train and encourage those that were interested in cycling. Since the start of COVID-19, most people now have bicycles. So, I’ve mostly been focusing on organizing rides for folks starting off in the sport.
Riding a bike makes me feel free from the constraints of my old self. I started slow, riding just 8 mph on a Walmart bike. But over time, with effort, things changed.
My advice to others wanting to make a similar change is to remember that change is slow, almost imperceptible at times. Build upon yourself. Judge yourself against only yourself (past and present). Because you can be a better version of you. Put in the effort, and I guarantee, amazing things will happen.
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