Cycling 500 miles for heart health

Tim Phillips Until recently my lifestyle was the classic issue which I heard described as ‘sleepwalking into obesity’. Since my twenties a number of excuses had allowed this to happen – ‘every man gets a beer belly as they get older’, ‘I spend too much time travelling to exercise’, ‘I get home too late to go to the gym’, ‘I’m not a fitness guy anyway’, etc. Over a 15-20 year period I reached the point where according to my BMI I was officially obese, but I still thought of myself as just ‘having a bit of a belly’. Stupidly, there was plenty of reason for me to keep in much better health: my paternal grandfather died young from heart disease, so I never knew him; my father suffered a heart attack a few years ago which led to triple bypass surgery.

There was no single event that led to me making a change, but a few photographs of me started to sow the seeds (sucking in the belly for pictures no longer seemed to work!) and some comments from work colleagues also had an effect. I got to the point where I was aware something needed to be done, but wasn’t sure how much I would be able to do – for a couple of years before this I had made more of an effort (so I thought) to eat more healthily and do some more exercise, and yet nothing had really changed.

In late 2012 I decided that something needed to be done and planned that from New Year 2013 things would be different. I joined the gym and started to monitor calorie intake using an online app. My initial goal was to reach the top of the ‘healthy’ BMI range in six months. Surprisingly I found that the hardest part was making the decision to change things about my lifestyle – actually doing the exercise and controlling calorie intake was the easy part!

One of the exercise options I tried was cycling, something I used to enjoy as a teenager and student but hadn’t done much of since. Slowly but surely this grew into my main exercise and over the last year into a definite obsession. In July 2013 I took part in my first charity ride (25 miles) followed by another in Sept 2013 which was 55 miles. It felt good to be able to cycle further than ever before and also to raise money for charity. I met my initial weight loss goal and was feeling much better. The feeling of pushing myself physically was a joy I had forgotten.

Over the winter I kept at it through punctures, thunderstorms and a crash, and at the beginning of the spring set a new goal for 2014 – to reduce my weight further (I have now lost more than 3 st/42 lb/19 kg), improve my fitness significantly and to do a series of charity cycle rides culminating in the London-Surrey 100. This is held over the Olympic 2012 road race course and will be my first ‘century’ ride – the cycling equivalent of a marathon. The series of rides totals over 500 miles and I am aiming to raise over £1000 for the British Heart Foundation, which researches heart disease care and cure.

For more details of the cycling events and to donate to a great cause please go to:  http://www.justgiving.com/TimPhillips3