fit chick weighs in on getting lean by biking

Selene Yeager, who writes the Fit Chick column for Bicycling Magazine, was in the house at a recent meeting of the New York Cycle Club in Manhattan to discuss her new book, Ride Your Way Lean, and to share training tips with a room-full of cycling enthusiasts.

Yeager says her book was partly inspired by the popularity of TV shows like The Biggest Loser and recent stories of epic weight loss through cycling. However, she wanted to avoid the “lose your belly, butt and thighs” genre of diet book, so Ride Your Way Lean takes a fitness-first approach.

“To me, looking nice in a pair of jeans is a byproduct of wanting your body to be the best machine it can be,” Yeager says. “Moving  just makes you feel good and if you lose weight all the better.”

Although it’s a stretch to imagine it, Yeager mentions a time in her life when she had to re-think her own eating habits and workout regimen. The story, which appears in the book’s introduction, goes something like this: a male colleague suggested that she drop a few pounds to improve her cycling performance — this as Yeager was sitting on a pool deck in a Speedo.

The author laughs off the tale now, but uses it to illustrate that falling into a rut is an all too common pitfall. A structured plan can help people keep on track and stay motivated. Her book lays out four 12-week cycling plans based on readers’ goals; they range from a “Big Loss” for those who want to drop 35-50 pounds, through shedding a size or a “spare tire,” and conclude with a maintenance program for lifelong fitness.

What’s next  for this certified personal trainer, expert-level mountain bike racer and triathlete? Yeager plans to participate in the Absa Cape Epic 8-day, 500-mile mountain bike race in South Africa next March.

Six Training Tips from Fit Chick

Yeager exuded energy and good humor as she shared these tips based on questions from NYCC riders:

  • Avoid post-ride ravenousness – For long outings, top off fuel stores before the ride, then fuel consistently along the way.
  • Formulate a fueling strategy – Getting to know what your body will tolerate while you’re riding is an organic process for each individual, requiring experimentation, Yeager says.  For example, on endurance rides the author likes to alternate from hour to hour between liquid nutrition and solid foods that provide chewing satisfaction.
  • Ban the indoor training “torture chamber” – While Yeager says she thinks nothing of riding in sub-30-degree temps, her personal preference indoors is for rollers. However, no matter what your choice of an indoor trainer, Yeager advises setting it up where light and air are plentiful. A basement or storage room quickly becomes “a torture chamber” and a motivation killer. Yeager also gives the thumbs-up to spin classes that incorporate interval training.
  • Maintain top-side conditioning – Yeager recommends two 30-minute sessions of weight training and core exercises per week and cautions that “especially as you age, you lose your top-side conditioning pretty quickly.” The training exercises illustrated in her book require a few simple fitness aids, but no gym membership.
  • Don’t ignore post-ride recovery – Effective and economical options include compression socks, a rub-down or  foam rollers. Yeager adds that sometimes it’s best to do a recovery ride solo, notably when “competitive” is the default setting among cycling friends.
  • Burn extra calories at work – Yeager recommends getting up to move around as much as possible throughout the day. Walk to a colleague’s office rather than e-mailing, take the stairs between floors, work standing at your desk rather than sitting to help boost metabolism and burn incremental calories.
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