Why I Bike Commute: Jeff Hendricks

The Journey Begins:

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Have you ever been at a point where you know you need to change, but you just don’t know where to start? Four years ago, I was at that point.

This would have been around 2010. I had recently moved back to my home town, had a beautiful family, and was pretty much happy. Except that I wasn’t happy. I was pretty miserable in fact, but I wasn’t letting on. Why? Some of the reasons (a lot of them) were related to my job, but a lot of it had to do with me being 40 pounds overweight. I was weighing in at 5′ 11″ and 215 pounds.

“That’s not so bad,” you’re probably thinking. Well, no, relatively speaking, there are a lot of people that are a lot heavier than I was. But the reality was that I knew my life, and my weight, were spiraling out of control. I was always tired, having digestion issues, sinus problems, sleep apnea, and I plowed through it, being miserable and pretty much always exhausted.

But I knew there was a better way. Thanks to my friend Mike, I got interested in whole foods (which I knew practically nothing about) and realized how much garbage I was putting into my body. Somewhere in that time, my job started getting very frustrating. I was hating going to work, and I’m ashamed to say it carried over into my home life. I was not being the husband and father my family deserved. I knew I needed a change, but I didn’t know where to start.

So I bought a bike.

The Plan:

In retrospect, it wasn’t a very good bike… it was a cheap aluminum mountain bike from a large box-goods store. It worked, and I started riding it. It reminded me of my old bike I had back in college. It meant freedom, and to a guy in a midlife crisis, it was the closest I was going to get.

At first, five miles hurt. Then it wasn’t so bad, so I did ten. That hurt. Then it wasn’t so bad, so I worked up to fifteen. I wasn’t very fast, so riding 15 miles took me over an hour. But I kept at it. I started getting up early, before work, and riding for an hour. I did that almost every day for about two months.  I realized that I was starting to feel better, but I still wasn’t losing weight.

I got some street tires for it, and started riding it more. I put lights on it, and started riding before daylight. I put in more time on the bike. But I still wasn’t losing weight.

The Diet:

That’s when all the information about nutrition I had researched came back to me. I decided I needed to cut way back on my calorie intake. The only way to do this, however, is to make sure you eat very nutritious foods to make sure you stay healthy… when you’re overweight, your body acts like it’s hungry not because it needs energy, but because it needs nutrition. I had to learn what foods were filled with vitamins and healthy things, but didn’t have a lot of calories. As it turns out, my body had plenty of calories stored up, waiting to be burned.

Let me insert this here: “diet” foods are low in calories, but they are also very low in nutrition. Stay away from them! Stick to natural, unprocessed/whole/organic foods. You know… the way God designed them.

Only after I fixed my diet did I begin to see pounds dropping off at a noticeable rate. I went down to about 1000 calories a day (yes, really). I made sure to eat salads, fruit, beans, unprocessed lean meats, and more salads. I cut out all soft drinks and coffee, and switched to hot green tea. I ate sugarless cereal, unsalted nuts, and all natural everything. All natural was good; USDA certified organic was even better. I cut out all preservatives, all additives, all sweeteners. Yes, all of them.

Have you ever been at a point where you know you need to change, but you just don’t know where to start? Four years ago, I was at that point.

Whereupon I Become A Full-Time Commuter:

Eventually, I realized how ridiculous it was for me to get up, ride for an hour, and then get in my car to go to work. Why couldn’t I kill two birds with one stone, and ride to work? So I did. I got some panniers (saddlebags, basically) and began riding to work about three times a week on average, depending on weather, and so on. I would ride another 40-60 miles on Saturday every other week. I was knocking out 100 miles a week average, almost 500 miles a month.  I started dropping 2-3 pounds a week. After three months, I had lost a solid 30 pounds and showed no signs of slowing down.

I found out that as I lost weight, I had more energy during the day, and my sleep apnea (and snoring!) disappeared. I gradually got to where I could taste artificial ingredients in food because I wasn’t used to them any more. I could tell when my sugar level got too low, and would eat a handful of something to tide me over. Our grocery bills went down, because I was eating less than half of what I was before for dinners. I was in top shape, I could ride for 100+ miles with no problem. I found my tolerance to heat and cold increased, because I would ride to work in sub-freezing weather, or 100 degree heat… it didn’t bother me. Since I wasn’t carrying all that insulation on me, my body could regulate its temperature like it was supposed to. My allergies mostly cleared up. I felt better than I had since I was a teenager. I eventually cracked the frame on my first, cheap bike… so I rebuilt it with another mountain bike frame (a CroMo Nishiki). I saved up some more, and bought a new road frame for it (a 26″ Surly Long Haul Trucker) and built custom wheels for it. Swapped all the parts over, and kept riding. I built a dynohub front wheel, hacked together some lights and a circuit, and piled on the miles. I was a beast, and even my cycling buddies were jealous of my 4000+ mile year. I thought nothing could stop me.

Then everything came crashing down on July 12, 2011. And I found out just how wrong I was.

But that story is for next time.

About Jeff Hendricks

Jeff Hendricks is a professing geek, tech whiz, musician, father, and
bike commuter. He's currently a technical writer. A proponent of the
bike lifestyle. Prefers cheap and functional over new and shiny.

Comments

  1. Jeff,
    Love the story! Can’t wait to read part 2!

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