Normally on or about the 11th of the month, I write about how I’ve bicycled another month every single day in a row. You can read the latest big milestone in 10 Techniques I Used to Bicycle 500 Days in a Row. But this post seemed more interesting. Millions of people struggle with overweight, obesity, fatness, or as I like to call it: being undertall. But being fat ain’t all that. In many, if not most ways, it is not good for you. When it comes to sports, though, there are some notable exceptions. I don’t encourage myself or anyone to be overweight, but if you are, you can probably do more than you realize (which is the central thesis of this blog in one sentence). Let’s dig right in! (Puns happen.)
- Downhill is funner. I was chatting with some of the staff at Sun & Ski Sports here in Austin today, and the subject of Circuit of the Americas race track came up. You can pay a small fee and go out there to ride your bicycle around the circuit on Bike Night at COTA, which just started up again last week. I’ve been a few times, and once hit my fastest speed ever on the big downhill. I asked them to guess, and the numbers went from 35 to 68. My number? 50.7 miles per hour. Mess up at that speed and you get a not-so-free ride to the hospital. The risk is part of it, no matter what your weight. Of course the uphills suck, but on downhills, being overweight makes biking much faster and therefore funner.
- Padding when you fall. Tied to 1. is this. It’s a mixed bag because there’s more of you to fall, and obviously that’s not good. But the few times I have “come off the bicycle,” I’ve bounced pretty well thanks to some additional insulation in the form of adipose tissue. Gravity, it’s the law. But how your body responds depends on the fall, how limber you are, (I do yoga daily), and luck. If you’re skin and bones there’s less of you to fall, but without the cushioning that’s gonna hurt more, if you ask me.
- Handy in altercations. Whether you need to drop a shoulder to move someone too close to you in a group bike ride, have a pleasant conversation with someone who makes fun of you for wearing stretchy cycling pants, or send a message to a car driver who has just attempted murdering you with their motor vehicle, having a few extra pounds on your frame might make a potential adversary think twice before putting up those dukes and throwing down.
- Extra power. Ever see a skinny sumo wrestler? Me neither. But they, NFL linebackers, shot putters and discus throwers, weightlifters, professional wrestlers, heavyweight boxers, even designated hitters in baseball all pack a mighty punch. Of course, these folks are packing plenty of muscle. But the added poundage helps these talented fat athletes dominate in their sports. (This is one point that proves that BMI is largely BS in measuring health.)
- Studies show being fat can benefit your health. I’ve mentioned this before in Un-Fat Is Not All That…, but it bears repeating. (Speaking of bears, they are pretty fat and pretty damn and fit. Another pun.) Surviving infections, illnesses, and in general being fat but fit are all possible.
- Psyching out your competitors. Most thin people assume that because you’re overweight, you aren’t fit, competitive, or even as good as or better than they are, so some fathletes have a secret advantage. I mentioned this in my previous blog, Chats with Strangers Whilst Bicycling in Austin, Texas. I challenged an electric bike and scooter to a race and blew them away. Do your own thing, and if that means shutting up the naysayers, by all means, have fun with it.
- More to gain, less to lose. If you’re overweight and working out, especially in a public place, you might get laughed at, called names, or fat-shamed. But if you are ok with being in the skin you’re living in, and your goal is a better, stronger, healthier you, you’re ahead of the game. If you’re there for YOU, not to impress others, the pressure is off to compete. Who needs “winning” when you’re on your own journey? Haters gonna hate, so shake it off!
- Strength in numbers. It’s still legal to discriminate against people based on body size, but that’s changing. Many people struggle with weight loss. That industry makes billions of dollars, but has completely failed most people. However, more and more people of size are becoming visible. The more of us that get out there and move, the better for others. Read this dated but still valid article: “Can you be fat and fit? These plus-size athletes say yes”.
- Even the fit still fight flab. For example, Chris Carmichael, retired professional cyclist and now coach and founder of CTS, TrainRight.com, wrote this article after he had gained some weight. 6 Comfort and Training Fixes for Overweight Cyclists. (He’s not without controversy, having been a trainer to Lance Pharmstrong.) Recently I’ve read about online attacks on Lindsey Vonn, the Olympic skier. Even though she’s retired, she’s still very fit because does extremely difficult workouts. But she was criticized for having some cellulite. No body is perfect!
- Thin people can be unhealthy, too. Diabetes, heart disease, eating disorders and more are not restricted to bigger bodies. If I had a time machine and cloning technology, I’d wager that my heavier, older, but generally healthier self would kick the butt of my younger, thinner, but inactive and sedentary version. Sure, there are more aches and pains, tiredness, etc., but the longest my 30-year old self ever biked was 20 miles. I do that now without blinking.
So I keep trying to reduce fat, build muscles, strive for overall health, and move my body as I’m able. Would I rather be thinner, fitter, and stronger? Sure. Do I have to work harder being a fathlete, is going uphill more difficult, and is chafing more of a concern that it might be were I thin? Yes to all three, but so what? Am I going to let extra baggage or the opinions of others shame me or keep me from throwing on some Lycra and pedaling my 100 miles a week at whatever speed I can or want to go? Hell, no. It’s all grist for the mill or water off a ducks back. Or whatever metaphor you want to use. What is a meta for, anyway? (That was so meta.)
I’ll tell you what, fatophobes: I’ll do me, and you do you. If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. And when you blow by me on your bike without saying “on your left,” I’ll think, “Maybe they’re a faster cyclist, but they’re a horrible person. And I’m probably having more fun.” Who’s winning now? (That’d be me. I am. Moi.) So no mattter your size, ride your bikes. Be nice to different body types and abilities. Plus, keep wearing a mask or have it handy when you pass people. And remember to consult your doctor before starting an exercise program; I am not a doctor. I’m just a dude. Who bikes his ass off. Well, it’s still there. More cushion for the pushin’ (pedals). Hey-o!
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