Question: I’m 6 feet, 195 pounds with thick muscles from playing college football. I’ve been riding 5,000 miles a year for several years but haven’t gotten lighter. How can I eliminate my bulky muscle and get down to optimal riding weight? — Boo W.
Coach Fred Matheny Replies: I was in your situation, too, Boo. I played college football at 205 pounds and am now 158. In my case, weight loss was easy because I had to work hard in the weight room to make my gains. Once I stopped tackling people and began endurance exercise, the weight melted quickly till I was back to my pre-college skinny self.
It sounds like you’re naturally bigger than I am and your body has settled at 195 after several years of riding. There may be little you can do to get lighter, but it’s still worth a try.
Start by getting a body fat assessment. Hospital wellness programs and exercise physiology departments at universities can test your body fat using one of several accurate methods.
The results will indicate if you can realistically lose more fat. Top male cyclists usually average 8-10% body fat. (Women, due to childbearing demands, come in about 5 percentage points higher.) If you’re muscular and fit, which sounds like your situation, you may already be at optimum body fat levels.
As for losing muscle weight, it’s hard to do. Muscle size and shape is genetically determined. Not lifting heavily will help, but at some point you may simply be stuck with a linebacker’s physique.
The key is to accept the body you have and make the most of your strengths. They may not include climbing, but I bet you’ll be able to time trial, sprint and make the skinny guys cry uncle in rolling hills and crosswinds.