RAGBRAI LI Route Announced on Jan. 27!

Q: Cycling for Weight Loss and Indoor Training Tips

Hey everyone!! Last year was my first year on the RAGBRAI trail. My friend and I decided to do all or part of the first day. As it grew closer, I realized how unprepared I was and decided to only do half of the first day. I work in Sioux City and people kept freaking me out about the hills between Sioux City and Quimby so I decided to start at the halfway point. I joined my friend and the rest of the team there. I pedaled off on my mountain bike (with mountain bike tires) and trudged along. I made it about 14 miles out and had to quit. Even though it was very difficult for me, I couldn’t wait for next year! A couple weeks later I bought a road bike and at Christmas I received a indoor trainer. I’ve been reading past blog posts from Coach David Ertl and other things that I’ve randomly found. So, I guess that’s all a bit of background information. I have registered for the entire week this year and am super excited! I’m still unprepared but excited for the weather to warm up a bit to get outside and ride! One thing I need to do is to lower my gravitation pull (as I believe Coach David Ertl puts it- haha)…AKA lose weight. Does anyone have experience using cycling as a weight loss tool? Or is there anyone else out there trying to lose weight? …and I mean a considerable amount of weight, not just a few pounds. I want to be as prepared as possible this year and know that I will have a easier time if I lose weight. I’m sure its the type of situation that if I ride to prepare, the weight will come off. I’m just looking for any tips!! Also, tips for riding on the indoor trainer. Do you just hop on and pedal away or do you change up your gears along the way? I have been keeping it at the same gear and trying to up the time I am able to go. Thanks in advance for all your help!!

12 Replies

KenH, March 4, 2016 at 12:57 pm

When I was young it seemed easy to lose weight. For the last few years it has seemed impossible! So, I am still looking. If you are over 60 and find a way, please share it with the rest of us!! Interval training is a good way to build your performance. Warm up for a few minutes on the trainer then ride as hard as you can for 30 seconds and then back off to a pace that you can not only maintain but is easy enough that you can recover from the 30 second sprint and keep that pace for 4 minutes. Repeat the sprint/recover cycle for as long as you can or care to. I try to go for 10 cycles and then at the end ride for a few minutes at an easy pace to cool down. Don’t do this every day, maybe two or three times a week with an easy workout or two in between. People claim that this helps with weight loss as well as conditioning but for me, not so much. Not so far anyway.


jeffreydennis, March 4, 2016 at 1:14 pm

I have some experience here. Every January I have to re-lose the weight I put on during football season (darn tailgates!). You’re going to get a hundred different answers so here are mine…

Calories in versus calories. I track what I eat (I use MyFitnessPal)and what I extend with a Fitbit Surge. I know it lies about calories out (I think it gives too much credit) but I have learned to compare what I take in to the output treating the numbers as relative measurements. Consistency of measurement is the key here.

Need to boost the metabolism? Use HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training) of short strong bursts (30 seconds) with recovery in between of maybe a minute or two (10 sets). Whole workout maybe 30 minutes with warm up and cool down. You can find a ton out there on this but please check with a doctor first.

Weight training and yoga to build muscle and flexibility. Don’t forget upper body, you use that to climb. It’s not all legs.

Keep at it but remember to recover. HIIT two, maybe three times a week and endurance or tempo work with a recovery day or two per week.

That’s just my way. I’m down 18 lbs. since Jan 1.


Stephen Paine, March 4, 2016 at 1:23 pm

I know you will not want to hear this but….diets generally don’t work, at least not for lasting changes. It takes a lifestyle change. And frankly, to take off weight in big numbers, you should have started last summer so you could do it gradually. So all I can tell you is to resolve – today – to do the entire RAGBRAI and take your own time and pace in doing it. But don’t give up. You can do it and use it as a start for long term changes in your lifestyle.

I’ve sorta been in your shoes. I’ve been riding long enough such that even when I got to be 30 to 40 pounds overweight, I could more than hold my own on the flats. On the hills, however, I would lose some ground to my friends and I got tired of it. I went to a medically supervised weight loss program (i.e., md’s and nutritionists – not one of those quick loss places that advertise on the radio) and followed their program. The initial weight loss was a medically supervised Atkins-like diet. The transition after losing the weight, which is where almost all yo-yo dieters fail, is the hardest part and that’s where you need their help the most. Do it now. Don’t wait to have all sorts of medical problems, especially the tendency to get type 2 diabetes (had a blood test lately?). I bet I have had 1 pizza in the past three years but you know what? I don’t miss it a bit (advice – don’t eat anything “white”). And limit your alcohol intake. You can’t stay 20 years old forever.

You can do it. But if you do it correctly, it will take a year to do it and a commitment to keep it off. But you are worth it.


Megandoty, March 5, 2016 at 7:03 pm

Thanks for all of your advice!! I’m definitely going to be trying the HIIT/interval training! Would it be a good idea to do that on “flat” roads and on the other days do hill work?

I’m not much of a “diet” person. I’ve been trying to follow a plan that incorporates lots of veggies, lean proteins, fruit, smaller portions of carbs, and healthy fats (21 day fix, if you are familiar with it). It works pretty well for me. I just had blood drawn last month and it all looks really good! Yay! I have been having slightly elevated blood pressure lately, though. I’m hoping a change in diet and increased exercise will improve that. I’m not an alcohol drinker, so I have that on my side.

If there are any Iowans in here (or other cold weather states) how do you prepare to ride in cool weather? I don’t have long biking pants… could I wear biking shorts with long yoga pants over them, or would that create too much friction?

Thanks for all your help and good advice!!


powellpd, March 5, 2016 at 10:38 pm

Hi- This is going to be my first year riding the RAGBRAI. I’m from Florida where we do have a number of good hills and long rollers in our area that I am beginning to ride. I also have started getting in shape for this experience. You are certainly giving yourself ample time to make some good changes which will help you reach your goal of being lighter on the bike. I am where I need to be in that area, but I can offer you some insight into how I maintain a great weight for biking. It’s being careful about portion size of the food you are eating. Half my plate is salad or vegetables, 1/4 is protein, and 1/4 is carbs. I haven’t had a soda in a very long time. Usually, when someone is reaching for a coke, it is because they are thirsty. Instead, grab a bottle of cold water. That will cut out a lot of calories. Also have either fruit or vegetables in the house for snack items. At first it will be tough, but it does get easier. I never think about cookies, cake, or doughnuts anymore. Having a goal for beginning to change your eating habits like the RAGBRAI is going to help in keeping you focused everyday in planning healthy meals. Good luck in your training and reaching all of your goals.


Michrider !!!, March 6, 2016 at 7:08 am

My first RAGBRAI was 1997. I rode 500 miles and gained 5 pounds! Just ride your bike. Move more, eat less works!!!!


Mark Hotle, March 6, 2016 at 1:00 pm

My first RAGBRAI was 2011. I began ‘training’ in April and had lost 20 lbs by RAGBRAi. Yes, you CAN do it. As other’s have said, diets don’t work –you must make a lifestyle change. It’s pretty simple, burn more calories daily than you intake. Eat right & exercise (ie. ride ride ride) I rode 1,500 miles prior to my first RAGBRAI and had no problem. The problem with RAGBRAI is that you GAIN weight. Ride 500 miles, get sunburned, and gain 5-7 pounds.



Brian Wallenburg, March 6, 2016 at 3:21 pm

You can do it! simply put, you are what eat and with lifestyle and diet changes you can become what what you eat! Work at it every day, every meal. I’ve been riding RAGBRAI off and on since the late 90’s at 240-255 lbs. A year ago in January I was diagnosed with an extremely high cholesterol level …and not the good kind! I used the above mentioned free app called MyFitnessPal. I made no changes in my cycling, but tracked EVERYTHING that went down my throat! I’ve since lost 35 lbs and feel better than ever. The only change I’ve noticed is my average speed has increased. Make the change, you’ll be extremely happy you did! Good Luck.


czysk, March 6, 2016 at 3:31 pm

Try to ride between 1000-1500 miles before RAGBRAI. Do not avoid the hills, the more of them you ride the easier they will get. I weigh between 240-250 LBS.I have ridden 6 years in a row and lost 10 LBS each time. It comes back by Christmas Ride at your own pace and enjoy the week


Megandoty, March 6, 2016 at 7:13 pm

Thank you so much for the encouragement!! I’ll be sure to let you all know how I do! ;)


SFC JKL 2, March 6, 2016 at 7:27 pm

Don’t think of it as along ride. It’s a bunch of short rides from town to town with a rest period. You have all day to get to the next overnight town. Pace yourself and you’ll be fine.


Tom Young, March 12, 2016 at 11:11 pm

I was just in Barnes and Noble today and saw several cycling magazines, and the current runners world with banner headlines about getting fit and shedding pounds. What many of the posts above allude to is “lifestyle change” not “diet.” I would suggest reading a few articles like I suggested above. Get on your bike and ride. have a good time. And ride some more! I would also recommend the best bike you can afford. Not a WalMart or target store bike. A good bike is worth its weight in whatever you value! Hybrid bikes are heavy. Mountain bikes are heavy and their tires are not friendly. And, lastly, break the days into a series of smaller rides. Have fun. The health will improve and the pounds will come off.


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