Brian Stephens on wearing Spandex, blogging about cycling and losing weight/dieting/food regime

  • Country : USA

    Currently riding : Trek 1000 Triple, Trek 2.1 Apex Road Bikes
    Topics :

    Bio :

    Hi, I’m Brian. I am a husband, father, and all around regular guy. I live in the southeast United States. Virginia is home now, but I have called many places home in my life. My wife and I grew up in New York, on Long Island. We were married in Maryland, where we both went to college. Then we lived in Florida, Texas, California, and now Virginia.

    Why have we lived in so many different places? Well, I was in the U.S. Navy. Join the Navy and see the world they said. They didn’t disappoint. I was in the Navy for most of my early years and now I work for a great company, supporting the military.

    I am in my mid-thirties and have four kids, all girls. They are all young now, but I’ll have teenagers in the house soon enough. I’m more scared of that than by anything that I did in the Navy.

    I try to compensate for all the girls in the house by watching more and more sports. I love baseball, college football, and I’m getting back into hockey. I also have many hobbies to keep me occupied. Cycling is my favorite hobby, but a close second is homebrewing. Homebrewing is all about making your own beer at home. Just picture reaching into the refrigerator to grab a beer and selecting something that you made. That’s a lot of fun. Even more fun is when you forget to label your beers and get a “surprise” every time.

    Website :

    I'm Brian, founder of I Wear Spandex, a cycling blog about my journey. I started IWS to share my journey of self-improvement through cycling. My journey is about weight loss, fitness improvement, the search for a fast century time. (100-mile bike ride), and dealing with a house filled with four daughters. This promises to be a fun roller coaster ride. I started recreational road cycling in 2004 when I bought a used road bike at a local shop. I had to prove to my wife that the bike would not collect dust in the garage. I was instantly hooked and have not looked back. Now I ride in several charity bike rides every year. I enjoy long distance cycling and local group rides. My favorite place to be is out on my bike, sweating through an interval workout, trying to make myself faster. My hope is that the blog can help others. I would love people to find and enjoy cycling as much as I do. I hope they can learn from my mistakes, avoid the same pitfalls, and find fitness success. The blog is so new that I don’t know what it will become down the road. I just know that I have enjoyed connecting with other great people around the world. Stop by and say hi anytime.

    Think back to when you were a kid; tell me about your earliest memories of cycling

    As a kid, I actually remember “teaching” myself to ride a bike. I was too stubborn to let my parents teach me how to ride, so I was older than most kids by the time I learned to ride. For the remainder of childhood, my bike was a little piece of freedom. The bike carried me to see my friends, to see new bike trails through wooded areas, and it carried all of my sports equipment around town. We would make obstacles and jumps along these trails in the woods and dare each other to go faster and higher.   I also rode my bike around town, delivering newspapers on my paper route. Yeah, I was a paperboy. I worked every day to deliver papers in my neighbourhood. I had an old milk crate on the front of my handlebars that held the papers. I looked like the kid from the movie E.T. The Sunday paper was always so big and heavy that I had to make 3 or 4 trips to finish the route.   In addition, I remember watching a show on TV about professional cycling. I didn’t know anything about it, but I remember it being exciting and exotic. It was a race in France, and that sounded really cool!

    So you wear spandex and have named your blog after it, but why spandex and cycling what got you into it?

    I got back into cycling as an adult during the Lance Armstrong popularity explosion, when he started winning the Tour de France. Regardless of my recent thoughts about Armstrong (I have many opinionated thoughts on the blog) after his recent doping admission, I have to thank him for helping me find cycling again. I was watching the Tour and my wife was calling Armstrong “my boyfriend” because I watched so many hours of bike racing. Finally, I convinced my wife to let me buy a used road bike.   I was so excited to ride a bike again. The feeling of freedom was intoxicating. I could ride almost anywhere on my bike. I quickly proved to my wife that this bike riding thing was here to stay. Then I upgraded to my first new road bike, an entry level bike, the Trek 1000. It had a triple crank to help me get around the hills of southern California, where we lived. I was in heaven.   As far as spandex goes, I started wearing spandex on my bike rides as the distances got longer. At first, I was wearing regular running shorts and a cotton t-shirt. It became painful to ride more than a few miles in that gear, especially in hot weather. My first spandex was a pair of spandex bike shorts, and that was the single best upgrade I made for cycling. I was finally more comfortable in the saddle and could ride longer distances. Eventually, I added some cycling jerseys and I haven’t looked back.   Now the one problem I have with spandex is my size. I’m a very large rider and spandex is made with a different person in mind. I like to say that I look like a football defensive lineman on a bike. Most folks envision slim, skinny people wearing spandex. I’m the opposite. So I tried to be funny when naming my cycling blog and called it “I Wear Spandex.” It was like admitting to the world that it is okay to wear spandex, no matter what size you are. There are not many people brave enough to leave the house wearing spandex to begin with, so to do it as a large person takes some confidence. I feel like I’m speaking for the other large people out there who feel timid about fitness and sports because of the way they look. There is no need to feel embarrassed about your size. Be yourself, enjoy sports like cycling, and wear spandex with pride.

    Do you cycle to lose weight, get fitter or for passion?

    I started riding just for passion. Then a few years ago, I started using cycling as my primary exercise. I did some training and found new and different ways to improve my skill and ability on the bike.   Now with my blog, my goal is to use cycling to help me lose weight. I figured that I’m on the bike enough and I should really gain some benefit from it. All the years of riding the bike and I haven’t really lost weight and kept it off. I have lost weight at times, but I gain it all back when I’m off the bike.   I plan to use the blog as a way to hold me accountable to my goals. There is a whole new power to your goals when you put them out there on the internet. All of a sudden, you don’t want to be a failure. Setbacks are okay and realistic, but failure is not. I hate to lose, so this method should work well for me.   This is similar to the Fat Cyclist, a cycling blog by Elden Nelson. He started his blog in order to lose weight and hold himself accountable. It worked for him, so he seems like someone worth following.

    If you are looking to lose weight apart from cycling have you changed any other things in your life like doing other sports/changing your diet?

    Cycling will be my primary tool for losing weight, but I am expanding beyond just cycling. I played football (American football) in school and always enjoyed weight lifting. I rediscovered weight lifting again in the last couple of years. I found that doing a new exercise routine outside of cycling has gotten my motivation going again. Recently, I started doing weight lifting workouts that work all of the major muscle groups at once. They are short, intense workouts that I do at home with dumbbells and a balance ball.   For food, my big problem is that I eat too many calories. I generally eat a healthy, balanced diet, but just too much of it. I have tried so many diets over the years with varying success. I have come to hate the word “diet.” The best thing for me is to make one small change at a time. Too often people make gigantic changes when they go on a diet and never succeed. I fell into the same trap. So my new method is to make one change and let it become a habit. I have made some good changes over recent years, like cutting out soda and drinking more water.   This year I am planning to make some new changes. I found a great vegetable and fruit smoothie recipe over at Loving the Bike, an excellent cycling site. I want to drink this smoothie consistently, every other day or even every day. The other change on my radar is cutting down on my portion sizes for meals. I don’t have a method for how I will make that a habit yet, but that is on the horizon for me.

    What’s your cycling and eating regime today? Run us through a typical day of your new work life balance.

    During the winter and cycling off-season, I have a different approach than during the summer. In the winter, I workout mostly in the morning. So a typical day would be to wake up, do a workout (cycling or off-bike workout), have breakfast, and then go to work. For breakfast, I usually eat oatmeal or eggs. Sometimes, though, I go for something lighter like a protein shake.   Then for lunch, I usually eat leftovers from home. We make dinner at home and generally have enough leftovers for me to take to work for lunch. This makes planning for lunch very easy. If I don’t have leftovers, I usually take a sandwich to work, like turkey and cheese. I also keep emergency snacks at work in case I work late or get really hungry. Snacks are usually a protein bar, almonds or peanuts, or something else along those lines.   Finally, dinner is at home with the family. We usually eat a balanced dinner. In the winter, we have been eating some stews and casseroles that are more hearty. Then in the summer, we have some lighter meals.   I am usually terrible at eating fruits and vegetables on a consistent basis. That’s why I want to change up the routine and add in that smoothie from Loving the Bike as a meal alternative. I will probably use that for breakfast or lunch, whichever is easier.   During the summer months, I ride my bike in the afternoon and evenings after work. That changes up my routine. I go to work earlier in order to finish earlier and get out on the bike, especially if I have a lot of miles to put in.   For bike ride nutrition, I usually bring just water and packets of gels with me. If the ride is going to be over an hour and a half, then I take a sports drink. If I am going for more than two hours, then I will pull out the big guns and use this great powder mix. I really like Hammer Nutrition products and use their mix called Perpetuem for long ride nutrition.

    What single piece of advice would you give someone who is looking to lose weight and wants to change his or her life?

    If I had to distill my advice down to something simple, I would tell people to turn off the TV and get active. It is too easy to sit down in front of the television and do nothing, especially after a day of work.   For people who are looking to lose weight, I suggest making small changes over time and using your network of friends and family for accountability. Even social media can work to help you. For example, I wanted to wake up early and break my habit of late nights. I did the Early to Rise Challenge and documented the results on my blog. The objective was to wake up early and be productive every day for a month. I leaned on my social media connections on Twitter and Facebook for help and used my blog to hold myself accountable. I was able to reverse my late night trend and wake up early consistently.   Whether you are looking to lose weight or make any sort of change in your life, the secret is to make one small change at a time. That is the way to see lasting change in your life. People who go on crash diets or start crazy workout routines usually fail because they do too much all at once. The successful people are the ones who take one small action a day and then repeat it over and over.

    Why did you choose blogging as your way of expressing your journey?

    Blogging is a whole new medium for me. I never thought I could write well or write enough to fill up the empty space on a web page. I was motivated by watching the Tour de France and recent Olympic cycling events. I felt like I had something to say and decided to give it a try.   I found that once I got started in blogging, it was difficult to continue writing about cycling. Then someone mentioned that I should take my readers on a “journey,” my journey of cycling. Well, that sounded like a great idea and it opened up a whole new area for me to write about.   Now I write about my journey with cycling, including my weight loss adventures (upcoming), training for long distance rides (centuries), fitness in general, and living in a crazy house with four daughters. I hope to help others learn from my mistakes or just to motivate others to start their own journey. I’ll be everyone’s cheerleader from the sidelines.

    You talk about enjoying a ‘good beer’ on your blog, what constitutes a ‘good beer’ from your neck of the woods?

    Beer is my next favorite topic to discuss, after cycling. I enjoy craft beer, which is sometimes called micro brews over here in the U.S. These tend to be big beers with lots of flavor. Some of my favorite breweries are Stone, DogFish Head, and Samuel Adams. My favorite type of beer is an India Pale Ale, or IPA. The more hops, the better.   Even better, I make my own beer at home. Homebrewing is a great hobby. You can be creative and science-y all at once. Making beer takes patience, but the payoff is great. There is great pride in drinking your own beer, even the beers that don’t come out perfect taste great.   My brother-in-law got me interested in homebrewing and now we both make beer and share it with our friends and family. So far, the reviews have been positive for our beer. We are no experts, but we brew some tasty beers. Our best one yet is a Pumpkin Ale, brewed with real pumpkin and spices.

    Have you done or plan on doing in the future any cycling challenges for that added motivation to keep on the bike?

    Absolutely! Cycling is all about passion and motivation for me. I have really come to enjoy the challenge of long distance cycling. I used to be scared of the big number of miles. It took time to build up my confidence to be able to ride 100 miles in one ride.   Now, I have completed two century rides (100 miles) in the last two years and have plans for more. My new goal is to ride two centuries per year, as long as my family schedule allows it. On top of that, I want to continue to challenge myself by riding faster centuries and then tougher routes. I live in a very flat part of the country now. Hills and mountains are a great challenge for me, especially since I am a large rider. Gravity is not my friend. So my next goal is to continue finding tougher century rides to tackle, which means hills and mountains.   I operate best when I am working towards a goal. I need to have a goal out in front of me in order to stay on a training routine. That is why training for a century is great. It forces me to stay on a plan and ride even on days when I might not have the desire to ride. And all the mileage causes me to lose 10 pounds over the course of the training, without even trying.   I will sign up for a few rides this spring to start. One is a local 50 mile ride in my town that takes place in mid-April. That one is great training for a century. Then I will schedule a century ride a few weeks later, usually in early May. After that, I hope to ride another century in September. The one I am looking at has thousands of riders enter, which will be another fun challenge, riding with so many cyclists.

    Finally, if the world were completely cycle friendly, where would you go?

    Well, I’m not much of a world traveller these days because we have a young family, but I would love to travel more someday. I would love to ride the roads of the Tour de France one day. Just to be on those climbs would be great. I would also want to see different cities and towns in Europe. There are many that sound so cycle friendly.   I would also like to see more of the U.S. Riding along the coast in California would be beautiful. I lived in southern California for a few years and loved the state. Another place to see in the U.S. would be Colorado. They seem to have a great cycling culture and have some beautiful mountainous scenery to check out.   First, I would have to conquer my nemesis…gravity. Once I lose some weight and tackle some moderate climbs, then I’ll plan to hit those big climbs around the world. Now that sounds like a great challenge!

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