BY SELENE YEAGER AUG 6, 2018 bicycling.com
Evan Hoffmeier, 29, of Sioux City, Iowa is really clear about one thing. He was not interested in riding a bike. “To be as frank as possible I did not want to buy a bike, but my wife Kelsey was adamant that she thought it could be fun.”
At 375 pounds, Evan could think of little that sounded less fun. He was a former offensive line guard at Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa. It was his job to eat, get big, and block.
“The coaches wanted us around 300 to 315 pounds on the line,” Hoffmeier says. “I would use whey protein after football practice and workouts and then go eat a large order of food, whatever the college buffet was that day, usually hamburgers or some type of pasta. Keeping weight up was no problem whatsoever for me.”
Immediately after college, he dialed back his diet and got to 285, but then life happened. “Once out in the real world, I went back to my old eating habits. I was also making more money, so I was eating out all the time. Between 2011, when I graduated to last year, I went from 285 to 375 pounds. I knew I needed to get healthier Christmas of 2016 when my wife bought me a 4XL Under Armour sweatshirt and it didn’t fit.”
But riding a bike? Nah. The last time he rode a bike he was 13. And even then, it wasn’t for fun; it was to get to his buddies’ houses and back. “It wasn’t something I ever wanted to do.”
But Kelsey Hoffmeier, 26, was persistent. They already had the bikes. She’d pressed him to get a bike with her in 2016, a Specialized Expedition he picked up at Albrecht Cycle Shop in Sioux City, which he’d turned in just three weeks later for a Specialized Crossroads, realizing he needed more than seven gears to make riding the hills in Iowa possible, let alone fun. She got a Giant hybrid. But the bikes sat, mostly unused, for the better part of a year. He just wasn’t interested.
Finally in the spring of 2017, after they had both been going to the gym for a couple of months, Hoffmeier’s wife persuaded him to give riding a shot. “I just knew he would enjoy it because we both enjoy being outside, and it would help change the way we viewed ‘working out,’” she says.
He agreed to try. “The gym gets old, and I realized it was a good way to not be in the gym and still get exercise,” he says.
They started out slowly, alternating riding days with gym days. They just went a few miles at a time, gradually increasing their mileage as their muscle and butt soreness decreased and their fun factor increased.
“As the weight started coming off, it became even more fun,” Hoffmeier says. “You can feel yourself changing. Riding wasn’t a chore. It became a hobby, or actually an obsession. The miles started going up and the rides became fun, and then the rides became more frequent. What seriously helped us out the most was when we would get out and do 12 to 15 miles we always had the ‘bikers high,’ where we were tired, but it felt great.”
“When I see biking as spending more time with my wife, that makes it fun and enjoyable.”
It was time to take it to the next level. Hoffmeier had only lost 10 or 15 pounds at that point, but again with some persuasion from his wife, he realized that if they wanted to fully engage this new sport, they needed the right tools for the job. That meant heading back to the bike shop and trading in the hybrid fitness bikes for road machines.
“We wanted to go faster, so we wanted lighter weight bikes that would be easier to ride. We decided to do road bikes, and take it seriously because we enjoyed it so much. That is not something I thought I would ever say. I did not think I would enjoy biking.”
Kelsey Hoffmeier came home with a Liv Avail 2, which she “loves.” He picked up a Specialized Allez Elite. At 365 pounds, Hoffmeier was technically over the 300 pound weight limit for the bike—“I learned that later on Reddit,” he says—but he never had trouble beyond a broken spoke. Contrary to popular advice that he’d need a bigger, more supportive bike seat, Hoffmeier went with the saddle that came on the bike after the shop measured his sit bones to be sure it was the right fit.
“My butt hurt after a few rides, but it got better, and it was nothing like the original Expedition that has a huge padded seat. I hated that large saddle; it had way too much cushion and was never comfortable.”
Now they ride three or four days a week, 10 to 25 miles a pop, and hit the gym on days they don’t ride. What Evan is clear that they don’t do is “train.”
“I do not train on the bike at all. I had to change my mindset on that. When I first started, I had this notion that I had to ‘power through’ and just try to finish. But that makes it a workout—a chore,” he says. “When I see biking as spending more time with my wife, that makes it fun and enjoyable. We’re not doing intervals or just hills or just trying to go as fast as we can. We literally go out and enjoy the ride. We enjoy the nature and the scenery and time with each other. That makes it a better workout for me, because I want to do more miles and the more miles you do, the more calories you burn.”
“Biking is absolutely a workout, but when you’re having fun, it doesn’t feel like it.”
It’s also inspired him to clean up his diet. “I could ride 100 miles a day, but if I still ate like a football player, I wouldn’t lose a pound,” Hoffmeier says, noting that they are particularly careful to pack lunches instead of eating out. “We do meal prep on Sundays and put together our entire week’s worth of lunches that are no more than 550 calories. It helps us stay on our weight loss journey.”
It’s been a successful journey so far. Kelsey Hoffmeier has shed 45 pounds, and her husband has dropped 105 pounds. His goal weight is 250 pounds, a weight he hasn’t seen since freshman year in high school. They would both like to lose another 15 to 20 pounds to reach their ultimate goals.
Thanks to their newfound love of cycling, they’re confident they can make it. “This has been life changing,” Kelsey Hoffmeier says.
Her husband agrees. “Biking is absolutely a workout, but when you’re having fun, it doesn’t feel like it. Some people do not like to go to the gym because they feel like they are being looked at or watched. For those people I would tell them biking is a good way to get away from that. I have not met anyone on a bike who was anything but encouraging. The number one thing people need to realize is that if you are overweight, or morbidly obese like I was, any activity is good for you. You may only ride 10 mph, but that is better than sitting on a couch. Everyone needs to start somewhere.”
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