Real Body Image Talk

Hi. My name is Jessica and I have a problem.

I cannot look at my body without having some sort of criticism. Today, I found some broken blood vessel on my face. It looks like a freckle but up close, it isn’t. I stretched the skin around, inspected it as if I was a scientist, reviewing cells under a microscope. I found the vein. I leaned away from the mirror to see if it was noticeable as it was up close. All I could imagine were varicose veins plaguing my face, like some kind of connect-the-moles game. I started to relive fifth grade again. When the kids made fun of the moles on my face: “Moley! Moley! Moley!” mimicking Austin Powers.

I used to think I had strong, muscular legs. That was until I had a body fat analysis scan that revealed most of my fat is in my legs. Oh, and arms. Now all I see are sausage legs in my cycling kit. I don’t look fast. I look fat. I look like when you stuff a giant pillow into a tiny pillow case – seams and material stretching, pushing maximum density, as it curves into itself.

I am more self-conscious now in shorts knowing full well that there’s more fat than muscles. And I rub the sides of my thighs a lot as if I could rub away cellulite like you do with scuff marks on the floor. Once I scuffed the floor from my bike tires. I tried all different kinds of solutions believing one of them would finally wash away the black rubber streaked across the laminate wood flooring. Finally, I took a butter knife and etched away at the black.

I can’t etch away cellulite.

When I walk, I can feel my inner thighs rubbing together. I know it isn’t muscle because of how much it jiggles. It’s soft and flimsy like silly putty. Only I can’t mold my thighs like a stone statue. And my thighs smash into each other when I sit – doubling in size. I try not to look down when I’m sitting because I know I’ll see a single thigh. One giant, jiggly, fatty thigh.

And I eat another piece of chocolate.

My shirts lay against my stomach just right where I can see the little bump that no matter the number of crunches, planks, or skipped meals, it stays there. I constantly tug at my shirt to hide it, pulling material loose. Using two hands sometimes to stretch the material if it hugs my belly too tight.

I’ll dig my thumbs into my hips trying to find the bone. Then pinching the excess that peeks over my jeans. If no one’s around, I’ll lift my shirt high enough and stare and scrutinize my midsection. Twisting and turning to view every possible angle in a desperate search to find the most flattering. Tightening my stomach, pushing it out, and sucking it in to find the right amount of contraction it’ll take to make it look flat. But it never gets as flat as I want it to. I look down and see that fucking bump every day.

And my gaze travels up. Up to my back where skin folds along my bra strap. Months and months of back strengthening exercises and there’s still back fat leering. Months of attempting to cut portions, match my carb-to-protein ratio, and staring longingly at cookies. Sometimes, I’ll reach behind with a false sense of optimism believing that I’ll be unable to pinch anything.

I call my breasts “orangutan boobs” and now you’re picturing it. A sign of getting older and the effects of gravity. I joke their small size keeps me aero on the bike. Always self-deprecating. Never self-appreciating. I also joke about my “bingo flab,” also known as triceps.

Again with the months of Tricep exercises believing that one day I’ll defy gravity and there won’t be loose skin hanging below my arms. That when I do the first place stance my arms will look strong and mighty, not droopy.

And while I complain about all the physical limitations and imperfections of my body, I never apologize for taking up space. Rarely do I complain to the general public about the size of my thighs or the numerous moles on my face. And when I get really fucking down about my body, I remind myself that at least I have a working one. It takes a single accident to lose it all. With all the activities I do, my flabby stomach drops when I consider what it’d be like to no longer ride my bike, hike, run, stretch, walk, and take care of myself. At that moment my eyes look at the blue sky instead.

Excuses are like assholes

You aren’t working out because you don’t want to. It’s just not a priority for you. Own it. We only have 24 hours in a day and we all prioritize them differently.

The biggest excuse (and yes, that’s what it is) I hear is: “I don’t have time to workout.”

You do.

The problem is that you don’t want to spend your extra time working out. I get it. I was once like that. I thought walking 500 steps from car to school was a workout.

Back in high school, my best friend wanted me to join soccer with her. I remember thinking I didn’t have the time after school to go to practice. And the games. And all the days/nights spend running around. Instead, I thought going to cafes and punk rock shows were more valid uses of my time. Mosh pits and chai teas were my priorities.

I didn’t want to workout. It seemed like a chore or something my mom would make me do when I talked back. I associated working out with pain and sweat and my 16-year old mind thought, “ew. Gross.” I did not want to find time to go through that.

My friend finally convinced me to go to a soccer try-out with her. I distinctly remember the coaches walking us to the stairs that my crew hung around and I thought, “why the fuck are we going over to the stairs? We’re not running up that shit, are we? No way. I’m not doing this.”

So there I was, running up and down these stairs that I only ever used to get to my next class or hangout at the bottom. And I was panting, sweating, and cursing my friend for dragging me to this. I felt awful and as I made my way to the bottom I told myself that once I reached the top again I was booking it around the corner and running away from this bullshit.

Five steps from the top I was ready. I was ready to dart away and be done. I semi-considered how the other girls would react to this vanishing act I so quickly invented as I gasped for air and that top step. Then I took off. I ducked behind a railing and heard a girl yell, “a girl just ran away.” Yup. Sure did.

Then I army-crawled down the hall, later finding my punk rock friends haphazardly rolling a cigarette. Like I said, I didn’t have the time for sports.

What changed? The inner tube growing around my waist was a pudgy nudge to get my ass moving. I did 30 minutes three times a week in Undergrad. That was plenty, surely, to lose weight and stay fit. I worked out to YouTube videos that were definitely under 30 minutes. Anything that creeped over that 30-minute mark were skipped. Who has time to do a 34-minute video? A new cafe just opened up on Broadway and their untasted chai tea had my name on it.

Unbeknownst to my ignorance, the chai I later drank did away with whatever no-greater-than-30-minute YouTube video burned. I wasn’t seeing results and I heard once that weights were good, so I signed up at Bally’s for $10 per month with my mom.

I had no idea what to do with the racks on racks of weights, the sweat-stained machines, and weird cardio equipment I never heard of before (rower? TF?). I started Googling and teaching myself how to lose weight, gain strength, and grow muscle.

I started going every other day, slowly carving more time out of my day so I could workout at the gym, even adding a weekend into the mix. My mother started doing weights with me and we tried new moves. I began to add weight to my lifts and ventured away from the 30-minute workout to 40 minutes to 50 and so on.

Then I met Jared who probably revolutionized my training routine. I made fun of him at first for how often he trained and how meticulous he seemed about health and fitness. Tracking your workout? With a smart watch? My money was still going to concerts and chais.

Then I got on a bike and fell in love with Bullseye (their name). I wanted to improve on my bike. I remember seeing Jared taking selfies, talking on the phone, texting, adjusting his bibs while he waited for me. I hated being the “slow one.” I felt uncomfortable knowing I was messing with someone else’s workout. I was determined to get stronger.

I started training specifically for cycling, carving out more time from my day to dedicate to riding my bike AND weight lifting because strong legs meant faster legs. The time that was once devoted to chai tea lattes and blaring music in spilled alcohol and grimey dance floors began to shrivel compared to my “training” time.

For the first time, I understood it to be training and not “working out.” I was training for a 100-mile bike ride and late night shows prevented me from waking up early to conquer the trails.

I stopped going out during the week for drinks and coffee because my alarm was set for 5:30 AM to get my workout finished.

I was told you have three choices in training – sleep, training, social life – and that I could only pick two because it was impossible to have all three. This is where priorities come into play and how mine changed.

As I trained, I hung out with my friends less and less. They eventually stopped inviting me out because they already knew the answer. I don’t blame them. Constantly receiving the same, “sorry, I have to get up early morning to train” response would also push me away from asking someone to hang out. They knew they weren’t a priority. My priorities were sleeping and training. I learned the hard way how important sleep is to training when riding my first 80 Miles on little sleep. There were tears.

You must find the time. No one has more hours in their day than you. You have to prioritize. You must make hard choices. You can totally have your cake and eat it too (wouldn’t recommend this every day), but you can’t have your cake, eat it, and reach your weight loss goal.

Same goes for working out: you can’t have all three (sleep, train, social life). You can have a little of all three, but it’ll take you that much longer to reach your goal. If you want it bad enough, you’ll make the hard choices that get you to your goal. You’ll stop doing shit you thought was important (watching tv, drinking at bars, sipping chai, watching bands play until 2AM).

If you want to lose weight, get stronger, achieve some fitness goal, you’ll find the time to do it – only if you’re motivated enough and only when you prioritize.

Heart Rate Zone Training




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The Purposeful Gym Workout

I greet most members in the gym with, “What are you working on today?” and either they don’t want to talk to me or they truly don’t know their goal for the day. Most of the time they’re confused with the question and typically ask me, “What?” They’ll look away – thinking of what to tell me – and then stammer out with, “uh.. cardio….” or “I don’t know.”

Granted, I’m wearing a Personal Trainer shirt so I’m assuming they’re assuming I want to sell them services, which, duh, but also it’s a great way to learn about people. I have some fascinating conversations with people who have years of experience in a particular sport or activity. I also learn a lot about aches, pains, and tears and it reminds me of how important it is to move.

When I walk the floor, I notice a lot of people moseying around, most likely thinking to themselves, “Oh, seated leg press…I should try that.” Then they’ll do one set and move on to another machine. This doesn’t get results.

Planning and following through on that plan gets you results.

1. Start with your goal.

What do you want to accomplish in 30, 60, 90 days? I previously posted about S.M.A.R.T goals, which you should read if you haven’t. Set a goal that is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. When you give yourself a goal it motivates you to do the things it takes to reach it. If you always go to the gym without motivation other than “you have to,” you’ll always look the same.

2. Develop a Plan

You’ve made your S.M.A.R.T goal. Now you make the plan. What will it take to reach your goal? What sort of training will it take and how long?

This is probably the most intimidating part because most of us have an idea of what we want, but not sure how to get there. That’s when people like myself come in handy. If you don’t want to hire a Personal Trainer, then research. Find blogs, articles, and free sources that can give you an idea as to how other people have reached similar goals as yours. It’s out there. It just takes time and research.


3. Keep Yourself Accountable

You’re more likely to slack on a goal if only you know about it. Tell people about your goal. Make them hold you accountable. Start a group of people with similar goals. Do what it takes to force yourself to stick to your goal.

And show up. Set the goal. Make the plan. And do it.

Excuses are like assholes – everyone has one and they all stink.

Everyone has the same number of hours in the day. It’s the successful people who make the most out of every second, minute, hour.

Go to the gym with your exact workout written down with sets, reps, and a column to track it all. That way, when someone like me asks you, “What are you working on today?” you’ll be one of the few with a specific workout and a plan to get ‘er done.



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Functional Strength Training for Cyclists

Simply put, functional strength training is strength training exercises that are useful. You’re not going to build glam muscles with functional strength training. Instead, you’re building strength to excel in your sport – in our case, cycling. Sure, you’ll look good too.


Major Muscles Used in Cycling

The major muscles used in cycling are the glutes, hamstrings, calves, hip flexors, and quadriceps. While these are all the legs and hips, you can’t forget your core and upper body. Your legs may be doing the brunt of the work, but your core keeps you balanced and helps you with tight turns while your upper body, well, supports your upper half.


When you conduct functional strength training, you’re training your body to perform its best during cycling.




Squats work your glutes as well as your quads and hamstrings. You can conduct squats using a barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells, or bodyweight.



Single leg deadlifts not only work your hamstrings and hip flexors, but they also help identify weaker muscles. When you single out legs (or anything, for that matter), you’re likely to see deficiencies easier, which means you can strengthen the weaker one efficiently.



Calf Raises are solid calf-strengthening exercises. You can do it with or without weights, on or off a ledge. As cyclists, we’re prone to overactive gastrocnemius and soleus, so it’s probably better you stretch and foam roll your calves more than strengthening them.


Hip Flexors

Balancing Hip Flexion or Lying Prone March will work out those hip flexors. Again, as cyclists, we’re prone to have over active psoas muscles, so you want to stretch them as well. Off-season, when you’re not cycling as much, then yes, strengthening your hip flexors are key, but you definitely want to stretch them with poses like the seated butterfly stretch and pigeon pose. Your hips and back will thank you.



Core is essential to cycling and controlling yourself on the bike. The Plank and all its variations is great for developing core strength. There are too many kinds of planks to list and luckily, with that amount, you’ll never get bored.


Upper Body

As we see in the pro peloton, cyclists lack upper body muscles. Sure, there’s the whole power to weight ratio, but taking care of your upper body will only help you on (and off) the bike. Don’t worry about gaining tons of weight from developing your upper body.


When you’re supporting yourself on the bike, you’re probably using your biceps, upper back, chest, and triceps, so strengthening all those muscles during the off-season is key. Exercises like Shoulder Presses, Tricep Dips, Pull-Ups, and Rows target those muscles.


The winter is the best time to develop and strengthen those cyclist muscles, so you can come back to the season stronger than last year.









WTF: Cross-Training

Weight Training

There are a lot of cross-something or others zipping around these days:


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and plenty o’ others.

So what is “cross-training” and why should you care?

Cross-training is simply working out your body in the same manner as your main sport does, but without doing your main sport.

The goal of cross-training is balancing out your muscles (and body) to improve your fitness in your main sport. It also helps to prevent repetitive use injury.

Repetitive use injuries happen when we constantly do the same motion over and over again.

Think “tennis elbow,” swinging a golf club, or one near and dear to my heart: Cycling.

Think of the number of revolutions your knees have gone through. Hundreds?  Thousands? Millions of times? Yeah. That’s a lot of the same movement pattern which will lead to plenty of other issues if you always do the same thing.

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Muscle imbalances are generated from well, a ton of things, but the problem with imbalances is that some muscles start to work harder than others which can lead to a host of other issues (hello knee pain, back pain, shoulder pain).

Cross-training, whether you’re a racer or simply enjoy riding your bike, benefits everyone. Here are some things you can do to balance out your body while also strengthening it:

1. Cross-Training: Weights

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Cycling is a low impact sport and giving a quick glance to the men in The Tour it’s obvious. The men have large legs, sure, but they look a bit like Skeletor on their upper half.

It’s because they don’t weight train. There’s still this faux pas of weight training in cycling because of the whole “power to weight ratio.” Cyclists, stereotypically, want everything (including their bodies) to be light as possible but to be able to generate hundreds, if not thousands, watts of power.

The problem is that you can only gain so much muscle solely biking and that’s where weights come in, especially core. If you have a weak core, you’re going at a snail’s pace compared to the person who can hold a plank for five minutes.

If you think about the mechanics of cycling, you’re balancing on the bike. Your arms hold you up, your core keeps you balanced, and your legs propel you forward. If those muscles are weak, how do you think you’ll fare in a group ride, an organized ride, a gran fondo, or in a sprint finish?

Bottom line: weights make you a stronger cyclist.

2. Cross-Training: Yoga, stretching, and foam rolling

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Let’s go back to those muscles who work harder than the freeloading muscles. How do you get that all balanced out and make those freeloaders start pulling their weight (pun intended)?

You find out which muscles are overactive (the ones working harder) and then identifying the underactive (freeloaders) muscles. Once those are identified, you want to start stretching and foam rolling the overactive muscles and work the underactive muscles. Meanwhile, doing a complete yoga routine will increase your overall flexibility, which again, will make you stronger on the bike.

I’m looking at you, desk workers. We’re the worst. Not only do we hold a sitting position while we bike, but our 9-5 jobs has us sitting for hours on end. Say hi to tight hip flexors.

You can google/YouTube “yoga for cyclists” and find loads of videos anywhere from 8 minutes and longer. I particularly like Sean Vigue.

Incorporating yoga, stretching, and foam rolling into your routine won’t just calm your mind but calm those angry, knotty muscles.

3. Cross-Training: Running

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Yeah, yeah. I know. I say the same thing: “Why run when you have a bike?” I always think of The Walking Dead and if that were to happen to me, I’d run. I don’t have to be the fastest runner; I just have to be able to outrun the rest of my group.

Running actually provides some pretty decent benefits too.

First of all, it strengthens your lungs. The cool thing about that is when you’re on the bike, with running in your back pocket, you’ll have a higher lung capacity. Strong lungs means you’re kicking the pants off the other racers who aren’t running.

Running seems to burn more calories than cycling. Granted, it all depends on the kind of running and cycling you’re doing, but overall, it burns more calories. So if you’re goal is to increase your power-to-weight ratio or just drop a couple pounds, then this may be something to put on your training docket. But while you may be able to outrun zombies, you can’t outrun a bad diet.

Equally important if not more so than the previous reasons to take up running, is that running is a high impact activity, which means, it puts a lot of pressure on your body in general. Yeah, sure, your buddy’s knees hurt after they run. Well, it’s probably because they need better shoes or need to get their running form analyzed. Cycling, on the other hand, is low impact, which means there isn’t much pressure placed on our joints – minus maybe, our rears.

In all seriousness, cyclists can lose bone density if all they ever do is bike. Look at our buddy Chris Froome. He may be winning The Tour de France, but he’s losing bone density. Your bones need to be strong to keep your body up.

Weak bones means you don’t have that structure in place to hold you up from falling down.

4. Cross-Training: Having Fun

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It’s not a real training regimen or workout, but seriously, let’s get less serious. While road and mountain bike racing have officially hit “off-season,” cross has only just begun. If you participate in all these disciplines, then you don’t have much a break – mental or physical. For those of us who like to ride for fun or participate in organized rides during the summer, maybe you don’t need to totally lay off the bike, but definitely change up the routine and try something you’ve never done before. Rock climbing? Sure! Snowboarding? Bring it on! How about a hike or simply taking a day off to relax.

Taking time off the bike and focusing your attention on other endeavors will make you that much more stronger (mentally and hopefully physically) when you jump back on the saddle.

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