The Chainlink

The Dog Days of Winter

Article By Shawn Conley, Footnote by Yasmeen Schuller

Typically, I do most of my riding from April to October.  Many Chicago-area cyclists ride in this manner.  So, what should I do now that winter is approaching?  Because of a recent event, I now have been giving this more thought.


Before I delve into the “recent event,” let me explain why I don’t ride in the winter.  I will begin by stating that, like you, I love cycling.  I truly enjoy mounting my bike and pedaling away for miles and miles.  I enjoy the camaraderie of group rides, as well as the lies we tell after we’re done.  I love the sunrises along Lake Michigan.  I love to see the ducklings and/or goslings as they walk across the bike trails in the spring.  I love to see the faces of my non-cycling friends when they ask me where did I ride, and I answer Joliet, the Botanical Garden, or Michigan City.   But, I also enjoy my time away from the bike.  It gives me a chance to recharge my cycling batteries.  Winter is a natural time for recharging said batteries because I prefer riding in 70 degree weather, not weather that is less than 50 degrees.  And, I prefer to ride during daylight hours.  As a matter of fact, until a friend gave me a bike light for my birthday, I never even owned one.  In summary, I don’t ride in winter because of cooler temperatures, lack of sun light, and taking a mental break from the saddle.


Now, let’s circle back to that “recent event.”  My doctor, who is also an avid cyclist, noticed a pattern that I have developed.  I tend to gain 20 lbs in the winter, and spend the summer riding those pounds off.  Upon my last visit, she said that when she sees me again in 6 months, she doesn’t want me to be 20 lbs heavier.  She made a deal with me.  If I come to my next checkup at my current weight or less, she will make a donation to a charity ride that I will do.  Game on!!!


For the record, she has made donations to other charity rides that I have done, but she knows that I respond well to being challenged in that way.  She really played it up well by saying that she thinks that I don’t have the will power, etc.  What she really is doing is helping me to find the motivation to do something other than channel surfing with my free time during the winter months. 


Since my visit to the doctor’s office, I have been thinking about my plan of action.  My first thought was because of the upcoming holidays, I should start my fitness journey after January 1, 2017.  But then I thought that it is very likely, if I do that, I will be 10 pounds heavier by then.  So, why not start now?  I figured it’s easier for me to maintain my current weight than to try to lose 20 pounds all after New Years.  Also, this would be more forgiving if I happen to fall off the wagon for a little while.  So, I’m starting now while I’m…uh, let’s say “not behind.” 


Next I looked at my eating habits.  I have to face it.  Some of my favorite foods are unhealthy.  My doctor says that I don’t have to give them up.  She just says that I must learn to love them less frequently.  So, on the following weekend, I went to the grocery store, and loaded up on fresh green vegetables, chicken, and fish.  I specifically did not purchase any red meats, potato chips, ice cream, cakes, etc.  Instead, I purchased some nuts, and low-glycemic fruit.  I also established a small but critical difference in my thinking or understanding of what I’m doing.  I am NOT going on a diet.  I’m simply choosing to eat this way.  I am NOT giving up anything.  If I want pizza, I can have some.  I just can’t have it all the time.  So, my plan is to grill, sauté, or steam the vegetables and bake or grill the fish and chicken for my meals.  Some of you may be thinking that I should try something different, and maybe in the future, I will.  But this is my attempt at eating more healthfully than I did in the past.  


I’ve addressed the calorie intake, now what do I do to burn some?  I need to find a winter activity that I will enjoy.  So, I’ve decided to pull out my long sleeve jerseys, arm warmers, cycling jackets, and long bibs.  I will attempt to ride in temperatures that are cooler than I prefer.  Also, I decided to rearrange my weekends so that I will have time to ride in the warmest part of the day.  Additionally, I will try those hand and feet warmers, and if I can stand even cooler temperatures, purchase a little more cold weather gear.  But, honestly, if I don’t enjoy it, I won’t do it.  So, I came up with plan B.  I like plan B because it addresses my need to be off the bike for a while.  I think of plan B as more of a supplemental activity than a contingency plan.  That being said, I will walk, run, jump, and lift my way through the winter.  I’m not much of a gym rat anymore, but I can do something to ward off unwanted pounds.  And, if I don’t feel like going to the gym, I can walk around my neighborhood, or jog on a trail, or even head to 47th Street or Soldier Field and run hills.  The point is, there is no specific activity that will make me fitter, I have a bunch of activities from which to choose.  The whole idea is to choose one, any one, with enough regularity that I won’t swell in unwanted pounds over the winter. 


So, my fellow cyclists, particularly the ones who may face the same struggle that I do, I hope to see you all out on your bikes, in your running shoes, or with your weightlifting gloves on this winter.  And, when the weather changes in our favor early next year, we will be better for it.

Footnote: Since writing this, Shawn has found success in his off-season weight maintenance by changing his diet. Knowing that many of us face the same challenges, I asked Shawn about coming back with updates through out the winter so that he can share his words of wisdom and we can follow his journey in preparing for a successful 2017 cycling season. 

Shawn Conley is a Chicago native who loves road cycling.  He has a passion for helping others discover their cycling legs, which he typically does through the Major Taylor Cycling Club of Chicago (MTC3).  Shawn was chairman of MTC3, and also is a member of the Chicago Cycling Club (CCC) and the Friends of the Major Taylor Trail.  When he is not on 2 wheels, he coaches track and field, and is a real estate investor.  He is a Chainlink Ambassador who has an affinity for pizza and ice cream.  Follow him on Twitter: @ShawnGeauTigers and on Instagram:  antonlove1.


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Comment by Yasmeen on March 2, 2017 at 7:29pm

Thanks for the update! That's awesome Shawn!! Way to go!!

Comment by Shawn A Conley on March 2, 2017 at 7:11pm

Just a quick update.  I'm down a little over 30 lbs from the time that I started.  I feel great.  I've been eating lots of goodies and loving it.  Tonight I will have sauteed spinach with grilled chicken breast.  My doctor says eating the white meat is less fatty than eating the dark meat.  I'm thawing out some catfish for tomorrow.  I will blacken it and eat with asparagus.  

Comment by Yasmeen on December 24, 2016 at 8:41am

Shawn, that's fantastic news! Congrats on your success! And yes, please share more details (and recipes!) with us. :-) 

Comment by Shawn A Conley on December 24, 2016 at 7:28am

Good morning and Happy Holidays to all the cyclists and friends on Chainlink.  I'm happy to report that I'm down 23 lbs from the time that I went to the doctor back in October.  The difference is noticeable to me when I'm exercising, and to others when they see me.  I plan to continue what I'm doing as it's very sustainable with delicious meals daily.  As a matter of fact, there are some others who have asked me for more specific information of how I'm losing the weight and are joining me in this lifestyle change.  

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