Like many people who work at a computer all day, Jeroen Post wasn’t getting much exercise and had poor eating habits, even though he was a vegan.
One day, in his late 20s, it suddenly hit him.
“I saw a picture of myself and I said, ‘Whoa! I am getting fat,’ ” said Post, now 30. At a little over 6-foot-5, he weighed 265 pounds.
“So I decided to do something about it.”
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Two years and 75 pounds later, Post’s decision to get healthy has led to a new body, life and passion – riding his bike.
If you struggle with weight loss or keeping the weight off permanently, you can learn plenty from Post’s experience.
Take decisive action as a first step. You can figure out the rest later.
The first thing he did was join a gym and start exercising regularly for an hour.
Initially, he didn’t tinker with his diet, which was loaded with too much junk food. But once he started exercising, he realized that healthier, more disciplined eating would speed up his weight loss and accelerate his fitness goals.
Be willing to invest in your health and find something you enjoy
Post at first gravitated toward the stationary bikes at the gym and liked the workouts. He soon bought a heart rate monitor so he could be more precise with his training. Using a monitor helps you target different intensity zones, so you’re not going the same speed all the time.
After a few months, he was down to 240 pounds and began riding outdoors. He bought an entry-level road bike for $799.
“I really loved riding and soon I was riding as much as I could,” he said.
This is when things really began to take off. Post was not only riding for exercise, he was going farther and faster because he was having fun and seeing improvement.
Changing your habits often means changing who you hang out with
Ironically, Post is a native of The Netherlands, and he lived in Amsterdam, a much-admired urban center with an estimated 800,000 bikes – more bikes than residents. But when he was there, he ran a computer business and spent all of his time at his desk. It wasn’t until he moved to car-centric California five years ago that he discovered he enjoyed riding.
After a few months exploring the roads around Davis, where he lives, Post decided to join the Davis Bike Club. By then, he had gone from 265 pounds to 200.
“I wanted to ride with other people,” he said.
Finding like-minded people can keep you on track.
When you hit a plateau, take stock of what you are doing and what needs tweaking
“When I look back at my photos I now think it was weird that I was that weight,” said Post with a shrug. “Then I got stuck at 200, so I started eating a little less. Now I’m stuck at 190. My goal is to be 180 pounds, then ultimately 170.”
At his height, 170 would be on the skinny side of lean, but Post has gotten more serious about cycling and last year began competing in races. Cyclists who do well, especially on hilly courses, tend to be as lean as possible.
A healthy dose of competition can keep you focused and help you improve
Post’s fitness journey eventually began turning heads. As luck would have it, this one-time couch potato had some natural talent – he just never knew it. His combination of power, endurance and determination has made him a force in amateur cycling.
“Jeroen is a special case. He puts out an immense amount of power,” said Jace Benson, a friend and fellow bike racer. “I think he has great potential. I think he could be a national level time trialist.”
Unlike regular road races in a pack, or peloton, time trials are individual races against the clock. In order to do well, you need to the ability to go fast for extended periods of time, be as aerodynamic as possible and be willing to endure the physical and mental suffering it takes.
Post’s bike riding reached new heights when he discovered Strava, the online tool for runners and cyclists that’s one part social media and another part training journal. The basic Strava is free, although the premium features cost $59 annually.
Athletes can use the Strava phone app or a GPS device such as those made by Garmin to record rides or runs and then upload them to Strava.
This was an eye-opener for Post. On roads and trails all over Northern California, there are designated segments – as short as a few hundred yards and as long as dozens of miles – in which users can measure their abilities against others and themselves.
In cycling, if you beat your own time on a Strava segment, you get a PR, or personal record. If you get the best time out of everybody, you get the KOM or QOM – king of the mountain or queen of the mountain.
“The first segment I targeted was riding across the causeway from Sacramento to Davis,” Post said. “It was pretty new to me. It is a very popular segment and I noticed I had the 15th fastest time. Now, two years later, I have the KOM.”
This new focus brought out a latent competitive side in Post. He found he enjoyed trying to get KOMs and has amassed more than 50.
Those who get their KOM taken away by someone who records a faster time receive an email from Strava notifying them of the news. Those emails often inspire friendly rivalries, though in some extreme cases people have caused crashes in pursuit of KOMs and PRs or even used performance-enhancing drugs to rack up Strava victories.
Post says he keeps his perspective in check – he enjoys the challenge, but he doesn’t obsess over it.
Post’s journey has certainly changed his life.
His amateur racing progressed from Category 5, or entry level, to Category 3. The top racers are Category 1, or one step below pro, and that’s what Post is targeting.
Asked over a recent lunch interview what his ultimate goal is, the soft-spoken and talented Post was reluctant to say.
“Let’s see where it goes,” he said as he unlocked his bike and rode back to work.