Hooked on cy­cling

Cy­cling doesn’t only help to in­crease fit­ness, it can also help unite peo­ple.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Health - By REVATHI MURUGAPPAN starhealth@thes­tar.com.my Ride for Malaysia will flag off at 6.30am on July 30 from the Cel­e­bra­tion Cen­tre at Sun­suria City. There is a Fun Ride of 30km along nearby scenic routes (for in­di­vid­u­als aged 16 and above, en­try fee: RM60)

A FIT na­tion is a strong na­tion, so goes the say­ing. And one great way to build stamina and strength is through cy­cling.

Gus Ghani caught the run­ning bug in 2011 while par­tic­i­pat­ing in a mini triathlon. The free­lance writer-cum-fit­ness coach had al­ways been a fit­ness buff and wanted to ex­plore dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties.

So he de­cided to sign up for a half marathon... with­out train­ing!

“Prior to that, I don’t think I’ve ever ran past 3km! But I fin­ished it, though I had to sprint the last bit to beat the cut-off time for a pewter medal,” says the 50-year-old.

It was from run­ning that he no­ticed many run­ners also cy­cled, and it re­minded him of his care­free child­hood days of ped­al­ing around with his chums in Pe­nang.

The lads would race around the neigh­bour­hood, and for the sake of lit­tle thrills, also in­dulge in naughty an­tics.

“We got on well with all our neigh­bours, who were from dif­fer­ent eth­nic groups, and ev­ery op­por­tu­nity we got, the kids would take the bikes and cy­cle out.

“De­spite our var­ied so­cial back­grounds, cy­cling united us,” he re­mem­bers.

In fact, pa­tri­o­tism and na­tional unity are the prime goals of Ride for Malaysia, a cy­cling event or­gan­ised by the Star Me­dia Group and ris­ing prop­erty de­vel­oper Sun­suria Ber­had, which will be held on July 30.

Recol­lect­ing those happy days, Gus bought him­self a sec­ond­hand road bike for RM500 and joined a group cy­cling ex­pe­di­tion to Gent­ing High­lands, Pa­hang.

He says: “It was a killer go­ing up­hill, but we had so much fun huff­ing and puff­ing away.

“I no­ticed that cy­clists are a dif­fer­ent breed from run­ners. Their ap­proach is dif­fer­ent – they will stop to help you out if you have any prob­lems.

“I suf­fered from sad­dle sore­ness, but I was so hooked that I signed up for a 24-hour race im­me­di­ately after­wards!

“I haven’t ex­plored many places in Malaysia, and so I want to do it via cy­cling to get to know my coun­try bet­ter.”

He adds: “Cy­cling has also im­proved my stamina and in­creased my leg mus­cles, which helped in my run­ning.

“Now I can’t imag­ine my life with­out it, so I in­vested in a medium-range bi­cy­cle.

“Some­times, I also ride to a run­ning event and use my bi­cy­cle as a warm-up and cooldown tool. Cy­cling def­i­nitely has plenty of health ben­e­fits.”

He shares: “In the ini­tial stages, I was a bit gungho and par­tic­i­pated in a lot of races, but now I pace my­self be­cause I want to run and cy­cle as long as pos­si­ble.

“I’m a late starter so I don’t want to be bur­dened with in­juries.

“Life be­gins at 40 and the fun starts at 50!” A ma­jor study pub­lished in the Bri­tish Med­i­cal Jour­nal last month sug­gests that the health ben­e­fits of cy­cling to work were greater than walk­ing to work.

Re­searchers looked at 263,450 peo­ple with an av­er­age age of 53 and found that cy­cling to work was as­so­ci­ated with a 41% lower risk of dy­ing over­all, com­pared to com­mut­ing by car or pub­lic trans­port.

In ad­di­tion, cy­cle com­muters had a 52% lower risk of dy­ing from heart dis­ease and a 40% lower risk of dy­ing from can­cer.

They also had 46% lower risk of de­vel­op­ing heart dis­ease and a 45% lower risk of de­vel­op­ing can­cer.

Whit­tling the waist

An­other way that cy­cling cre­ates a strong na­tion is by build­ing up the health of its peo­ple in gen­eral. This in­cludes re­duc­ing their risk of non-com­mu­ni­ca­ble dis­eases, and their waist­lines too!

For as long as he can re­mem­ber, Faizal So­hami’s waist al­ways kept pace with his age.

At 40, it was 40 inches (101.6cm), and at 42, it was 42 inches (106.7cm).

At 115kg of weight and stand­ing at a height of 1.75m, Faizal was obese.

Shop­ping for clothes, es­pe­cially trousers, was a chal­lenge.

He had be­gun to wad­dle and he knew he had to do some­thing about it.

“I had two bi­cy­cles hang­ing at home that hadn’t been used for a while, so I de­cided to put them to use.

“I started cy­cling with my 14-year-old son,” re­calls the 47-year-old sales man­ager.

Faisal and his son would cy­cle on al­ter­nate nights, be­gin­ning with 5km, and in time, ex­tend­ing to 30km.

It also al­lowed fa­ther and son time to bond, and the duo were be­gin­ning to en­joy these ses­sions.

Pretty soon, they were mak­ing friends with fel­low cy­clists of all races and the com­mu­nity would unite to tackle longer routes.

Faizal would also add in some walk­ing when­ever he could.

He says: “My weight didn’t come off that much, but I saw my­self get­ting fit­ter.

“It wasn’t un­til I started hav­ing to pay more tax three years ago, leav­ing me with very lit­tle for fuel and toll, that I took the plunge to cy­cle to work and pur­chased a fold­ing bike.”

Faizal’s of­fice is near the Petronas Twin Tow­ers in Kuala Lumpur, while he lives in Shah Alam, Se­lan­gor. The dis­tance is about 42km.

Ini­tially, he’d drive his younger son to kinder­garten in Petaling Jaya, then cy­cle to work from there via the mo­tor­bike lanes on the high­way.

Af­ter do­ing this for six months, he saw his weight drop by 5kg and his waist whit­tle down by 5.08cm.

It wasn’t sub­stan­tial, but Faizal was feel­ing great.

“In the past, by 3pm, I would feel lethar­gic, but not any­more.

“Even if it rains, I will con­tinue to cy­cle, un­less it’s a re­ally cold day.

“When I get to the of­fice, I shower at the gym to freshen up.

“I also added in week­end cy­cling with my fam­ily.

“The sport has be­come ad­dic­tive and I’ve started tak­ing part in a lot of events.

“I don’t go for med­i­cal check-ups so I don’t know much about my health, al­though when I’ve gone to the clinic for a fever, the doc­tor tells me I have bor­der­line blood pressure.

“My break­fast is usu­ally roti canai, but since I de­vel­oped an al­lergy to gluten, I’ve switched to nasi lemak!” Faizal says with a laugh.

These days, he drives to the Subang Jaya KTM Ko­muter Sta­tion, takes the train to Bank Ne­gara and cy­cles 6km to his of­fice.

Once he clocks out, he rides back to the train sta­tion.

Ev­ery work day, he cov­ers a dis­tance of 28km. On week­ends, the dis­tance is eas­ily tripled.

Faizal is proud that his waist has trimmed fur­ther to be­low 38 inches (96.5cm) now; he weighs 105kg and has ac­quired mus­cles.

His en­ergy level has also gone up, he cuts a tidy fig­ure and he saves on fuel.

“If I don’t cy­cle for a day, I feel like I’m go­ing mad!

“My wife is not happy I’ve slimmed down be­cause more women are look­ing at me now!” he says with a laugh.

Cy­cling can cer­tainly help im­prove the fit­ness, health, and even, the sense of com­mu­nity among Malaysians.

And so, as we march to­wards cel­e­brat­ing Merdeka Day, let’s re­mem­ber that a healthy na­tion is a strong na­tion.

Faizal cy­cles an av­er­age of 12km to and from his work­place ev­ery week­day, and con­fesses that he would go ‘mad’ if he doesn’t cy­cle for one day. — LOW BOON TAT/The Star

Gus not only rides his bi­cy­cle to his run­ning events, but also uses it as a warm-up and cool-down tool. — MUHAMAD SHAHRIL ROSLI/The Star

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