I first ran across UK resident Tim Clark via the Zwift Riders Facebook group, when he posted a quick blurb about his fitness gains in early 2016. As you’ll see below, Tim’s fitness gains and weight loss have been quite impressive! If you struggle with trying to shed some pounds and/or increase your power, read Tim’s story for inspiration and tips.

2016 has been quite a year for you so far. How would you summarize it in just a few sentences?

In November 2015 I met with my cardiologist and he suggested we operate on my Atrial Fibrillation this year, so we ended up setting a date for April. I got Christmas out of the way and was horrified to see that I was 18½ stone (260lb/117kg). That was not a condition that I felt was conducive to having my heart operated on, so I set about doing something about it.

So you basically had three months to drop weight and increase fitness before your heart surgery. How much weight did you lose in that time?

I managed to get down 3 stone (42lb/19kg) in total. 

Give me more detail about your fitness gains thus far using Zwift. I know you besides losing substantial weight you have increased your power significantly. What are those numbers?

I started in January with a pretty poor fitness level, but I’ve been fit in the past so I knew I could get to back to some reasonable level. I’m not there yet by any means but I’m proud of where I’ve got to so far. Not being able to comfortably put on my socks in the morning for having to suck in the belly was also a good motivator to get rid of the gut.

[Editor’s note: here are Tim’s numbers from two “max effort” rides:]

8-Jan-16
Distance 11.2mi
Weighted Average Power 202w
Avg Speed 17.1mi/h

4-Apr-16
Distance 12.0mi
Weighted Average Power 341w
Avg Speed 22.6mi/h

Impressive power gains for sure. What’s your Zwift setup (bike, trainer, power source, etc)? Did you have any challenges getting it dialed in?

I run a 2014 Giant Defy 1, Cycleops Fluid 2, Zpower, Garmin speed & candence + Premium heart rate monitor. Garmin ANT+ usb key and a MacBook Pro.

The only challenge I’ve had is the 6am cold in the garage, a heart rate monitor strap failure (that Garmin replaced free) and the odd drop out of signal from the cadence sensor (fixed with new battery).

Dialing it in? No, as I use the Zwift power estimates, I’ve not had to dial anything in. However I would say that keeping your weight measured and honest in Zwift pays dividends for two reasons. 1, a more realistic ride, even on a ‘dumb trainer’ and 2, Keeping yourself honest and showing yourself the respect that should be earned when you grab that jersey.

Were your Zwift efforts fairly consistent these past few months? How did you decide what to do each time you logged on?

I normally ride before work early in the mornings, between 6-7am. What I did depended on if I was on my own or riding with a buddy in Tokyo. If I was on my own I’d more than likely pick a workout (mostly Jon’s Short Mix) just to keep me focused. Sometimes I’d just spin around a couple of laps but kinda want to ‘achieve’ something. So I’d try and bust a jersey each ride. Nothing more satisfying that having done Jon’s Short Mix and then grab a green jersey on the way to the end of lap two of Watopia.

The thing I always did without fail was to push myself to a sweat each and every ride. In the beginning that wasn’t hard to do, but now I’m having to bust 400w up the Watopia Hill to get a sweat on by the top.

What about diet? I assume this changed for you as well. How so?

You assumed correctly. My wife is a consultant for Cambridge Weight Plan, so I’ve been following that since January 4th. It’s a high protein/low carb diet, so if you stick to it and keep drinking your water I find it easy to lose weight. I personally don’t like tomatoes and fish so most diet plans leave me with a dilemma of what I can actually eat. The Cambridge Weight Plan replaces some meals with ‘products’ so that I didn’t have to work out what I could eat.

I also cut out alcohol completely, not just during the week, but totally. There are so many hidden calories in beer, wine and spirits it’s a great way to lose weight without having to do anything else.

For most people, weight gain and poor fitness happen slowly over a period of years, sort of a frog-in-a-kettle situation. How did you come to arrive at that spot where you decided it was time to make some positive changes?

My weight crept on over the last few years and even doing the London Ride 100 a couple of years ago didn’t help me shift much of it. Also having lost both parents in the last couple of years I’d found myself comfort eating. The heart surgery was the deciding factor for me. I sat in the car park after the consultation for about 30 minutes wondering what the hell this all meant. And then I got really upset with myself for having a defeatist attitude towards it all. I was letting it happen “TO” me rather than “MAKING” it happen for me. So that was it, I’d get Christmas and all the socializing out of the way and then go for it.

What does the future look like for Tim Clark in terms of health? Do you have further fitness goals?

It’s only a few days after the heart surgery so it’s too early to say if it’s fixed the Atrial Fibrillation or not, but the future looks great. I want to get down to 14½ stone (203lbs / 92kgs) by the end of June, so I’ll be back on the bike Zwifting or outside as the weather gets better and I heal more.

I’d also like to do the Ride London 100 again as the year I did it (2014) they closed part of the course due to the rain. My goal is to do it in under 5 hours.

That’s a good pace! Do you have some local friends to ride and train with outdoors?

I ride with my local cycling club Farnborough and Camberley Cycling Club some of the time. But I can translate most of what I’ve learned in Zwift about pacing, cadence and zone training onto the road. We have some long boring but good training roads around here and I can ride for a long time without having to stop for junctions and the like.

After running my own “Zwift Weight Loss Group” I know there are many folks on Zwift who struggle with being heavier than they’d like to be. What advice would you give to these Zwifters?

Firstly – KEEP GOING. Starting out is the hardest bit to do. For us Zwifters we don’t have the issue of being ‘seen in public’ wearing lycra, unless we want to be, so that’s not a factor. But I’ll be the first to admit that some mornings I’d lay in bed and not want to get out of it to ride. That’s when you need help, so I’d try and find someone to ride with. They will help to keep you honest and will miss you if you don’t make the ride.

Secondly – Pace yourself. Don’t start out too strong or it will seem too hard and you may well want to quit. Start with small goals, get a Strava account if you don’t have one and track your PRs for each segment. Just keep going a small bit further or harder each time you ride.

Last – Don’t beat yourself up – Be your own best cheerleader. Everyone has an off day. I’ve had ‘off weeks’ but the important thing is to get back on the bike and try again. Remind yourself of how far you’ve come and what you enjoy about that great feeling when you are climbing off your bike at the end of a ride knowing that you have done a good thing for your weight and your health.