Dan Lloyd: Why I’ve decided to change my lifestyle

In a new GCN series we'll follow Dan's progress as he adopts a healthier lifestyle in a bid to get more active, fitter and improve his longevity

Clock10:23, Saturday 13th April 2024

There’s a strong argument to say that this article shouldn’t be here. This is the Global CYCLING Network, and what I’m about to write is not specifically cycling-related. I’m going to write it anyway, and hope it makes it past the Editor-in-Chief (I’ll choose a slow news week).

I’m 43 now, and largely sat on my arse. Unfortunately it’s now on a couch instead of the 20-30 hours a week I used to perch it on a bike saddle. So, instead of buying a Porsche for my mid life crisis, I’ve made a decision to change a few things in my lifestyle. The aims being to stop the deterioration, to attempt to slow down the ageing process that I’ve recently been quite successful in speeding up, and to extend my life expectancy as much as I can. I’m doing it with the hope that I can inspire, or at least encourage, some of you to do it with me.

My attitude towards cycling over the years

Let me at least get some cycling into this. I LOVED riding and racing my bike - I cannot begin to articulate how obsessed I was with being the best I could possibly be. In that regard I am similar to most current or former pros. It’s not a sport you can excel in unless you have that determination and drive.

Unfortunately for me, I didn’t have the genetics to achieve Mathieu van der Poel level success, but fortunately for me, I had enough talent to turn pro, competing at many of the biggest races in the world. That includes the Tour de France in 2010, which I really made the most of - I got to enjoy it for a full four hours more than the (eventual) winner that year, Andy Schleck.

Fast forward two years and I was no longer a full-time cyclist (not my own choice, but probably a wise choice by team managers at that time). I did, however, remain in the ‘industry’. I’ve been here at GCN since its inception, and over the 12 years since, I’ve also had the privilege of doing a lot of commentary and punditry on the biggest races in the world.

In that time, I’ve learnt a lot about myself, and my relationship with cycling and exercise in general. I love talking about cycling, and watching it, but my love for riding a bike ebbed away immediately after I stopped competing. With a goal, I can push myself very hard, without one, I can’t see the point in doing anything.

Read more: GCN takes on Visma-Lease a Bike's Vingegaard and Kuss in Zwift challenge

It’s interesting to look at how much riding ex-pros do in retirement. At least it is for me. It’s one of my weird fascinations, along with looking up the age of almost every famous person I see on TV (yes, that is weird, and no, I don’t know why). There’s very rarely any middle ground on this; Frank and Andy Schleck are good examples. Whilst Frank continued to ride more than 15,000km a year in retirement, Andy hung up his wheels and only started riding again quite recently. Most ex-pros either carry on riding a lot or don’t do much at all.

Having thought long and hard about the reasons behind this disparity, my conclusion is that it comes down to why you rode a bike in the first place.

For me, I loved the process of being the best I could be for competition - I loved making a training plan, and I loved sticking to it, ticking the boxes. There have been very few times in my life where I’ve just gone out for a bike ride for the sole reason that I wanted to go out and enjoy a bike ride. Each one had an aim and a plan.

That’s not the same for everyone, though - others just love riding their bikes, but happen to be amongst the most talented cyclists in the world, and end up making a career out of it. I’m not saying they don’t also follow training plans and tick boxes, but their love for riding remains with them even after they’re no longer paid.

That was a very long-winded way of explaining why I haven’t ridden my bike much for the last 12 years. My pro career was another box ticked - I may not have reached the heady heights of a big win, but I got further than I thought I would.

The one time I did get back into some serious riding was when I became obsessed with taking the Strava KOM around a local singletrack trail. It took me about six months to get it, after which I stopped cycling again. Sad, I know. I’ve also dabbled with running, which was great - I had no history with running, so I could be the best runner I’d ever been. I was back to ticking boxes… until I got injured.

So what happens next?

Long story short (maybe long story long by this point), I’ve not done a whole lot of consistent exercise over the last 12 years. What I have done a lot of is working, sitting, drinking alcohol, burning the candle at both ends, and… smoking. I’ve not admitted that last part publicly before. Mainly because it’s embarrassing that I did something so stupid for so long, but I smoked a fair bit between 2012 and 2020, before I finally managed to give up. At least the tobacco part - to this day I am using nicotine replacements.

It was late last year when I realised that I was on a slippery slope. My Whoop - who are sponsoring this series of videos - sleep scores during our Grand Tour coverage in particular were enough to make me want to change. Terrible sleep, an HRV barely in double digits, and a resting HR 10-15 beats higher than it would be without drinking.

At that same time, I’d been listening to a lot of podcasts and reading a lot of books on longevity, and all the small things you can do to give yourself the best chance of a very long and healthy life. It’s now time to start implementing some of the things I’ve learned.

And that’s what I am going to document in a new series on the GCN YouTube channel and here on our website. The initial episode (which you can watch at the top of this page) goes through some thorough baseline tests which I was fortunate enough to do at the Nuffield Manchester Institute of Health and Performance. I will repeat those tests towards the end of this year, having made several small but significant changes to my lifestyle. Namely more exercise, better sleep, less drinking (I’m not confident I want to, or even could, completely cut alcohol out of my life), and an emphasis on generally healthier living.

I’m sure there are many people out there, reading this or watching the series, who also have some small things that they’d like to change about their lifestyle for the better, or maybe you just want to learn exactly what you can do to try and ensure you live the longest, healthiest life possible. That’s what this is all about - not living like a monk, or trying to make the perfect choices all day every day, but small changes that we can all implement if we really want to.

The end goal? A longer life, a happier life, and a healthier life. Yep, all the clichés, but I genuinely think that I, and we, can achieve it.

You can keep up to date with Dan's progress here on the GCN website and over on the GCN YouTube channel. Let us know in the comments below if Dan's inspired you to make some lifestyle adjustments. We'd love to hear your stories too.

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