I stumble into a lot of good things in my life quite by accident. I mean seriously, it’s the ultimate charmed existence. So many of the wonderful moments I’ve been blessed with have been unplanned and unexpected. Things like meeting my husband, becoming a superhero, selling our house at the school bus stop, first getting published in a book, making a spiritual impact, and finding my true purpose for this blog.
But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I might someday be labeled an athlete. The very notion is downright preposterous! Anyone who knows me and my clutzy, couch potato ways can attest to that.
Then a year ago, a funny thing happened. I got compliments, and I hated it. I’d recently had professional photos taken at a conference that by all accounts were fabulous. I posted one of the pictures on Facebook and many people told me how beautiful it was (you can decide for yourself from the painful evidence below). I graciously accepted the praise, but secretly I was cringing inside. All I could see was exactly how much weight I had regained in recent years.
I felt terribly discouraged for putting on pounds I had worked so hard to lose once before. But a few weeks later I snapped myself out of my self-pity, decided to do something about it, and started a diet. Inspired by my friend John Alexander, I even bought a bicycle, determined to add exercise to the mix. The bicycle immediately began collecting dust in the garage for the next three months after only a single five-mile ride, but the diet was at least producing modest results.
Fast forward to the new year, when I resolved to get serious for real. I set a New Year’s resolution for fitness, with my bike factoring into the new plan. I started riding. And to my everlasting surprise, I kept riding. Later in January, my friend John joined me on a ride and happened to mention his own goal of 100 miles per month. I thought to myself, “Self, if John can do it, so can you!” I decided to realistically cut myself some slack during the hottest summer months, and so was born my goal to pedal 1,000 miles before the end of the year.
At first I didn’t believe in myself that I would really ever hit this goal. I was, after all, the poster child for a sedentary lifestyle. However, it didn’t take long before I started noticing that I was riding faster and longer distances. My stamina was improving quickly, and I discovered that I loved being outside and covering ground on my wheels. I began posting about my rides on Facebook, sure that I was being spammy with my newfound cycling enthusiasm, but my friends heavily encouraged me, giving me kudos for taking charge of my health. And the longer I kept it up, the more I heard from people offline—who were, unbeknownst me, following my Facebook posts—about what an inspiration I had become. This motivated me, and I kept pedaling.
On the days that I wasn’t riding, I was doing workout videos at home—beginner cardio workouts at first, later graduating to circuit training workouts with hand weights. Then heavier hand weights. And then somewhere around 400 miles into my cycling goal, I took a CyclingSavvy class to build confidence in my road and traffic skills and simultaneously talked my husband Kent into letting me use our tax refund to upgrade to a road bike. These things gave me fresh motivation, and I pedaled harder than ever.
A couple of weeks ago at our 18th anniversary dinner, Kent told me that I had become an athlete. I almost choked on my laughter because, well, it’s simply not true. Except that when I told other people about his funny, they agreed with him! “You are a Serious Cyclist now,” they said, “and you work out with weights.” It’s true that I’ve developed arm muscles from the hand weights and leg muscles from pumping the pedals on my bike. I am fit and toned like I have never been in my life. And on our beach vacation earlier this month, I even mustered the courage to wear a bikini. In public. At 41 years old. (No, you cannot see photos of that!)
On Sunday, July 29, I did it. I reached my 1,000-mile goal, five full months ahead of schedule. My friends John Alexander, who first inspired me to get on my bike, and Jim Broman, who is propelling me toward continued improvement, were riding by my side. It was an emotional milestone in my life for setting what seemed an unreachable target and against all predictions, attaining it. Along the way, I accidentally became an athlete. I never meant to, but I have no plans to turn back now. I’m setting new goals to conquer. Cycling has changed my fitness, my confidence, my life. I could never have done it without the will given to me from above and the support and encouragement of the many people who cheered me on.
And friends, guess what? Just over a week ago the newly slim, fit, toned me returned to that conference, and I had new pictures made. When I related the story to the same photographer of how last year’s photos were the inspiration that spurred me to action and how excited I was to be back for her to capture my new svelte look, she said she wanted to cry. When we were done, I asked to see the new pictures in the small window of her camera, and then *I* wanted to cry. What a difference a year, 1,000 miles, and wonderful friends make.
|BEFORE (August 1, 2011):
||AFTER (July 23, 2012):
|Photos by the amazingly talented Jill Harper of Legacy Solutions.