It wasn’t that long ago, I was an overweight husband, out of shape father, aspiring cyclist, poor fitness role model friend, individual often in search of changing my destiny. Happily, I write this blog today as the same person, however, missing some of the previous adjectives! I was recently discussing cycling, running, and fitness in general, at a summer concert at the Old Capitol lawn in Frankfort, KY with a great friend and fellow cyclist Jen Miklavcic, and she mentioned how she thoroughly enjoyed reading our stories on the website. Then, I saw the look of intimidation in her eyes when I mentioned we should get together for a ride sometime, as I thanked her for the nice blogging compliments.
She shared her reservations about riding with me, stating she would be worried that she would “hold me up, or not be able to hang.” I was a little surprised, and assured her that I don’t always race when I ride, as I informed her that I appreciate cycling with friends as a means of enjoying the ride for the scenery, fellowship, and fitness, without always trying to better my average speed. She told me I was basically out of her league, but there were many people that could benefit from learning about where I came from to get where I am now … especially since it wasn’t that long ago that I was also out of my own league from where my fitness is now. So, as she requested, here’s for you Jen, and hopefully a positive reading for others, as well.
Less than two years ago, I weighed between 240-250 pounds (depending on which day of the week it was), I would struggle to complete a century ride averaging 13-15 mph and needing at least a week to recover, mostly riding 20-40 miles at a time and feeling like I was going all out to break a 15 mph pace, often feeling tired and low in energy as I tried to juggle work with all the active things I wanted to do at home with my wife and sons, along with my cycling adventures. I now weigh around 200 pounds and though I’m no body builder, I’ve converted a serious amount of body fat into muscle strength. A normal ride for me now, can be anything from 20-80 miles, in which I will easily average a pace at 17 mph or above, and have recently completed numerous multiple century months (including riding the flatter ones at paces from 16-19 mph). I’ve even been able to cross train some now by also running occasionally. The depressing adjectives that described my person in the first paragraph were real, and now are a lifetime away because I chose to change my destiny by deciding to alter my lifestyle.
In full disclosure, my first decision wasn’t a lifestyle change. Though I wanted to be the opposite of the person I was a couple years ago, I was not committed to the idea of giving up all the things I loved, such as beer, chips, cakes, soft drinks, etc. and replacing them with rigorous work outs, riding harder and faster (getting dropped by the fast group; which ultimately feels like failure). But much like the time I gave up smoking cigarettes (yes, I was once a smoker for nearly 15 years!), when the time was right, when I truly wanted to be the other person, it was easy to transform. Of course, it didn’t happen overnight, and of course, it wasn’t exactly “easy” to do the things I’ve done to be who I am today, but it is much more simple to manage mentally, when I think about who I was and what I’ve gone through to become who I am today.
The two things that keep me motivated the most about living the lifestyle I enjoy now are my mental attitude of thinking “I’ve still got a ways to go” (my wife constantly says “why can’t you just take a compliment?” when I respond with this statement to her encouragement about my improved health), and the other thing that also keeps me going is my inner peace. Make no mistake, all the other changes help too, including the outpouring of compliments I get from friends and family (especially the moments when I have friends try to outdo me on Strava segments or challenge me on a hill climb or county line sprint). Other motivators are personal messages I get, the personal records I achieve on rides, the better endurance and speed I have from improving my overall fitness, the pure joy I have from feeling much more energized as I’m enthused to juggle all the husband and fatherly duties waiting on me after a long, hard day at work.
In closing, the best advice I can offer if you find yourself wanting to be someone other than the true complete person you see in the mirror, is start out with a serious challenge, but don’t focus on the entire big picture … the enormousness of the lifestyle change can be enough to discourage you and easily knock you off course. Instead, listen to your inner peace: focus on minor changes, one at a time, and as you begin to see the results from these changes, you can find the big picture motivation to stay the course, keep the grind going, knowing you like your person better after the results than before! And remember my focus: there’s always room for improvement, so while it’s great to celebrate victories, don’t dwell on them, because you’ve “still got a ways to go!”
Please know this, Jen and any other friends (whether you typically ride 4 mph faster or slower than me), I enjoy cycling with all of you. I get a sense of passion and happiness out of riding with both groups at times. So if I go out and pour my guts out trying to hang on a group way out of my league, or if I choose to spin more casually with a group that thinks I’m out of their league, the most important fact is that we’re riding our bikes, and putting a positive spin on our fitness, both mentally and physically. Yes, I’m happy with the person I’ve become, but I aspire to do more (juggling the balance between content and acceptance is much better than avoiding looking into a mirror). I strive to be a better, more active father, husband, employee, and I dream of being a faster, stronger, cyclist with more endurance and stamina in life. To achieve these, I know there’s always room for improvement, but I’m never out of anyone’s league, ’cause I’ve still got a ways to go, and I’d love to stay the course while enjoying a ride with any of my friends at times!