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Guest post: My Fitness Journey

Whatever your approach to health and fitness, you may find yourself changing things up over time to improve results or simply to maintain interest. After observing an active winter biking community for a while, I attended the Winter Bike Fashion Show, with very cautious interest. It was fun to see so many different kinds of people share varied methods and reasons for winter cycling, and as you’ll see in my story, it provided me that “next thing” to keep me rolling on my fitness journey.

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When I tell this story, listeners nearly always ask questions. I hope that by sharing this, I can make it less surprising, or unique. I want you to know, and to share with others, that it’s never too late to become fit.

In the mid-2000’s, my doctor recommended that I begin taking cholesterol-reducing statin drugs due to my high cholesterol count and family history of heart disease. At the time, I carried 250 lbs. on my 5’2″ frame, but my doctor had not yet talked with me about how diet and exercise would reduce my risk. Here I am, about that time, at age 40:

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For the first time in my life, I started paying attention to what I ate. I focused on what I could sustain – there was little that I eliminated from my diet, but ALL of the proportions changed in favor of healthier foods.

I was fortunate to have my partner Susan in my life. She had been active throughout her life, and helped me introduce regular physical activity gradually, safely, and sustainably. I still have vivid recollections of my exhaustion after a few short minutes of cardio exercise in those early days. I started weight training too, excited about the prospect of making muscles that would help burn the fat. Here, too, my limited abilities were simultaneously frustrating, and motivating.

I worked hard, with few visible results for months on end. But my cholesterol was improving, and I kept at it. At one point, maybe 18 months into my new lifestyle of exercising more and eating healthier/less, my body started changing, and rapidly. I think maybe my body just finally figured out that I wasn’t starving, and could let the reserves fall off.

By the time we moved to Madison in 2006 I had lost more than 50 lbs. My cholesterol ratio was reduced to high normal, eliminating the need for drug therapies. Susan was excited about Madison’s bike friendliness, but the compact, walkable, bikeable city was just one of many things that brought us here. Very soon after our move, I traded the little-used, poorly-fitting bike I’d had for a comfy, laid-back cruiser:

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I still remember our first ride along the Capital City Trail… we got a couple of miles, to Monona Bay, when I told Susan we’d better turn around to make sure I had the energy to make it home.

[continue reading Deb’s story]