A Year of Progress

As the official start of winter approaches here in the northeast, the weather has conspired to keep me indoors and off my Trikke.  The past two weekends were completely rained out, and when we got one mild, sunny day yesterday, it coincided with the start of a head cold which kept me inside and in bed.  Because it’s so easy to get down about the weather and fall out of the habit of exercising as a result, I thought this would be a good time to take a step back and reflect on the past year to remind myself just how far I’ve come.
A year ago, I had a total disdain for exercise.  I work at a desk job, and my favorite hobbies (reading, video games, model making) are all equally sedentary.  I should also mention that I’m a part-time undergrad student, which keeps me seated at my computer long after the work week has ended.  Is it any wonder that I had packed on close to 100 excessive pounds and found simple things like climbing my stairs to be exhausting?
But something changed last year around this time.  I don’t know whether it was the beautiful, mild winter we were blessed with?  Or whether approaching the age of 40 set off some warning bells in my head?  Or that the more I sat still and lay around, the more my body began to ache?  What matters is that something changed, and it changed rather spontaneously.
The walk that started it all . . .
It was a mild late-November day, and I had just gotten the grade for the final project and presentation for my first semester back after a 17-year absence from school.  Much to my relief, I earned an “A” and wanted to reward myself by taking the day off from housework.  So I went to my workshop in the garage and plunked myself down at the workbench to work on a model car.  Despite the cool, fresh air blowing in through the open garage door, I found myself getting restless and antsy.  All I had done was trade one desk for another.
So I went for a walk!  It was completely spontaneous, but a walk along the beautiful D&L Trail alongside the Lehigh River seemed the perfect way to enjoy the mild autumn day, and to reflect upon the successful completion of my first semester back in school.  I enjoyed my walk, except for one small problem.  After just a half-hour of walking, I was exhausted, winded, light-headed, and nauseous.  Is it any wonder I had such a disdain for exercise when it made me feel so rotten?
As tempting as it was to retreat into my sedentary world, something shifted in my mind telling me that if I didn’t do something soon to change my health, it might be too late.  I was sick of feeling entombed in a sack of flesh that just seemed to bog me down in misery.  So I kept walking.  I made a commitment to walk three times a week, gradually increasing my pace and distance as I felt able to.
I walked through the winter, even on the coldest days, and I saw others out there riding their bicycles.  I yearned to ride mine again, and decided that I didn’t need to wait for that “perfect spring day” to do it.  So on February 5, I rode 6.5 miles on the Slate Heritage Trail on a sunny, but 41 degree day.  It was torture; not because of the cold, but because every crank of the pedals was difficult and agonizing.  I must have stopped every half mile to rest, but the important thing was I made it to the end of the trail and back.  Bicycling had seemed so spirited and effortless in my youth, yet here I was crawling along at snail’s pace, gasping for air every inch of the way.  I was even passed by an older gentleman riding a rusting bike that had to be as old as I was.
Determined to conquer the limitations my neglected body imposed on me, I set a goal of biking 1000 miles in 2012.  Of course I wanted to lose weight, but instead of saying “I want to lose 100 pounds,” I opted to set a more concrete goal, that if followed, would ultimately result in me losing weight.  I credit this back-door approach with the success I have enjoyed since.
Some of the Lehigh Valley’s best sights can only be reached by bike
I continued to walk and bike regularly, feeling stronger as the spring months approached.  My biggest problem now was the literal “pain in the butt” that resulted from my bike rides, which started topping 10 miles.  I had been eyeing Trikke’s carving vehicles for years, and decided the time was right to buy one.  This would give me something to do the day after a long bike ride, instead of resorting to the “my butt hurts” excuse to avoid exercise.
My first ride on Lean Green, my secondhand T78 Deluxe, took place on March 10 in 37 degree weather.  I was like an excited kid with a new toy, and wasn’t going to let anything as petty as the cold weather stop me from riding it.  I had practiced the basics of riding in my driveway, but my trip to Bicentennial Park was my first time on a “real trail.”  I managed to do 2.1 miles, which left me gasping for air and sweating out of every pore, yet also left a huge grin plastered on my face.  They say you need to find something you love to commit to an exercise program, and I knew that day that I finally had.
Combining my three forms of exercise with a newly adopted high-protein/low-calorie diet left me feeling like a new woman by the end of March.  I no longer felt sick and exhausted after exercise, and was instead beginning to feel invigorated by it.  I racked up the miles on the bike and the Trikke, and when the heat wave hit in July and August, I bought a kettlebell and training DVD’s to take my exercise indoors.  I had come so far already that I didn’t want to regress to the state I was in just a few months earlier.
My new passion for living!!
During this time, the Trikke stood out as not only my favorite exercise, but a newfound passion in my life.  I joined the Trikke Riders of Pennsylvania, and attended June’s Riding Clinikk in Philadelphia, making new Trikking friends along the way.  I eagerly returned to the trails as soon as the heat wave broke, and continually rode faster and further than ever before.
With Rokk-It Red, my new T8 Sport, I conquered the steep hill at Rodale Park on October 20, and completed an epic 21.2 mile ride with my friends in Stroudsburg on November 11.  Although every muscle in my body ached after these rides, it felt so good, and had reignited an internal energy that had been missing for close to fifteen years.
Although I did not meet my literal goal of biking 1,000 miles this year, I still consider that goal met in the sense that I have adopted a healthy and active lifestyle as a result of it.  Although the year is not quite over, I have achieved the following:
  • Biked 305 miles
  • Trikked 227 miles
  • Lost 40 pounds
  • Dropped 6 pant-sizes
  • Regained the energy I had in my mid-20’s
  • Discovered the benefits of cross-training
  • Made over a dozen new friends
  • Started this blog
A variety of circumstances beyond my control have prevented me from exercising for the past three weeks.  While I cringe as I feel myself starting to slide back into that familiar lazy abyss, I realize that I’m writing this post to inspire myself as much as to inspire you.  The winter weather and this head cold are just a minor detour on a long journey.  If I can revive myself after two decades of unhealthy living, and go from being sick after walking 30 minutes to feeling energized after Trikking three hours, then I can certainly pick myself up and dust myself off after the setbacks December has thrown at me.
The coming new year will be an opportunity for me to set new goals and to share them with you.  I have become a big believer in the idea that we are more likely to achieve our goals when others hold us accountable for them, so I will put mine here for the world to see.
If you’re just beginning your journey towards health, what’s the first step you will take?  If you’re already on that path, what can you do in 2013 to up your game?  I’ll be posting my official goals closer to New Year’s Day, and I’ll look forward to hearing what yours are too.  Let’s work together in 2013 to inspire each other to new heights!

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