Making the choice to live
I kissed the Sun Prairie Cup in October. I earned the opportunity by winning a bike race. That doesn’t happen every day, so believe me, I am still savoring it. While holding that cup over my head, I was overcome with emotion and found myself reflecting on the journey that brought me there.
I remembered sitting with my doctor at 40 years old and feeling embarrassed when he pulled out a tape measure and reached around my midsection. The next words my doctor said that day echoed in my ears as I posed for the post-race photos: “Timm, we are all going to die some day and you have two choices for how this will go for you. You can continue on your current path of being mostly sedentary at work and home, overeating unhealthy foods and internalizing your stress. You will suffer degenerative and chronic diseases and die a lingering, painful death. Or, starting today, you can take care of yourself, eat healthy foods in moderation, exercise more regularly, minimize your stress, carve out balance in your life and you may live a long, active and vigorous life dying suddenly at a ripe old age.”
I decided to choose the second option.
Bless my wife because she immediately supported me when I discussed buying a bike. I doubt she realized then how serious I was.
I set goals the first year I rode my bike, both for my health and the sport. I secretly wanted my doctor to say, “wow,” the next time I saw him. (He didn’t.) I wanted all my numbers to be in the healthy range and I never wanted to see that tape measure again.
I trained for and completed “Superweek,” an annual bike-racing series held every summer in Wisconsin that includes multiple racing styles. During those five days, I raced more than 200 miles. I wanted to finish, and I did not want to be dropped by the peloton. (This is the main field of riders who bunch together at about the same speed.)
My confidence was buoyed by accomplishing those things that year. I realized, however, that unless I continued to set new goals I would lose interest and motivation and that tape measure would soon be around my belly again.
Because I realized I couldn’t make winning races my sole purpose for living a healthy lifestyle, I started setting challenging, yet attainable, goals. I thought in terms of a pyramid. At the bottom were things like eating healthy, getting enough rest, keeping work stress in perspective and maintaining a positive self image. Next level goals were around training moderately and consistently all year. If I started to hate the bike I was doing too much. The next levels got more specific about improvement and are more challenging for me at age 52 – be faster and stronger. At the very top of the pyramid was winning. I felt if things came together at every level the opportunity would be there. My pyramid was progressive, very functional and sturdy, even if I would never secure that top level.
The true spoils of pursuing a healthy and active lifestyle are feeling great most days. But I can’t lie, kissing that cup was sweet.
It’s taken me 12 years to get to where I am today and it certainly didn’t happen overnight. Looking back, I think the most important thing I did was make the decision to change and become more active. The second was setting goals I wanted to reach.
Great goals are out there for you to set. What are you going to do for you?