Name: Rose Flesher
Occupation: Licensed professional counselor
Hometown: Murfreesboro, Tennessee
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Start Weight: 300 pounds
End Weight: 140 pounds
Time Cycling: 5 years
When my stepdad died of a widow maker heart attack during surgery in 2011, I knew I had to change my health. He loved me by choice and not by blood, which made our connection even more special. I could count on him to be there for almost anything. To have this constant presence suddenly disappear was incredibly difficult.
I, unfortunately, was on a similar path. Doctors told me that I would have the same fate if I did not change my health, as I was 300 pounds. My mom was crushed by my dad’s death; the thought of my mom enduring the loss of a daughter due to a heart attack or other obesity-related disease was more than I could bear. I did not want to be the cause of any more emotional hardship for her.
So I bought a pair of good running shoes and began slowly plodding. For three years, I pounded miles. I lost 114 pounds by running and counting calories with MyFitnessPal.
But running was brutal on my knees. I fought off the pain from sciatica with inserts and my Mizuno Wave Prophecy shoes, but the stabbing electricity radiating down from my back and into my feet never went away.
After three years, I was done. I searched for something new, and that’s where my husband came in. He’d seen me limping around after several runs. As a emergency medicine physician, he knows an injury when he sees one. So, being a cyclist who lost 110 pounds a year after he finished his medical residency in 2002, he asked me to join him on a ride.
Admittedly, I put off getting a bike for a while before popping by West Bikes in Farragut, Tennessee. This is where I met my first bike—a red Cannondale CAAD 10, which I named Cherry.
The transition from running to cycling was not seamless. Prior to my first real ride, my husband gently said, “Now, it’s no big deal to hop off your bike and walk up a hill if it’s too much for you.” I scoffed at the idea beforehand, and then my first climb happened. I rode half way up before I realized if I did not stop and walk the remainder of the hill, falling over would be the only other option. It was then I realized I did not have the leg muscles cyclists have. I got seriously owned by this epiphany.
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But the more I rode, the more I enjoyed it. My husband and I use cycling as a glue, of sorts, for our relationship. Ninety-five percent of the time, when one rides, the other goes with. We decide on whether we want to socially ride at a chill pace, or compete with each other.
After a couple of seasons of riding, I became real competition for him. I would hammer on the front of a pace line in a Belgian position and he would be straining to keep up, or I would beat him up a climb.
He eventually convinced me to race. I was cautious, but he trained me and even drove in the broom wagon for my first race, accompanied by my ever-supportive mom. He really is an incredible source of encouragement.
When I ride, the feeling is like what I imagined as a child wanting to be an astronaut or pilot— the freedom and adventure of traveling through space and time. In some ways, cycling offers a similar experience.
There are only about two-square inches of rubber on a tire connecting a cyclist in motion to the Earth. We barrel down the road and feel the wind stream across the body. In a fast descent, a sense of flying captivates me. And in that moment, I feel free. When I hop onto my Colnago V1-R (named Morticia) and blister down the road to Oak Ridge, Tennessee, I find the adventure I had been looking for in the skies.
Cycling has also helped me in other ways. I am a licensed therapist and have incorporated cycling into my practice on a regular basis. A large body of research shows that exercise helps to improve emotional health. I encourage all of my patients to safely participate in some form of exercise as part of their treatment process, and I have introduced several of my patients to cycling when they were looking for low impact exercise to help them get into shape.
I’ve also changed my diet—even if just a little. To be honest, the only real change I made to my diet was quantity and sugar intake. My confession in this department is: I still ate McDonald’s and Taco Bell. But I counted my calories, and any sugary food such as cookies, cakes, pies, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups were removed from my diet.
Now, I feel great riding at 140 pounds. On the bike, I feel liberated, but cautiously. After escaping the clutches of obesity, I feel freedom physically and emotionally. However, I know it is wise to “take one day at a time.” The decisions I make today regarding food and exercise effect my body tomorrow.
Next up for me is gravel racing. For Christmas, my husband bought me a Cannondale SuperX Cross machine. It has a wicked looking 80s-level, colorful fork, aptly named Mrs. Pac-Man. We plan on gravel racing this coming September in Asheville, North Carolina.
For anyone going through a similar situation, I would tell them to be fearless. Fearless of the journey, the commitment, the setbacks, the accomplishments, and the road. We get in our own way sometimes by letting fear of the unknown control us. Being fearless means being able to look back when I’m 75 and say, “Yeah, I did that.” What do you want to say to yourself when you’re 75? —“I should have taken that chance?” or “Hell yeah, that was the day I… (insert crazy, awesome story here).”
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This content was originally published here.