Cycling, depression, exercise, fitness, loss, personal, recovery, stress, trauma, weight gain, weight loss, YK2HR
This is based on an article I wrote for EdgeYK Magazine in the spring of 2014. I’ve edited it slightly as it refers to an event in the past.
No one gets to where they want to go alone. That thought kept coming back to me as I prepared for YK2HR 2014 – an annual, 500 km, three day bicycle ride from Yellowknife to Hay River.
Years of family life and a stressful, sedentary, job meant my weight had been continuously climbing. My blood pressure was rising and my latest tests indicated other risks were looming. Then came 2012 – a perfect storm of loss and discouragement. The year started with my mom’s death. We knew it was coming but I was still devastated. Six weeks later, I had a huge crisis at work that left me reeling. So there I was: unhealthy, grieving, and wounded. I entered a dark cloud of discouragement and depression. It was at its worst in the quiet times – in the middle of the week – and the rest of the time it was a chore to drag myself around and be functional. One week turned into a month, then two months…
It’s been said that everyone has a story that will make you cry and many people have stories that will bring you to your knees. As stories go, I know mine is on the lighter side. But what made all this really challenging for me is that I was the pastor of the Yellowknife Seventh-day Adventist Church. Getting knocked off my feet a couple days a week and having a persistent dark cloud does not a good pastor make; it just made things worse.
The First Step
Through my work, I can access a confidential and free care line. Getting the courage to call is another story. Thankfully, I got desperate enough to pick up the phone. It was September 2012. That call was my first step to recovery. After listening, the counsellor suggested I had serious depression and I should seek medical assistance. That was the proverbial straw. I had to make a change.
Break Away Fitness
I’m not opposed to medication for depression but I also know that exercise is very helpful. My first stop was the gym, Break Away Fitness in Yellowknife. It took time, but I lost nearly 40 pounds, dropped pant and shirt sizes, and all my health indicators are normal to better than normal. Setting goals, using tools like MyFitnessPal, and participating in challenges kept me motivated. The thing is, something more happened. I found community. The gym owners, Kelly and Carey, were a huge blessing to me and I made many new friends. Let me introduce you to them…
One of the first friends I made was Alyssa Mosher, a CBC reporter. She interviewed me for a challenge I had organized. There’s nothing like making a public declaration of your goals to make you determined to achieve them. I just hope that when she gets super-famous she remembers the little people. You can find her on Twitter – @ammosher.
I met Andy Wong, an avid cyclist and organizer of the YK2HR ride, and I started to pick his brain about buying a bike. He went one better and offered to sell me one of his used bikes, a Trek hybrid. I used to cycle in my youth so returning to riding was transformational. As the cycling season ended I planned to invest in a new bike over the winter; something lighter and fitted just for me.
Ron Ogilvie changed my plans. I told him about my new biking goal and he encouraged me to do YK2HR 2014. I was hesitant. I love to bike but I hate camping. (Personally I think camping is against God’s will – Jesus said he was going to prepare a room for us so we can dwell with him. A room – not a tent or a camp site.) Ron’s persistence wore me down. I committed to the ride.
Preparation is Half the Battle
After I committed, I realized how unprepared I was. A high quality road bike also meant cycling shoes and pedals, clothes for various kinds of weather and, most importantly, padded bike shorts! That last item has inspired my sister to call me a MAMIL (Middle-aged Man in Lycra).
As YK2HR got closer, I gave more attention to stretching and massages – hey, it’s harder than it sounds. To be ready for NWT roads I would regularly go up and down on a teeter-totter while my wife threw dust in my face.
When I started to exercise I realized there was more I needed to do to see the changes I wanted. I started to look closely at my diet – I became intentional about how much I ate and what I ate. The game changer was Vegucated, a documentary on iTunes and Netflix. It’s a low budget documentary where three people are invited to try a plant based diet for six weeks. It wasn’t new information – Seventh-day Adventists have been talking the plant-based diet since the early 1900s – but it was the right information at the right time.
By the end of the documentary, I made the decision to go with a plant based lifestyle. Keep in mind that I didn’t see this as a “diet.” I committed to it as a way of life. I will confess it’s not easy to be vegetarian in the NWT if you keep your mouth open when you ride a bike. The biggest challenge has been eliminating added sugar. I keep telling myself I’m sweet enough on my own…
As I look back on where I’ve been and forward to where I’m going, I believe the best is yet to come. Check out my next post for what happened after YK2HR…
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