How Cycling Changed Me – Chandra Gearring

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Age: 53
Hometown: Chicago, Illinois
Occupation: Compliance analyst
Cycling time: 4 years
Start weighing: 296 pounds
Final weight: 191 lbs
Reason for cycling: I learned that cycling was a low impact cardio workout and that I had to do something that would be easy on my ankles, feet, and knees.


Before I started cycling, I was morbidly obese and chronic asthma. And to be honest, I was very depressed. One day, I was walking to work and noticed that my shoes were not tied. I tried to bend down to tie my shoes and couldn’t. I leaned over a wall to hang on as I bent over, and yet I couldn’t tie my shoes. I went to work in tears. Every time my shoelaces hit the sidewalk, it was like someone was hitting my chest. I couldn’t breathe, not from my asthma, but from the discomfort. It was like everyone knew I was so overweight that I couldn’t tie my shoes. My feet, ankles and calves turned into one. I was in such bad health and didn’t know what to do about it.

I finally went to the doctor, thinking that something else was wrong than my excess weight. My doctor told me directly, “Chandra, if you don’t lose weight, you’re going to die.” She touched my ankles and said it was okay, it was just fat. I wanted to scream. How dare she give it to me directly. How? ‘Or’ What to dare she told me the truth that I was avoiding. How dare she!

The turning point for me was sitting in my doctor’s office and she wanted me to consider weight loss surgery. She didn’t believe in me; I didn’t believe in myself. But what I knew for sure was that I didn’t want to die young and leave my family. I saw a Peloton ad and told my husband I was going to buy one. He suggested that I take some spinning lessons first, and if I can stick with it, then we can buy the bike.

It was in the summer of 2017 that I registered for the courses, and I was 49 years old. In my first class, I thought I was going to die. I was drenched in sweat and accomplishment. I signed up for another class. This instructor loved being out of the saddle, and I was just trying to get to the end of the class! But I learned in this course that if I finish, that’s a good thing. I might not be able to get in and out of the saddle, but I can ride this bike.

Courtesy

During this same period, I also had to learn to prepare the foods that I love in a much healthier way. I invested in an air fryer, juicer, food processor and blender. I’m not a vegan, however, I don’t eat dairy or red meat – I’ve found my middle ground between eating mostly plant-based, with poultry and fish. I eat plant-based 80 percent of the time and chicken and fish 20 percent of the time. Instead of fried chicken, I’ll air fry some oyster mushrooms. I will always have fried fish, but only twice a month instead of every weekend. Moderation is really the key to life and the success of my journey. I’ve learned about spices other than salt and pepper, and my food tastes better than ever without the use of salt.

After a few months of spinning lessons, I pulled the trigger and ordered my Peloton which I affectionately call Mr. Goodnight (named after a Prince song). I will never forget this day: On January 15, 2018, I decided to cycle every day for 21 days. I read something about how it takes 21 days to build a habit, so I started taking 20 or 30 minute cycling lessons. I rode for about a month and then quit. It seemed more difficult alone in my home space than in a classroom with others. My feet were swelling so much that it was painful to walk, but I didn’t want to go back to the doctor to hear him tell me I was going to die. So I made the switch, and this time I stuck with it.

Now, I ride every morning at 5 a.m. for 60 to 90 minutes. Peloton allows me to stay motivated easily with different cycling challenges and projects. I also like putting my bike in Just Ride mode and taking classes on my Apple Fitness app.

Last year I bought a road bike but couldn’t ride it as much as I wanted due to the pandemic. However, this year I have been on the road and the bike trails. I really enjoyed riding the outdoors, and the encouragement you get from complete strangers is beyond words. There’s this hill that I’ve been trying to climb without stopping for the past year, and people coming back down are saying things like, ‘Don’t give up! “Keep trying!” “You got that!” “Yes, go ahead my daughter! “” Stick with that! It means so much to me. I recorded myself finally climbing that hill and felt like Rocky when he reached the top of those stairs. Unlike Rocky, I didn’t stop at the top, I just kept going. And once I got to the bottom of that hill, I stopped and celebrated.


Chandra’s essential gear

Bodyrock weighted vest: I love wearing this vest. It really helps me define my core when riding a bike.

Andobil bicycle phone holder: I love taking photos and videos of me riding my bike, and it holds up well and lets you focus on the road.

Apple Watch: Whether I’m on my bike at home or on the road, it helps me stay on track. I love my watch and I love to beat my time and my distance. It’s just a really awesome way to keep track and stay on track.

Lazawg Sauna Vest: It fits true to size and I love the sweat it gets in every workout.


Now I am looking for a new bike. I’ve set my goal for 2022, which is to complete the 52-mile Chicago Lakefront Bike Trail. Just like when I started in my bedroom with short trips, I will do the same on the road. I will ride for an hour a day until I get stronger. Labor Day 2022 is the day I have set to achieve this goal. I look forward to sharing this news with all of you.

Cycling has given me confidence that I can do whatever I set out to do. When I first started I couldn’t even exceed 30 percent resistance without huffing and puffing. Now I can maintain 75% resistance at a pace of 50 and hold my breath, it’s amazing! I have quads. I can cross my legs. Most importantly, I can bend over and tie my shoes. I will never be not cycle. It’s a part of my life that will never change or go away.

Overall, I lost 105 pounds.

I am so proud of myself. It took me three years to lose weight. Some health issues slowed me down, but it never deterred me from my goals. I’m working on losing 30 more pounds and I’m done.

Cycling has really changed my life. Without investing in me by buying my spin bike, I don’t know where I would be right now. I am healthier and happier. I no longer take asthma medication and no longer suffer from asthma attacks. In the past two years I have only had one mild stroke.

My advice to someone who is just starting their journey is to take their time and turn off whatever everyone else is doing. Focus on the person in the mirror: you. You don’t have to explode out the door, you’ll get there. Also, hide the scale at least for the first month. At first, this ladder had me everywhere and made me doubt myself. One week I had lost three pounds, the next six. I was getting so discouraged until one day I tried on pants that I hadn’t been able to fit before.

I tell myself that this is not a trip, but a change of lifestyle. My life has completely changed and I am doing better for it. Don’t wait until a Monday or a New Year, start now. Start small and develop your goals as you grow taller and stronger. If I can do it, so can you! In the (almost) words of Dory from The world of Nemo: “Keep pedaling, keep pedaling. You have that!


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