Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Riding For Her Life

The school district where I work published this article in the Springfield Educator.
It was released today.

The article is hard to read from this image.  Here is the body of the text:

By Cyrus Moulton
from The Winter 2015-16 Springfield Educator 

She initially thought completing a 100- mile plus bike ride was “a pipe dream.” But two years later, 80 pounds lighter and with support from students and staff at Springfield’s High School of Commerce, Tracey Coleman not only cycled 100-plus miles, but chronicled on a blog how she made that pipe dream come true in hopes of inspiring others. 

“The biggest thing preventing people from exercising, the thing that probably deters them the most, is they don’t see progress right away so they give up, or they have an obstacle that comes up, that prevents them with sticking to it, and give up,” said Coleman, a guidance counselor at Commerce. “So I write a lot about that— about nutrition and fitness, but mostly about motivation and sticking with your goals.” 

But it took a while for Coleman to see the rewards of sticking with her fitness goals. A self-professed bookworm growing up, Coleman “didn’t do sports in high school; I wasn’t good at them, didn’t like them, and as an adult I didn’t do them either.” 

She became heavy as an adult—or, as a student who recently saw an older picture of Coleman called it, “‘mad chubby”—and was bothered by arthritis that often crippled her with pain and prevented her from repetitive, high intensity activity, Coleman recalled. 

But in September 2013, Coleman’s husband Brian participated in the Springfield Police Department’s first Ride to Remember, a 106-mile bike trek from Springfield to Boston in memory of officers killed in the line of duty. 

That January, Coleman decided that this time—the heaviest she had ever been at 238 pounds—she was going to stick with her regular New Year’s Resolution of losing weight and eating healthier. So she began working out with a trainer. She did a Rugged Maniac obstacle course in September 2014 with her husband, and then thought that she might want to do the Ride to Remember. 

But that November, her trainer—a 24- year-old, healthy young man—suddenly got sick and died. 

“I was devastated,” Coleman said. “He was 24 when he died, and I was 45 and just wasn’t taking my life and health seriously.” 

So she kicked her training into high gear, working out six days a week with a new trainer and focusing on flexibility. It helped her deal with both the emotional pain from the loss and the physical pain of her arthritis. Her surgeon canceled an operation to help her arthritis and Coleman got a bike, joined training rides with a group from the local bike shop, and started pedaling to get ready for this September’s Ride To Remember. 

“It was threateningly scary to think ‘how am I going to do this, it’s going to be 100 miles, and really hilly,’” Coleman recalled. 

But she had support not just at the gym and bike shop, but at Commerce. 

Many kids participating in a dress-down day wore blue to support a fundraiser for the Ride to Remember. About a week before the ride, students made ribbons to sell, and helped Coleman sell t-shirts downtown to raise money for the event. The day before the ride, colleagues decorated Coleman’s office with messages of support, including many pictures of Wonder Woman in reference to Coleman’s nickname at the gym. 

And the pipe dream became reality. 

“It was really a proud moment to finish it and do it, and do it with my husband and show the support for the police department and the fallen officers,” Coleman said. “I was blessed by the outpouring of the love I got.” 

Plus, the reality wasn’t that scary. “It wasn’t too hard for me because I had done so much training,” Coleman admitted.

 So now it’s on to the next challenge: maintaining her weight and fitness (Coleman currently weighs 145 pounds) and inspiring and helping others by sharing her story through her blog “Tracey’s Getting Fit.” 

“We’ve all been trying to become healthier,” said Erica Lebel, a fellow guidance counselor at Commerce who credited Coleman with helped tone up her arms for her wedding. “We would make lunches for each other sometimes, we would go out to eat and make sure there were healthy things for her and us to eat.” 

Coleman said her fitness journey has also helped her be a better guidance counselor. She said she is able to relate better with students who worry about body image, she is more empathetic, and she is more willing to open up and share her feelings with students. 

“I can tell them at the least that I am human and that I have been through my own things,” said Coleman. “That I am a human, and I can persevere.” 

My thoughts???
Obviously I knew they were doing the article.  They interviewed me, I sent them some pictures for the article and they took my photo at school.  But seeing it in print really brings tears to my eyes.  This has been a long journey for me.  Thinking back on it is very emotional.  Thank you for  following my blog, for your encouragement.  I am blessed beyond words.

After the Ride to Remember, September 19, 2015 
Beautiful Day by  U2
It's a beautiful day.  
Sky falls, you feel like it's a beautiful day.  
Don't let it get away.  
You're on the road.  
But you've got not destination.  
It's a beautiful day.

Question for you: 
(Answer in the comment section below.)
What one thing are you most proud of accomplishing?

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