This Cycling Instructor Pedaled Through Tragedy After Losing Her Mom to ALS
"If there's one thing I want people to know, it's that the gift of movement is a privilege."
Being active has always been a huge part of my life. Growing up, my parents were all about being outdoors, going hiking and exploring as much as possible. It was only natural that I was drawn to outdoor sports in school, finding my niche in tennis and eventually playing at the college level.
I never thought that being able to do all of these things was something I took for granted-until my mother was diagnosed with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gherig's disease). Over the course of 18 months, I saw her go from being someone who was always on the move to losing that part of herself entirely. My mom was the furthest thing from a couch potato. She did indoor cycling; she hiked; she biked; she did Pilates and barre; she lifted weights. She only stopped moving when the ALS took hold. Watching her lose her independence like that was utterly devastating. (Related: Why the Diseases That Are the Biggest Killers Get the Least Attention)
My family and I watched her slowly deteriorate, and we knew she didn't have a lot of time left with us. All I wanted to do was spend every waking moment I could with her, but with all my attention and focus on my mom, my personal health and well-being were put on the back burner-something I didn't realize at the time.
My mom passed away in July 2015, and I shut down completely after that. I fell into a what seemed to be an irrevocable depression because, for me, I had lost my best friend and my mother all at the same time.
Soon my husband began to notice that I didn't want to go anywhere, do anything, or see anyone. So, for my birthday that September, he decided to buy me an indoor bicycle to help me get out of my funk.
Four weeks passed, and I just let it sit there. But then, after a lot of motivation and encouragement from my husband, I decided to get on for the first time. At this point, emotionally, I didn't feel much of anything-I was just numb. But as I started pedaling faster and faster, I started to feel something. I started to feel anger.
I started to realize that over the past two years I had built up this wall and was constantly masking my emotions because I was afraid to face them. And then after what felt like hours on that bike, I felt those feelings of frustration and sadness start to dissipate-not by much, but enough to notice a difference in my mood.
I stood up from that ride with a new sense of awareness. I realized that having movement as an outlet for my pain was a gift-something my mom would have loved to have. But ALS took that from her. In that moment, I realized that taking exercise and movement for granted wasn't an option because you really don't know what the future holds.
Finding and holding on to that mindset opened a whole new avenue of possibilities for me. I wanted to share this empowerment through movement with others. So after a few months on the bike and feeling more confident in my fitness abilities, I decided to try out to become an instructor at CycleBar-an indoor cycling studio. I've always been a huge believer in boutique fitness studios because they bring together motivating instructors with clients who are eager to learn. So I knew it would be the perfect environment for me to use what I've learned to inspire others both on and off the bike. (Related: Robin Arzon Shares How a Near-Death Experience Inspired Her to Become a Trainer)
It's been a year and a half since I started teaching at CycleBar, and to say that it's transformed my life is an understatement. I feel more confident, more empowered, and stronger than ever. Most importantly, I've learned not to take anything for granted.
When my husband got me that bike after my mother died, I had a choice. I could continue to curl up in a fetal position and refuse to live my life. Or I could stand up, put one foot in front of the other, and fight back. That bike helped me get to the healthier, happier place I'm at today. (Related: How Swimming Helped Me Recover from Sexual Assault)
When people come into my class and aren't sure if they're going to make it until the end, I remind them of how lucky they are to simply be there in the studio. Movement is a privilege that too many take for granted. So be grateful, count your blessings, and most importantly, move because you can.