My mom suffers from congestive heart failure; she’s had two open heart surgeries, a valve repair, another valve replaced with a pig’s, and a pacemaker and defibrillator inserted—plus she takes all the medications involved with maintaining this arsenal.
Three years ago I decided to participate in the American Heart Association’s bike ride, which raises $300,000 a year for heart research. I’m healthy and fit—I exercise four or five days a week, mixing cardio and strength training—so I thought a 60-mile bike ride would be a breeze for me. I thought that four months of spin classes would be enough training. Ha! It was only as the date grew closer that reality set in and I began to panic, convinced I’d never be able to finish the race.
I’m a very determined person, so there was no way I was going to back out or agree to ride knowing I wouldn’t finish. I needed to change my thinking so that I could change my behavior. I began meditating on my success. I would visualize myself crossing the finish line over and over and over again until I could feel what it would actually be like to finish the ride. Part of a training technique taught by Dr. Joe Dispenza is to stop the thought of doubt as soon as it surfaces. Whenever I felt myself feeling doubtful, I would repeat, “Stop it! I’m not going to listen to my mind chatter.” This simple practice works! You begin to train your mind to think differently. The other technique I used was not allowing myself to think or talk about the ride. That way, I wouldn’t trigger any harmful chatter.
When the morning of the ride arrived, I felt focused and ready. Nervous, yes, but not overwhelmed. I managed to stay with the front of the pack for 47 miles, then I rode into some sand and went sliding onto the ground. That took the wind out of my sails, but I just got up, cut and bleeding, picked up my bike, and rode the remaining 13 miles. I had visualized crossing that finish line and, by God, I was going to! In a blur of exhaustion and exhilaration, I saw the crowds of people and balloons come into view and I knew I had made it. My mom and family cheered as tears of joy, relief, and gratitude streamed down my face.
I came back to do it again the next year, but I noticed that the last two-thirds of the ride felt all uphill. How could this have been the same route? Once again I didn’t think I would make it, and once again I made my belief in myself propel me to the finish line.
All I wanted to do was get off that bike and rest my legs, but inside I was jumping up and down with joy, too. I had pushed myself again, and it felt great! I did it for myself, for my mom, and to raise awareness of the heart, that little muscle that needs love as well as medical health to function properly.
On May 18 I participated for the third year in a row. My legs began to feel fatigued after 25 miles. I knocked that thought right out of my mind—I had to. The uphill part seemed to start even sooner, but overall this year felt more manageable. At the last rest stop, with 19 miles to go, the team I rode with started complaining that they were tired. “No, you’re not!” I said, cheering them on. “Let’s go—we can do this!” I put my music on and started zoning out to it. I was dancing in my mind toward home. At about 52 miles my legs were getting weak, my tush was aching, but nothing was going to stop me. With 3 miles to go, I was so close to home that I could taste it. A burst of energy bolted me across the finish line in a sea of red and white balloons. I could hear my son say, “Here comes Mommy.”
My mom, my husband, and my daughter snapped pictures and jumped up and down with joy. All I wanted to do was get off that bike and rest my legs, but inside I was jumping up and down with joy, too. I had pushed myself again, and it felt great! I did it for myself, for my mom, and to raise awareness of the heart, that little muscle that needs love as well as medical health to function properly.
Have you ever risen to a challenge that made you feel this way?
<pThis article was originally published on May 21, 2013.