What does it mean to you to be an athlete?
The definition for me is that you set goals and you hold to them. There are some days you don’t want to ride, but you know that it’s part of the process, so you buck up and push to your highest degree, whatever that might be.
How did you find cycling?
I like to set lofty fitness goals. My friend had done the Ride to Conquer Cancer, which is 250 km from Vancouver to Seattle over two days. In 2006, my husband’s uncle died of cancer, so we agreed to do it. This was our fifth consecutive year participating.
What challenges did you face when you first started riding?
When you’ve got a heavier body, climbing hills is not the funnest thing. Also, when you’re a size 16, you’re not a typical-looking cyclist. The sport can be very intimidating to people who look like me. That’s why it’s important for people to see that “Hey, there are people like me out there doing that!”
Do you have advice for plus-size people who want to get started?
It’s important to get a professional bike fit. Finding the right style of bike is also key. A lot of people prefer a cruiser because it’s more comfortable. On a road bike, there’s a lot of weight resting on your wrists. And some people are getting electric bikes—because they may not otherwise cycle if they don’t have the help up the hills.
In your book you mention the importance of finding a support system.
That’s actually one of the reasons I started my own team [to do the Ride to Conquer Cancer]. I live on the North Shore of Vancouver; people are super athletic here. So for me to join a cycling team, I’d have to be way faster than I am. It’s discouraging to people when they go to join something and they’re met with a standard they can’t attain. Find people who are your pace and understand your challenges.
How do you find these people?
I have a private Facebook group called Big Fit Girl. Cyclists are using it to meet up in their communities. There are about 2,000 members, and it’s a crazy-fast-growing global community.
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How can people nurture a relationship with food rather than villainize it?
I had to let go of dieting. I was constantly in this cycle of attempting and failing to lose weight. When I decided that I was going to be the healthiest I could be and fuel my body for athletic performance, that’s when I found freedom. I could live my life without feeling like a constant failure.
People see larger-bodied cyclists and assume they’re beginners. What’s the best way to deal with that?
This happens to me all the time and I’ve been a personal trainer for 10 years. It’s annoying, but I don’t blame people when all we see in the media is that elite-type body. But as the message starts to change, people will be more accustomed to seeing diversity, so it won’t be an anomaly if you’re at a bike race or in the gym—you won’t be the token fat person who decided to get out on a bike for the first time ever. People will start to understand that athletes come in all shapes and sizes.
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