by Kate Heavers, guest blogger & Tour de Jersey participant
Kate Heavers is a member of Can Do Fitness in Princeton and will be taking place in the Tour de Jersey 3-Hour Spinning Challenge on March 9 to benefit Special Olympics New Jersey. Here, she shares her story of training for the challenge:
I had an experience the other day that made me realize how much energy I’m able to derive from others.
I like to take the long way out when the school day is over. I think it’s about ¼-mile from my classroom to my car, and when I step out the door, the weather is always a shock since I’ve been holed up in my classroom all day. Whatever the day is like, I love hearing the music blasting through the weight room door. Then I keep walking and see the kids running on the track. If I hear the coach’s voice, I’m automatically inspired because I’m instantaneously brought back 20 years. When I hear him yell, “Come on!” it might as well be Coach Doc O’Dell yelling the very same thing as I’m running an 800M race in my 16-year-old body.
Well, the experience was this: I walked past the bubble (an enclosed swimming pool that is open in summer and used by our swim team in winter) and heard the most deafening roar of a crowd. There was obviously a swim meet in progress and parents, coaches and teammates from both teams were shouting at the top of their lungs.
SONJ athlete Katie McGee, seen here competing in cycling at the Fall Sports Festival is also training for Tour de Jersey.
To hear all those voices in unison, so passionate and so heartfelt, giving all they had to spur on the athletes in whom they had so much invested, moved me. I stood for a moment, just listening, imagining the scene inside and knowing in my heart how very much the same we all are.
We all want to try our best and be our best – I don’t know a single person who doesn’t want that deep down for themselves – and we all want to be loved so much that someone will cheer their heart out for us. In that moment, I was also reminded of how much striving we all do and how much we really all do need others to keep us going.
My friendships from spin class at Can Do Fitness in Princeton have enriched my life so much that it is hard to actually describe in words. Suffice it to say that we feel inextricably tied together because of our shared goals. We each wake up between 4:30 and 5:00 a.m. to be at the gym. By 5:45, we’re on our spin bikes and our legs are flying. By just past 7:00, we’re showered and shouting to one another over the loud hair dryers.
There is a fantastic camaraderie I only theoretically knew existed before this past fall when we all finally stopped being strangers in the spin room and started being sisters.
It’s been a long time since I had a coach yelling at me, but one of the absolute best parts of the past thirteen months of my newfound sport has been all the coaching I’ve received. Whether it’s Michael yelling, “Dig deep! I know you can do this!” or Sue whooping with her boundless energy at 5:45 a.m., I have finally found a place where I can get my fill of inspiration…and then some.
I decided to try spinning after a stress fracture in my right foot wouldn’t heal after two years of my “giving up” running. Finally, I really knew I had to find a new sport because the pain lingered endlessly. Spin was the answer.
With an incredible combination of strength and cardio built into every single ride, amazingly even with the jumps, there is no impact. It is a miracle sport. Add to that the awesome teachers and the beat of the music, and I’m veritably in Heaven every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday morning.
Now that I’m training for the 3-hour Tour de Jersey on March 9th to benefit Special Olympics New Jersey, I’ve taken to riding all alone in the empty spin room on the off mornings we don’t have class. I think about the wonderful friends I’ve met through spinning and about how much heat we produce together as a group. Even the anticipation of riding with a great teacher and a full class the next morning can spur me on and make me ride harder, all alone in an empty room on a solitary bike with my iPod.
I’ve had the pleasure of meeting two Special Olympics New Jersey athletes who are also training for the 3-hour challenge: Katie & Eric. I met Katie two weeks ago when we did a two-hour ride with Germaine. With her bright shock of blonde hair and her perpetual smile, she is a beautiful sight to behold. It was her first long ride and mid-way, I reached over and gave her a hi-five in the air. She grinned ear-to-ear and kept riding…smoothly, effortlessly, enjoying every second just like I was.
SONJ athlete Eric Kish, also competes in cycling in the fall. He’s joining our guest blogger Kate at Tour de Jersey.
In one class, Germaine asked Eric to ride in the front of the room with her. I loved watching him ride. His effort – even just his presence – inspired me to give that ride my “everything” that day. He loves to cheer for everyone even as he’s riding himself. And he loves being a part of our training group, just as Katie does.
I’ve also met Katie’s mother, Joan, who exudes such pride and joy when she speaks of her daughter. She told me about how much Katie loves spinning and how it’s her favorite of the myriad sports she competes in for the Special Olympics New Jersey.
It’s a great feeling to know that others are working hard too and getting joy from it. Even sitting here right now in the serious and silent library, I find myself both humored and spurred on by a kid who is whispering/rapping to himself as he solves his math problems. It makes me smile. And it makes me feel good.
Whether it’s intellectual or physical, I thrive on the energy of others to make me try harder, go farther, do more, be more. As my yoga teacher Denise was just saying yesterday, you have to be and do to find out who you are.
It was when I wrote a note to my spin instructor Germaine that I inadvertently got myself a chance to be heard. I wanted to thank her for her inspirational coaching style, and for the time she told Eric he was beautiful. I felt like she was telling us ALL that we were beautiful, too, and that she really loved being there coaching us. Since I am a teacher, I know how good it feels to be thanked and I know how much it inspires me to keep helping others when they say thank you. In fact, I look at this piece of writing as one huge expression of gratitude.
I’m grateful for all the coaches I’ve ever had who encouraged me to reach for new heights. I’m grateful for my parents, who encouraged me to try new things, and who took us hiking in the White Mountains as kids so we could feel what being fit really meant we could see and experience. I’m grateful for a strong and healthy body that enables me to ride and push myself to my physical limits. I’m grateful to all my friends and former students who have donated to my Tour de Jersey donation page to raise money so that Special Olympics athletes can train and compete. I’m grateful to all the people who ride with me every week, and my teachers who push me to keep reaching higher.
If I could, I would write to every person I’ve ever witnessed doing something that took stamina, courage, and mental strength to thank them for the way that their personal effort has been an inspiration to me.
Mostly though, I want the athletes of the Special Olympics New Jersey to know how much they inspire us all.
Peace, joy, and happiness,