Posted by: sonewjersey | March 12, 2013

Riding, Inspired: My Tour de Jersey Experience

by Kate Heavers, guest blogger & Tour de Jersey participant

Kate Heavers is a member of Can Do Fitness in Princeton and participated in the Tour de Jersey 3-Hour Spinning Challenge on March 9 to benefit Special Olympics New Jersey. Here, she shares her experience:

Kate, in pink, pushes through Tour de Jersey.

Kate, in pink, pushes through Tour de Jersey.

As I write this, another lucky group of energetic souls are spinning their way to glory and joy at Tour de Jersey, a 3-Hour Spin Challenge to benefit Special Olympics New Jersey! At just the thought of it, I feel inspired to write about my experience at Can Do Fitness yesterday, March 9, 2013.

In September 2012, I ran the Philadelphia Rock ‘n’ Roll half marathon. Music made the painful experience bearable. My hips started aching terribly at mile three and the pain persisted through the finish line. Only the bands playing their drums and guitars kept me going. Without music, without a companion, without words of encouragement, it was a long and lonely run.

Six months later, I found myself in a room pulsing with life and positive energy. No, I couldn’t see the beautiful sparkling water of a real river beside me or feel the sun burning my skin, but there were plenty of beautiful scenes from nature being displayed on the huge screens at the front of the room. Better than that, there was a group of people in solidarity who cheered for me and for whom I cheered for three hours straight.

Slide after slide of inspirational quotes (one of my top ten favorite things in the world, if an inspirational quote can be called a thing) kept me newly inspired every couple of minutes. As far as pain – aside from the expected burn in my quads on the mountain section, and the expected gasping for air during the circuits of the last hour – there was only a numb rear end with which to contend. Truly, there was NO pain and so much GAIN.

Nothing I have ever experienced in the realm of exercise and competition can compare to the skilled, compassionate and inspirational coaching of three remarkable women: Germaine, Nancy, and Beverly.

My last coach, before I encountered the amazing coaches at Can Do, was mother, Dr. Barbara Heavers. She was my high school track coach. I hadn’t experienced the loving yet tough discipline of a coach in all the years that have passed since then. In training for this spin ride over the past two months, I finally have. Yesterday was a culmination of the best coaching.

Kate rides behind Special Olympics New Jersey athlete Shaun, who kept her inspired.

Kate (center) rides behind Special Olympics New Jersey athlete Shaun (front right), who kept her inspired.

One slide said, “Be inspired. Be inspiring.” I decided right then and there that I wanted to be an inspiration during the ride! After all, I was riding behind Special Olympics New Jersey athlete Shaun. It felt easy to make the decision, because in front of me were three strong and beautiful women riding their hearts out while at the same time giving their everything to coaching us.

At first, when the ride began, I was reading the quotes and consciously thinking about them. Later, as I began to fatigue and my thoughts slowed, the words felt as though they were merging directly with my mind. I was thinking less and being more.

At one point far into the ride, “Don’t you worry, Child,” was on the screen and I felt an overwhelming urge to cry. My throat started tightening up and I could feel my airways beginning to constrict. I felt such relief at knowing I was safe and free of worry. It was an emotionally moving experience to be riding with all my body and mind and feeling such a distinct lack of worry.

Our three teachers, Beverly, Nancy, and Germaine, shared the stage. They rode in front of us and served as both visual and auditory sources of inspiration. They never encroached upon one another or tried to outshine one another. They displayed teamwork and mutual love and respect.

Germaine told us to go beyond our “self-perceived limitations.” I took this to heart. She told us that what our minds believe our bodies will do. She encouraged us to breathe out any negative energy and breathe in positivity into the space that remained.

Beverly took us up Mount Can Do. She told us to “be at ease” as we pushed up the steep ascent for an hour. She kept us calm as we performed a true physical feat of strength and endurance.

Nancy gave us a visualization that hit close to home for me, having come to New Jersey at 18 years old to attend Princeton University. We rode (in our mind’s eye) from Can Do Fitness in Forrestal Village, down Route 1 to Washington Road, over the bridge across Carnegie Lake, into the heart of town on Nassau Street, around a make-believe roundabout at the Garden Theater, and back.

We rode that circuit five times. I was glad I had not known such a challenge was ahead during the first two hours of the ride, because it was hard. But with three circuits down – three imaginary (yet incredibly taxing) trips into town – I felt completely elated. “I am doing this!” I thought, my legs a blur on the bike. The music was pulsing and my heart was beating out of my chest.

Wendy beside me was giving it all she had – I could see her out of the corner of my eye. Shaun in front of me had an amazing burst of speed in the final circuit that he maintained through the finish line. I could feel Lisa’s intensity behind me. She never let up, and at one point she told me, “I’m right behind you, Kate.”

Since I was riding in front and could see the pack of the room behind me the entire time, every time I caught a glimpse of Kathy in the reflection I was reminded to stay smooth. She rode so smoothly and so steadily for three straight hours that it was simply a beautiful sight to behold. I felt so proud to be there, so lucky to be riding with such a remarkable group of men and women.

I don’t know how many of the other spinners were brand new to the experience, or how many came in that morning with a shadow of a sliver of fear that they weren’t strong enough or brave enough to endure such a test of physical and mental strength, but I know that for me it truly was a test. And I made it. We all did.

I am grateful for all the hard work, love, and support from the teachers at Can Do Fitness – Michael, Sue, Beverly, Germaine, Ladan and Nancy – and to Jeanene from Special Olympics New Jersey for making the whole thing happen. I am also grateful to the lovely Fran Mandel for signing me up as a member of Can Do Fitness in the first place. I signed up the month after my beloved father Richard Heavers passed away in November 2011. I remember telling Fran it was a strange coincidence that the price of my father’s pine box coffin was the price of a year’s membership at Can Do.

This summer, my family and I will go to Ireland (the Homeland, as he called it) in honor of my father. It just so happens that one of the women spinning yesterday was June, from County Galway, where we will be headed. I have found that the connections we make are boundless and endless, and that this new experience of spin continues to just that. We make connections and forge ahead. We ride on together into the future and we transform ourselves and our world.

It is 11:38 a.m. on Sunday, March 10th. I know Katie, the Special Olympics athlete I trained with, is having a great ride at this moment. I’m breathing with her. And I know she is smiling!



  1. everyone at Can Do Fitness was absolutely AWESOME! Germaine and all participants have my deepest gratitude. Katie’s Mom.

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