365 pounds. Size 48 pants. 4XL shirt.
As a former high school and college athlete, Chris Schmidt typically weighed in at 185 pounds. Ten years later, he found himself asking how he had gotten to this point.
The pivotal moment came while he was assistant basketball coach at Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Kentucky and was asked to coach the cycling team. He knew nothing about cycling but loved coaching and mentoring students. This position presented a good income opportunity for he and his growing family, but how could he say yes when his weight and health had gotten so out of control?
Schmidt dove in anyway—leaning on his people skills and general athletic conditioning while learning about cycling, often from the student-athletes themselves. Because he couldn’t keep up with the team as they rode, he would drive out to check on them. As his relationship with the team developed, they finally said, “Coach, you need to buy a bike!” So he bought a purple 61cm LeMond Reno from the father of one of his students.
For his first ride, he set a goal of riding from the college to the start of the training road his team used nearly everyday—a simple stop sign about six miles away seemed doable. He didn’t make it on that first trip, but he kept trying and eventually did. He continued to set reasonable, achievable goals for himself and met them. He started eating better, he started feeling better and then the weight started to come off.
365 was now 325. 325 became 300. Under 300 was a big milestone. He was now riding further, faster and breaking far fewer wheel spokes. Then 285 dropped to 265. It was time to start racing.
He started doing road races and crits. He was always the biggest guy but surprised himself by hanging with the main field. That success motivated him to try triathlons—doing a sprint distance, then an olympic, followed by a half. By his first full Ironman in May 2012, he was down to 255 pounds and was transformed beyond just the weight.
The numbers no longer hold a lot of motivation for Schmidt. What he has learned from his lifestyle changes have a far greater power over his desire to set new goals. One of the greatest gifts from his experience has been sharing it with others. Schmidt now travels the country as a motivational speaker and coaches individuals through his new role as Dean of Students.
“This whole journey changed everything for me,” said Schmidt. “I look at how riding makes me feel, how it affects my family. The bike has really made all the difference.”
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Photo by Meg McMahon