Your Stories / Inspiration

Brenda Taylor Coleman’s Story in Her Own Words–From Smoker to Spandex

brenda 1It was December before my 40th birthday and on Christmas day friends were over for dinner and she asked if I wanted to go “burn one” out on the front porch. That was the last cigarette I smoked.  I didn’t want to be 40 and still a smoker.  I had been smoking less and less as my children got older.  I was embarrassed by this habit and wanted a change. I could not stand the way it made my hands smell.  I really only went outside to smoke a cigarette.  My source of exercise was redoing two older homes and a vintage trailer.  For 15 years in order to make sure I stayed “skinny” I smoked and never ate lunch. I was focused on looks not health.

Like many I joined a gym in January.  But unlike most I never quit and 11 years later I’m in the gym everyday.  The transition was very gradual.  I was the perfect weight and made sure I had cute gym clothes.  But I was “skinny fat”.  I started attending classes like Body Pump, and Body Flow.  I liked the instructors, the social aspect of the classes, the fact that you were missed if you couldn’t attend class.  In order to sustain this new endeavor I also had to start eating better.  brenda 3

The challenges of joining a gym and beginning to change your habits and health are really boiled down to one thing and that is redefining yourself.  You were know as the smoker and now your out in public in spandex.  You know your changing but you don’t know what you are going to become.  I began to want to do other things like go hiking and kayaking.  After a spill down a hiking trail at Garner State Park I partially tore my ACL in my left knee.  I began rehab and they were able to fix the tear.  I continued to go to my classes and do all the exercises I could while the knee healed.  One day I was out in the cardio area on the recumbent bike when one of the spin instructors walked by and said you need to be in spin class.  I was like “no, that’s not for me that’s for hard core cyclist and athletes’.  He assured me it was just folks who liked to sweat.  So I went to a class that this particular instructor taught and he helped set me up on the bike.  I really thought I was going to hurl in that first class to the point I was planning my tactic.  I located the trash cans and figured out I could not throw up over the handle bars as the fly wheel was on the  front and it would  send it everywhere.  I made it through that class and came back for more.  I did around 10 spin classes before I decided to buy my first pair of spin shorts. My husband was extremely supportive of my lifestyle change.  Within 6 months others were noticing the changes is my body.brenda 2

Today I am an active cyclist riding over 5000 miles a year, I also race in the the Tour de Gruene Team Time Trials.  I also paddle board, kayak, hike and camp.  Recently my husband and I took our vintage travel trailer to Ft. Davis for the Cyclefest.  It was one of our best experiences we hiked, bike and swam until our hearts were content. Planning to go back again next year and every year after.

I workout regardless of if I want to or not. Most of the time I find that once I am up and dressed the mind battle is over and I know the coming workout will make me feel better especially mentally. It is all a mental challenge, even when doing something you love sometimes you just want to go home.  With cycling it always hurts, but with good training you learn how to take the suffering longer.

brenda and bike texas at capitol

As a cycling advocate and member of the Bike Texas Board of Directors, Brenda joins others to advocate for safe cycling legislation at the State Capitol in Austin

As a NASM Certified Personal Trainer,  I see all the different ways people refuse to change, but want the results badly.  You cannot achieve weight loss, toned bodies, become a faster runner, etc. without change.  You have to embrace change.  You can’t hold on to the old eating habits and work out patterns if you want to see results. Most days I feel more like a counselor, constantly juggling when to push for changes in the diet, when to just shut up and listen, when to just relax and have fun. What a great job!  Exhausting at times.  I see about 22 clients a week and teach Group Exercise classes 4 times a week.  It is very fulfilling work, and I like learning about the different people who come into my life. I have also had to learn how to carve out time for my own training.  Between my family, clients, classes and my own training which includes meal prepping, it’s a busy life. The joys of watching change occur in my and my clients life is what makes the job worth it.

Why am I working on fitness?  Linda Hedges

linda hedges 5

When she retired after 18 1/2 years as Regional Interpretive Specialist with Texas Parks and Wildlife, Linda Hedges, 57, of Fort Davis, Texas, started taking weight training more seriously. Though she’d worked with a trainer for a couple of years, the retirement forced a change. Linda hedges 3

Linda offers a reason why, “Women my age need to strongly consider weight-bearing activity and weight-lifting to ward off osteoporosis for sure. And there are so many other health benefits. One is never too old to start exercising! The results can be amazing. Working with a trainer has really helped me to progress.” And her trainer, Alan Vana of Ironheart Gym in Marfa, Texas agrees. “All business when Linda’s in the gym! Great job, Linda!” linda hedges 1

Her friends praise the results:

“Dang, girl! I am impressed!
“Your muscles are badass”
“You look fabulous!”
“All I see is your strength, and that is very attractive.”

So why is Linda working on fitness? “I think that, particularly as we get older, it becomes our duty. It just takes a little more effort, but it’s so worth it. Use it or lose it, as they say! When we are fit — and that includes both exercising and eating right — then we feel and look our best. I want to live as long as I can, as HEALTHFULLY as I can. I want to stay off of medications and avoid joint replacement surgery if possible, too. Diet and exercise are huge components of that.”

Linda hedges 2Linda continues many of the same activities she enjoyed before including hiking and cycling in the Texas Mountains and on excursions in Europe, Costa Rica, Canada and throughout the U.S.

linda hedges on bikeLinda always rides in the annual Wheels for Meals fundraising bike ride, benefiting the Food Pantry of Jeff Davis County. The event takes riders on part of the Scenic Loop through the Davis Mountains and to the tiny town of Valentine, the full route extending 88 miles. The ride provides critical support for nutritious, supplemental food for qualifying households in her community. Hitting her fundraising goal is as satisfying as completing all the miles.
“I’ve ridden as many as 63 miles (100 km) of the 88 mile course; one of these days, I’m going to ride all 88.”

Now there’s a goal for 2016!

“Why do I ride? You will eventually FLY down the other side.”  Artist, Carola Locke

Through friends, we met artist and cyclist Carola Locke.  Her story about getting on the bike for the first time as an adult? Inspiring! carola and bike indian lodge

“My husband did it. I had ridden a bit as a child, but never even considered it as an adult. It was one of those “impossible” things that gifted athletes did. However, shortly after being married, my husband found me an old steel road bike, rebuilt it, and gave it to me. I fearfully started riding it, but soon enough remembered what to do, and was thrilled with the rush and freedom which riding invokes. That was about ten years ago. Riding a bike, whether for exercise, to commute, for socialization, or for therapy, has encouraged me to tackle fears which, otherwise, I never would have been brave enough to encounter. Riding has taught me to pace myself in life, and not to expect instant results. It has helped me learn that like riding up a hill, sometimes everything sucks, but it is only for a time; you will eventually fly down the other side.

32 The Guru emal

The Guru by Carola Locke

My husband and I came out (to Fort Davis, TX) together to ride Cyclefest, and while it is the hardest ride I’ve done yet, it is also my favorite. The clean air and clear night sky, being able to see for miles, this area is my favorite in Texas. I’ve ridden the 75m route three times now, and hope to ride it many more times.”

As for the art:

“I have always been artistic. But, about ten years ago (oddly the same time I began riding), I picked up a paintbrush and began trying to hone my skills. I painted a lot of people, beer, and nature themed pieces, but it wasn’t until three years ago that I found my niche in painting bikes and their riders. The first piece I tried, “The Guru”, floored me with how well it turned out. Usually, when I finish a painting I stand back and am amazed. It doesn’t even feel like I painted them sometimes. I began showing my work two years ago. I love watching people enjoy the work I’ve done. Art allows me to meet people and travel and connect. As I meet cyclists at events I am flooded with new ideas and inspiration.

36 Trinity email

36 Trinity by Carola Locke

Sometimes, I’ll be at a ride and see a really neat bike and will walk up and say “I don’t know you, but you have a great bike. Can I photograph it and paint it?” Let me tell you, that’s a great way to make a new friend!”

We asked Carola how we can see more of her work, how she shares and sells it, and her thoughts about being a working artist:

“There is much truth to the term “starving artist”, as it is a difficult field to make a name in, but I consider myself lucky that I’ve managed to incorporate my gift (painting) with my passion (cycling). If I make money at an event, great, but if I leave having talked to other cyclists and gained new inspiration, that is often better. My website is

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