Got your attention? I’m talking about an eight day bicycle trip I took through Eastern Europe. This was really more than just a vacation. It was truly a journey that proved that we can all rise to the challenge and feel our life has changed for the better when we do.
My husband David (Director/Owner of Camp Shane weight loss camp for children) is an avid road and mountain bicyclist. He takes a bicycle trip each fall, often in Europe, and returns regaling me with gushing stories about his great rides, the challenging climbs, the exciting down hills, the delicious meals and the good company. Several months after his last trip to Italy I had to finally ban his New York accented “Bon Giorno’s” and to tell him that NO, I would not call him “Generale!”
OK, I was getting jealous and wanted to go on these trips too. So last fall we agreed to try an easy trip and spent a few days riding some gentle roads in southern Vermont. I liked it. It was nice. Not too challenging. And of course, I didn’t get back on the bicycle all year for every excuse you’ve heard or used yourself.
So this summer, late one evening, as I lay sprawled and exhausted in the family room, David exclaims: “I found the perfect Backroads trip through Eastern Europe; it’s a bit harder but I’m sure you can handle it.” I said, “Sign me up!” I didn’t take a close look at the online itinerary. That is, not until shortly before the trip when I observed David pale while reviewing the more detailed itinerary that came in the mail. We’d ride out of Hungary, through Slovakia and the Tatra Mountains and finish in Poland. Eight days. Minimum mileage per day about 25. Phrases like “heart pumping climbs,” “not for the faint of heart” and “steep, curved down hills, over rough roads” and “occasional highway traffic” panicked me. What had my darling husband signed me up for? No doubt David could keep up. Me, I was dead meat. I had a clear vision of spending much of the vacation riding the support van and then being a lump at dinner with no glory or stories to share.
After beating David about the head a bit, I reconciled myself to the fact I was going to do this and it wasn’t going to be pretty.
Day 1 – Hungary. We are a group of 21 people, including ten bicycling friends from Canada and five from the U.S. We saddle up and before I can find the brakes and the road, the group has zipped out, not to be seen again until we arrive at the hotel. Oh boy. I shakily get on the bike and we do our first day’s “warm up” ride of 18 miles. We arrived to find the Canadians chugging beers and seemingly unconcerned that one of their group hadn’t arrived yet because he rode 50 kilometers (31 miles) the wrong way. These people could ride! I felt so out of place. You know, like when you go to a step aerobics or dance class that the same group has been doing for years and you feel out of sync and out of shape. Honestly, I wanted to quit after day one! But as my Shane Diet Resorts guests know, we have to push through the early pain and uncertainty to get our exercise legs.
And so I did.
Day 2: 25 miles. Day 3: 24 miles. Day 4: 28 miles. Day 5: A “strenuous” seven mile Mountain Goat trail hike in the High Tatra Mountains. Damn, those Canadians hike even faster than they bike! I contributed a big toe nail trying (and failing) to keep up with them. But even they were crying after this one. Day 6: 20 miles. Day 7: I slept in! Day 8: 33 miles.
By the end – though I’d have bet against myself – I became a biker. I began to relax. I didn’t panic at the steep down hills (though I kept testing those brakes!). I didn’t give up at (most) of the up hills. I felt my legs get stronger. I began to enjoy the lush scenery. And I fell in love with biking.
Though the other guests were advanced riders, they were supportive and encouraging – just like Shane Diet Resorts guests and Camp Shane campers are to one another as they all strive to achieve the same goal of a healthy lifestyle. The Backroads trip leaders, like our staff at Shane Diet Resorts and Camp Shane, were inspiring and caring. They taught, led and made a challenging experience a resounding success.
I am now shopping for a new road bicycle as my 52nd birthday gift to myself. I will use this one and all I can say is: “My new Canadian friends – watch out!” Okay, in my dreams, but I’ll at least be in the same county as them the next time…
And to my dear 2010 Shane Diet Resorts guests: you had success this summer too. You challenged yourselves and each other. The staff brought you to a better, healthier you. Have you found it hard to keep exercising? Don’t ever give up and remember, if I can bike 148 miles in 8 days, you can do anything. Get back on your bike, into the gym, out walking, or swimming. And tell us all about your challenges and achievements since you left Shane Diet Resorts so we can share in it with you.
Fond and achy regards,
Shane Diet Resorts
Ziporah Janowski is the President/Founder of Shane Diet & Lifestyle Resorts, a weight loss program for adults and young adults. She works alongside her husband, David Ettenberg, Director/Owner of Camp Shane weight loss camp for children and teenagers. Together, they aim to fight obesity while encouraging a healthy lifestyle.