NWA mom talks about the Tour de Cure, the Biggest Loser and how she’s riding to good health

Britney Schrag has been an active part of the Motherlode community for several years now. So when she reached out and asked us to share an online Facebook invitation about a fundraiser at Cherry Berry recently, we were happy to add the info to our Motherlode page.

In her note to us, Britney wrote, “Cycling has change my life, obliterated my risk of Type 2 diabetes, and led to meeting so many great people”. We were intrigued to hear more, so we asked if she’d be up for an interview. Her answers to our questions are below.

NOTE: Britney is participating in the Tour de Cure event THIS SATURDAY. Click here for more information about participating in the event (Oct. 6).

Q: Why do you think it’s important to participate in the Tour de Cure?

Saturday, October 6th, ADA NWA Tour de Cure and Family Health Festival will be at Arvest Ballpark in Springdale. The Northwest Arkansas American Diabetes Association hosts the Tour de Cure to raise money that makes a huge impact in the lives of local diabetics. An impressive 75% of every dollar spent by the ADA supports research, advocacy, and services for people affected by diabetes. With nearly 26 million American children and adults have been diagnosed with diabetes, this disease affects men, women, young, and old. Every participant, volunteer, and festival attendee helps create a more supportive and aware community in Northwest Arkansas by drawing attention to this potentially devastating disease. The potential side effects of diabetes include an increased risk of heart disease and stroke, the leading cause of kidney failure, nervous system disease and non-traumatic lower-limb amputations.  This is serious! I have been on the volunteer committee planning a spectacular event, and on October 6th I will be riding in the 100-mile tour!

Q: How long have you been cycling and how/why did you get started?

At 250 pounds and sedentary, I was nearly another member of this staggering statistic. Then almost two years ago I decided to make a change… It began with a NBC Biggest Loser casting call. While I didn’t make it onto the show, I made the realization that if I my health was worth taking several weeks away from my family for a game show, it was worth taking time for myself at the gym finding exercises I could enjoy. I have found several classes that I enjoy, but spin class has been one of my favorites!

I have a 12 year old Schwinn mountain bike that had seen 3 moves but less than 100 miles of actual ride time…. My husband has been commuting to work via the Fayetteville Trail System, so with our daughter in a cycling trailer, we started hitting the trails! My first few trips I was exhausted after less than 10 miles… One great thing about cycling is the lower impact on my joints. I have by every definition bad knees, having broken one and dislocated the other…. Cycling is the one exercise I know I can stick with, indoors and out, alone or with a group.  I can take my bike on vacation and even take a cycling vacation :)!

Q: What has cycling meant to you?

Cycling is amazing. It is one of the few activities that can easily be adapted to include your children, significant others, friends, or to do solo. I have met amazing people, seen some beautiful country scenery, and gained independence and strength. By doing something I love, that is improving my health, I am also being given the opportunity to help my community and bring new awareness to diabetes and obesity…. Cycling is a huge blessing and is helping put a new perspective to my life!  While I’m still getting faster and learning technique, a 20-40 mile trip is easily a regular part of my weekend fun!

Q: What advice would you give another mom who is considering taking up the sport?

As Nike says, “Just Do It!” There’s a reason kids love riding their bikes!  The wind in your hair and freedom, it is just plain fun! I have found some great friends to ride with at Phat Tire Bike Shop in Fayetteville. Every Sunday morning at 8am they have a “Beginner’s Ride.” We ride a little on the road and the Fayetteville Trails… The best part is that it is a “no-drop” group.  This means we keep at an easy pace, if anyone has a flat or needs a break we take one, and you’re not going to be left behind! We need more women cyclists, whether casual or competitive, our children need to see us being more active.  My best advice is to keep at it, find someone to share your cycling joys, and get a pair of bike shorts…. You wouldn’t run a marathon in flip flops and jeans, cycling shorts make the ride more comfortable which will help you go a lot longer, stronger, and further!

Q: Can moms just dust off their old bikes or should they consider buying a new one? What kind?

Yes!  It is possible to dust off the old one and they should definitely consider buying a new one…. If you have a bike you can call the local bike shop and ask about a tune up. Bike City Recyclery offers classes for women on bike maintenance and has a shop with tools! After a couple months of riding, I decided I wanted a lighter bike (my mountain bike was over 30#’s). While looking at Craigslist and Ebay, I found some great deals on used bikes, but be careful and know what you’re buying. Bike size and fit are really important when buying a bike, especially a road bike, which is what I decided to buy. Different companies each have a different idea about what women are like…. So try several bikes and brands.

When I weighed the pros and cons, how much I planned to use the bike, where I wanted to go with it, and what we could afford, I chose a new (on sale) Specialized Dolce Elite (Women’s Specific Design)… A perk to buying from your local bike shop is that most do free tune ups and you have a warranty for the first year or so. I’ve already had a tune up AND had a part replaced under warranty!  Since buying my bike in late June I’ve put well over 600 miles on it… If you have questions about different styles of bikes or want someone to go with you to the bike shop, I’d love to help other women get into the sport!

Q: What’s your best takeaway lesson from your cycling adventures so far?

Arkansas really is the natural state! We’ve had standoffs with deer, squirrels, rabbits, baby skunks, and recently a fox… There are some smelly smelly things out there!  But we’ve seen and experienced things we never would have in a car!

People are more often than not considerate to each other. While I have had some people honk and yell, people are typically cautious, kind (even checking on us in the dead of summer), and even cheer you on as you grind your way up a steep hill…

The most important take away is that “I can.” I can drive myself to lose over 50#’s, to change the path my health is headed down, and through all the ups and downs, I can do anything I want to do! Many mommies lose their identity when they have kiddos. Cycling has been my opportunity to discover myself again.

E-mail Britney: She says, “If people want to email me questions about cycling or need help getting into the sport I am more than willing to help… Especially other mommies and women! Her email is miabellasmom{at}gmail{dot}com. Thanks for sharing your journey with us, Britney!