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by Carole Carson, AARP, October 16, 2008
Barbara Messer, 49, of Nevada City, Calif., has found a sport she loves. She's a self-described "cycling enthusiast."
In 1972, Barbara was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Her treatment requires her to take insulin, to constantly monitor what she eats, and to test her blood-sugar levels five to seven times a day. "It's still hard," Barbara says, "to control my body chemistry."
Although Barbara was moderately active in her youth, she added pounds during her college years and didn't drop to a normal weight until her mid-20s when she began exercising regularly. Her boss talked her into going to a gym three days a week with a short 20- to 30-minute workout. Now she does 60-minute workouts four times a week, plus one or two bike rides.
After Barbara completed a six-day cycling tour in Arizona on a whim, she realized she was hooked. She had considered cycling a noncompetitive sport, which was a plus since she didn't think she was all that great at team sports.
"Now I know," Barbara says, "that anything can be competitive. But my main competitor is myself. I take pride in improving my strength and abilities. I love feeling my own strength when I'm riding. It's a great feeling to get to the top of yet another hill, huffing and puffing, and then go zipping down, as if I have not a care in the world."
Barbara has definitely found her motivation, but she adds that her reasons to exercise have varied. Sometimes the reasons, such as her diabetes, were serious. Other times, it was just for the fun of it. "What's important," she says, "is to persevere."
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