While on the trail yesterday, I ran into my local trail building crew. Progressive Trail Design out of Fayetteville, Arkansas does a fantastic job of building trails in Northwest Arkansas as well as traveling to other parts of North America to provide top quality singletrack to locales blessed with the legacy this group leaves behind. While talking with the trail workers, I was convinced to write my story, one I have contemplated sharing for quite some time.

Mountain biking quite literally has saved my life.

Two years ago, at 31 years old, I weighed nearly 360 pounds, had blood pressure and blood sugar off the charts, my feet hurt, my back hurt, and walking up a short flight of stairs caused me to gasp for breath. Several years ago, I had discovered mountain biking, but after some time in a sedentary lifestyle, playing semi-pro football, dabbling in power lifting, eating way too much, and working in an office, my weight had spiraled out of control. I honestly thought surgery was my only option for losing weight. My goal of getting down to 240 pounds seemed like an impossibility. I knew at the time, with a nearly two year old son, that I needed a lifestyle change because I was headed for an early grave and did not expect to see my 40th birthday. I started a new job in an area with excellent access to local mountain bike trails. I decided it was time to dust off my old Kona Hoss Dee-Lux and start regular trail rides on my lunch hour. I religiously rode 4-5 days per week, and combined with a more sensible diet, I have lost 165 pounds. I now enjoy 3-4 rides per week on the same Kona, converted to a single speed, along with cross training including running, hiking, backpacking and weight training and am down to 195 pounds. I am more fit and healthy now than I have ever been before. I don’t believe that if a fitness option that I truly loved were available to me I would have ever achieved this kind of success.

I don’t think my story really resonated with me until yesterday when speaking with the local trail crew. They were amazed at my weight loss and told me that it was stories like mine that kept them motivated and inspired to do the work they do when they could just as easily be involved in commercial construction for more money. It is the transformative nature of trails and our sport that has the ability to change, and even save, lives on a regular basis. I am so thankful for the resources available to me including local trails, quality equipment, and media that keep me motivated. I truly believe that these resources have saved me from an early grave and saved my 3 year old son from having only memories of his dad. I’d like to send a special thank you to everyone who builds trails, works in the bike industry, invests in bike parks and trails, joins a local club, volunteers for trail work, donates to IMBA, advocates for new trails, writes wonderful mountain bike stories, photographs adventure and outdoor scenes, advocates for fitness and an outdoor lifestyle, or otherwise contributes to outdoor fitness and entertainment. While you may sacrifice income and comfort in your personal life for the love of the sport and outdoors, the service you provide truly enriches lives and benefits the greater good.

Austin Rowser

Bentonville, AR

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