The following article by Henry County Health Center CEO Robb Gardner was recently published in HCHC’s internal newsletter, Working Well. HCHC places great value on the health and wellness of our community and the associates who work at the health center. Associates often give examples of their personal health journeys. Read how Gardner incorporates exercise into his daily routine, which has resulted in improved health and fitness and has enabled him to surpass expectations through exercise.
By Robb Gardner
Never in my wildest dreams did I think I could do a triathlon. The thought of doing such a race was scary.
My journey started nearly six years ago when I joined a spinning class at The Rec Center. This was my first step back into exercising after nearly 10 years away from doing any form of regular exercise. Thankfully, I have a good friend who said we would start this journey together. Well, as many of you know, once you start exercising with a group of people, accountability to show up and exercise rises. In addition, it is so much FUN! I have met and had some of the best memories of my life through the new friendships and activities I have had with these individuals I began exercising with.
We have a great instructor at the The Rec Center for our spin class, Heidi Ryon. Heidi brings fun, motivation, spunk and hard work to our class each and every day she leads us at 5:45 a.m. We are all very thankful for her leadership.
Five years ago I began with starting to achieve small milestones in my journey by participating in bike rides/races. Years ago I covered many athletic events helping athletes during these races as a Physical Therapist/Athletic Trainer, but have never participated in one myself. So small steps forward was a great place to start. I began with doing small bike rides of 35-40 miles with my friends from spin class. The rides then began to get longer as our strength/stamina and getting new bikes occurred.
Then a year and a half ago, I took the leap to say, let’s try a triathlon. First, let me clarify – a sprint triathlon. There are many different distances for triathlons. A sprint triathlon is the shortest. It is a 500 meter swim, 15 mile bike and a 3.1 mile run. The ironman triathlon, which is the most well-known distance, is 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and a 26.2 mile run. Thus, you can see the significant difference in the time needed to train, endurance and ability to participate in the different triathlon races. I had the fortune of training for my first triathlon with a very good friend who was competing in his first triathlon as well. It helps so much to have someone else to train with to push you to keep you accountable to your training schedule. I would also like to thank and recognize Dr. Joel Ryon. As many of you know, Dr. Ryon is a very accomplished athlete who has done many triathlons of all distances, including multiple ironman triathlons. Dr. Ryon was a great instructor and mentor for our training for this first triathlon. Then race day came. My first Pigman Sprint Triathlon, June 4, 2016. My goal – to finish! You have to understand and appreciate that only six months prior to the race, I couldn’t swim further than 10 yards without stopping. What was I getting myself into?! I competed that day in the race and finished! I accomplished my goal! I was so thankful and grateful for everyone’s support during that time to help me with my training.
What also occurred during these last five years and with my new found interest of biking and triathlons is my renewed interest and focus on wellness. Over the last two years of my more vigorous training, I have lost nearly 20 pounds and have never felt better physically. I also know when I do exercise regularly, mentally, I am sharper and have more resilience to navigate these difficult health care waters on a daily basis.
Over the last month I was able to continue my wellness journey by participating in a couple of events. The first event was my second Pigman Sprint Triathlon. After training harder and more effectively the six months prior to the event I was able to improve my time by over eight minutes. Still quite slow but better. At one point, I would like to mention, I was only three seconds behind Dr. Ryon. Then, I started the race. He finished about 25 minutes ahead of me. He again was in the top four of the age group. The other event I participated in for the third year in a row was the annual Bacoon Bike Ride over in Waukee, IA along the Raccoon River Valley trail. It is a great 71 mile bike ride/event. There were many Henry County bikers there, including Devan Rhum, HCHC’s Director of Specialty Services, who I’m pictured with here. Devan and his group of friends have participated for the last several years as well and it is always a wonderful day being with your friends and exercising.
As you can see, exercise and wellness have become a large part of my life. I am thankful for my family’s support to be able to do all of these activities. I am also grateful to be part of an organization that has a focus on improving the health of all associates with the work the Wellness Committee does each and every year. I look forward to continued events and would like to wish you the very best in surpassing your own expectations through exercise.