ADA's Tour de Cure Helps Turn One Man's Life Around
After he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes in 2007, Ken Cole could not imagine how he would get into shape, as his doctors advised. Since his college days, Cole, 37, had indulged his penchant for fast food and sweets, and rarely exercised. The 5-foot-8 lab technician reached 250 pounds, with a fasting blood glucose that ranged from 200 to 300 mg/dl and an A1C of a whopping 12.2 percent.
Cole had no choice but to get serious about losing weight if he wanted to get healthier and cut out some of his medications. "I laughed when my doctor told me I needed to get down to 160 pounds,""says Cole, who lives in Houston. "I didn't want to give up my food choices, and I didn't want to be the fat guy in the gym. My self-esteem was low, and I didn't know where to turn."
Making small dietary changes that his doctor recommended, like avoiding fast food and eating smaller portions, helped him take off pounds in the first couple of weeks. But what really accelerated his weight loss—and helped him keep the pounds off—was adding exercise to his daily routine. Cole started with walking. Then, to up his weight loss, he tried the stationary bike in his apartment gym. He enjoyed cycling, and eventually he bought an exercise bike for his home, too. "I started [pedaling] 30 minutes in the morning and one to two hours at night. It became a habit and I saw results," he says. "I even got my A1C down into the low 5s and felt better than ever."
Still, Cole had seen family members struggle with diabetes and knew that he also needed to learn more about managing the disease. So he visited the American Diabetes Association Web site, where he came across information about Tour de Cure, ADA's annual cycling and fund-raising event held in 43 states.
Last year, more than 40,000 cyclists in 80 Tour events raised nearly $17 million to help stop diabetes. Registrants can sign up as individuals, create a team, or join an existing team. People with diabetes may register as Red Riders, cyclists who wear red jerseys and are honored at the events.
"Cycling is a great form of exercise for everyone and is one of the ways our participants can stay fit and healthy to avoid developing type 2 diabetes or to better manage their diabetes," says Nicole Preston, director of national campaign development at ADA.
Through ADA's online message boards, Cole got in touch with other people with diabetes who rode in Tour de Cure. Last May, he made plans to join a long-distance Tour ride in San Antonio, as a test of his revamped fitness. When Cole reached the finish line in Austin, he had ridden 130 miles over two days, exceeding his original 100-mile goal. In September, he rode in the Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston Tours. This year, Cole plans to ride in Tours in Huntsville, Ala., Orlando, Fla., and Longmont, Colo., plus three in Texas.
Cole has also taken part in other organizations' cycling events around the country. "Being able to ride in many different bike races has allowed me to meet so many people and explain more about diabetes," he says. He always wears his Red Rider jersey, which leads to conversations about the disease. "Just wearing the jersey has opened up so much communication with others who are interested," Cole says. "Someone may ask what the red jersey means and then want to learn more about how I train with diabetes and how I have been affected as a rider."
Today, Cole maintains a stable weight and stays in shape for upcoming races. "The Tour de Cure has helped me control my diabetes in so many ways. It forced me to get out of the house, onto a bike, and to be able to speak with others about my condition," he says. Cole plans to head up the Red Riders subcommittee for this year's Tour in Houston. "I have made so many good friends through this community," he says, "and want to pass on the feeling I got from this experience to everyone."
Registration for Tour de Cure events remains open up to and including the day of the ride. For more information, go to diabetes.org/tour or call 1-800-DIABETES (1-800-342-2383). Early-bird registration fees in most locations are $15 and increase to $25 closer to the event. To find a Tour de Cure event in your area this month, see our calendar, p. 69.