Inspiration

How One Grandma of 5 Transformed Herself Into a Triathlete After Battling Obesity

Sue Reynolds has always had a bright smile and an upbeat spirit. In her 60s, the grandma of five proved just how courageous she was by battling her way to the top as a world-class athlete, representing Team USA multiple times in sprint triathlons that require her to swim, bike and run for hours. But, as she shares with Woman’s World, that hasn’t been her biggest fight.

In 2010, Reynolds was facing a battle she’d been up against all her life: obesity. “I was 335 pounds and I’d tried more than 50 diets, plus I was struggling to fit into restaurant booths and put on my socks each day…I’d hit rockbottom,” she says. But it was in that dark moment that she saw a glimmer of hope. “I was eating breakfast when something clicked. All my life, my answer to ‘why’ I wanted to lose weight was because I’d be more attractive or someone wanted me to be thinner. But suddenly, my ‘why’ changed: I wanted a better life. I wanted more for me.

From that day on, Reynolds began making changes, going from a diet laden with sweets and meal-skipping to one rich in whole foods. And when her husband asked her to go on a walk one afternoon, she said yes. “I walked to my neighbor’s mailbox, and it was so hard,” the now-67-year-old says. “But I had done it for myself — and all it took was that first step.”

Soon, Reynolds was walking for miles, then walking a 5K, and finally, walking/running, biking and swimming in triathlons — something she’d always dreamed of doing. Check out the secrets she used to transform her life and chase her biggest dream.

Let gratitude guide your journey.

“My family brings me so much joy!” Reynolds says with a smile. “Watching my kids and my grandchildren thrive is a gift, and when things get stressful, it reminds me that no matter how bad things are, I can still be grateful for what I have. I have family, friends, my health and the ability to do what I love. Keeping that gratitude in my heart puts things into perspective and helps me realize that everything else is just fluff.”

Never ever give up.

“When I did my first triathlon in 2013, I was 60-and I finished dead last!” Renolds laughs. “But it wasn’t about winning: It was about making it to the finish line. I even doggy-paddled part of my first swim! The most important thing for me was to not give up. That goes for anything you want in life. Tell yourself, ‘No excuses: Whatever it takes, find a way.’ If plan A doesn’t work, find a plan B — that keeps my spirits up in the moments!”

Release your fears.

“As I stepped out of my comfort zone, fear started cropping up all over the place,” admits Reynolds. “Things like buying a bike or putting on a bathing suit in my first triathlon triggered a lot of self-consciousness. I worried people would look at me and wonder, What’s an obese person doing in a race? But I realized that for most of my life, fear had gotten in the way of me doing healthy, fun things. So I’d say to myself, ‘Go away fear!’ and I still say it today!”

Find peace in faith.

“In my hardest moments, it helps to remember that God has a plan for me, and it’s a good plan,” Reynolds shares. “God has used my journey to health to rekindle our relationship. In every kindness I give or receive, I see His face, and this experience has made me realize we can all be the face of God through kindness. That gives me strength when I need it most.”

Don’t be afraid to be a good copycat.

“Many tricks helped me on my health journey, but the best was to find someone who had a lifestyle I wanted,” Reynolds says. “For me, that was my daughter-in-law, Laura. Every time we went out to eat, I’d copy her order. And in my exercise life, I copy Gwen Jorgensen, the Olympic gold medalist in triathlon. Having someone to emulate is a little thing, but it makes a big difference!”

Choose who you are.

“When I reached my goal weight, I wasn’t sure who I was anymore,” Reynolds says. “I’d always defined myself as an ‘obese person’, so I had to redefine who I was at that point: as a grandma, mom, co-worker and athlete. It seemed ludicrous to think of myself that way, so every day, I’d look in the mirror and say, ‘You’re an athlete.’ Today, I realize it was true all along: I just had to let myself be one!”

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, Woman’s World.

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