Cycling my way to health

Written by Rachel Leach

I had been feeling rough for a couple of years, with an array of symptoms that the doctors couldn’t pin down into a diagnosis.  I felt nauseous, weak and tired, every day. Basically, the classic pregnancy symptoms, without being pregnant.  Then I got gastro and spiraled downhill quickly. 

An ambulance delivered me to the emergency department where the doctors diagnosed me with Addison’s Disease, a fairly rare autoimmune disease where your adrenal glands are no longer functioning.  Adrenal glands provide your body with the natural energy it needs to function - cortisol.  As well as the symptoms mentioned above, a key hallmark is darkened, pigmented skin, which had crept up on me gradually and hadn’t been noticed as an obvious symptom. 


It was a good news story - the condition could be fully managed through medication! All I had to do was pop steroid tablets twice a day to replicate what my adrenals should have been producing.   But it took a while to refine the dose, with my initial dose way over what my body needed.  The effect of that was weight gain - lots and fast!

I felt my health spiraling out of control and decided to take action.  I bought a bike. I rode with my kids. I rode to work.  I rode with friends.  I fell in love with cycling.  I started running. I joined a gym.  I carried on cycling.  I rode my way to health and fitness.  I had already done the 10km Spring Financial Group Spring Cycle a number of times with my small children, but had previously had to push my bike up the hills.  Now I charged up them! And my distances got longer and faster. 

I joined Strava and raced myself every day.  A group of friends decided to do Heart Foundation Gear Up Girl in 2017 which prompted lots of fun training rides and then the event itself, which was awesome.  A fun, flat, leisurely group ride to Cronulla.  That snowballed into doing the MS Sydney to Gong ride in late 2017, the thought of which was very daunting but eventuated to be another fantastic event which I can’t wait to do again.  All up, I cycled over 1,700km in 2017.




Anyone looking to improve their health would benefit from investing in a bike. It doesn’t have to be expensive, just 2 wheels and a few gears will get you going.  It’s so accessible, you can go as easy or as hard as you like.  There are cycle paths dotted around everywhere.  Cycleway Finder is a great interactive resource for planning traffic-light routes.  City of Sydney runs a number of low cost courses and workshops to boost your confidence.  I can personally vouch for the Cycling in the City course, which I did last year.   

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