Doing a 180

Every night when he rode with the guys, Mike Magnuson had trouble keeping up, no matter how hard he hammered. The fact that he weighed 255 pounds, smoked all of the time, and drank heavily several nights a week and on weekends, he decided, might be the reason.

On his 39th birthday, he quit smoking. Then he quit drinking. Still not enough! He gave up food, drinking a 550-calorie protein-shake three times a day. Fiercely, he kept up cycling—hard, night after night, on weekends, and at special events, especially hard ones.

A year later, Mike weighed 185 pounds. A hunger-caused break down on a ride with the guys had persuaded him to switch back to real food, but smoking and drinking were gone. His way of teaching and participating in academic life at the university had changed dramatically. He had become a different kind of husband and father. His career as writer picked up.

He wrote a book on the transformation. The title, Heft on Wheels, is eye-catching. Even more are the cover photos—Mike naked with all of his fat, and Mike clothed in his lithe new self. More important, however, is his sub-title, A Field Guide to Doing a 180.

This book is a testimony to the fact that people can make dramatic changes, moving from a self-destructive course to a life style filled with health, happiness, and achievement.

Mike, of course, is the hero in this story, the person who makes the decision, suffers the pain, and turns his life around. At every step along the way—every revolution of his wheel, it might be better to say—he has help: his wife who makes some of the changes right along beside him, the guys who meet at the bike shop night after night to ride, the sponsors of cycling’s toughest American events, colleagues on campus.

This story underscores the fact that turning one’s life around is hard work. Were it not for Mike Magnuson’s passion for cycling, it is not clear that he could have done it. But do it, he did, and that’s a reason for reading his book. When people allow positive passion to rule their life, they have a good chance of becoming the people they really hope to be. By the way, Heft on Wheels was published in 2004. You can follow Mike’s opinions on cycling at

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