Chagrin Valley Times: Losing to gain-cyclist drops 100 pounds, qualifies for Senior Games

This story originally appeared on the cover of The Chagrin Valley Times July 4, 2013

Losing to gain
Cyclists drops 100 pounds, qualifies for Senior Games


BAINBRIDGE – Three years ago while walking at Geauga Park District’s Frohring Meadows in the township, Bill Cloninger was out of breath after only a short distance.

“I was winded,” he recalled, “and I knew something wasn’t right.”

That experience spurred Mr. Cloninger to take action. “I decided at 60 years old and weighing 265 pounds that I needed to do something.”

Three years later, the senior fraud investigator at KeyBank has qualified to participate in the National Senior Games in Cleveland. It’s a multisport event for athletes age 50 and older. Nineteen medal-contending sport competitions are scheduled for July 19 to Aug. 1. The event is expected to draw about 13,000 athletes from 50 states and Canada.

Mr. Cloninger, a Bainbridge resident, will compete in cycling time trials in the 10-kilometer and five-kilometer events July 24 and 25 in the Rocky River Reservation of Cleveland Metroparks.

He started working toward his goals by walking and participating in a fitness program at work. “Several of the guys at work got together to do a relay team in the Cleveland Triathlon. I did the eight-mile bike ride. We had a great time. I wanted to ride faster, so I decided to work for the next year.”
South Franklin Circle retirement community in Bainbridge had opened, so he and wife Sandy joined the fitness center, where he told fitness trainer Frank Ondus of his goals. Mr. Ondus put together a program for strength and conditioning. Mr. Cloninger worked on stationary bikes and weights.
“I broke 200 pounds, and I bought a new bike at that time,” he said. He competed with his team again in 2011 and had the fastest time for the eight-mile bike leg.

Mr. Cloninger heard about the Senior Olympics and would have to qualify in 2012. He went back to South Franklin Circle with Mr. Ondus, who designed his training program, and Michelle Kalinyak, who put together a yoga and Pilates program. With routines and exercise, he began increasing flexibility, making himself injury proof, stronger and faster.

He competed in regional time trials, which require a top-four finish in the state to qualify for the Senior Games. He placed a few spots behind fourth out of 35 competitors in the 60 to 64 age group in July. He went to Kentucky to compete in open competition and qualified for the Senior Games.
Mr. Cloninger sat down with Mr. Ondus to lay out an intense plan to medal in the games.  He has been on his bike to work on speed six to 10 hours a week. He now weighs 165 pounds.

In 2010, he was on blood pressure medications, but no longer has to take them.

“It’s about diet and exercise,” he said, adding that he and his wife adopted a vegetarian diet. “I feel so good. My doctor is amazed.”

In the mountains of North Carolina in April, Mr. Cloninger participated in a week of training and pedaled in a wind tunnel. “They measure the amount of wind resistance you are creating and help you with your most aerodynamic position,” he explained.

He is at South Franklin Circle’s wellness center two to three times a week doing upper-body and conditioning work. “I wouldn’t be competing without them,” he said of help from Mr. Ondus and Ms. Kalinyak.

Mr. Ondus said he has been there to give Mr. Cloninger direction as he has lost weight and developed flexibility and strength. “I’m also a cyclist, and we have a lot in common. Bill had medical and physical challenges that he didn’t ignore, and he was able to shed the pounds.”

The fitness center and pool at South Franklin Circle are open to the public. “It’s a wonderful environment to keep strong and flexible,” Mr. Ondus said.
In the Ohio State Senior Games in Canton last week, Mr. Cloninger medaled in the 10K cycling time trial, placing third, and in the 5K event, placing second. It was a training experience, but medaling was a nice bonus, he said.

“This has been a great adventure, and it’s all new to me,” he said.
Mr. Cloninger’s advice to others: “Do what I did. Decide to do something, and get out and move more, and see where that takes you. I’m competing with people who have been competing all their lives. It’s a lot of fun.”

For more information about the Community Wellness programs at South Franklin Circle and all of Judson’s communities, please call 1-888-574-1906 or click here.

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