He Turned to Cycling to Lose Weight in Order to Donate a Kidney to a Neighbor in Need

·5 min read
Photo credit: Courtesy Tim Connor
Photo credit: Courtesy Tim Connor

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Name: Tim Connor
Age: 45
Hometown: Tyler, Texas
Occupation: Consultant
Time Cycling: Just over one year
Reason for Cycling: As a high school graduation present, my parents purchased me a Redline cross bike that survived several moves and neglect over 25 years. Last summer, I needed to lose weight during the pandemic in order to donate a kidney. With all of the local fitness centers shut down, I put air in the tires, oiled the chain, and started riding my bike on the local trail.

I am a busy guy, raising two teenagers, and volunteering at my church and other local non-profits. But I didn’t pay attention to my weight and didn’t exercise consistently. Occasionally, I would join a group of friends to work out, but I would inevitably get hurt trying to do too much. I didn’t take my health seriously and considered myself to be a little overweight.

In January 2020, I saw a social media post from a friend that basically said, “I have a friend who needs a kidney. Anyone have one?” When I saw the post, I heard an audible voice of God that said I needed to reach out and donate. I didn’t immediately, but almost weekly for the next month, I kept hearing things and seeing things about kidney donations everywhere—from mutual friends, on TV shows, through social media, on bumper stickers, etc. So finally, I decided to reply to the Facebook post.

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Once I connected with the person in need of the kidney, she excitedly gave me the phone number for the hospital to begin the process. The hospital told me I needed to weigh 245 pounds in order to be considered, and when I got on the scale, I weighed almost 260 pounds. During the next few months, as the pandemic set in, I gained 10 more pounds. Eventually, the hospital called to remove me from the donor list. I received an official rejection letter in the mail, which was the ultimate kick in the pants.  

I knew I needed to donate my kidney, so I decided to ride my bike until I lost enough weight to donate. Fitness centers were closed, but I had a bike in the garage and a trail nearby. The first day, I rode five miles. I knew the greatest challenge would be doing it again the next day, so I rode it again.

As I grew used to each segment of the trail, I started to explore more and connect segments of the local trail. I then began riding on the road, doing a 15-mile loop that connected trails and neighborhoods. I found other cyclists and was invited to join the local bike club (Tyler Bike Club) and racing team (Fresh Racing). I started showing up to their group rides. Most weeks, I was averaging between 75 and 100 miles per week. 

I also realized very quickly that I needed to eat differently to see maximum results, so I could donate my kidney. I joined Noom and reduced my caloric intake to 1,500 calories a day. This, combined with the exercise, caused my weight to drop quickly.

Once I got below 245 pounds, I called the hospital back and started the initial blood work. Shortly after, they told me that I was a match—and I was able to call the recipient to tell her. We made plans to meet each other that night, and we discovered that we lived five doors down from each other.

After 200 days in a row of riding, I donated my kidney on January 25, 2021. I remember going for my ride in the morning, anxious about the procedure. The procedure went very well, and the hospital staff had me up and walking as soon as the drugs wore off. I was literally in the hospital for less than 24 hours. Recovery was quick; the doctors encouraged me to start walking right away, so I would go for walks around my neighborhood. I even scheduled different people to go with me. I went back to work after two weeks and all restrictions were removed after six weeks. Additionally, my neighbor recovered well and is enjoying her new lease on life.

Tim’s Must-Have Cycling Gear

Garmin Varia RTL515: I love the radar feature, letting me know about approaching cars.

Garmin Varia UT80 Smart Headlight: I tried several cheap alternatives with little to no light and/or battery life. This light has both.

Peloton: The Peloton gave me the variety to stay focused and build skills without being stuck on a trainer during the winter.

Skratch Lemon Lime Hydration Mix: This is my go-to hydration mix.

My current training schedule varies based on my goals. My favorite ride is the Tuesday night ride with the Fresh Race team—a race simulation over 30 miles. It’s a great opportunity to practice skills in a semi-competitive environment. I hired a coach (WU Endurance) to help me complete the Double Tough Challenge in Tulsa, which required me to log some serious miles. And I am currently training for the Copper Triangle in Colorado on August 7, and I would like to race a longer ride, probably next season.

Photo credit: Courtesy Tim Connor
Photo credit: Courtesy Tim Connor

Hiring a coach was the best thing to advance my cycling skills. He was able to help me navigate my new hobby and provide expert guidance as I discovered more about myself and cycling. I wish I would have started working with him sooner.

I also bought a Peloton secondhand so I can ride even when it’s cold in East Texas. Since buying my Peloton, I have helped at least 7 other local friends purchase one second hand.

The cycling community was very welcoming to me during my journey. The friends I made cycling encouraged me to keep pushing myself and so many offered their wisdom to help me develop into the cyclist I am today. Obviously, I found significant health benefits with the weight loss, but the friendships I have made through cycling are priceless. I find myself scheduling around my cycling and looking for new routes and challenges to explore when I am out of town.

It has been so rewarding to see friends and co-workers take their health seriously because of my story. Others have explored kidney donation, and countless have started their own weight-loss journey.

We want to hear how cycling changed you! Send your story and submit your photos to us via this web form. We’ll pick one each week to highlight on the site.

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