Mercedes Diana Mueller is a 57-year-old Light Rail Operator in Layton, Utah.Like her Roman goddess namesake, Mercedes (Diana) is strong in body and spirit. Her dedication, generosity, and resiliency are amazing and inspiring. This woman has withstood difficulties and challenges but emerged from them with a grace and depth of perspective that is almost “Buddha-like.” She LOVES the outdoors and is an avid cyclist and hiker, among her other active pursuits. Her story demonstrates how physical activity can cultivate a positive sense of self-worth.
WB: Give me a brief overview of the main things you participate in that keep you active and healthy. How did you happen upon these things? How long have you done them for?
MM: First, I’m a road cyclist. Road cycling has been a lifelong activity and a personal passion for the last fifteen years. By passion, I mean that when people ask about me, I tell them I’m a road cyclist. It is part of my identity. I started riding century rides in 2002. Trail biking is a recent addition, less than one year. It has been challenging and rewarding. Tandem biking is pleasant, especially on the large group distance rides. We’ve been riding tandem for six years. This is the only way that I can keep up with Bill [my husband]. I hike — In Utah, hiking is a cultural thing. If you don’t hike, you’re just not an Utahan. I’m also in the garden a lot. I learned to garden when I was knee high to a cricket, from my father. When I say gardening, I mean to pick up a pitch fork and till the garden. Grab a shovel and dig a hole. A lot of hard manual labor is required for gardening. There’s also Tai Chi and dancing — I practice a short Tai Chi routine very infrequently. Our public school system has a Continuing Education program that offers various classes during the fall and spring. These classes are once a week for a three month span. And then, sometimes Bill and I will sign up for dance classes during the winter months for cheap entertainment.
WB: How do these activities relate to your personal identity? What do they say about who you are, fundamentally, as a person?
MM: I’m a cyclist. It’s in my DNA. I plan my life around cycling. When people see me, they always ask about my cycling ventures.
WB: How do these activities make you feel? What are the benefits you derive from them, form both a physical and emotional standpoint?
MM: When I’m on my bike, I smile. I just can’t help myself. Being on a bicycle is like reverting back to a carefree childhood. People who cycle are happy people. I like happy people. Cycling is easy on the body and refreshing to the mind.
WB: How do you feel about your current level of health and fitness — not just physically, but mentally? Is this different from how you’ve felt in the past? If so, what’s changed for you, and how were you able to make those changes?
MM: I’m getting older and my body feels it. However, I’ve come to terms with the fact that a body changes with time. One of my best activities to help me balance between the desire to accomplish a physical feat and the ability to complete any physical challenge is Tai Chi. This ancient discipline requires me to balance body and mind. It also strengthens the core of my body.
WB: Are there mindsets you’ve adopted, rituals you complete, etc to keep yourself in a positive mind/body space? What are they? How did you develop them?
MM: Keeping a chart of my progress is one of my greatest motivators. It documents where I have been and it gives me satisfaction to see in numbers my progress. Being in groups is a big motivator for me. When I only see a friend once a week, I know that I must go to the group activity. We lean on each other for support and we have fun while we ride, dance or do Tai Chi.
WB: How do you define the terms “healthy” and “fit”? Do you believe your personal definitions are different from how others might define it (particularly society and popular culture)? If so, how are they different?
MM: I live by my own rules. I eat what I want and when I want. I don’t have diabetes, high blood pressure or cholesterol. I do have arthritis in my back and knees, but exercise is my medicine. When we go on week long cycling tours, it’s not unusual for a large percentage of the group to be over 50 years of age. We all talk of our arthritis and other ailments, but we use cycling as our cure.
WB: What advice would you give to someone who is struggling to adopt habits and routines to achieve greater health and wellbeing?
MM: My advice would be to do what makes you happy, not what’s in vogue. Get rid of your television set and just move. Introduce yourself to your neighbors or join a community exercise program.