In 2012, Sue Reynolds was morbidly obese — she couldn’t tie her own shoes. She started yet another diet; this time, it stuck. Combined with exercise, she lost more than 100 pounds the first year.
She also found an athlete in herself. In 2013, just one year after her weight-loss journey began, she finished her first triathlon — in last place. She was ecstatic.
Today, Sue competes in world triathlon competitions as a member of Team USA. She’s going to share her transformation story at Honors Institute 2019, at San Diego State University in California.
Getting in Shape
Sue spent most of her life dieting, though nothing kept the weight off for good. In her work to help schools raise student achievement, she put in long hours and would often eat to stay awake. Before she knew it, she weighed 335 pounds.
“Being grossly overweight is not a disability,” she writes on her website. “But, obesity IS absolutely disabling.”
At her heaviest, Sue couldn’t walk a city block without having to stop and rest. She couldn’t fit in restaurant booths or walk through turnstiles. She finally purchased her own seatbelt extender for airplanes.
One day in 2012, at age 60, she’d had enough. She started a new diet, but she also started walking. Her first walk was short — just to her neighbor’s driveway. But each day, she added another driveway as her goal, and another. Next, she walked 1.5 miles due east, knowing the only way home was to walk the 1.5 miles back. That was her first 5K.
Sue’s first official 5K race was the Krispie Kreme Challenge. She weighed 276 pounds at the time, and she writes that it was the hardest race she’s ever done.
Sue began secretly daydreaming about doing a triathlon. She used the Couch to 5K app to incorporate running. Then, she joined a water fitness class and started swimming again — something she hadn’t done since she was a teenager. Next, she added spin classes to her routine.
She competed in her first triathlon at 230 pounds. It was an indoor competition, and her first outdoor one was shortly after, in 2013.
“My race plan was to go slow, slow, slow,” she writes. “I came in dead last but didn’t care. I made it — and fell in love with triathlon!”
The World Stage
Two years after completing her first triathlon, Sue qualified for Team USA. Now 200 pounds down, she is a four-time qualifier for the International Triathlon Union (ITU) World Triathlon Championship.
She competed in the USAT National Championship from 2014-2018 and in the ITU Spring Triathlon World Championship from 2016-2018. In the 2017 and 2018 world championships, she finished in the top 10.
She is in her second year as a USA Triathlon Ambassador, and this fall, she’ll compete in the Triathlon World Championship in Switzerland. She’s the author of Anything is Possible and has a new book coming out next year.
“The kindness of the triathlon community was immensely helpful as I strived to transform my life,” she said in an interview with ITU. “They gave me hope. They kept me going when I started and still keep me going today.”
Sue is committed to sharing her weight loss journey with others. She readily says that if she can do it, anyone can.
When reflecting with ITU on her journey, she shared five main points:
1. People can transform their lives at any stage.
2. People can lose 100+ pounds without surgery or drugs.
3. People can reach big goals by making a series of sound choices.
4. Kindness can change a life.
5. Triathlon is for everyone!
She sums it all up on her website: “One thing I have learned is that it is never too late to be the person that you wish to be!”