This week, ICA is proud to highlight one of our longtime supporters and educational contributors, Bill Roach. After retiring from a 35-year career in the Iowa attorney general’s office, Bill devoted his “second life” to helping people bring more health and fitness into their lives.
Indoor cycling became Bill’s key connector to bridge his celebrated long-distance racing career with an indoor program that could jump-start individuals on their roads to health and wellness success.
Bill’s odometer shows he’s trained (or raced!) in the saddle more than 60,000 miles. For a little perspective, that’s the equivalent of traveling two and a half times around the circumference of the earth! One of his cherished racing highlights includes supporting the late Dr. Bob Breedlove on his world record–breaking ride—crossing the United States twice in just 23 days.
(Something tells me Bill is an excellent endurance coach!)
Today, Bill serves a more stationary community—the YMCA of Greater Des Moines. As the lead cycling instructor, he acts as program advisor to the management team and provides mentorship and in-service training workshops for more than 70 instructors. Training topics include proper technique on the bike, power measurement, and lactate threshold field-testing.
As most of us recall, getting our indoor cycling certification felt like a huge accomplishment, until we were instantaneously thrown into a classroom filled with piranhas! Bill’s mentorship program takes action prior to the feeding frenzy. Orientation and preparatory classes are offered before an instructor’s certification process has begun.
“The mentorship looks a little different for each new instructor, and is based on their needs. But during the entire process I meet with the instructor and discuss their fears and questions to help them feel comfortable and confident.”
Upon certification, new instructors shadow various classes and are given the opportunity to teach with Bill before coaching independently. Once he’s seen them successfully lead a session, they are allowed substitute positions before gaining their own class.
In 2011, Bill’s life was deeply impacted when he learned a long-term friend had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. To help alleviate the debilitating symptoms of the disease, they began their personal training journey together. Bill was committed to finding as many exercise modalities as possible to bring relief to his friend.
Bill learned that in an Iowa cornfield not too far away, Dr. Jay Alberts, a neuro-researcher, had already “biked upon” a significant discovery. While riding tandem in RAGBRAI, Dr. Alberts noticed each of his partners (who both had Parkinson’s) found symptomatic relief by the end of each day. Handwriting became clearer for the first racer; tremors became less frequent for the second. Albert’s simple observations lead to an impacting conclusion—when cycling at an increased rate of 80–90 rpm (which is above the average tempo of 50–60 rpm for a Parkinson’s rider), symptoms of the disease reduce by as much as 35%.
Bill worked with medical staff to develop a “Cycling for Neuro Wellness Program” at the YMCA Healthy Living Center in Clive, Iowa, a suburb of Des Moines. Participant Vicki Whaley finds Bill’s program as her exercise of choice to reduce her Parkinson’s symptoms. “Our leader and coach, Bill Roach, uses humor, kindness, enthusiasm, and music to push the effort level to the edge.” Getting to that edge of power is where Vicki feels immediate relief and regains her sense of wellness.
Jackie Wellman, who suffers from hereditary spastic paraplegia, needs a walker to get to the cycling studio each week. But with the staff’s help, she is determined to ride. Why? “We have so much fun!” And like Vicki, she is constantly amazed how good she feels after class.
The bonds of friendship run deep in his Cycling for Neuro Wellness Program. For Bill there is nothing quite like doing something challenging in the company of like-minded people.
“The teamwork attitude he generates is what makes each of us want to participate. We respond to Bill and support one another. It buoys us all up to cycle together, meet our challenges, and overcome the obstacles we face,” Bob Brammer shared. He also is suffering the symptoms of Parkinson’s. Bob said it is a rare occasion for him to EVER miss attending his cycling classes. (Even though motivation might sometimes wane for getting to the gym to lift weights!)
60,000 new Parkinson’s cases are documented each year. Estimates say between 7 to 10 million people suffer worldwide from this debilitating disease.
Wait. We’ve heard that number before, right?
Yeah, it’s the same as Bill’s odometer reading: 60,000 miles.
Coincidence? I think not. I find it as purposed assurance for a man following the passion of his second life—bringing more health and wellness into the lives of others.
Winning races is so much more than crossing finish lines. It’s recognizing the meaning of all the miles you’ve left behind to bring you where you are today.
Thanks for the inspiration, Coach Bill Roach.
We celebrate your second life!