Cyclist Turned Life Coach Helps Others Discover That They're Champions Too
Training to be the best in the world takes dedication, strength and the ability to dream. When Maureen Manley was a little girl she saw Connie Carpenter take home the gold medal in the 1984 Olympic road race and thought to herself, “That’s what I want to do. I want to be the best female cyclist in the world.”
In college she trained with the men’s cycling team, and before she knew it was a member of the women’s U.S. National Team. At the age of 26, Maureen was racing with the team in the Women’s Tour de France when it happened: her vision became blurry and she was diagnosed with optic neuritis, and eventually MS.
“As gracefully as I could, I walked away in an Olympic year,” Maureen said. “It sucked.”
She may not have been grinding up the Pyrenees anymore, but coasting was not Maureen's style.
“The MS was really progressing quickly and I started diving into the study of health, nutrition, meditation and the whole mind-body connection,” she said.
Now Maureen is a motivational speaker and life coach. For MS Awareness Week, she's moving it by continuing work on starting the MS Wellness Center at Swedish Medical Center in Seattle, where she lives. The center, Maureen said, is a place for people to put into practice what she speaks about.
“When I speak, it’s great — but I know the psychology of what can happen. I understand the challenge people face when they go home and face their old ways of doing things. Inspiration gets the ball rolling, but sustained motivation takes practice and support,” she said.
At the MS Wellness Center, people can visit a doctor and nutritionist, take an exercise class and meet with friends, all in the same place.
“Nobody lacks the desire to do it, we just don’t always know how to,” said Maureen. “I come in with realistic and practical ways to help individuals living with MS accomplish what they want for themselves and their lives.”
Maureen is still riding her bike, too. When she was diagnosed, her idol Connie Carpenter was right there by her side.
“She’s such an inspiration to me. Connie was there going, ‘Don’t mess with her! If she wants to race, let her race!’”
From riding in three World Championships to creating awareness about MS, Maureen says the best thing anyone can do after diagnosis is stay positive.
“There’s a power in acceptance because it gives you the freedom to work with what you have to work with and keep moving forward boldly and powerfully with yourself and what you want in your life,” she said. "It may mean to be adaptable, but never give up.”
Interviewer Danielle English is a graduate student at the University of Denver and volunteers for the Society's Marketing and Development Department. She was diagnosed with MS in 2002.