Meet a Health Hero: Derek Fitzgerald

» You can vote for Derek here September 29th through October 5th. Mark your calendar! 

Name: Derek Fitzgerald

Role: Founder of the Recycledman Foundation, for which he bikes, runs and swims to raise money and awareness in the fight against cancer, as well as for heart health and organ donation.

Who or what motivates you to be healthy?
As a survivor of cancer, heart disease, and the recipient of a heart transplant, I am motivated on several levels: I still remember what it was like to be sick and unable to move or be healthy; I owe a debt to a complete stranger who saved my life on the last day of their own; and I am motivated by the stories of other survivors I’ve met on my journey. 

Describe a health or fitness related turning point in your life.
Eight months after my heart transplant, I competed in my very first 5K race and two months later, my first half marathon. In the past four years, I have competed in over 70 different endurance events, including marathons, two full Ironman triathlons, and a 3,400 bicycle ride across the United States.

What “policy” would you institute to make Greater Philadelphia a healthier region?
Physical rehabilitation is great, but many people get left behind once the prescribed rehabilitation has been completed. I would like to see more programs to help people transition and maintain those activities in their everyday lives. People always want to know their return on investment. I say that it’s hard to go wrong when you invest in yourself. Active lifestyles improve quality of life and promote happier, healthier, more productive people, enriching our lives and communities.

What’s the most important part of your health or fitness regimen?
I train every day: swim, bike, run, or strength and core. Getting outdoors with friends and mixing up the workouts keep me engaged and interested, but there are still days when I just don’t feel like working out. The most important part is recognizing how much better I feel AFTER my fitness regimen, and how much healthier I’ve become. For me, improving quality of life is what it’s all about.

What is your number one piece of health-related advice?
Stay consistent in your efforts. Many obstacles seem too intimidating when you first look at them, but they become much more manageable when you break them into small segments and only focus on the next step. When you complete that next step, always remember to celebrate your victory. Over time, small steps add up to great accomplishments, so just keep moving forward. This was my advice to myself not only during my recovery, but in my endurance training, and every other aspect of my life.

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