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Provided by Dian Thomas
Riders at a previous Ragbrai, a 180-mile across Iowa.

As I began exercising on a regular basis, I learned very quickly that it was more fun to exercise with friends than it was to do it alone. Social exercise events and settings are becoming more popular where you and your friends can participate together.

When I started my weight loss program, I wanted to find a type of exercise that I would enjoy. I went back to my childhood and remembered how much I loved to ride my bike, so I decided to try biking again. I was more than 300 pounds when I got a new bike and started to ride. I am sure that I was not a very pretty sight from the back, but that did not stop me. I was determined to change my life so that I could do all of the activities that I loved.

Not long after I started to ride, I heard about a week long bike ride across Iowa. It was not a race, but a ride. My friend, Andrea Buser who had been on it, said it was like Tour de France, Mardi Gras and a county fair all rolled up into one great event. That bike ride became my goal. When I got down to 250 pounds, my friend called me up and said, "Let's go." I got my bike that I was so proud of, polished it up, and left for Iowa.

The Iowa bike ride is one of the largest ride in the world. It is called Ragbrai and is an event that attracts about 15,000 riders each year. Riders come from all across the United States and many foreign countries. This year they celebrate their 40th year on the ride. The 2012 ride began on July 22 and goes through July 28. Initially, it was started by a couple of newspaper reporters that worked for the Des Moines Register and decided it would be fun to ride across Iowa, looking for interesting stories.

Riders start in western Iowa by backing their rear tire into the Missouri River. They then spend seven days biking across the state to the Mississippi River, where they dip their front tire into the water. The total ride is usually between 440 and 480 miles, depending on the designated route. At my first Ragbrai, I was 50 pounds heavier than I am now and was able to ride a total of only 300 miles. The second time, after losing 20 pounds, I rode 330 miles. After I lost an additional 30 pounds, I achieved the success I had been aiming for — I rode every one of the 480 miles!

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Whether you like to walk, run, or square dance, there are social events for you. First, find the activity that you enjoy doing then look for groups to join.

A great event every October in St. George is the Huntsman Senior Games. There are more than 30 events and you only have to be older than 50 to participate.

TV personality and author Dian Thomas shares her journey of weight loss, exercise and life on the run every other Wednesday in the Deseret News and at www.DianThomas.com. She also takes tour groups to China. Contact her at www.www.dianthomas.com/travel.htm.