Keely Punger | Reader Athlete Aug. 2011

Keely PungerAge: 41
Enfield, N.H.
Family: Single woman on the wait
Personal trainer
Primary sport: Cycling for charity

VS: What led you to the Harpoon Point to Point Ride, which benefits the Vermont Foodbank?
KP: At one time I lived very close to the Haven Food Shelf, and I volunteered at their food bank. I had an awakening of what is really going on in our community. I couldn’t even imagine the extent of this problem in the world. It’s easy to go about your day and get things done and not recognize that two feet from you is someone looking for their next meal. The people at Haven were really wonderful and supportive, and I wanted to help them.

VS: Were you an avid cyclist at that time?
KP: I had been a cyclist but about six years ago, I was walking out of my home in Wilder and someone put a gun to my head. Previous to that I would ride my bike, run the trails, and live my life, but after that, my world started to get smaller, and I spent less time outside. I developed post-traumatic stress disorder. The Point to Point ride got me back on the bike.

VS: For the last four years you were the leading fundraiser. How do you manage to raise so much money?
KP: It’s a combination of all the different ways I have approached it. I’ve approached it from the way of realizing what this epidemic of not having sufficient nutrition is. [I’ve] come at it from a way of saying to my clients that this is a great event to try—and be around supportive people. You don’t have to do the full ride; you can start with 25 miles and maybe work your way up to 112. One of the ways I raise money is to raffle off my services. I also like to hold little fun events.

VS: Give me an example of a fun event.
KP: In my studio we had a midnight spin. There were 12 people and each participant had to “sponsor” their bike for $150. I went to local vendors for gift bags. The participants didn’t know they were going to get anything; they just wanted to ride for charity, but when they got to my studio there were balloons and gift bags on each of the bikes. I taught for two hours and had kids bringing people food and water. Everybody was involved. It was great.

VS: What’s the most money you’ve raised?
KP: Last year I raised $13,000.

VS: What is your goal for this year?
KP: $10,000. This year is the first year that I put together a team. That’s mostly because I really feel you have to remember that this event is also about the fundraising. I love that my clients want to ride, but I want them to raise money as well. They don’t have to do the full ride, but they have to raise money.

VS: Do you do other charity rides?
KP: I used to ride for the Special Olympics. We raised over $10,000 two years in a row.

VS: Do you also ride just for fun.
KP: Charitable rides are enjoyable. Otherwise, I don’t necessarily get on my bike for fun. I spend the rest of my time working with clients, and that’s fun. I love my career. I work with people and teach them about nutrition. It’s amazing how grateful I am when I see someone try to better themselves, and how much fun it is once they feel better and are taking care of themselves and start smiling more. Health and happiness seem to run side by side.

VS: Do you do other sports?
KP: I play golf and I water ski. I love my mountain bike; that’s my favorite thing to do. I love the rail trail system. It’s a great, safe opportunity. If I do any trails in the woods, it’s always in a group. The rail trail doesn’t have big hills, so it’s a good learning opportunity.

VS: How do you train for the Point to Point?
KP: I train on a fixed gear spinning bike. It’s almost 20 years since I started my studio with two spinning bikes. At one time, I had 32 bikes and classes in the night and morning in between personal training. I’ve really tailored it back to what I consider to be a healthy balance. The studio’s the same, but I’m down to 12 bikes. I’m on a spinning bike every week for at least four hours a week.

VS: Do you have any cycling goals for the Point to Point?
KP: The only record I’m trying to set is to make sure folks get across the finish line. Every year I do less miles, but raise more money. I’ve got nothing to prove in terms of the mileage; the ride itself is fun.
VS: What advice do you have for prospective Point to Point riders?
KP: When you’re raising money you need to be honest about it. It is a fitness goal, and you’re going to raise money, and this is the place where you’ve chosen to test that training. I don’t think it’s best to send out the stock letter that would be easily sent out to friends and family. You need to let people know why you personally are doing this. It’s hard to raise money if you don’t connect.

Phyl Newbeck

Phyl Newbeck lives in Jericho with two spoiled orange cats. She is a skier, skater, cyclist, kayaker, and lover of virtually any sport which does not involve motors. She is the author of “Virginia Hasn’t Always Been for Lovers: Interracial Marriage Bans and the Case of Richard and Mildred Loving.”