TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Chris Zenthoefer didn't plan to become a cycling guru. He just wanted to lose weight.
"I needed to get in shape and was struggling to find time to exercise with work and family," said Zenthoefer, chief executive of New Medio. "So I started riding my bike to work."
About five years ago Zenthoefer began his switch from car to bike. He works in downtown Tulsa and lives near south Bixby, about a 20-mile bike ride each way.
Since it's a long commute, Zenthoefer said he started off slowly by leaving his car downtown and taking the bike ride one way.
After a couple of months the weight fell off and Zenthoefer felt confident enough to start riding both ways. He said in any given week he could log about 200 miles.
"It really became more of a mental thing than physical," he said. "Once I started getting into it, it was almost addicting, the feeling I had. It became so much more enjoyable."
Cycling became a prime hobby in Zenthoefer's life and he soon joined several cycling teams.
He and fellow cyclists decided it was up to them to turn Tulsa into a cycling-friendly city. They created Tulsa Tough, a three-day cycling festival designed to promote fitness while featuring the city, with races and noncompetitive riding.
The event started in May 2006 and is typically held the first weekend after Memorial Day.
"We have an innovative bike community," said Zenthoefer. "Other cities ask how we do our community miles and programs."
In October, Mayor Kathy Taylor started Tulsa Million Miles as part of her fitness challenge to the city. The Web site allows Tulsans to track their cycling, running or walking miles. It offers maps of local trails and fitness events, along with an accountability partner's tool that is designed to keep participants in check.
Since it launched, Tulsans have surpassed the 100,000-mile mark.
Zenthoefer has logged several hundred miles to the Web site.
"The fact that the state ranks so high in obesity, well I don't think the answer is to sit around and complain," he said.
"With keeping track of miles it helps with accountability. If people don't have accountability they probably won't stay on it too long."
Andrew Bates, president and owner of Body Fulfillment Inc., is on the Mayor's Fitness Challenge board. He said he's logged about 200 miles on the Web site so far.
Bates said he thinks it is vital for Tulsa to offer incentives such as Tulsa Million Miles to improve the city's image.
"This gives them something to hang on to and keeps the motivation up," he said. "It's important all Tulsans focus on their health and do something. Even small things count."
Though it might be hard for some people to get started on an exercise routine, Zenthoefer said it is possible if people stay focused on their goals.
"I work in the Internet business and live a long way out of town," he said. "I lost a lot of weight by riding a bike to work. So the answer is leading by example and showing people what they can do and help them make smart choices."
Information from: The Journal Record, http://www.journalrecord.com
Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.