Across the Finish Line: Children of Promise Director’s Fitness Journey Inspires
By Carl Stagner
Mike Webb couldn’t stand it any longer; something had to be done. A decline in physical activity, an increase in responsibilities at home and at work, and a season of heavy travel contributed little to the health of his body, mind, and soul. Disciplines that were once a part of his routine went by the wayside as the general busyness of life crowded out time for personal care. It was a visit with his doctor that ultimately prompted the co-director of Children of Promise to take decisive action, however. Necessitating a change in daily habits, high cholesterol proved to be the loud wake-up call that would launch Mike Webb on a journey to holistic health and, near the close of 2022, the title Ironman.
Mike’s experience leading up to the decision to get healthy isn’t uncommon. Discouraged by lack of fitness, feeling sluggish overall, and noticing the effects neglect of physical health can have on the whole person, Mike’s motivation peaked. Though he’d long enjoyed exercise and competition, he’d begun to notice major lifestyle changes didn’t come as easily as they once did. “I knew I had to take better care of myself now so, as I get older, I can live healthier for my family,” Mike explains. “I wanted to have energy and strength to be a great husband and dad, and to invest myself more fully in ministry. I would hate for my health to inhibit that.”
Healthy habits started to replace bad ones for Mike, but a couple years later, his wife Heather embarked on her own fitness journey with great success. She even became a health coach, a job she continues to enjoy alongside her leadership of Children of Promise. Watching Heather’s health improve dramatically encouraged Mike to get serious. While running, biking, and swimming have all been recurring components of his routine, he also had to watch his diet.
“I always thought I could outrun my bad eating habits,” Mike observes, “but the older you get, the harder that is to sustain. When Heather got really interested in developing more healthy eating habits, I saw how significantly her diet contributed to her health. She was eating healthily and losing weight, getting all kinds of energy, and feeling better all the time. So, I started following her dietary example and also lost a lot of weight, in addition to continuing with my physical activities.”
As Mike made more and more progress, he began to dream of the possibilities that came with renewed physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual health. A couple of his friends had competed in an Ironman competition a few years ago, but Mike had thought such an opportunity was beyond his reach. But with improving health, was that still the case?
That’s when ministry and wellness collided for Mike Webb. As Children of Promise celebrated thirty years in 2022, he saw a chance to pursue Ironman as a specific goal in what the child sponsorship ministry of the Church of God dubbed the “Year of Adventure.” Through the year, supporters were encouraged to get outside, travel, hike, jog, or participate in just about any other activity that could raise funds for the vital international work. Ahead of the November 2022 Ironman in Tempe, Arizona, Mike prepared month after month with races of a variety of kinds, in addition to a hike with ministry colleagues to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro.
“That many miles require a lot of time in training,” Mike admits. “I did not have a coach, but I read a lot of articles about triathlons, and I followed a lot of athletes on social media who post motivational, inspirational, or instructional content…. I put those pieces together on my own and made sure I could complete the appropriate distances each month. I could have done a lot more and been more tuned in, but I also had to manage my responsibilities at home and at work.”
When the big day came, Mike was ready—and so was his family, cheering him along at many junctures along the way.
“I trained hard and sufficiently for my goal,” Mike writes about the Ironman. “I made a plan, stuck to my plan, and thoroughly enjoyed the day even as hard as it was. There were highs and lows, but the feeling of accomplishment at the end was absolutely exhilarating!”
Ultimately, Mike’s goal was not to win the competition, but to finish well. In so doing, he had journeyed to a healthier version of himself, holistically.
“Without a doubt, my physical journey impacts my spiritual health,” Mike reflects. “The correlation has been evident throughout my life. My time running, riding, lifting, swimming, climbing, hiking—whatever—is time spent with the Lord. It is time spent in reflection. It is time spent recharging. God has taught me time and again that I need that time and effort for myself to be more in tune with him. Over the past year, I have been surprised how many people have taken notice of my journey and told me about their own journey. Those testimonies have been awesome.”
“There is no doubt,” Mike concludes, “about the correlation between our physical health and our holistic health. Choosing healthy habits impacts much more than your waistline, and it may even impact someone who may be watching your example.”