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Andy Murphy: A 'Poster Child' For Improving Fitness in Louisville

Andy Murphy’s life changed when he met a 38-year-old man in the final stages of emphysema.“Seeing that poor guy, all bent over—it was just one of those ‘aha’ moments,” Murphy said.To that point, Murphy was two-pack-a-day smoker. He'd smoked since he was 14—for 35 years.But, after he saw firsthand the effects emphysema can have on the human body, he quit smoking. He'd dedicate himself to improve his fitness.“It’s the best thing I’ve ever done,” he said. It was 2006. Murphy had just been diagnosed with a mild case of emphysema.Murphy's doctor told him that he'd just have to quit smoking if he wanted to live a normal life. Murphy said he felt like he'd won the lottery.A recent American College of Sports Medicine fitness report ranked the Louisville area 49th out of 50 metro areas in the U.S. Louisville officials consider reducing smoking and increasing physical activity as areas of improvement.That's precisely what Murphy did.Murphy is 57-years-old and retired from the Ford Motor Company.  Now, he is the  president of the Louisville Bicycle Club.Cycling has become a lifestyle for him, he said. He does it for health, but he said cycling also saves him money and helps the environment.Murphy is a robust man with thick-rimmed glasses, silver hair and the type of smile that is synonymous with drinking a cold beer after an all-day bicycle ride. When he walks through a crowd of cyclists, he slaps high fives, engages in conversation and smiles. A lot.Ben Botkins, the owner of Parkside Bikes on Bardstown Road, said cycling—instead of smoking—has helped Murphy get in shape and maintain an energy level that matches his personality.“It’s been a great outlet for him,” he said.Since quitting smoking and diving deeper into the cycling culture of Louisville, Murphy has been able to leave his fingerprints on nearly every event related to cycling in the city, Botkins said.“He is the hardest working retired person in Louisville,” Botkins said.From local charity rides to world-class races, hanging flags to managing events, Murphy is always willing to lend a hand,  Botkins said. A hand that no longer holds a cigarette.Mayor Greg Fischer said Murphy is the “poster child” for taking responsibility and getting on the right track to an active, healthy lifestyle.“He took on bike riding, changed his life,” Fischer said.Now, smoke-free and spending as much time as he can find on the bike, Murphy says life is good.“I’m the luckiest dude walking the face of planet,” he said.  “It sounds like hype, but nope, it’s just the fact.”

Jacob Ryan is the managing editor of the Kentucky Center for Investigative reporting. He's an award-winning investigative reporter who joined LPM in 2014. Email Jacob at jryan@lpm.org.

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