Hans has been to hell and back, and he ended up on a bike :) We were so inspired by his story that we felt we needed to share it, with his permission of course. Here is our interview.
Sigr: Hi Hans! Who are you and where do you come from?
It's going to be difficult to give you the quick version but I'll try :)
My name is Hans Perneholm. I was born in 1961 and grew up in the small town of Holmsund, near Umeå in northern Sweden.
I am married with three children aged 31, 29 and 13 years old. The two oldest are from an earlier relationship, currently I live with my wife Ingrid and my daughter Betty.
I come from a working class family and started working at a young age in the local sawmill where my grandfather was in charge of handling timber, physical work like this is something I really miss.
My father was one of the founders of Umeå music school, which is the main reason why I was exposed to the noble art of the musician and from the age of seven, the trombone became my instrument of choice. Music was a big part of my life from 1979 to 2017 with touring and playing concerts becoming commonplace.
In total, I played in eleven orchestras in Västerbotten, from wind to big band music and everything in between. Between 2009 and 2018, I was in charge of the Swedish Armed Forces music department in Västerbotten, which included being a part of many “changings of the guard” and fanfares at the royal palace. A safe and stable upbringing with a mother, father, brother and very involved relatives has given me a large social network.
My time in the armed forces supplied me with many new friends and my career took me on many an adventure including being a member of the security forces around the U137 incident, the stranded submarine that really put Sweden to the test.
I was only 14 years old but I was already living an 'adult' life
Music meant a lot of travelling, opportunities to challenge myself and try new things, one of which was unfortunately drugs. I came into contact early on with an environment where drugs were a natural part of the touring scene. I was only 14 years old but I was already living an 'adult' life. My friends back in Holmsund were going to beach parties while I was going on tour in Germany. During these early years, I developed an addiction to drugs, which became progressively more serious until 1992 when I underwent treatment, which ultimately led to me kicking the habit. Becoming clean was a huge milestone and the beginning of a completely new life.
While I was working to sort out my very problematic life, I worked actively lecturing about the negative aspects drugs inflict on one's life. I even wrote my own educational material with my wife of the time, to use in my work.
my strongest drink now, is full fat milk
I have been completely drug free since 13th June 1992, that is except for snus (Swedish powder tobacco) and my strongest drink now, is full fat milk. During my years of drug use, I also became seriously overweight and after my rehabilitation from drugs, it was time to take care of the rest. I battled my weight, trying everything I could think of but without success. The result was a gastric bypass in 2010. From then until now I have lost over 83 kg in weight. You could say that I have dieted away an entire person from my body and that is in fact what it feels like.
Hmm, a nice racing bike would be fun!
Since 2010, my life has returned with new challenges and everything that entails. Just before my 50th birthday, my wife asked what I wanted for a present. I jokingly said, "Hmm, a nice racing bike would be fun" and lo and behold, there I sat on my birthday with a shiny new Bianchi Nirone. My first ride was just around the houses where we live, after that, I was completely sold on cycling.
Sigr: We're leaving 2018 behind us now but before we look to the future, what, with regards to cycling are you most proud of doing in 2018?
Umeå is a big cycling city with many groups both organised and not where cycling plays a central role. There's something for everyone. In 2016, I realised it was time for me "to raise the bar" - to set goals, develop and above all decide what cycling was for me. I quickly fell for road cycling and long distance racing. In 2017 I set myself the challenge of riding the Vätternrundan race (a 300 km race around Sweden's second largest lake) in aid of the Child Cancer Foundation (Barncancerfonden). I rode in a sub9 group, mostly with people from Umeå and two from southern Sweden. Eighteen of us set out and seventeen crossed the finish line within the allotted time. Our time was 8h 51m including stops. In the same year I also completed Ride of Hope’s Swedish race from Umeå to Stockholm, which took in total eight days with the longest stretch being Härnösand to Järvsö, a distance of 220 km. I also rode the Glassbonden Gravel Race in 2017, along with Bikeboost and some other smaller races. During 2017 I rode 14170 km in total, all in Sweden :)
In 2018 I wanted to do even more, not just in terms of kilometres but also challenging myself physically. We decided that the "Styrkepröven" ride in Norway would fit the bill. We were three guys from Umeå, one woman from Sundsvall and three from Stockholm that would take part in this race. The race is from Trondheim to Oslo over a total distance of 540 km. We met up in Uppsala for a warm up and took part in Uppsala Bike Weekend. It was only 160 km but we were all experienced cyclists so we thought it would be enough.
We realised early on that we were going to be riding into a headwind for 480 km
Styrkepröven turned out to be just that - a real test of strength. The start in Trondheim was fine. For the first 150 km, we were climbing, not to steep, but climbing all the same. We realised early on that we were going to be riding into a headwind for 480 km, 480! Even though the wind wasn’t too strong at around 3, 4 m/s, we felt it. Then at 2 a.m., the rain came, constant until the finish. We had 25 hours to complete the race and we managed it in 24 h 7 min. I’m pretty satisfied with that.
Besides this, I am running a collection for the Child Cancer Foundation where my goal is to cycle 12000 km, at the time of writing I have 1980 km left. I have a sponsor who is donating 20 öre/km as well as people who have donated during the year. One more thing I’ve done is cycled from Umeå to Stockholm with Ride Of Hope.
For me cycling has to be fun exciting and social
I am following my plan. For me cycling has to be fun exciting and social. Café rides, long distance rides and friends have all increased in number this year and I really feel that my physical ability has improved since I started cycling.
Sigr: Cycling came into your life a few years ago. But before that, can you give us an idea of what it was that made you set up new health goals in life?
Well as I’ve already mentioned, I lived with addiction for many years. I had a job, friends and acquaintances who didn’t suspect a thing. This is quite a common pattern in society. My addiction was composed of drugs, lots of drugs, hard drugs.
Move out or get help
There were some periods where I looked for help but I hadn’t yet acquired the correct attitude or insight and just wanted “someone else” to fix my problems for me. In ’91, things escalated. My wife was forced to carry me into the car on Christmas Eve and drive home early, before the traditional 3 p.m. showing of Donald Duck on Swedish T.V. This was the turning point. The next day I found a note on the kitchen table “Move out or get help” My wife had taken the kids and left. I was now alone. For a long period, I was consumed by self-pity and anger. Help arrived in ’92. I was ready to change and signed an agreement to undergo treatment.
The scales showed a weight of 157 kg
During my addiction I had become hugely overweight, mostly caused by comfort eating and inactivity. The scales showed a weight of 157 kg. I was not healthy at all. During ’92 and ’93, I primarily fought my addiction. I was helped greatly by my treatment team, my family and friends. I had two relapses in the first two years but was able to come out on the other side. The 12th of June 1993 is the date when I can say I became drug free. In the beginning of the treatment, I used medication to lessen the cravings. Over the years, I have been able to feel “I don’t want to use drugs, I have too much to lose” In 1995, I met a woman who worked with “the complete person” who helped me realise the need for daily physical activity. I started working on my weight again, but this time with the right attitude and tools. For many years, I tried everything that was available at the time. I took part in different trial groups and tests, I tried to go to the gym with friends but soon came to the realisation that I was just trying to copy what other people did. In the beginning of 2001 came the big setback when I and my then wife, who had known each other since we were kids, lost our foothold, and our relationship ebbed away.
Every night during those 4 months, my life came close to ending
Autumn 2001. For the next 4 months, I lived in a caravan in the carpark behind the OK petrol station in Teg, Umeå. Every night during those 4 months, my life came close to ending.
I found a new job later that year and met a woman who has been my wife since 2005. Together we had a daughter, my youngest, Betty. In the spring of 2002 I met a new doctor who said to me “It can’t be like this for you”. I got help, yet again finding some meaning in all of this. We made an action plan for my weight problem. Being active and watching what I ate became big parts of my life for the next few years and it gave me new energy. In 2009, my doctor suggested that the solution I may be looking for was gastric bypass – a surgical reduction of the stomach size. I agreed to give it a try and in 2010, it was time. After two months of solely liquid food and losing 20 kg in weight before the operation, I travelled to Gothenburg. 137 kg.
2011 was the turning point. 50 kg lighter and with a brand new road bike, I was ready to get on with my life. There have been a few medical complications along the way, one of which was Ilieus which almost cost me my life if it hadn’t been for my 9 year old daughter’s quick thinking. Apparently it was a common complication after a bypass. Otherwise, no problems, not even a bump in the road :)
To date, I’ve lost 83 kg in weight. I cycle 13000 km/year
Sigr: When a new year comes, a lot of people make a “new year’s resolution”. What are your tips for making it lead to something that lasts?
I’ve never been one for new year’s resolutions, maybe it’s silly but I have always seen them as a play for the gallery. Maybe it works for some people, but unfortunately, I don’t think so. Promises and goals are good though, if done in the right way (I don’t have a solution)
As long as you want something to happen then there are possibilities
Doing something you’re passionate about, that you really want to do is important. A lot of people today fit in with what others want or say, which doesn’t always need to be bad, but if the idea is that YOU want to make yourself a promise that YOU will be able to keep then it’s essential that the will is there from your side. As long as you want something to happen then there are possibilities, you just have to find the tools to do it. That can be the hard bit. Depending on the level of your goal, you may need sub goals, you may need help, and how can you make it fit with your everyday life?
the journey towards that goal is what is important
For me, easily achievable sub goals have been important. My goals have perhaps been of a different proportion than normal, but they have been my goals. Take an elite athlete for example who is aiming to run the 200 m hurdles at the Olympics in four years. How long does that race take to run? 30 seconds? It could be quite difficult to stay focused on those 30 seconds for four years. The key is to realise that the journey towards that goal is what is important. If you don’t train enough during those four years, of course you won’t reach your goal. They say that self-belief is important and to increase this, one should do things you are capable of and enjoy, it’s then you will reach new heights.
Life is a school, every day is a lesson
Sigr: You have an amazing fighting spirit and are a huge ambassador for cycling. But for those that are ready and want to begin a similar journey to yours, are there any tips on how to start? Do you have any suggestions for the journey, how can they get going and stick to their plan?
You need to find “your thing”. It’s no secret that it can take time. You need to get over that first little obstacle after a bit of testing and searching. Get help from friends and family and try to find out exactly what YOU need to succeed with your goals. I remember my first year with the Vincitore gang, we ride out every Friday from 6 a.m. to 7.15 a.m. all year round, finishing each ride with breakfast at the Plaza hotel. I was always last, last to the top, last to breakfast, just… last. I was never left alone though, that’s what social cycling is and it’s awesome being in the gang, but I was last.
you’re here because you want to be, because you can and because you dare
Sometimes I just want to give up. But one of my friends said, “you’re here because you want to be, because you can and because you dare”. For me, the most important thing to realise was that I will get better, I will be able to keep up, because I WANT TO. If only I could accept being last and handle it mentally. I invented a mantra along the lines of “most of them are half your age, they’ve been riding longer than you, I’m a beginner”. But there’s nothing wrong with that, as long as you understand that in the beginning your training should be tailored to YOUR own needs. Get some gadgets to help track your progress, a heart rate monitor maybe. Above all, it has to be fun, you should always have fun when you’re training.
Sigr: Last but not least. You have a huge 2019 ahead of you! Please tell us about what you and your friends are going to do in Norway.
After last year’s Ride Of Hope, we did Styrkepröven and quickly realised that this was fun. We are a great gang of people, all with the same outlook on cycling and always looking for a challenge. Because of this, we decided to look for something in the same vein and that’s why in 2019, we’ll be doing the Viking Tour, a race that moves around in Norway from year to year. In 2019 it will comprise 15 fjords and 12 mountains, amongst others, Trollstigen and parts of Jouteinheim. We’ll even be doing Uppsala Bike Weekend in May (167 km) and the ride around the lakes Siljan / Orsasjön (160 km) on the 1st June. I’ll probably squeeze in a few more shorter races of around 100-120 km :)
Sigr: We’ll be talking more about your Norway adventure nearer to July but what’s it like being in a team where everyone lives so far apart? How do you train “together”?
We try to meet up now and then at various cycling events and happenings around the country, this past September, we met up in Sundsvall for a training weekend. Then of course there is always FaceBook for meeting up in cyberspace. Otherwise we just train at home in the best way for us personally. As I’ve said, we have the same goal, but the way we get there is different for each of us. The training is very individual; we all have different bodies with different needs and challenges. We try to help each other as much as we can with ideas and suggestions. The important thing is to try to think “Why do I want to cycle?” “Why do I train?”
It can be a difficult question to answer but an important one. Do I cycle because it’s fun, to improve my fitness, to lose weight, to make new friends? Do I go to the gym to be a better cyclist, to cycle faster? In a nutshell, do I cycle for training’s sake or do I train for cycling’s sake? Perhaps a tricky question.
In summary, cycling should be fun, enjoyable and safe. There are huge differences in the different kinds of cycling; riding alone in the forest or with others on the road, whatever you choose it should be fun. If it ticks that box then you’ll probably want to do it again.
Sigr: Thankyou Hans.
Really a great interview, Hans, and an inspiring story! You had shared some of this with Jan and I on our auto tour with you, Ingrid, and Betty last July, but the interview really fills in the blanks. Keep up the good work!
That’s such an inspiring story Hans and so wonderful of you to be so open about your past, present, and future. I’m sure your story will give others with similar struggles hope that they can also be victorious over their addiction and meet previously thought impossible goals and dreams.
Thank you so much for sharing it! I’m so glad we had a chance to see the start of the Race for Hope last summer!
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