07/04/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Man Loses Job, Health Insurance, And More Than 100 Pounds

Mike Covington lost his job at the Louisville Courier-Journal in October 2008, a week shy of having worked there for 32 years. Last month, after more than a year of unsuccessful job searching, the 59-year-old photographer and graphic designer received his final unemployment check.

"My COBRA ran out halfway through April, unemployment ran out probably a week before that," said Covington, who lives by himself in Georgetown, Indiana. "I never thought with all the skills I have that I wouldn't be able to find a job. I feel like I've just been forgotten. It's creepy.

Because of a pre-existing heart condition, Covington says his health insurance would be almost a thousand dollars a month, which he won't be able to afford for the first time in his life. But instead of sitting around and feeling sorry for himself, he decided to start riding his bike.

"A month ago, Tom DeLay made a comment on the news that people getting unemployment didn't want jobs," he said. "That was so upsetting to me. It was the first really nice sunny day of spring, so I rode about 20 miles, and then it didn't bother me anymore at all."

Covington, who had a quadruple bypass surgery in October '07, says he has lost over a hundred pounds since then by riding his bike long distances.

"I thought it would help me out of this negative situation by focusing on something positive instead," he said. "My health has drastically improved. I don't even pant anymore. If you can get healthy to the point where you no longer need meds, then you can beat the system."

Covington says he is now alternating between 10 and 15 mile rides every day, but he thinks he can work up to riding 20 miles a day in the next couple of months.

"At one point I felt I had to ride or die," he said. "But my energy level now is so high and I feel so good, it's quite a contrast to what's happening in my life outside of riding. I recently told someone that you might be thinking about your problems before you ride, but if you're doing it right, you won't be thinking about them when you're done."

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