By Kim Thomas
“When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.” — Confucius
With the baby New Year on its way, I wondered what small steps folks are taking to stay fit in the new year? Seems that big resolutions are so intimidating, they keep us from beginning what we swore we would begin when the clock strikes midnight on December 31st. When I see people in good health, of all ages, I wonder just how they get that twinkle in their eye, that spring in their step?
Whether it is riding a horse or playing soccer, the New Year is waiting for you to find your sparkle, get your inner percolator perking, spring up your step. It doesn’t have to be a full-on commitment to juicing, Crossfit, swimming the English Channel or mountain climbing, but the Mix has aerial classes to lift your spirits, the YMCA has yoga classes to get you going in an easy way, Kentucky Indoors can enroll you in a soccer league, Calvary Baptist has a gym that only costs $10 a month, and that’s just a smattering of the opportunities to step away from the daily mundane routine and find how easy it is to feel better.
As for me, I stand at my desk for the time I’m on phone calls, take the long way around the block if I’m walking, and I try to sing for at least an hour, every day. Enough about me, let’s talk about everyone else! I asked a few bluegrass personalities who seem to be the picture of good health to talk about the steps they take to well-ville.
Kentucky First Lady Jane Beshear embodies Kentucky’s unbridled spirit in her advocacy for horses and those who work in the equine industry. Her health and happiness shine at any occasion, whether she appears with Governor Beshear in the Winner’s Circle at the Kentucky Derby or is hosting the Annual Celebration of Hope Luncheon each May. She stays fit by doing what she likes best. “I’ve always been active and love spending time outdoors. By far, horseback riding is my favorite form of exercise AND it gives me the peace of mind I need after spending time working on my initiatives in Frankfort.” Mrs. Beshear is dedicated to addressing the rampant spread of breast cancer, which is the second-leading cause of cancer deaths among women in Kentucky. Her Horses and Hope initiative is increasing breast cancer awareness, education, screening and treatment referral among Kentucky’s horse industry workers and their families. To date, Horses and Hope has educated more than half a million horse show and race track fans, and has screened more than 400 equine workers. She adds, “I like to say that horses are the best personal trainers, therapists and confidantes in the world! Riding is great exercise in itself but working in the barn – mucking stalls, carrying water buckets and hauling hay – are also a great workout. I prefer to ride every day, weather permitting, but I also love the flexibility and strength that yoga offers me. Of course, keeping up with my three grandchildren is a much-loved workout too!”
Lexington Mayor Jim Gray finds the discipline of a rigorous routine perfect for his busy schedule. Gray can be seen walking to downtown appointments. His optimism and cheerfulness are uncontainable. What’s his secret? He says his devotion to the gym grows from an impression gained in his youth. “I always remember that it was just one generation ago that my dad grew up on a farm in southern Kentucky, where he got a good workout all day long! That’s one good reason–fear and trembling!–that I have a regular workout routine…doing weights and cardio with a rowing machine are my preferred workouts. Every day when I can.” When he isn’t attending to the persistent needs of Lexington, Gray finds time to enjoy a read, saying, “And I try, too, to remember there’s always good therapy in a good book!”
Amber Philpott anchors the news nightly on WKYT-TV, looking perfect, good natured, always present, always nice, always pretty. How does she do it? “She says she considers fitness and wellness a huge part of her life, “and it’s something I love talking about and sharing with others.I believe a healthy lifestyle involves mind, body and soul! In my job, the mental stress many times outweighs the physical stress. For me hitting the gym at Body Structure each day is a must, I am there five days a week — I run 3.1 miles every day, do 30 minutes on the elliptical and 10-15 minutes on the bike. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I also take an hour cardio/boot camp style class. For me this is something I always budget into my day, for me it’s a stress reliever. There is nothing like strapping on my tennis shoes, putting in the ear buds and getting lost on the treadmill! For the last two years I have been cycling as well, on Saturday mornings I take a class at CycleYou in Lexington. For me it’s like yoga on a bike. I get lost while pedaling away to the music. Working out is something that makes me feel strong and beautiful, it’s not about losing weight or being a certain size. For me, hitting the gym is a ‘super’ hobby that allows me to de-stress while feeling like I can do anything!”
Philpott emphasizes that avoiding gluten has also become a way of life. “Nutrition is a huge part of my life as well. I have Celiac Disease, and since being diagnosed in 2009, I have needed to completely change the way I eat. I was never a really bad eater, but I can tell you the cleaner I eat the better I feel, my workouts are so much better and even my sleep is better. I believe in healthy snacks through the day, for example I am conditioned to eat a cup of grapes and 2 rice cakes with peanut butter every day before news between 3 and 4!”
“In my job, our hours are certainly crazy. I get off work right before midnight and while some people like to stay up all hours, I do not and require a lot of sleep. I am in bed most nights no later than 12:20, but I am also up most mornings by 7 heading to the gym. I think sleep is so important to the success of our day and our health in general, it’s something I never take for granted. Finally, I think we have to exercise our mind and soul and feed them as well. I live my life constantly on the go so I try to take at least 10 minutes for myself. At night I don’t even turn on the TV. I read! Reading for me is what calms me down, lets my mind rest from the crazy day and gives me those few moments to myself to get lost in another world. Life is precious and God only gave us one vessel to live it in, so I believe in taking care of it to the max!”
Lexington’s Dick Gabriel is an accomplished Shao-Lin blackbelt, but he is most well known as one of UK sports’ most consistent (and accurate) voices. Also known on twitter as @bigblueinsider1, he’s heard on WLAP and seen on WKYT. Gabriel, who produces, writes, edits and broadcasts more sports and news shows than we have space to show says he has made a commitment to swim more often this year. “I’m trying to get back in the pool on a regular basis. I love swimming and I’ve found it to be perhaps the best exercise available to me when it comes to overall fitness; and one of the best things about it is, I can clear my head while I’m doing it, unlike running, when I would constantly be doing a mental inventory of my body, I can just find a rhythm and go.” He’s trying to form better habits, but temptations abound. “I’m trying to use the steps instead of the elevator; but I must admit, there’s something about an escalator that I just can’t seem to pass up!” he laughs.
Renfro Valley entertainer Wanda Barnett, is a quiet, talented and unassuming fiddler with the voice of an angel sings with a band of hilllbilly jazz outlaws called the Squirrels. Her nature is one that thrives on a peaceful existence. One look at her joyful face or one conversation with her reveals a lovely soul, inside and out. She clearly has achieved the careful work of balance in her life. Barnett considers her spirit to be the most important aspect of her health, “I believe that if you are healthy spiritually, it rains down and through all aspects of your life. You ‘glow’ from the inside out! Each day I make time for devotionals and scripture. If I don’t, I find I start relying on my own mind, and my own understanding. That’s not all bad, but without shoring yourself up spiritually, then the daily attacks and stresses not only start weighing you down and dictating your behavior and responses, they can also start defining who you feel you are.
Barnett thinks being eternally studious helps keep her mind sharp. “I’m an avid reader and curious person, always have been. I stayed up til 4am reading this morning. I think I would just die inside if I wasn’t learning something every day.” She’s also devoted to her one true love: music, music, music! “I’m learning about music every single day, via playing, singing, writing, teaching (50 students a week), and reading about musicians’ lives and music. Music history, instruments, other musicians. I don’t have a lot of time to practice because I play so much, but while I’m playing, which is about 7 hrs a day, I’m listening, and stretching and learning. I learn a lot at gigs. A friend of mine once said, ‘Always play with people who are better than you!’ He was right!”
“As for keeping her girlish figure, she offers a few baby step suggestions. “I walk and I move a lot. I park far away from the stores’ front door. I try to walk two miles a day, but I’m currently on hiatus, and that’s bad. I’ll do better. Mostly I watch what I eat, I always have. Very little processed food, no pork, very little red meat. Fish, chicken and whole foods (fruits and vegetables)…ZERO corn syrup, no pop, just water and tea. Each morning during devotionals I’m drinking green tea, and decaf. I take supplements, I’ve done that since I was a teen; and I’ve tried to take care of my skin since then as well, I’m sort of fanatical about that. Clean face at night. Good lotions and make up. Good shampoo. And SLEEP!! Because of the music, and my bad habit, I stay up too late, BUT, I get to sleep in because my work doesn’t start til 1:30 pm. I don’t weigh myself, I go by my jeans! If they’re tight, I cut back. I do have a bad habit of eating late at night, but, it’s most always good food, meaning fruits, veggies, brown rice, drinking water, juice and tea…pretty simple. I know I only have so much to work with, what God gave me, but something in me has never let me give up on trying to look good, look my best. I just don’t give up, and I try to keep moving moving moving. One thing I remember from a couple years ago was something Dr Phil said. He said something like ‘Don’t get rid of your clothes, don’t get ‘fat’ clothes! Well, for some reason that stuck, and my clothes of my ‘happy size’ are my meter. I stay very busy, teaching four days, playing gigs, playing in church, taking care of the house and dogs (I love to push mow my big yard, it’s great exercise for me), and when I shop, I go long ways around aisles, and just walk all I can. I just can’t and won’t give up on my health. It’s a precious gift I can’t afford to take for granted. Lastly, I read a LOT about natural healing, herbs, vitamins, and try those things. I’m all for healing as opposed to medicating.”
Barnett also considers one last thing. “I think it makes a huge difference. I have work that I love. I have a life that I feel, that I HOPE matters. I don’t feel like I’m just spinning my wheels. I try to be a giver, a lover of friends and family and people I meet, and in return, and am blessed with the most awesome community of friends and family, of music.”
ROBERT PARKS JOHNSON is a well known local actor who is a cancer survivor who works at the YMCA. Luckily, he shares his enthusiasm with his students at the YMCA. He agrees that baby steps are key to getting better in a well-rounded way.
Johnson emphasizes, “The Y takes a holistic approach.The Mind/Body/Spirit model has beenthe foundation of the Y’s vision of wellness since our creation in England in 1844 When we think of physical wellness, we need to remember a different triangle: Exercise; Nutrition; and Sleep. Healthy sleep is essential to recovery and growth. Nutrition is also fundamental: I like to remind my classes that there is nothing they can do in the gym that can’t be undone in the kitchen, (or at the drive-through window.) And then there’s exercise. At the Y, we target the people we call “Health Seekers.” Some people would exercise if they had to lift concrete blocks in an unheated garage. Others wouldn’t get up off the couch if it was on fire.
“Health Seekers” are people who are not workout fanatics, but they are interested in becoming more healthy and fit. A lot of them are former exercisers. Many have tried and failed to build the habit, but just couldn’t get the fire started.
These “Health Seekers” are the population that the YMCA tries to serve. There are a couple of ways the YMCA of Central Kentucky tries to do that. First by making exercise available. Our three locations (with a fourth about to break ground in Hamburg), mean that no one in Fayette county is more than a few minutes from a Y. When you visit those locations, you’ll find clean, safe, modern facilities for all kinds of activity, from ball fields and running trails to swimming pools, weight rooms, basketball gyms and racquetball courts.
When someone first comes to the Y, I encourage them to try a lot of different things. You can attend classes in yoga, water aerobics, and martial arts. You might rent a bike, or learn Zumba. The important thing is to find something you enjoy doing. If you don’t like exercise, you won’t keep it up, no matter how many times you tell yourself that it’s good for you. Let your first baby steps be a search for a way of moving that makes you want to get up and move!
The second way we try to serve “Health Seekers” is to make exercise accessible. Some people don’t want anything more than a locker, a shower, and a basketball goal, and the Y makes it easy for them to enjoy the workout that they choose. Other populations have more specific needs. The Y has personal trainers and wellness specialists to help people who need a little extra instruction, guidance, or motivation. We offer programs that are scientifically designed to meet the needs of seniors, cancer survivors, people struggling to fend off diabetes, and even those who are living with MS. Our facilities are equipped to assist people with walkers, canes and wheelchairs, whether they want to lift weights, shoot hoops, or take a dip in the pool. Child care with trained attendants is available at every Y, and of course our youth programs for team and individual sports have set the industry standard for over a century.
And finally, the YMCA has lots of ways to make membership affordable. There is never a contract associated with your membership at the Y. So you aren’t going to get stuck in a 12 or 36 month commitment if you try it out for a couple of months, then change your mind. All of our facilities and a wide variety of classes are included as part of your membership. You won’t have to pay extra to drop in on a Mat Pilates class, or bring a guest with you to show them what the Y is like. And finally, our Open Doors program offers deep discounts to the cost of membership to individuals andfamilies who need them. The Y does all we can to make sure that no one is ever turned away because of an inability to pay.
I love to tell the YMCA story. It really has changed my life for the better. I walked into the Y for the first time at age 51. The year before, in March of 2010, I weighed 397 pounds, hadn’t had a full time job for two years, and the doctors discovered a 6 centimeter tumor growing under my right tonsil. They told me I had a 50% chance of survival.
After a year of chemo, radiation, surgery, and struggling to walk to the bathroom without stopping to rest, I heard about a new program for cancer survivors called LIVESTRONG at the YMCA. The program offers a free 12 week membership to the Y, the guidance of a team of trainers, nutritionists, and group exercise instructors, and a chance to spend time with other survivors twice a week. I fell in love: with my classmates, my instructors, and with the YMCA.