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Journey to Fitness

This is the first part of a two-part series telling the stories of fitness journeys, a look at what motivated these individuals to make a commitment to a lifestyle of fitness.

A joke circulated on Facebook as Jan. 1 approached. It went something like this: I’m going to open a business and call it Resolutions. The first two weeks it will be a gym and the rest of the year it will be a bar.

By now, the first full week of February, those New Year’s resolutions some 50 percent of Americans set out to accomplish in 2013 have already fallen by the wayside, according to a 2010 article on Psychology Today’s website.

There’s a lack of commitment involved, experts said, and by the end of the year most of the people who made resolutions are no better off than they were at the start of January.

Then there are the stories of those who chose not to diet, not to work out until they lost 15 pounds, but instead decided to try to change their lives. They found what worked for them and sought out a support system. Then they got to work.

This week we feature the stories of two Covington residents: Jenny Lund and Elon Wagoner. Both are members at Pinnacle Medical Wellness.

PINNACLE’S APPROACH

Joshua Lyons, owner of Pinnacle, explained that his business is not like a traditional gym during a tour of the newest facility in Maple Valley Town Center.

“What makes us different is the medical background of this facility,” Lyons said. “It’s all very directed. People looking for fitness have gone to traditional fitness centers and failed then blamed themselves.”

Trainers have bachelor’s degrees in exercise science. There are physical therapists on staff as well as a registered dietician. Every workout is designed for each client based on a series of diagnostic tests which helps establish goals. Each client gets a key which is used to check in then to start up each machine such as treadmills and stationary bicycles. Data is collected from the workouts which allows trainers to more effectively track what clients accomplish, to observe trends and modify workouts accordingly.

From Lyons perspective, Pinnacle is about prevention.

“Exercise is the cheapest form of medicine,” Lyons said. “This is in no way, shape or form going to make us rich. This is just the right thing to do.”

A DECISION TO TRY

Do a Google search on quotes about fitness and this one comes up, “Every accomplishment begins with a decision to try.”

Lund decided to try to make a lifestyle change but it took some work to get to that point. A married mother of four, Lund was a three-sport athlete in high school whose activity levels slowly decreased over time, and eventually when her youngest child was around 5 years old she “maxed out.”

“I can’t even blame it on babies at that point,” she said. “I’d get good for a little while, exercise for a little while, watch what I ate for a little while.”

She tried a popular weight loss program. Her husband, who had always been overweight, told her he had no interest in doing that.

Later, though, Lund and her husband participated in a medically supervised weight loss program. It was a hyper-low calorie diet with packaged meals, a weekly class and support. But, once the program ended, the weight returned for them both, Lund said.

“Intellectually, I know what I’m supposed to do,” she said. “But, to do it on a consistent basis … that’s hard. There’s so many yummy options out there.”

In 2009 Lund had a rough summer. Her husband had a major health event when his heart rhythm went sideways, then her oldest daughter, who was a teenager at the time, had a gall bladder attack. The family wasn’t living in Washington state, she said. Lund had attended a boot camp at a gym to try to get back to where she was after completing the medically supervised program, but, with all that piled up she struggled to keep up and her weight crept up again.

Her family moved to Washington state and within six months, Lund said, she gained 30 pounds.

“It hit me that at this rate, I can’t keep going, I’m not going to make it very long,” Lund said. “At the end of 2011 my husband and I looked at each other and said, ‘We need to make a change.’”

They decided, first of all, to avoid fad diets.

Lund came to another significant realization.

“Everybody talks about how weight loss needs to be a lifestyle change yet every diet is a diet, not a lifestyle change,” she said.

“As I was thinking about that I realized I need to figure out what my lifestyle change needs to look like. I’ve been on this exploration the past couple years with food and learning about food and enzymes and minerals and I’ve been reading books. It’s just kind of grown — it’s been this learning process. It’s been a lot more than just a New Year’s resolution.”

She began to evaluate what could work for her and her family, what would stick and become a good habit.

Interestingly enough, it was her husband who connected them to Pinnacle.

“He loves to watch ‘The Biggest Loser,’” Lund said of her husband. “We’ve discussed many times the fact that Biggest Loser has a staff there to support those contestants. My husband said, ‘I wish I had something like that.’ So, when he found this place, they’ll monitor his blood pressure before he works out, while he works out. They’ll work with his naturopathic doctor who is just across the street. If (an injury) comes up, physical therapy is right there. There’s all this support here for him to be able to do what he wants. So, that’s what got us in here.”

Lund reflects on a time she was training to run a marathon, but she suffered an injury and found her doctor to not be very helpful in diagnosing or treating the issue, so she stopped training because it hurt too much.

She still wants to run a marathon and knows now that she has the support system in place to manage an injury if it happened again.

“I want to be able to say that once in my life, I ran a marathon,” Lund said.

She also wants to participate in a triathlon sprint which has become a family activity with four of her brothers and many of her nephews.

Thus far, she’s pleased with what she has accomplished in the past year or so. Her body fat has reduced by several percentage points. She has gained muscle strength.

“Periodically we have to increase my resistance, so it’s always a great feeling to know that you’re adding weight,” Lund said. “That’s been a good incentive for me to see that I’m getting stronger because the resistance isn’t enough anymore.”

Lund also dropped 30 pounds. She sees Jan. 1 as her weigh-in date, so, by the first day of 2014 she would like to lose an additional 30 pounds.

“If by next summer I can go down to California and do a full (triathlon sprint) with my brothers, that would be really awesome,” Lund said.

This lifestyle change, Lund said, has been a good one to make.

FITNESS IS A WAY OF LIFE

Wagoner decided about four years ago to no longer be seduced by the American lifestyle, the way of eating in our society which is filled with fats and sugars.

As a chef, Wagoner has witnessed the evolution of the American pallet during the past four decades, and observed the conversation this country is having about food and exercise. He believes it’s going in the right direction.

And so is he.

His wife started going to Pinnacle four years ago.Wagoner said she used up her health insurance benefits each year for physical therapy and massage therapy to treat pain from injuries suffered in a car accident.

At one point her physical therapist encouraged Wagoner’s wife to join as a fitness member in an effort to help overcome the pain.

“She had to learn her body and that’s where Pinnacle comes in,” he said. “And that’s what makes Pinnacle amazing.”

Finally, Wagoner said, his wife encouraged him to join and work on his fitness.

For the first 18 months, Wagoner said, his goals were to use exercise to help stabilize his moods. It worked.

“In October of last year, I said, ‘I want new goals. I want to lose some weight,’” he said. “Being a chef it’s easy to gain weight because you can nibble all day. So, I started coming up with things I can lock in my brain. I said to myself, ‘Why do you eat like this is your last meal?’ So, I started challenging myself.”

He began cutting his food portions. Then he noticed results.

And Wagoner made a connection between food and exercise he hadn’t put together before: he had to work on eating better and exercising to maximize the effects of his efforts.

Before the holiday season this winter, his 25-year-old son David, came to visit from New York. Wagoner described his son as good looking and fit because he has exercised regularly since he was 16.

“He taught me some things,” Wagoner said of his son. “On Christmas Eve we sat down and watched ‘Fat, Sick and Almost Dead.’ After we watched it, I told my son, ‘David, I am going to start fasting tomorrow.’”

After watching the documentary, Wagoner said, he started thinking about how to change his diet to make it plant strong.

Rather than make the usual pancakes, strawberries and whipped cream breakfast for Christmas Day, Wagoner did a juicing fast.

A few days later he sought out some additional advice from his trainer at Pinnacle, who offered another suggestion.

Wagoner goes to the gym five days a week now. Any less just doesn’t work for him. He spends an hour each morning at Pinnacle, plus stretching every morning and evening.

“It has given me twice as much energy,” he said. “It’s given me a whole new lease on life. I know it sounds cliché. Exercising really built up my self-esteem.”

He’s lost weight. The day I interviewed him, Wagoner, 54, was wearing a sweater he’s had since high school. For years he couldn’t wear it because it wouldn’t zip up over his belly. Now it zips easily and is a bit roomy.

His next goal is to hit his target weight, which he expects to do in April, possibly sooner. And he’s visualized another goal.

“I want to uncover my hidden six pack,” Wagoner said. “It’s not that I’m really vain. That’s just where I want to be weight-wise. I’m already starting to see muscles in my stomach that I haven’t seen.”

As a chef who works for a residential retirement community, he wants to incorporate his approach at work, too.

“I’m going to integrate this professionally because now I’m passionate about taking a green approach to cooking,” he said. “Cooking will come from a place of health not entertainment. I want people to eat my food and feel healthier. That’s my renewed focus as a chef, I’m going to promote a plant strong diet.”

By plant strong, he means incorporating more fruits and vegetables into what he serves, something he already does at home. He’s particularly fond of making green smoothies. At some point that may mean becoming a vegetarian, Wagoner said, but right now it does not.

He’s also been influenced by another documentary, “Fork Over Knife,” as well as a book called “The Engine 2 Diet,” which is where the term plant strong is used often.

Wagoner is focused on continuing to evolve.

“Our journey in our lifestyle change is a continuum,” he said. “I don’t think it’s about becoming aware. Sometimes you just don’t know what’s happening, then you have these a-ha moments.”

 

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