Healthy Living is a Life-Long Habit for Kentuckiana HealthFitness Magazine's People's Choice Award Winners

Healthy Living is a Life-Long Habit for Kentuckiana HealthFitness Magazine's People's Choice Award Winners

Healthy Living is a Life-Long Habit for Kentuckiana HealthFitness Magazine''s People''s Choice Award Winners

By Margaret Schauer

January is synonymous with folks lacing up their running shoes or perching goggle-bound on pool decks, grimly determined to follow through on New Year''s resolutions echoing those of years past: get fit, lose weight, eat healthier. By February, when resolve begins to weaken and the excuses start--I''ll wait until the weather warms up. Winter is meant for hibernation, right?--healthy living can appear as elusive as the discovery of a magical, one-dose pill that delivers sculpted muscles and boundless energy.

A high-quality lifestyle doesn''t have to seem so out of reach. The Louisville area is populated by people who live it every single day: teachers, firefighters, police officers, and administrators, just to name a few. They lead by example, maintaining careers, raising families and serving the community while showing that it is possible to take a proactive approach to good health, one that embodies mind, body and spirit.

Who are they and how do they do it? Below you''ll find the stories of these remarkable citizens, each chosen by the readers of Kentuckiana HealthFitness as the region''s best role models for better living.

Charlie Watson—Best Massage Therapist

Watson, 37, began his training as a massage therapist at Stillpoint Wellness Center and has been a therapist for the past 15 years. He''s owned his own business, Advanced Massage Therapeutics, for seven years and worked with the University of Louisville basketball team for five.

“The work we do here is not the regular massage that people think,” Watson explains. “We isolate a lot of stretching. We help people get healthy. It''s not just a relaxing rub like some people think massage is. All the research has shown how beneficial massage is for the immune system, for certain aches and pains. We work with teenage athletes and teenagers with medical problems, all the way up to older population athletes or people with just different ailments. Massage helps the immune system by literally changing the chemical structure of what the brain does. It increases the endorphin levels and decreases stress hormones, which helps the immune system. Research has shown it''s good for cancer treatment, for HIV.”

Watson fits his workouts in with his busy schedule four or five times a week. “Usually, it''s at 9 or 10 at night and on the weekends … sometimes it''s first thing in the morning. Mostly weights, just to stay strong,” he says. “A little cardio here and there. Injury is pretty common among massage therapists. The better shape I can be, the less injuries [I''ll have] … when I started working with U of L basketball, I had to get stronger in order to work with the basketball players. It became a priority at that point because I didn''t want to hurt myself doing massage or stretching them.”

In addition to preventing injuries, fitness assists him in other ways in his career. “It enables me to relate to [his clients] what they''re feeling, to an extent … when they''re doing some exercise and have certain injuries, I have an idea of what''s going on by knowing the muscles that go with the exercise.”

Watson advises people seeking a more active lifestyle to “find your motivation.” His long-term motivation comes from a desire to “maintain a good, healthy body, inside and out. Good diet, good exercise. Research shows that all that maintains longevity. I want to be active in my older years and have as good of a quality of life as possible.”

Cyndy Barney—Best Health and Fitness Story

Barney, 42 and a single parent of an 18-year-old son, has come a long way since her 40 th birthday—95 pounds, to be exact.

“I''ve had a weight problem my whole life,” says The Temple—TECEC kindergarten teacher. In September 2003, when she turned 40, she decided to “start tweaking with it [her eating habits] a little bit. I thought I''d watch my carbs.”

Then, in January 2004, she received news that rattled her into taking serious action. “My sister-in-law was diagnosed with breast cancer,” Barney says. “She was a vegetarian, healthy, and it was a huge wakeup call for me. I''d been playing with [the idea] for three months and wasn''t really serious about it but that day when she got her diagnosis, I really woke up and smelled the coffee.”

Barney puts it simply: “I just changed. I never said the word diet, it was all lifestyle change. One hundred percent lifestyle change. I was 230 pounds, so I thought I should do something. Especially when you''re a single parent … I wanted to live to see my son. That was it.”

As a past member of Weight Watchers, Barney knew what to do. “I started doing portions [control], five little meals a day. I watched my carbs, started measuring things. I joined Curves in Lyndon in June. That was my first foray into exercise.”

She also started working out at the Jewish Community Center, which is where she crossed paths with trainer Bekki Jo Trusty. “I met her in a women''s-only weight lifting class,” Barney says. “She was very encouraging to me … she never made fun of a question I asked her. I started doing Pilates with her … now I''ve progressed to doing spin classes five days a week. I do all kinds of cardio work, weight training three days a week … I''ve become addicted to exercise. I still do Curves on a day when I don''t have much time. I want to do something every day.”

It took Barney a year and a half to lose the 95 pounds. She emphasizes avoiding the word diet. “Change your lifestyle. It really is a whole mind, body, soul change,” she says. “It''s all about baby steps. I did set ten pound goals [for myself] and I treated myself when I hit those goals. It''s been 1,000 little steps.”

Dr. Stephen Daeschner—Fittest CEO/Boss

Physical fitness is an everyday habit for Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Daeschner, who turns 64 in March. Always an avid exerciser, Daeschner says, “I came from a small high school with about 50 in the graduating class. When you''re in a small high school like that, you have to participate in the three sports we had: football, basketball and track. I played college football [at Baker University ] and was lucky and fortunate to start for four years there. Then it took me into my profession, in all honesty. I decided I wanted to coach, more than anything else.”

Although he went to graduate school at Kansas State on a physics scholarship, Daeschner got a secondary teaching degree and decided to teach high school and coach. “I''ve always been connected with sports in both working out and coaching,” he says.

He currently exercises “at least once a day, every day … I bike at least six days a week [on a road bike] … in the winter, I''ll go inside on a trainer. When the weather''s nice on Saturdays and Sundays, [I like to] get in 100 miles over those two days. It''s a preset goal. Sometimes I make it, sometimes I don''t. I get great satisfaction just going out and getting a workout in.”

Daeschner also lifts weights three times a week and swims twice a week. “I used to compete fairly extensively in triathlons but both hips have been replaced, so I can still bike like crazy but I can''t run anymore. I miss competing at triathlons. Although,” he confides, “I''m older now and don''t miss it [too] much.”

It isn''t difficult for Daeschner to mix fitness into his daily schedule. “I was basically raised on farms,” he says, “so I''m an early morning [person].” He is usually at work by six and works until eleven. “I generally I work out at noon if I get a chance, if there''s not something pressing.”

He believes that his fitness level has an excellent impact on his job. “My blood pressure is probably 120/80 … I basically eliminate stress through pretty vicious workouts.”

Daeschner''s motivation to maintain good fitness comes from how he feels if he doesn''t work out. “I think physical fitness is like everything, like reading, like writing. It''s a habit that you do … not what you ‘got to,'' just what you just do.”

Gary Conner—Fittest Police Officer

Sgt. Conner, 54, married with a blended family of four children and nine grandchildren, is a 19-year veteran of the Louisville Metro Police Department and a five-year veteran of the K-9 Unit.

“I''m the oldest guy on the SWAT team, in my 17 th year,” Conner says, smiling. “I was hired by the Police Department at 35, made the SWAT team at 37, and I always told the guys that the day they could outshoot and outrun me, I would leave. I''m still here.”

Conner, the leader of SWAT Entry Team One, outlines a few of the tough requirements: “We test twice a year … one test is a job task analysis, which involves jumping a four-foot and six-foot fence [wearing gear], dragging a dummy, carrying a ram and going under an obstacle. The course is 100 yards long and 50 seconds is the average time. I am proud to maintain a good level of fitness to help lead the way.”

Being in good shape is important when it comes to the basics of the job. “We wear 35 pounds of gear when we dress out,” Conner says, “Some of our callouts can be lengthy … laying out there in the elements, you do need a degree of fitness.”

Conner tries to exercise four times a week with indoor cycling at home while also running 4.5 miles three times a week. With his busy schedule, though, his workouts are on “a day-to-day basis.”

For the past three years, he''s competed in eight duathlons sponsored by Todd Heady and Kentuckiana HealthFitness Magazine. He''s also run in four mini-marathons, noting improvement in his times each year. In 1994 and 1995, Conner teamed up with officers for the Hoosier 200 Relay, a 200-mile Southern Indiana road race. In 1994, with each person running three legs, Conner''s team ranked first in the corporate division with a time of 30 hours. Conner plans on taking part in it again this year if the team is willing to compete.

Long-term, Conner says, “I''d like to pick up my training. I want to do triathlons, try the Ironman. I''ve already bought some land in Shelbyville--the entire perimeter is a running course.”

Conner advises people who seek better fitness to “leave the TV off. Set goals for yourself. It''s also important to maintain a training log to keep track of your progress. And if you have a family, incorporate them, too.”

Jonathan Hoyle—Fittest Firefighter

For Hoyle, 34 and a seven-year firefighter, exercise has always been an important part of life. The former high school swimmer and soccer player works out every day with activities as diverse as road and mountain biking and skateboarding.

“A couple of friends and I are into long distance mountain bike racing,” he says. “I train in the winter with that goal in mind. There''s a bike trainer at the firehouse, and I also go run and do weights [at the firehouse].” The races, located in places like North Carolina and Virginia , are 100 miles long.

Hoyle believes good fitness gives him an edge in his career. “It makes my job a lot easier [to be fit]. One of the most important things to be a fireman,” he explains, “is to stay in at least halfway decent shape. It makes you way more efficient. It''s important for quickness … you wear 60 pounds on your back with the air tanks and the gear itself. It''s hot, like wearing a snowsuit in an oven … we have to do a lot more than people think—we rip out ceilings and walls in buildings on fire and those hose lines are really heavy once they get charged with water.”

Hoyle chose firefighting because “it just felt right, a healthy thing, something I could respect. Something I feel good about.” He is also attracted to the schedule, which involves a shift of 24 hours on duty, 48 hours off.

“My goal on my days off work is to spend as much time as possible outside. I like trying new things,” he says. On a typical day off, “I go to the skate park and then to Mary T. Meagher Aquatic Center and then ride bikes.” He and his wife Beth also enjoy taking sports-related vacations to places like Costa Rica and Hawaii for surfing and swimming.

Hoyle takes a long-term approach to fitness. “I''m not really a competitive person, so it doesn''t motivate me to try to beat someone. It''s more about being good to myself.” After retiring, he would like to move to a Western state or Hawaii . “I''d like to be a surf bum,” he says. “I want to ride my bike and enjoy life and not have stress … there''s no point to being miserable, and I''m happy.”

Dean Brooks—Best Male Spinning Instructor

Brooks, 48, is a six-year veteran indoor cycling instructor. Johnny Gee-certified, he generally teaches 20 classes per week at Baptist East Milestone Wellness Center and at the Louisville Athletic Club. Outside of class, he makes it a point to exercise every day.

“In the summer, I average about 200 miles a week on my [road] bike. My running varies, depending on what I''m training for: anywhere from 15 to 35 miles a week. In the winter, I still get 60-70 miles a week out on the [road] bike, as long as the weather holds up,” Brooks says. In the summer, he also enjoys racing, mainly duathlons. “Two years ago I qualified for the USA National Duathlon team and I went to Belgium for the world championships.”

He has not always been an athlete. “When I was 38 years old, I was a couch potato. Overweight, too much body fat,” Brooks explains. Then he ran his first mini-marathon and is now preparing to run his tenth, saying, “I haven''t missed one since.”

In addition to teaching, Brooks works 15-20 hours each week at J. Alexander''s restaurant. He is also currently completing a degree in Exercise Physiology at the University of Louisville in hopes of one day working with senior citizens. He fits exercise into his busy life through simple planning. “You just have to make it work,” Brooks explains.

How did fitness become his career? “I found my niche: I just like doing these cycling classes,” Brooks says. “I have fun—to me it''s not work. I go in for an hour, I smile, make people happy, hopefully make them sweat a little bit.” His motivation to stay fit comes from the same place: “I love walking into the club early in the mornings as people are dragging in, [knowing] I can turn them around. I can put that music on and start talking to them and an hour later, they''re happy, they''re pumped up and ready to take on the day.”

Brooks suggests that the best thing to do to in attaining a healthier lifestyle is to “find something you like to do. Experiment. If you dread doing it, then go find something else, because you aren''t going to be able to stick to it. Have fun in life: life is too short. People are always asking me why I''m smiling, and it''s because I''m enjoying life.”

Cheryl Hart—Best Female Spinning Instructor

Hart, like Brooks, wears many hats: at 51, she operates 2 nd Wind Motivation (, a motivational coaching business, and is also a certified fitness specialist, motivational speaker, spin instructor and writer. Additionally, Hart was just ranked first in her age group nationally as an All-American for triathlon and duathlon by Inside Triathlon Magazine. A member of Team USA and sponsored by Hammer Nutrition, she is currently training for her 2006 competitions, which will culminate in the World Duathlon Championship in Canada in July and the World Triathlon Championship in Switzerland in September.

Hart teaches 12 spin classes per week, all at Milestone. “I mostly do this to encourage other people,” she says. “I teach the classes just as if I really were biking on the road.” For one of her classes, she has her students “pretend we''re racing. I actually bring jerseys and hang them up and we chase them down and I have race marshals looking out for them. In the past I have given [the students] race numbers and marked their arms and legs. I try to create a visual for them so they feel what I feel—the passion for it.”

Hart''s fitness schedule includes swimming three days a week, running for four and road cycling two days a week in the winter. Her motivation comes from enjoying good health. “It''s so much more about the quality of life,” she says. “That, to me, is even more important than winning all of this stuff … I like the fact that you''re healthy enough to feel like you can try anything. I would like people to know that no matter what age, age should not be a deterrent.”

Hart says, “I always remind [the students] that the discomfort they feel, pushing through these barriers and obstacles … is so temporary. When you … get out of your comfort zone a little bit, it becomes easier the next time and the reward is so much greater. What they learn and the strength they get in the class mentally and physically carries over into these other aspects of their lives, and that''s the biggest thing I enjoy about teaching spin classes.”

Hart asserts, “I always challenge people to try something that they think they weren''t capable of doing. Once you achieve one thing, you see it''s possible and move onto other things.”

Steve, Brenda, Kelley and Jeff Kissel—Fittest Family

Exercise is a touchstone for the busy Kissel family: Steve, 50, is a physical therapist with Advanced Orthopedic Physical Therapy and Brenda works for National City Bank. Kelley, 23, is preparing to move to St. Louis to start a job in physical therapy while Jeff, 20, is in his junior year at Dayton University , studying Mechanical Engineering and balancing a tough crew team schedule. Despite the time crunches, exercise has always been something they embraced as a family. Brenda says, “We''ve always exercised from the time [she and Steve] got married … when Kelley and Jeff were little, they were involved in sports year round.”

Kelley, who swam for Assumption, Lakeside and St. Louis University and Jeff, who ran cross country at Trinity before becoming involved with crew at Dayton , also compete in triathlons and mini-marathons with Steve. Steve credits Kelley with getting him back into running after he had to stop due to a knee injury. She was looking for a way to cross-train with swimming when she was 12 or 13, he says, “and then we ended up running the mini-marathon. We''ve run the last nine minis and hope to make this one coming up our tenth.”

“It''s really neat,” Brenda says, “because [Kelley] started getting [Steve] back into running at a time when … teenage girls usually don''t have much in common with their dads.”

Nowadays, with both kids gone, Steve e-mails them their common training schedules. “We set goals together,” Kelley says.

Jeff, who has run three mini-marathons with them but hasn''t been able to make any since starting college due to a conflicting crew schedule, agrees that exercise brings the family closer: “Working out together is a lot of fun.”

In the last year and a half, the family has gotten involved in triathlons: the first was the Tri for Sight in Lexington in 2004, followed by one in St. Louis , Shelbyville , KY and Louisville ''s Tri America , culminating the 2005 season with Lexington ''s Tri for Sight. Jeff also did two others on his own: a sprint distance event and the Great Buckeye Challenge Half Ironman in Ohio , while Brenda is currently planning on entering a duathlon this year.

Brenda says that even as the kids grow up and move away, fitness “gives them something that they do together besides just coming home. There''s more opportunity as a family to get back together and share the activity.”

Chad Elder—Fittest Attorney

Adventure racing. Orienteering. 15K road races. At 36, Elder, married with two young children and a law career with the Kentucky Board of Medical Licensure, enjoys a variety of challenging physical activities, even if finding the time for them is a bit of a balancing act.

“I''m in my winter mode right now … I run four days a week,” Elder says. “I try to do light weights two to three times a week, use a therapy ball and different things at home after the kids go to bed. I try to get in a daily run of 45 minutes. On the weekends, it varies … I''ll run about nine miles.”

Elder, who enjoys running anything over a 10K, credits exercise with helping him to stay even-keeled throughout the day. “With the way work is,” Elder explains, “it''s a stress reliever, an outlet. I can tell when I haven''t run in a few days … I don''t wear headphones [when he runs]. If I''m by myself, I just [use the time to] think or turn my mind off.”

He fits in his workouts “whenever I can. My wife works part-time, so in the mornings, if she doesn''t go in, I can get up in the mornings and go run. Before we had children, I''d come home and run right after work but now I am flexible. It''s a priority only after doing things with the family.”

Elder''s long-term fitness goals include adventure racing and orienteering. “About five or six years ago, one of my brothers-in-law and I got into adventure racing,” he says, explaining that the off-road races involve trail running, mountain biking and usually a paddling section. “The idea is you get a map and you have to find your way to the various control points to check in. I want to try to get a couple of those in a year … I do orienteering and I''d like to get more involved with the Louisville Orienteering Club. I like getting off the road.”

Elder, who has completed the Louisville mini-marathon at least ten times and the Flying Pig marathon in Cincinnati in 2003, plans to run Louisville''s mini-marathon this year but isn''t sure if he can commit to the Louisville marathon and the long training it entails.

“Running 20 miles in a weekend takes less priority than spending time at home,” Elder smiles.

Margaret Schauer swims with SwimLouisville Masters and has a B.A. in English from the University of Louisville and an M.F.A. in Writing from Spalding University . She can be reached at