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‘RUNNING CHANGED MY LIFE’
5 metro Detroiters tell how lacing up
got them back on track
By Nicole Adamson
orget politics. If you really want to see people take sides, just turn the conversation to running.
To some, lacing up their sneakers and hitting the pavement is as essential as brushing their teeth
each day, whether it’s sunny, rainy or snowing outside. To others, it’s a way to decompress and
get outside, even if it’s only once or twice a week. Then there are those who wouldn’t think of running
– unless they’re being chased. No matter which group you’re in, there are some things you can’t
refute. Running is inexpensive and convenient, most people in reasonably good shape can give it a go,
and its benefits include everything from weight loss to heart health to lifted spirits. Still not inspired?
Then read these stories from five metro Detroiters who say running transformed their lives.
Pete Thomas is shown, left, at the start of NBC’s The Biggest Loser 2, where he got into shape with his trainer on the show, Jillian Michaels, center. The show
aired September through November, 2005. At right, Thomas is all smiles after dropping an additional 102 pounds on his own.
“Running helped me be a running two – almost nonstop. ed running and ropped from 269 to 199
winner on The Biggest Loser.” “My mind was like, ‘What are you doing? pounds in nine months.
Pete Thomas, 39, Ypsilanti You’re too big to be running!’” says Thomas. Because his job requires a lot of travel,
Pete Thomas weighed in at 401 pounds He’s been running ever since. In fact, he Thomas says for him the greatest advantage
when he first arrived on the set of NBC’s The attributes at least 70 to 80 pounds of his of running is its accessibility. He makes sure
Biggest Loser in March 2005. After dropping additional weight lost – 102 pounds from to pack running gear in his carry-on bag,
83 pounds in 62 days at the Biggest Loser May through November of 2005 – to pound- and runs laps around hotels.
Ranch, Thomas was feeling great. But he ing the pavement. The Biggest Loser 2 These days, Thomas averages five miles a
knew he was going to have to make some awarded Thomas $100,000 for dropping the day, four to five days a week. “Some days I
major lifestyle changes to keep his “losing most weight, percentage-wise, of all 11 con- don’t feel like running, and I run anyway,
streak” going. testants voted off the show. because I’m running from the past me,” he
So after the show’s taping, the 318-pound, Thomas’ initial running program was says. “Sometimes, I do want to run, and
6-foot-5-inch real estate investor showed up intense: 90 minutes of running daily, six those days, I’m running toward the future
for a beginner’s running class at Tortoise and days a week. But the results were impres- me. But wherever I am, I’m running.”
Hare Running and Fitness Center in Ann sive. After he completed his first 5K in July
Arbor. Thomas skeptically set out to run one 2005, he ran the Detroit Free Press Half
mile. To his own amazement, he ended up Marathon that October. His wife, Pam, start- COOL GEAR
FOR RUNNERS PAGE 27
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“Running with [the Downtown Runners] WHAT KIND OF RUNNER
kept me sane, gave me perspective and ARE YOU?
helped me through those very difficult Anyone can run. Take this quiz to
times,” says Mezza, who ran her first learn your ideal running routine.
marathon in 1993 and has since run nine
more. “I feel like running changed and saved 1. Your current fitness regimen is:
my life, physically and emotionally.” A. Fun classes where I can meet new people
It also introduced her to Howell. The two B. Occasional pickup game of basketball
bonded during their weekly runs and even- C. Hiking, kayaking, anything outdoors
tually started dating. In April 1996, they ran D. Doing leg lifts while watching Scrubs
the 100th Boston Marathon together. They E. What fitness routine? I’m lucky if I can get
married in July and continue to run together. in a 10-minute walk at lunch
“We have some of our best disagreements
while out on our runs,” Howell says. “By the 2. In high school, you were a member of:
time we are back home, the problem is A. A mix of things – drama club, volleyball,
always resolved and we feel good again.” student council, etc.
B. Soccer, basketball and tennis teams
“Running became my source C. Ecology club
of friendship and support.” D. Not much – you had to get home to
Running changed Doug Howell and Colette Mezza’s Christine Hughes, 35, Canton watch television
lives, physically and emotionally. Any parent knows that keeping up one’s E. Every club you could possibly join
own hobbies while trying to raise children
“Running saved my life.” can be stressful. But for Christine Hughes, 3. You feel most satisfied:
Doug Howell, 61, and Colette Mezza, 52, the opposite proved true. A. When you’re with positive, upbeat people
St. Clair Shores After giving birth to her first child, B. When you’re working toward a goal
In 1991, Doug Howell was living in Balti- Kayla, in 1997, Hughes started running C. When you’re outside in nature
more, smoking non-filtered Camels and with a group of moms in Grand Rapids. In D. When you’re stimulated and entertained
drinking two fifths of bourbon a week, and 2000, after her second daughter, Jessica, E. When you’re productive and busy
had all but renounced exercise. That year, was born, Hughes completed her first
Howell’s father, who shared the same habits, marathon. The following year, her family 4. If you were an animal, you’d be:
died of pancreatic cancer. moved from Grand Rapids to Canton. A. A golden retriever
“I saw that very same cancer train com- “I missed the camaraderie and the friend- B. A Bengal tiger
ing straight down the tracks at me,” Howell ship and support I had before, [when I was] C. An eagle
recalls. “Same genes. Same smoking and running with people who are in similar D. A Siamese cat
drinking. Same sedentary lifestyle. I decided places in their lives,” says Hughes, a respira- E. A workhorse
right then and there not to let that happen tory therapist. “I knew I could bring more
to me.” people together who wanted the same thing Mostly A’s: Social butterfly. You crave inter-
Howell threw away his cigarettes and did I did.” action. Joining a group will hook you up with
the first thing he could think of. He ran. Hughes started recruiting other runner- other runners. Go to www.runningnetwork
“My first day running, I tried to run moms, and before long, the Dirt Road Divas .com/clubs/Michigan.html for a group near you.
around the block. ... I couldn’t do it. I literal- running club was born. “We started out
ly sat on the curb and cried,” he says. small, all moms, and all looking for their Mostly B’s: Competitor. For you, fitness is a
As painful as that experience was, it Continued on page 18 sport. Try training for a 5K and setting a goal
didn’t deter Howell. That summer, he ran nearly for your finishing time. For a list of upcoming
every day, losing 30 pounds and becoming In 2004, Christine Hughes organized Pounding Pavement races, visit www.runmichigan.com/eventcal
healthier than he’d been in 20 years. and Dirt for Postpartum Depression, an annual run to endar/index.
But Howell wasn’t just running for physi- raise money for women suffering from the condition.
cal health. Troubled by his father’s death Mostly C’s: Nature lover. You’re most
and a collapsing marriage, he had fallen into energized and inspired by the great outdoors,
a deep depression. The one thing he could so trail running is a great way to get your nat-
count on was running. ural high. Check out www.michigandnr.com/
“Running was my therapist, my coun- parksandtrails to find a trail near you.
selor,” he says. “I used to go for 20-mile runs
all by myself and go through my problems.” Mostly D’s: Master of distraction. Turn
Howell was beginning to piece together on the TV, blast the radio and flip open the
his life when, in 1993, he accepted a posi- latest People – anything to keep you from
tion as a physician assistant in Detroit. realizing you’re exercising. Join a gym that has
There, he found the Downtown Runners, a television-equipped treadmills, and schedule
group that meets Tuesdays after work to run your runs around your favorite shows.
and socialize. He also found Colette Mezza.
A legal assistant at Chrysler LLC, Mezza Mostly E’s: Busy bee. If it’s not in your
began running in 1983. She credits it with BlackBerry, you won’t do it. So make an
helping her to quit smoking and deal with appointment to run! Early-morning runs
the death of her mother and breakup of might be your best bet.
her marriage. – Nicole Adamson
March 2008 17
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Continued from page 17 A runner since eighth grade, Krzyzanowski
healthy out, where they could get a break had set a goal to run a marathon in every state
and make it worth their time,” says Hughes. with her husband, Roman. (She’s already cov-
In fall 2003, Hughes learned she was ered 21 states, he’s done 20.) Determined not to
pregnant with her third child. After giving let cancer get in the way, she kept running
birth to Ava, she was eager to run another throughout 12 weeks of chemotherapy and 30
marathon with her friends, but three months treatments of radiation.
later, Hughes was diagnosed with postpar- “It helped me stay strong, especially men-
tum depression. Though she needed medical tally,” says Krzyzanowski, a fifth-grade
intervention, Hughes says running with the teacher at Holcomb Elementary School in
Divas was a big part of her recovery. Amy Krzyzanowski credits running with helping her Detroit. “If you do what makes you feel nor-
“I stopped sleeping and could barely recover from breast cancer. mal, you feel better.”
eat, but I never missed a run with my She had to make adjustments: slowing her
friends,” she says. “They got me out of “Running helped me beat pace, shortening distances and resting more
bed in the morning; they helped me rise breast cancer.” days than usual. But Krzyzanowski believes
from this sadness.” Amy Krzyzanowski, 39, Plymouth running also improved her physical strength.
Today, Hughes is busy, working and Each year, thousands of people across the “It helped my body sustain itself,” she says.
raising her 3-, 7- and 10-year-old daugh- country run or walk in events to fight breast “My doctor said exercise is good, that people
ters, but running with the Divas is cancer. But for Amy Krzyzanowski, running actually recover between treatments better if
always one of her priorities. “I think was more than a philanthropic endeavor – they’re active.”
everyone benefits – just ask my husband it was part of her recovery. Three weeks after her last round of chemo,
and kids,” she says. “They’ll tell you, Last June, Krzyzanowski, 39, was diag- Krzyzanowski, who has been cancer-free since
‘Mommy needs to go running’ if I’m on nosed with stage 1, grade 3 breast cancer, November, ran the Susan B. Komen Race for
the crabbier side!” despite having no family history of the dis- the Cure in Grand Rapids.
For more information on the Dirt Road ease. The cancer was aggressive. But so And the feisty teacher will be back. She
Divas or this year’s Pounding Pavement was Krzyzanowski. plans to run her next marathon in the fall –
and Dirt for Postpartum Depression run, “I remember being really [ticked] off, think- and you can bet she’ll give it all she’s got, and
visit www.dirtroaddivas.com. ing, ‘I have marathons to run,’ ” she says. then some.
WALK THIS WAY Get shoes that were eral minutes and counting the
made for walkin’. It’s beats per minute.
important to wear a good Sarafa says the talk test is
pair of shoes, whether you’re a good indication of whether
How to take your walking for 10 minutes or an
hour. Sarafa suggests going
you’re working hard enough.
If you can’t carry on a conver-
strolls to the next level to a specialty walking shoe
store, where professionals can
sation without gasping for air,
you’re walking too fast. If you
assist you in finding a com- can belt out Beyoncé, you
e know what you’re thinking: “This fortable shoe with proper need to kick it up a notch.
running stuff sounds great, but physi- Know your limits.
cally, I’m not ready to start pounding Stretch it out. Start by Talk to your doctor before
walking for five minutes to beginning a vigorous walking
the pavement.” The good news is, you can get warm up your muscles, then routine. Also, heed warning
many of the same benefits from walking as you stretch for five to 10 minutes. signs, such as lightheaded-
can from running. After you walk, stretch for ness or a racing heartbeat.
another five to 10.
Walking can help lower blood pressure, Make it a habit.
reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, man- Don’t dawdle. For car- According to the American
diovascular benefits, the key Heart Association, healthy
age weight, improve attitude, and keep you for the novice is to walk fast adults should exercise at
strong and active as you get older. And it’s a enough to get your heart rate moderate intensity at least 30
at least 20% above
low-impact activity, so almost anyone can do it. up toresting heart rate. One
minutes a day, five days a
week, or at vigorous intensity
“Walking is the ultimate form of exercise in way to determine this is with at least 20 minutes a day,
terms of cost-effectiveness, low risk of injury a heart-rate monitor. You can three days a week. Don’t
find your resting heart rate by worry if you can’t do this
and minimal startup,” says Gary Sarafa, M.D., an taking your pulse with your right away. “Any amount of
associate professor in family medicine and physi- finger (not your thumb, walking is going to give you
which also has a pulse) on health benefits,” Sarafa says.
cian at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. He offers your neck or wrist after
the following five steps for beginning walkers. you’ve been lying still for sev- – Nicole Adamson
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Good Health for Each Stage of Life
Find the right blend of nutrition and exercise
Question: What is the best advice on nutrition and exercise you can give for me, my daughter and my mother? – Peggy, Waterford
Answer: Well, Peggy, those Another vitamin women need with spinach, turnip greens and lar work after your weight train-
are three different stages in life, is folate, also called folic acid. It’s cheese, and spice things up with ing to burn fat, for 45 to 60 min-
and each stage is different, so I’m most known for its importance some cinnamon. You also want utes four to five days per week.
going to break during pregnancy because it to take calcium with vitamin D, Along with proper exercise
it down. No helps prevent birth defects. which helps your body absorb and nutrition, you should be get-
matter what Folate allows for complete devel- the nutrient. ting regular medical checkups,
stage of life opment of red blood cells, which Women, you also need to and when you hit middle age,
you’re in, you carry oxygen to the body. exercise. I recommend cardio- get a mammogram.
need to exercise Females 14 years or older need vascular exercise along with “Women should be screened
and eat right. 400 micrograms per day, and weight training. Remember, for breast cancer starting at age
Let’s start pregnant women need 600. To weight training develops mus- 40 or earlier, based on their
Peter Nielsen with nutrition. get folate, eat romaine lettuce, cles, and muscles burn twice as family history,” advises Angela
Every woman needs to make spinach, asparagus and broccoli. many calories as fat. You should Bully, M.D. of DMC Harper
sure she gets enough iron. It And you probably hear this weight train three days a week University Hospital.
helps enhance oxygen distribu- one a lot: Women need calcium. on nonconsecutive days. Do two Nutrition, exercise and proper
tion, keeps your immune system It helps maintain strong bones, exercises per body part for 10 to health screenings will help keep
healthy and helps your body pro- supports proper functioning of 15 repetitions. Do cardiovascu- you healthy and strong.
duce energy. Teens need 15 mil- nerves and muscles, and helps
ligrams of iron a day. As women your blood clot. Women older
If you have questions on nutrition or exercise, you can reach Peter Nielsen and his
get older, that jumps to 18. After than age 51 need 1,200 mil-
staff by calling 888.763.4808. Listen to Peter on News/Talk 760 WJR Detroit, daily at
age 51, you need only 8 mil- ligrams of calcium a day.
11:25 a.m. and every Sunday from 3-4 p.m., and check your local listings for Peter’s
ligrams a day. Good sources Younger women need about
nationally syndicated TV series, Peter’s Principles, seen locally on WDIV-TV (Channel
include spinach, broccoli, brus- 1,000 and teens need 1,300 mil-
4). For more information on his programs or products, visit www.peternielsen.com.
sels sprouts and tofu. ligrams a day. Stack your plate Have a question for Peter? E-mail it to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.