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Editor’s note: I “met” Mary when I posted a question on the Her Times 5K Facebook page asking women to tell me why other women should try the HT5K. Mary wrote me a sweet note and told me a little bit about her journey. I sent her some more questions so I could share her story with you in hopes it might inspire you or someone you know.
As often happens, Mary Krysiak, 34, of Erie, gained weight when she stopped smoking in November of 2012, topping out at 287 pounds. But, unlike most ex-smokers who accept the extra pounds as the price of healthier lungs, Krysiak decided to take charge of her own health.
The catalyst? An unflattering photo of herself that was taken the summer after she quit smoking.
“I saw a picture of myself and I didn’t like what I saw,” she said. “I decided to take charge of my own life. I didn’t want to get surgery or take pills or any of that. I wanted to do it myself, so I started walking, biking.”
She joined the YMCA in November 2013 – her one-year anniversary of going smoke-free.
“A friend at work told me that it takes a year for your body to adjust to not smoking, so I decided to wait until the year market and then join the YMCA.”
Since then, Krysiak has lost 75 pounds and is now down to 212 pounds. She’s run a 5K, a 10K and completed a triathlon!
I talked with Krysiak about her experience and what the future holds for her (hint: the big 26.2 is on her to-do list!)
How did you start when taking charge of your health? I joined the YMCA and found out that they have coaches there, so I signed up. While I was working there with my coach, they started a program that was kind of like “The Biggest Loser” competition. You had to fill out an application & everything. I didn’t think I’d get in, but I had an interview and they picked me. That made all the difference in the world… to talk a dietician and have trainers there for you at any time. I ended up finishing in 2nd place, having lost 22 percent of my body weight.
What is the farthest you’ve run so far? 6.6 miles.
What race distances have you accomplished so far? I have ran a 5K and 10K, my next goal is a half marathon (13.1 miles). I have also done a triathlon.
What is your workout routine like now? I like to do weights 3 days a week and cardio 5 days.
How often do you workout? Right now, I work out 5 days a week. When I hit my goal weight of 190, then I plan to go down to 3 days to maintain.
Did you make any changes to your diet? How so? My diet before was mainly red meat, carbs, and lots of bread. I never used to eat vegetables and rarely ate fruit. Now, I have increased my fruits and vegetables intake to several a day and bread has been decreased. I also eat fish and try to substitute turkey for hamburger, etc.
What was your highest weight? 287
What is your current weight? 212
What is your goal weight? 190
What is your current running pace? 12 minute miles
Why running? Did you start walking, then progress to running? What made you start running?
I think that running is very effective and it gives me my “me” time. I started to run because when I was doing the YMCA Challenge, they told me that we were going to have a run clinic and I wanted to be able to run. I started to train by walking and running a little. Then, I just progressed into all running. I never thought I would run a mile let alone 10….nor did I ever dream I’d actually want to run a half marathon!
Do you have any support — a dog or friends or family you run with or who encourage you? My trainer Erica ran my first mile with me and always believed in me, even when I didn’t. Now, I usually run by myself. I have awesome friends and family that have been behind me all the way and encourage me all of the time. I am a nurse at the Erie Veteran’s Affairs Medical Center and my patients actually encourage me daily. They have all been a great support system for me.
What is your dream race and/or a bucket list item that you want to complete? My short-term dream is a half marathon. My long-range dream is a marathon.
How do you reward yourself? With my hair. If I reach a goal, I usually do something with my hair to treat myself. When I do, I walk into a salon and tell them do whatever they want, then it’s a surprise even to me.
What do you want people to know about losing weight? That it well worth the hard work and dedication. Also, it starts with one step. Just start moving and if you fall, get back up and start again. It’s worth it to be healthy. I really had no idea that I didn’t feel good before, but now I know because now I feel great!
Inspired, ladies? Good! Sign up for the Her Times 5K!
Star Tribune: She found running and left troubles in the dust
How to pick the right running partner (Tip: If your goal is to get faster, your best running partners are those slightly faster than you. This means you may curse them while running because they will push you, but…that’s how you improve).
Because we can: Why we all need to run
Undies for running women (cute concept, but…pricey — 3 pairs for $48. Ouch).
Forget Fitbit – This T-shirt embeds fitness sensors into fabric (interesting)
Melody Amendola, left, Michele Chereson, center, and Kelly Gibson, right, are photographed at Chereson’s home in Millcreek Township on Feb. 15. Chereson ran a marathon to raise money for the two women who were diagnosed with breast cancer. JACK HANRAHAN//ERIE TIMES-NEWS
Erie Times-News sports writer, Mike Copper, had a great story about a Millcreek Township woman who recently ran the Walt Disney World marathon. Though she’d never run more than 6 miles, she signed up for the race to support her daughter and ended up running for two of her friends who were diagnosed with breast cancer.
“Michele Chereson estimated she’d run 6 miles — none of them competitive — throughout her entire life before the summer of 2013.
The Millcreek Township resident never even had the urge to enter a basic 5-kilometer event, let alone finish one. She registered for the Jan. 12 Walt Disney World Marathon more as a way to honor her daughter Emily Chereson’s desire to complete a 26.2-mile race.
However, in the midst of training, learning of the plight of two close friends dramatically boosted Chereson’s own desire to run. She knew Kelly Gibson was already undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer when she learned that Melody Amendola had received the same diagnosis.
“My intention was to run in support of my daughter,” Michele Chereson said. “I wasn’t that interested (in the marathon), but when I found out about Melody, I told Emily, ‘You know, if I’m going to do this, I’m doing it for them.'”
I think she told me I had a nice race and that she had kept me in her sights and paced off me. We struck up a conversation and she told me that she had just set a P.R. of 25:35, but even more impressive, she’d taken the pre-race pump challenge and bench pressed her way into 2nd place among 15 women who did the weight lifting portion of the race!
Melissa is the principal at Union City Middle/High School, where she works out with her “coach,” the school’s physical education teacher, Michael Krause, and other coworkers and colleagues in the early morning hours on most weekday mornings.
I thought some of you might find Melissa’s story inspiring, so I did a little Q&A with her:
Family: Husband, Anthony Tomcho; children, Megan Preston age: 23, Molly Preston, age 21, and Hayden Tomcho age 7
Profession: Principal at Union City Middle/High School
You mentioned that you were once overweight. What motivated you to get fit? It stemmed from health issues in my family and, also, after we adopted Hayden, I quickly realized I needed to be able to keep up with him!
How did you lose 60 lbs? Losing weight (and keeping it off) is a daily battle. It was a long process. I did not follow a particular diet or exercise routine, but rather just quality, quantity, and exercise. I watch what and how much I eat. I also try to engage in some physical activity at least five days a week. I just started running a little over a year ago.
Have you changed your diet, too? (How so?) I watch what and how much I eat. If I want something in particular I don’t deny myself, I just limit the amount. I know I will only set myself up for failure, if I try to deprive myself.
Did you ever think you’d be a runner, let alone a competitive one? I never imagined I would be a runner! Coach Krause has tried for years to get me to run and I would never try until last year. At this time, I do not consider myself a competitive runner, but I enjoy the competitive nature of the races. I sign up for a race every few months, just as a goal to maintain my exercise routine.
What appeals to you about running? The sense of power and accomplishment I feel during and after I run.
How often and how far do you run weekly? I usually run five days a week. It depends if I have a race on the weekends. Lately, I have only been averaging 18-20 miles per week. This winter has been really tough!
Do you have any specific running goals for 2014? Not really. Last year, I did the Liberty 10K on July 4th, so I may do another 10K. When I hear about a race that sounds interesting to me, I sign up.
Your bench press was impressive! How often/how long do you weight train? Coach Krause developed a weight lifting routine for me to use. I trained for the Gannon Pump-Kin-Run, so I lifted Monday through Friday. Currently, I complete a circuit routine using the different stations. Coach Krause creates different programs for me to follow.
Does it help with your running? Weight training definitely helps with my running and weight maintenance. I think having a strong core.
How did/does Mike Krause, phys ed. teacher at U.C.H.S. help/inspire you to get fit? Coach Krause is a constant, positive force or perhaps he’s just a pain. (LOL)
How long have you known Mike? I have known Coach Krause for about 25 years, since I did my student teaching at Union City Middle/High School. I taught in the Social Studies Department.
Why do you think he takes his time (and goes to “work” at 5:30 a.m.) to help others? I believe Coach Krause wants everyone to benefit from living a healthier lifestyle. His firm personal philosophy is that a healthy body is a healthy mind. He knows the advantages and wants others to have that opportunity.
What keeps you going (besides Mike)? How do you drag yourself to a workout on a cold day, etc? I know how much better I feel after exercising. I have more energy throughout the day. It is a great stress reliever, my overall health has improved, and I can keep up with my 7-year-old until bedtime!
What advice do you have for other people who are just starting to exercise/run? Be a little selfish. You have to take time for yourself before you can do for others and set short term goals and reward yourself.
The single most important thing you can do to stay motivated to exercise—especially through an Erie winter—is to make fitness friends.
Were not for my running friends, I wouldn’t be out running (and laughing) through five frigid and hilly miles in the dark on a Wednesday night after a long day at work, I wouldn’t be running 55 hill repeats on a lakeside golf course on a snowy-blowy Tuesday night, and I wouldn’t be laying on my back in six inches of snow doing leg lifts in a snowstorm.
I consistently tell my running friends that I hate them for making me do this stuff, but…you know I secretly love it, right? You know you would, too.
Wondering how to make fitness friends that will keep you motivated?
Look no further than Lawrence Park where chiropractor and fitness enthusiast Steve Krauza heads up Team Adrenaline.
I first met Steve Kruaza when I interviewed him for a story for the newspaper in 2011. (Read it here). A study had just been released (don’t recall what it was now), identifying Erie county as home to the least healthy people in the state. He was really bothered by that and it inspired him to start Team Adrenaline.
He told me that his goal was “To make Erie County the healthiest county in the Commonwealth by 2024,” and I remember thinking “I love your spirit, man, but that’s an awfully high bar.” Despite my skepticism, however, I admired his gumption and, as a former fat chick who had experience the life-transforming power of regular exercised, I hoped he would succeed.
While he may have a ways to go to make all of Erie County fit, he’s sure made a dent in east county.
The last workout I attended (yep, I finally “drank the Kool-Aide” and bought a punch card), 23 people showed up to workout in near-blizzard conditions. That’s dedication.
This happened. That’s me in the pink polka-dot hat.
What is Team Adrenaline?
It best be described as an “organic” or “urban” workout. All the workouts are done outside year-round using minimal “equipment” beyond what nature or the venue provides (curbs for box jumps, bleachers for running, etc.). See video below.
Workouts are offered on Tuesday nights at 6 p.m. at Iroquois High School, Thursday nights at 6 p.m. at Liberty Park and Saturdays at 7:30 a.m. at various locations (Check before you go on Saturday…these workouts are often held at Harbocreek Community Park, Shades Beach, Presque Isle, etc.).
Workouts typically last an hour and they are never the same (though you will see the same elements — planks, sprints, pushups, etc.).
Who is it for?
The workouts can be done at your own level and modifications are given, so these workouts are good for people of any fitness ability and/or age.
I’d also say that this is perfect for people who have trouble staying motivated. The team makes you accountable…and they make it fun…so you’ll want to show up.
How much does it cost?
Your first workout is always free…and feel free to bring a friend, too.
Then, if you like it and want to join the team, you’ll need to buy a “punch card” with a specific number of workouts on it, each workout is one punch. Cost of the cards range from $7.50 to $10 a workout, depending on the size of the punch card purchased.
BUT….Right now the punch cards are on sale for 1/2 price until January 1st. The half price breakdown is this: 6 workouts = $30. 12 workouts = $54. 24 workouts = $96. 35 workouts = $122.50.
The nice thing is that you only “pay” for the workouts you come to (and Doc is know to throw freebies in there from time to time), and the cards never expire.
Why should you join?
Camaraderie. Inspiration. Motivation.
But…primarily because this “team” is like a family and that’s one of the big reasons why it works. You’ll end up with more than workout buddies, you’ll end up with friends — the kind of friends who are really good for you — who inspire you to laugh and sweat and live in the moment….and to do pushups in 7-degree weather and to try a triathlon and to dress up like characters from “A Christmas Story” and run through the streets of Erie.
Want more info?
Read Eloise’s take on T.A. in her post: Better Than I Used to Be
Visit krauzachiro orcall 898-2346 or email: frontdesk (at symbol) krauzachiro.com (NOTE: I don’t put the @ symbol in email addresses in my blog posts or the person ends up with gobs of spam, but you need to use it in that address if you email Steve).
Remember Bev DiCarlo? She’s the Harborcreek grandma I wrote about in Lake Erie Lifestyle who, after a harrowing and temporarily-paralyzing fall at her home, decided to do a half-marathon in all 50 states by her 70th birthday to raise money for the Gertrude Barber Center.
Well, she did it, completing her last half at the Des Moines Marathon on October 20!
Your goal was to do a half marathon in all 50 states before you turned 70 and you did it, right?
Yes. My original goal was to have all 50 states finished in 5 years (by my 70th birthday) averaging about a race a month. However, I found it was very doable to do several races a month, and many back-to-back races(one state on Saturday and a neighboring state on Sunday). This cut the travel time and helped keep expenses down.
What & when was your final race?
My very last race was the Des Moines Marathon on October 20, 2013 in Iowa. When I returned to the hotel after the race, I threw my running shoes and compression socks in the trash can. My running days are over!
What were your top three races?
I really enjoyed every race; each one has special memories. I met so many runners and friendly people along the way. If I have to choose, I would pick these:
Rock n Roll series of races: These races are always in great locations, big cities, smooth relatively flat courses, bands every mile or so along the way, impressive finisher’s medals and are easy to travel to. I completed RnR races in Washington DC, Georgia, Tennessee, Missouri, Texas, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Colorado, Rhode Island, Louisiana and Illinois. Various family members joined me so we always had a great time.
Zombie Run, Anchorage Alaska: My 12-year old grandson, Noah Dever, completed his first half-marathon with me. We spent five days traveling around Alaska–great time.
Disney series: The Donald Duck in Orlando Florida, and the Mickey Mouse in Anaheim, California. When you run both races in the same year, you complete the Disney Coast-to-Coast Challenge. The finisher’s medals are big, beautiful and flashy. Bling is nice!!! My son, David, completed the Goofy Challenge: 5k on Friday, 1/2 marathon on Saturday and full marathon on Sunday–all on the same weekend.
Name one you didn’t really enjoy:
The Bear Lake Back-to-Back Marathon and Half sounded so good, that I couldn’t pass it up.
I raced around the Idaho half of Bear Lake on a Friday morning and the Utah half of Bear Lake the following day. However, there was road construction in Idaho and the road crew moved a race route direction arrow so those of us who were not familiar with the race route ran an extra eight miles!!!!!
Which are your worse miles in a 1/2 and how do you get through them?
I really believe you don’t “hit the wall” in a half-marathon as you may experience in a full-marathon. I dedicated my miles to my family members and would think about them, in turn, as I completed the miles. For example, Start to mile 1 is Justin, next mile is Hayley, up to mile 3 is Abby, next mile is Logan, up to mile 5 is Noah, next mile is Rob, up to mile 7 is Karen, next mile is Mikaele, up to mile 9 is Erin, next mile is David (son), up to mille 11 is David (husband), next mile is for extended family and from mile 12 to the Finish Line is always for Aidan (grandson with autism).
How long, on average, does a 1/2 marathon take you to complete?
I run for 3 minutes, walk for 30 seconds and repeat the sequence throughout the race. I use a Garmin watch that keeps track of my pace, measures the miles and vibrates when it’s time to change my gates. I run at a comfortable pace and maintain 12 minute miles; this usually lets me place in my age category and keeps me from finishing last.
Are you glad it’s over…or are you sad it’s over?
I’m glad its done! After I completed 40 states, I just wanted to finish the challenge so I could move on to other projects. However, the races, themselves, were fun and the people I met along the way were great. I now have friends all over the United States. And, of course, I got to brag about Erie everywhere. Several new out-of-town friends completed the Presque Isle Marathon because they heard about it from me.
And Erie is known . . . while Noah and I were enjoying refreshments after the Anchorage race, a fellow runner asked where we came from. When Noah told him Erie, Pa., another runner walked over and said, “Romolo Chocolates!” Her favorite is Romolo sponge candy so Dave and I mailed some to her.
You did all this to raise money for the Barber Institute, which has helped your grandson, Aidan, and his entire family deal with autism. How much did you raise?
As of today, $39,650 has been received by the Barber Foundation. However, I have received emails and notes from other autism support groups all over the United States thanking me for mentioning autism. If my son or I were featured in a news release, radio or TV spot, many readers/listeners contributed to their local autism group. We know about $50,000 was raised from our efforts but unless I was contacted by the agency or group, I couldn’t track it. We are just happy people were motivated to contribute to the cause!
You didn’t spend any donations on your race expenses, right?
Yes; contributions were sent directly to the Barber Foundation or the local autism agencies. We never collected any monies directly. I flew 79,869 miles; drove an additional 35,773 miles and stayed 170 nights in hotels. The only figure I did not calculate was the total cost of this endeavor—my husband, Dave, doesn’t want to know!
Can people still donate?
Yes; the best way is to send a check, payable to The Dr. Gertrude A. Barber Foundation, to The Advancement Office, 100 Barber Place, Erie, PA 16507-1863. Be sure to write “Race With Grammy” in the memo section.
Favorite running shoes?
I wore out 13 pairs of running shoes over the 3 years and 10 months, including the 668.1 race miles (1,336,200 steps) and the 4,850 training miles. I prefer Brook shoes. Proper fit is vital. I recommend getting shoes at a specialty store (such as Achilles Running Shop) because they make sure the shoes fit your feet and your running style.
Are you still vegan? How did that work with training?
I now follow a moderate diet that includes all the major food groups. I avoid all processed and prepared foods. I prefer to eat at home so I know what and how the food is prepared.
What’s next? Any big plans on the horizon?
I am already preparing for my next adventure but cannot release the details at this time. Needless to say, it will still be helping children and adults with autism and special needs.
What advice do you have for other trying to do the 50-state thing?
Visiting each state was awesome; our country is beautiful! Just make up your mind to complete the challenge, put together a time frame, and schedule the races. I found that races listed on www.marathonguide.com were usually well-organized. Other sites I found helpful were www.runningintheusa.com which has a “50 Stater” link (lists back-to-back races) and www.halffanatics.com which lists smaller races. Go for it!
By the numbers:
Here are some fun stats from Grammy’s adventure:
13 pairs of running shoes worn out
51 races (50 states, plus Washington D.C.)
170 nights spent in a hotel
668 total miles
4,850 miles of training over three years & 10 months
35,773 miles traveled by car to races
79,869 miles traveled by air to races
$39,650 (so far) raised for the Dr. Getrude A. Barber Foundation
* Lindsey Lohan wants to run a marathon. Sure, many are scoffing at this news, but c’mon, we all know that running CAN change your life and it seems to me that Hollywood’s troubled starlet could stand to swap some old, unhealthy addictions for a new one. I believe in you, girl.
Tshirt of the Week
Available here for $28.
By Tom Madura
Hi, my name is Tom and I haven’t run in months.
Well, not quite true. I’ve run. A little.
But this is a story about what happens when you lose the drive, and how hard it is to get it back. See, I’ve been a runner for about 30 years, give or take, and I’ve had my ups and downs. But never like this.
I started running in my 20s, and now, in my 50s, my PR’s are all behind me. My 1:44 in the Clarion River Half Marathon seems like a lifetime ago. (That’s the fore-runner of the Cook’s Forest Half for you young ‘uns). But that’s OK. I don’t mind getting older and slower – as long as I can still run and enjoy it.
It’s been years since I ran with the express purpose of beating anyone or trying to continually improve my pace. I started running barefoot to reduce the stress on my knees, and started to run just for the sheer fun of it and to stay fit. I love running and I was having a ball.
But last summer something changed – a long stretch of hot, humid weather led me to take a few weeks off. “What’s a few weeks?” I thought. It’s happened before. As soon as it cools off, I’ll start puttin’ in the miles again.
Only I didn’t. “Just a couple more days”, I thought, and I’ll jump right back in. I promise.
And then I twisted my ankle while out boating. A running injury when I wasn’t even running. Just great.
So then I decided, “Well, with that ankle all swollen and sore I’d better not start running again until it feels better.”
Weeks stretched into months, and then it was almost time for the Turkey Trot – one of my favorite races, and one I have only missed once in the last ten years. I hadn’t run at all since August, and it was early November. I did a few 2-mile runs and felt pretty good so I signed up for the 5K. Afterward I felt great, but there was still a little twinge in my ankle, and it was a little swollen the next day. No big deal, I’ll just take a few more days off (this train of thought was getting way too easy!)
Next up was the Snowflake Run – another favorite. I ran it and felt great.
Then I started to find every excuse imaginable not to run. What was wrong with me? All winter it was “I’m busy tonight”. “It’s raining – maybe it’ll be nicer tomorrow.” “It’s too cold”, or “I had a long day at work – I‘m tired”, or “Boy that couch and fireplace sure look more inviting than a run in the snow.”
Problem is, there are ALWAYS long days at work, or it’s ALWAYS too hot or too cold, or too rainy, and the couch is ALWAYS there. These things never stopped me from running before. I just didn’t have the motivation. I’d lost the drive. I was in a slump. My wife bought me a running motivational calendar for Christmas – it’s hanging in my office – I read it every day.
I read Heather’s blog every day for motivation and envied her drive to train for her Grand Canyon of Pennsylvania marathon.
It was just becoming easier and easier to NOT run.
Winter turned to Spring and I was really starting to miss running.
Oh, I finally started to go for an occasional 2 or 3 mile run, but getting back into a regular running routine was turning out to be harder than I thought. I did a few after-work runs at Presque Isle, and did 3 miles on International Barefoot Running Day in May. But by then it had been almost nine months (nine months!) since I had run on a regular schedule, and time I had previously set aside for running had now been taken up with other things – yard work; staying late at work; going out with friends. My schedule was full! Was this a permanent change in my life? Was I becoming an ex-runner?
N0. Damn it. I just need to focus on this and motivate myself – it’s for my own good and nobody else is going to do it for me. And I ENJOY IT! Why is this so hard??
As they say – it’s all in the mind. Just Do It.
So last week, on a cool rainy day, after a long day at work, I told my wife that dinner would have to wait a little bit tonight, and with only a passing glance at the couch as I headed out the front door, I did my first 3 mile run in weeks. And I’ve done 3 more since.
And most important of all, I finally WANT to keep doing it again! I’m looking forward to my next run.
I’m back! And it feels great!
I’ll see you on the road.