It’s been four months since Healthy Changes Everything Contest winners Marty Mazurkiewicz and Lori McDermott began their nine-month journey toward better living under the guidance of Hive Lifespan Center. The past few months have been challenging, but determination has carried them through.
MARTIN MAZURKIEWICZ: "It’s becoming a habit."
"I do my archery shooting with my daughters Sundays and to be able to walk in the woods on the uneven terrain without huffing and puffing—what a difference," enthuses Marty Mazurkiewicz. "I’m more productive at work, more productive at home, not afraid to do things later in the evening. I’m remodeling my basement, so before when I would come home from work, I wouldn’t have the energy to work on it, and now I’m working on my basement again."
It’s been a long time since the former high school football player has felt the benefits of exercise, but Mazurkiewicz is relishing them. "The other day we were doing an agility exercise where [trainer] Dave [Mancuso] set up four cones and I was to sprint backpedal and then do a pushup, and he said ‘You remember your football days?’ and I said ‘Dave, that was thirty years ago; oh, right, that’s as old as you are.’ It’s been a long time."
Moving from a sedentary to active lifestyle isn’t always a smooth transition, and when Mazurkiewicz noticed increasing pain during his workouts, he worried there was a problem with his hip replacement. "I had groin pain during one of the exercises," he says. "I didn’t think it was much at the time, but when I started to do another exercise, the pain continued. I became a little upset and Dave could see it in my face and attitude. We stopped early that day because the leg was bothering me. I came back the next session not feeling bad but still had a twinge. I got down because I didn’t want to go backward after I had come this far."
A visit to his orthopedic doctor put Mazurkiewicz’s mind at ease; it wasn’t the hip, but a groin pull. "We had to alter my exercises, and the new exercises were not as strenuous on the groin, and it helped," he says. "Then last week, we started to do more exercises that engaged the groin and I was feeling good. Stronger. I give Dave a lot of credit for developing a plan to work around the groin issue and keep me on track."
Learning how to do exercises properly has been a big part of Mazurkiewicz’s process and, in the long run, will help prevent more injuries. "I’m learning things like when you do a bicep curl, don’t put your elbows out. Keeping them in gives you more resistance and its better for your muscles and joints," he explains. "I catch myself doing things wrong and I’ll stop and focus back on the right way, and Dave says, ‘See, you’re catching yourself,’ which is good, because if you’re doing it the proper way, you’re guaranteed to succeed and not injure yourself."
And Mazurkiewicz is succeeding. He loves that he can see changes not only in how his body looks—he’s firming up, gaining muscle, and losing fat—but how it performs. "I started bench presses around ninety pounds, and today, I was doing three sets of twelve with 115 pounds and they were really easy to do," he shares. "Dave said he’s going to do an analysis to see what my maximum bench press is because he thinks it’s increased tremendously. Dave is happy for me and he’s pushing me harder." In upcoming weeks, Mazurkiewicz will be increasing weight and reps as well as time on the elliptical, and aiming to add another day of cardio to the week, though he admits the latter might be a challenge. "It’s tough with the kids and coaching, and I try to help my wife out," he says, "but I’m going to try to do it at home. I have a treadmill."
One thing he has been doing at home is monitoring what he eats and how it affects his body. "Dave and I talk about nutrition, and he tries to correlate what I’m eating with what I’m experiencing," Mazurkiewicz says. "I thought I was eating healthy, but there was still a lot of garbage. I’ve been noticing that if I eat a lot of sugar, I get tired within half an hour, so I’m trying to stay away from that. I used to look at labels for calories, but now I’m looking for sugars and carbohydrates. And I’m not eating salt at all, but instead using pepper and garlic powders, stuff like that. We’re switching to skim milk, loading up on vegetables, and I’m taking fruit as a snack to work."
Mazurkiewicz has been enjoying the education, and the fact that he’s inspiring his daughter, who he says is now on a salad kick. Setbacks and challenges don’t deter him or make him feel impatient, because he’s seeing results. "I’m taking what I get," he says. "I’m proud that I’m continuing on. It’s a challenge to go every day, but I’m eager. I’m not stopping."
LORI MCDERMOTT: "I’ve had some challenges."
From the start, trainers at Hive Lifespan Center have been watching out for forty-seven-year-old McDermott, a cardiac patient who had five stents surgically inserted in March 2010. Because McDermott’s doctors recommend that her heart rate not exceed 150, her training program has focused on strengthening her heart, a process that has included trial and error, and at least one pretty big scare.
"I was always focused on pushing, because I wanted to please everyone," McDermott prefaces. "I can’t run on the treadmill, but I tried increasing my incline and like a light switch, I felt like someone had shut the oxygen off. I said ‘I’m just going to focus and control my breathing,’ but I could not get through it. I couldn’t get oxygen and I was hyperventilating and I scared the gym. They called 911 and the paramedics came." A visit to her cardiologist confirmed that the incident was stress induced, and it prompted a change in medication to a time-release capsule that prevents McDermott’s heart rate from going so high in the morning, and also leaves McDermott feeling less lethargic.
McDermott’s doctor also advised her to follow the First Line Therapy food plan, a heart-healthy mix of healthy fats, proteins, and carbohydrates that deliver a low glycemic load. For McDermott, who thought she’d been eating well, it was an eye-opener. "I was probably eating more than I should," she admits, "and eating foods that were high carbs. And I was still drinking some high fructose corn syrup juices, and here I thought I was doing good."
The whole family is on the plan, so while McDermott lost eight pounds in five weeks—which is just the rate her doctor would like to see for optimal heart health—her husband has lost thirty-two and her daughter twenty-one. To have easier access to fresh, organic produce, meat, and eggs, McDermott joined a local community-supported agriculture cooperative, "You even get herbs and fresh cut flowers," she enthuses. "The food tastes so much better, and I’m not craving sugar."
Planning meals—right down to counting out snack-sized portions of carrots and nuts—has become a way of life, one that McDermott says has gotten easier the longer she does it and the more she learns about healthful eating. For example, that nightly glass of wine is a carb, as is, of course, the Sunday pasta meal. "Being Italian, I love macaroni," McDermott says, "and mine consisted of an entire plate. Now if I do have it, I’m allowed six cooked rigatoni, so I’ve turned to spaghetti squash. I just have to change my eating habits."
Things have changed at the gym, too, where trainer Dave Mancuso has taken things down a notch and gone back to basics, including teaching McDermott how to breathe because when she doesn’t, her heart rate increases. "I was nervous to go back; I still have not gone on the treadmill," McDermott admits. "He’s taken me back down from working hard to more stretches and breathing techniques, a less intense workout. I played soccer in high school and broom ball in college, but now I know I need to focus on conditioning and strengthening instead of being an athlete. It gets frustrating, but this is going to be a fork in the road. If I would have done nothing, nothing would have happened. I know now I can’t climb Mount Everest, but I’m taking my heart to another level where it needs to be. I’m really into this."
Donna Hoke is a fitness hobbyist and editor of Buffalo Spree Home.