I'll bet you didn't take my advice and start walking up and down stairs in your office building rather than riding an elevator, did you?
Eight years ago, a Massachusetts man named Steve Silva started walking the stairs to lose weight and gain strength. Silva weighed 435 pounds when he decided to begin his very simple exercise program.
Last month, as you may have read, he celebrated the health benefits and weight loss brought on by his program (he lost 245 pounds) by running up and down the Eiffel Tower 7 1/2 times in two hours.
Steve Silva's accomplishments make my weight loss and health improvements during the last 20 months seem insignificant. But do you know what really impresses me? The man, at 435 pounds, simply decided that moderate changes in his life style would change his life completely in time. It took eight years, but he was right, and I award him my hunk mantle as a man who has tackled the demons in his life head-on and won.
I don't know this for a fact, but I'll bet you two things helped Silva win: He wasn't afraid to set what must have seemed like an impossible goal at first (many people are afraid even to ride the elevator up the Eiffel Tower), and he had people who cared about him, encouraged his effort, and comforted him in moments of despondency.
Setting long-term goals and working in an environment of moral support obviously works in less drastic situations, too. I told my friend Kathy Bater about Silva's accomplishments, and she told me how goal-setting and moral support had worked for her. Kathy, some of you may remember, was the first beautiful woman on this island to really give me moral support as my remake began. She would pull her car over as I jogged, and yell "Hey, Remar, you're looking great! Keep going!" I, of course, knew I didn't really look great, but, boy, did her thoughtfulness make my steps lighter from then on.
Kathy is trim, tight, beautiful, and looks like a born jock. She is not. Seven years ago Kathy was completely inactive. She smoked two packs of cigarettes a day; she drank more, ate more, and weighed more than she wanted to, and had been doing those things for 10 years.
At 31, a friend talked Kathy into training for the Bahamas Air-Sea Rescue two-mile ocean swim. The first day, Kathy swam less than 200 feet in the choppy ocean before giving up. "I thought, 'This just isn't going to work,' and crawled onto the beach ready to quit. I couldn't swim 200 feet and I needed to swim 10,000 feet!"
Standing there was Bernie Butler, veteran from the race. "Bernie told me he couldn't swim very far his first day of practice, either," Kathy said. "He convinced me that, though I couldn't do it that day, I could do it." She continued to swim. In five months, she not only swam in the race, but won in her age group.
That victory -- and I'm speaking of finishing the race, not even winning -- began to change Kathy. She started to cut back on her smoking to improve her stamina; she ate less and drank less without thinking about it. Her goal: staying in shape for the race.
"I started asking myself questions," Kathy says. "Before I would overeat, or have an extra drink, I'd always ask 'What will I get out of it and what will it cost me?' "
And then, five years after her first swim, she decided to quit smoking completely. "A friend talked me into using nicotine gum and, for a year, rooted for me as I weaned myself off cigarettes and finally weaned myself pretty much off the gum."
Kathy Bater doesn't smoke now and, at 38, looks like 30. She's won five open-ocean races, including one in Nassau. She spends a lot of time now working on our island's first "Conch Man" minitriathlon (swim one mile, bike 10 miles, run four miles). The race is Nov. 28, and the lady who encouraged me to keep on running is out there encouraging other people to train for the Conch Man.
Dante David, 53, general manager of the Princess Hotel properties on Grand Bahama, won't need much prompting. Dante started running 10 years ago in Korea when his body "started getting sloppy." He ran his first race in Mexico, his first marathon in Miami, and just completed his seventh New York Marathon.
Dante founded the Princess Hotel's 10K race in l985, and is sponsoring the fourth annual race on Jan. 23, l988. He jogs every morning at 5:30, and if you're crazy enough to jog that early on vacation here, Mr. David will always cheer you on.
Well, you may be saying, Steve Silva, fat though he was, started to change at 31. Kathy Bater became active at 31. Dante David started running at 43. None of them were "old" when they started to change. There's therefore no hope for the aged in body or spirit, right?
Try telling that to Hulda Crooks of Loma Linda, Calif. Hulda started jogging at 70. She's now climbed Mount Whitney, all 14,494 feet, 22 times. Her last climb was in July, at age 91, when she climbed the 12,385-foot Mt. Fuji in Japan.
It starts with the left foot: Where is the stairwell? How many steps are there between floors in your building? Have you ever wondered what it would be like to run in a six-mile race, to climb a mountain or maybe even to rappel down one?
Or have you wistfully thought about taking up snow skiing this year? Or ice skating? Or ballroom dancing? How about sky diving? That may not be aerobic but, boy, will it set your heart to racing.
Life is a lot more fun when you push the limits some. And you will never know your limits if you don't push yourself. I'm personally running in my first race on Jan. 23 right here on the island.
And now that we're setting some goals, why don't you start training right now for the second Grand Bahama Conch Man triathlon on Thanksgiving weekend, l988? You can be ready for it. And if you will write me now with your commitment, I'll provide the celebration dinner at my house, about two miles from where the Conch Man ends.
It doesn't matter if you come in last. What matters is the triumph of doing it. Anybody out there interested in a real good meal of conch salad, broiled lobster and baked grouper?