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The measure of success
Four people find different paths to health and fitness

By KIRSTEN KOROSEC

In today’s hustle-bustle world it can seem impossible to squeeze in a 30-minute run, let alone earn a black belt in tae kwon do, compete in an Ironman Triathlon or drop more than 50 pounds. Some regular Milwaukeeans have done just that, proving it doesn’t take an Olympic athlete to achieve fitness success.

Radio personality Kidd O’Shea and his producer, Tony Lorino, took different paths to WMYX. But when they arrived they were in the same spot: out of shape and out of energy.O’Shea, co-host of WMYX’s "Jane & Kidd in the Morning" radio show, knew he was underweight and should probably quit smoking. The 29-year-old Milwaukee resident had tried and failed before. It wasn’t until O’Shea saw himself on TV that he was spurred into action. "I’m 5-foot-11-inches and I weighed 127 pounds. I had black circles under my eyes, I worked all the time and drank coffee and smoked cigarettes," says O’Shea. "Initially, I made a change for my career, and then as I got into it, I realized this is about my long-term overall health. "O’Shea started exercising at Wisconsin Athletic Club with a personal trainer, who encouraged him to quit smoking. In February 2006, O’Shea gave up his pack-a-day smoking habit. "In the beginning, I was like, ‘Wow, I ate a full meal," says O’Shea, who gained 20 pounds through diet and exercise. The effort, he says, has been well worth it. "I eat better, I sleep better," he says. "But you have to do this only if you’re ready."

Two years ago, Lorino found himself back in his old stomping grounds with a new job and lacking the energy to make the most of it. The Shorewood native spent years working for radio stations throughout the Midwest in hopes of one day returning to the Milwaukee area. Years of poor eating habits and a lack of exercise left him overweight and unprepared to take advantage of his long-awaited return. "Our business can be challenging — you have to move around a bit," says Lorino, producer and assistant program director at WMYX. "So it was like, ‘OK, now I’m here,’ and I just didn’t feel good. I was sluggish and always tired. I just said, ‘I’ve got to change.’" Lorino, who carried 235 pounds on his 6-foot-1-inch frame, started small. He didn’t embark on a strict diet and exercise routine right away. Instead, he changed life through the one element required to sustain it: water. Lorino cut back from a six-pack to two cans a day of diet soda. The rest of the day he drank water. "You get the best results when you make a lifestyle change," he says. "The water, as dumb as it sounds, was a big change for me. "Lorino, 27, began working out in January 2007 with a personal trainer. He started following a healthy diet program several months later. The pounds "melted off," he says, and by Christmas he was 50 pounds lighter. Today, he weighs 180 pounds and exercises about four days a week. "For me, it’s not about running a marathon," he says. "It’s about doing something good for yourself."

Karly Kropidlowski exercised because she had to. She knew it was important, but most days she had to drag herself to the gym.The Cedarburg mom of two was busy and stressed out and she certainly didn’t have the time or energy to find an activity that was going to change her life. It would take a serendipitous encounter at a birthday party for her to find it. "I was picking up my daughter from a birthday party at Chay’s Tae Kwon Do and my son was totally enthralled," she says. "It was all he talked about, and he was only there for five minutes. "On a whim, Kropidlowski called Chay’s Tae Kwon Do and enrolled her son, Joey, in the beginners’ class. "He was a first-grader at the time and had some attention issues and impulse control problems," she says. "I thought it might be a good thing for him." A mother of another student suggested Kropidlowski, 37, try the school’s cardio kickboxing class. Kropidlowski felt so good — mentally and physically — after that first class she started going three times a week. Within a few months, Kropidlowski started helping her young son learn tae kwon do movements at home with the help of some DVDs."I thought, ‘Hey that’s kind of fun,’" she says. She signed up for tae kwon do and took the class with her son. Kropidlowski became dedicated to the martial art and earned her black belt in May. She continued to take the cardio kickboxing class and now teaches three times a week. The physical benefits are obvious. Kropidlowski lost fat, and gained muscle and flexibility. Strangers occasionally approach and ask what she does to get such nice arms. But it’s been her development mentally that has given her the most strength. "There was a time when I couldn’t seem to get through the day without breaking down and crying. I was overwhelmed, I was stressed," she says. "And when I found this one thing, it went beyond just trying to get fit again."

Mitch Carter wasn’t much of an Iron-man in high school. "I was never a big athlete," he says. "I was too small for football and not very fast." It turns out Carter was a late bloomer. The two-time Ironman Triathlon competitor wouldn’t discover his physical prowess until the end of his college career, after watching a cycling event on TV with a friend. "I think it was the Tour de France and we thought, ‘Hey, that kind of looks like fun,’" he says. "We started biking together before our second-shift jobs and it got to the point where we were riding every day. Then 30 miles a day. "The Mukwonago resident was introduced later to triathlons — a race with cycling, swimming and running events — after watching his brother compete in Milwaukee. Carter participated in his first triathlon in 1989 and was immediately hooked. Eventually, he set his sights on one of the great physical tests of our time — the Ironman, a Herculean race, which includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.2-mile run. He set off in 1992 to tackle his first Ironman Triathlon in Penticton, Canada, which he completed in 11.5 hours, a feat in a race where finishing is considered an accomplishment. The commitment it took to train for triathlons waned as Carter focused more on his career in video editing. He took up cross country skiing, a sport he still enjoys. Carter, 44, discovered his approach to triathlons changed when he returned to the sport several years later. "I had identified people before because of their rank" within a race, Carter says. "Now that I’m older it’s just about enjoying the race. "An unexpected health scare motivated Carter to stick with the sport he loves. The triathlete, who developed high blood pressure, discovered he could control it with regular exercise. "If I went out and ran, it would lower my blood pressure for up to eight hours," he says. In 2003, Carter had a stent placed in his renal artery after doctors discovered a 90 percent blockage. Three weeks later he participated in the Pewaukee triathlon. Carter continued with his triathlons, but the desire to compete in another Ironman loomed. In 2007, after a year of training and 15 years since his last, Carter competed and finished the Ironman Triathlon in Madison in 12 hours and 54 minutes. Despite his Ironman status, Carter says he’s a regular guy whose typical weekday workouts last 40 minutes. "It’s not about killing yourself every day for hours on end. It’s just about getting out," he says.
 

Kidd O’Shea, 29, Milwaukee

Accomplishment: Successfully ditched pack-a-day smoking habit; gained 20 much-needed pounds after making a commitment to exercising regularly and eating better.

Tip: You have to be ready to quit and make a lifestyle change. No one else can convince you.

"The saddest part of the addiction as a smoker is they can’t see the light on the other side. They can’t see themselves living in a world without cigarettes. I’m on the other side now, I feel better about the way I look; I don’t get sick like I used to; I sleep better. It’s all good."
 

Tony Lorino, 27, Milwaukee

Accomplishment: Has lost 55 pounds by following a healthy diet and exercising four days a week.

Tip: Don’t completely deprive yourself of everything all at once. Start by changing one thing in your life, like cutting back on soda. Then start adding positive things including regular exercise and a better diet. Just don’t do it all at once because you’ll never stick with it.

"You get the best results when it’s a lifestyle change. I learned you really have to think about it as an investment in yourself."
 

Mitch Carter, 44, Mukwonago

Accomplishment: Successfully completed two Ironman competitions, most recently in 2007, which includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bicycle ride and a 26.2-mile run. Carter also competes in about four triathlons a year and cross country skis in the winter.

Tip: It’s not about killing yourself every day for hours on end. It’s just about getting out. During the week, your workouts can be 40 minutes long.

"Training for a triathlon is a very selfish thing. The rest of the family is sort of sitting on the sidelines, which is really boring. All of the training on the weekends and after work, it takes time. If you don’t have your family behind you, it’s not going to be a fun experience for them or you."