It can take a
health scare or the inability to complete the simplest of tasks. Or it
can be fueled by a lifelong passion unrealized. The motivations behind
the 180-degree turns we make in life are only part of the tale. What
happens along the way is the real story. Read about three Milwaukee
area residents and how they changed their lives to become an Ironman
triathlete, a heart attack survivor who now lives for the gym, and a
once morbidly obese mom who lost 110 pounds by walking, eating better
and a yoga habit that still wonít quit.
Day morning, a time when most folks are busy prepping for their annual
family feast, Barney Kaminsky was having a heart attack.
Cedarburg resident, who suffers from vertigo on occasion, fell down as
he went to retrieve the morning paper.
"I got up
and told my wife I just wasnít feeling very well," he says.
"My chest felt weird, but I didnít think it was a heart attack.
Thankfully, my wife immediately called 911."
was treated at Columbia-St. Maryís Hospital, learned doctors had
inserted a stent ó an expandable wire mesh tube that keeps
once-blocked arteries open and clear. His cardiac rehabilitation
started shortly after.
my turning point," says Kaminsky, general manager of Sojourn
Travel, the company his wife, Mary Emmer, founded. "It was that
moment, when I told myself, ĎYou can go back to your life as you had
it or you can change it."
the latter. He joined Form & Fitness Health Club in Grafton and
gave up fast food. "I had to totally retrain my brain about
food," he says. "I remember I went to Sendikís for like
three hours and started reading labels. I realized for the first time
what weíre putting into our bodies."
Kaminksy and his
wife now work out every weekday morning at the gym and periodically
meet with a personal trainer.
The hard work
and commitment to change has paid off. Heís lost 30 pounds and his
doctor is taking him off some of his medication.
heart attack, I thought ĎHey, Iím not a couch potato,í" he
says. "I thought I was taking care of myself. Obviously, I wasnít."
used to direct most of his time and effort on work, didnít like
going to the gym. His idea of exercise meant an occasional walk or run
on his treadmill at home or home improvement projects on the weekends.
These days, Kaminksy relishes his time at the gym and has made some
adjustments to what matters most in his life.
sure what has helped me stick with this," he says. "Maybe itís
fortitude, maybe itís pride and how good I feel. But I do know this:
Iíll never forget the look on my wifeís face that Thanksgiving
Day. These days, instead of obsessing about my job, I think more about
my wife, kids and grandchildren. I enjoy sunrises and sunsets. I enjoy
was a 125-pound ripped Ironman athlete. She just didnít know it yet.
At 200 pounds,
the Pewaukee resident was living on the fringes of athletic life. She
was about to wrap up a 26-year career at the West Suburban YMCA in
Wauwatosa as its aquatics director. She always loved swimming in the
areaís lakes every summer and had grown up learning about hiking and
camping from her Eagle Scout father.
But she had
never been what one would describe an athlete. "I grew up in era
where there werenít a lot of athletics for girls," she says.
"Girls playing sports was something that was frowned upon."
approached retirement, Woodworth thought of her now 96-year-old
father, who still plays a competitive game of golf. "I figured if
I want to be good at anything in my 70s, then I had better make some
serious changes in my life," she says.
it started out as a mission to lose weight. She lost some weight
through better eating habits. Her exercise routine meanwhile faltered.
"I needed instruction or something," she says. "And
then I read something about a new triathlon club. I thought, ĎMaybe
this is how I can express what Iíve been passionate about all my
life, but never had the chance to do.í"
one of the clubís first members, and over several years, thanks to
the support of coaches there, she learned to run and bike.
"I told my
coach, ĎIím too old to run,í" she says. "Well that was
a mistake, because she said, ĎNever say that again.í Then she had
me meet her at Lapham Peak and she took the time to chart out what
would be my first running plan."
Others came into
her life and made her a better bicyclist, inspiring her to participate
in the Death Valley Ride to Cure Diabetes in 2006. Other
"century" or 100-mile-plus rides followed.
meeting these people who took me further up the athletic ladder and
the more intense it got, the more training I did. It was no longer
about weight loss, but about something I loved doing," she says.
In the process,
a 125-pound triathlete emerged. In 2009, she decided to train for an
Ironman competition, which begins with a 2.4-mile swim, followed by a
112-mile bike ride and ends with a marathon.
"I had been
on this amazing spiritual journey," she says. "God really
was taking me somewhere. While I couldnít imagine doing an Ironman,
I just told myself, ĎIím going to take it day-to-day and take it
for the Ford Ironman Arizona, Woodworth completed her first
half-marathon, marathon and half-Ironman. She arrived in Arizona in
November 2009, just excited to be there. She finished second in her
age group and ended up qualifying for Hawaii Ironman in Kona, a
grueling event known for its wind and heat that many triathletes spend
their whole lives trying to reach. In October 2010, after placing
fourth in her age group at the ITU World Championships in Budapest,
the 67-year-old went to Kona. She finished fifth in her age group in
15 hours and 27 minutes.
have scripted this scenario if I had tried," she says. "But
I love it and canít wait to go back."
Weight Watchers put Oconomowoc resident Melissa DeVries on the path
toward change. But it was yoga that saved her. DeVries grew up a
chubby kid with a marathoner and body builder father and an equally
active mother. She remembers a doctor putting her on a diet as a child
and attending fat camp. She used her asthma condition to avoid
activities, an excuse she leaned on through high school, college and
That is, until
DeVriesí moment of clarity seven years ago. "I was overweight
before I had my son and afterward it got worse until I was morbidly
obese," she says. "I felt really uncomfortable all the time.
I remember I sat down on the floor to change my sonís diaper and I
couldnít breathe because there was literally too much flesh."
determined to make a change. Once she stopped nursing her son, she
joined Weight Watchers. During a three-year period that included a
break while she had her daughter, DeVries lost 110 pounds.
"I was so
disillusioned of what a correct portion size was," she says.
"It was really a shock to my system and it took three to four
months to retrain my brain."
DeVries added a
simple walking regimen about one month after she started Weight
Watchers. Her walk ó a 45-minute jaunt with her son in a stroller
ó left an indelible impression.
blisters all over my feet when I got home because I was so out of
shape," she says. DeVries stuck with it despite the discomfort
and maintained a daily walking routine for nearly two and half years.
As that second winter approached, DeVries decided to try yoga.
it would be nonthreatening," she says. "I could hide in the
corner and try this exercise that was focused on mind and body
wellness. It wasnít nearly as frightening of a concept as signing up
for some aerobic group exercise class."
Yoga was the
cure she was looking for. It not only improved her strength,
flexibility and overall appearance, but it was a positive way to
reduce stress. She was hooked. After her daughter was born, DeVries, a
member of the YMCA at Pabst Farms, began to volunteer in the facilityís
She dove into
the fitness world, first with a beginnerís fitness trainer course,
then onto earning an American Council on Exercise personal trainer
certificate. A course and certification with YogaFit soon followed.
35-year-old works part time as a personal trainer and teaches spin,
yoga, TRX and older adult fitness classes at the YMCA at Pabst Farms.
She also teaches yoga classes at Be Fitness in Delafield and Soleil
Lune in Oconomowoc.
the same person in a lot of ways," DeVries says. "I went
from being kind of a pushover and the type of person who didnít want
to do anything to someone who is willing to try just about anything
and who has an opinion."