Monday, October 26, 2009

Recruit Steps Up Training! 27th Story

If you travel west on Palm Drive at 6 a.m., the absence of street lights creates a dark and eerie landscape. You then turn south down a dirt road and drive the obstacle course that consists of pot holes big enough to swallow a small car. Arriving at a normal looking home, you park on the side and exit your vehicle.

Suddenly your ears are assaulted with a cacophony of wails that are certainly the screams of pain emanating from the garage at the rear of the property. You are drawn to the building and upon opening the door your eyes are assaulted with glistening light bouncing off of metal. As you focus closer, you see a large woman lying on the floor. Another woman, sweat dripping off her body, is brutally stretching extremities into positions that seem abnormal to the large body. Your mind will begin to wonder just what you are observing. After observing all the sights and sounds, you will eventually realize that this is my house of horrors!

This recruit has stepped up my exercise program. Three times a week I attend the Warrior of Wine Boot Camp at Schnebly’s Winery. On the two additional weekdays, Oshun, the trainer, comes to my home to train me.

The glistening light bouncing off of metal that you will observe is created by the florescent lights hovering over all of the gym equipment we own. I stated before that I have no excuse not to exercise. My rear garage is equipped with a professional treadmill, elliptical machine, rowing machine, spinning bike, regular bike, abdominal bar, exercise ball, free weights and a home gym with leg presses, curls, arm pull bars and more. I also have a pool. There is no excuse and Oshun has begun to torture me with this equipment.

Prior to Oshun arriving at 6 a.m., I begin by spending twenty minutes on the treadmill. Once she arrives, the pain begins. The screaming you hear may be from me pushing myself to my limits in repetitions of exercises or as Oshun stretches my body into positions that seem impossible. “Picture your heel touching your butt.” she says as she has me on my stomach and presses my foot up to my behind. With great effort on her and my part, it touches my butt, stretching my muscles while I yell in pain and joy. On my back she presses my outstretched leg up towards my head. During all of this, she keeps telling me to breathe which is difficult as I tend to hold my breath to endure the stretching. On the first day in the pool, Oshun was instructing me, “Jump up high in the water and cross your thighs like a ballerina! Not your legs! Your thighs! Come on my ballerina!” I laughed out loud as this obese woman will never be a ballerina but she got her point across and I worked hard at crossing my thighs.

Personal training is a sacrifice. Getting up at 4:45 a.m., five days a week is a very big commitment that I have made. Pushing my body to the extremes has been intense.

Personal training has been a true dream of mine. Oshun has made it a possibility and, even with the pain involved, I am enjoying every minute of it.

This recruit has completed one week of five days a week exercise and I am here to tell you that contrary to my own belief, I did not die. This recruit is still kicking and willing to continue on this very physical journey to a healthy lifestyle. Next week I must concentrate on rekindling my efforts to healthy eating.

Boot Camp Animals! 26th Story

As the morning dew sets on the grass at Schnebly’s Winery, grunts and groans echo throughout the area. Fast paced music swirls in the air tempting bodies to move with the rhythm. The animals that awake early have already been put through a series of grueling exercises that have pushed their bodies to the limit.

Peering out into the grassy field that holds excess parking, the only thing the eye can see is three long rows of large coral rock boulders. It is too early for any cars to be parking at the facility. It is too early for any workers to be arriving for their daily shift. The field is empty.

But wait! What is that in the distance on the boulders? Is it a herd of galloping gazelles flowing across the rows of boulders? As you look closer, you soon realize that there are a few graceful gazelles in the herd and then you notice the exhausted elephant lumbering behind.

The gazelles streak from boulder to boulder imitating the wind. The elephant stands and watches. She considers the distance between the boulders. Some are closer together. Some are higher than the others. The elephant has no faith that she can jump with her huge legs from one boulder to the other so she steps down between the boulders. She is so discouraged but does not want to fail. She climbs up again and stands at the edge of a boulder. She thinks about taking a running start and leaping over the boulders but fear creeps into her mind and scares her. She really wants to complete the task by jumping from boulder to boulder but she is mentally and emotionally held back. What if she falls? She could injure herself on the jagged edges of the coral rock boulders. She could miss the boulder and break her leg. Injury and failure are what scare her the most.

Finally the exhausted elephant decides that she has got to go for it or quit. Standing at one edge of the boulder, she swings her arms to get a rhythm. One, two, three and she takes a running jump and lands safely on the next boulder. The elephant’s trunk is raised and a loud trumpet of victory is sounded. Again she lines up and gets a rhythm going and leaps to the next boulder. Slowly picking up speed, the elephant becomes more confident with each jump. There are a few boulders in between that she just feels are too far apart so she climbs down and back up but continues to jump over all the other gaps between boulders. The elephant feels like she is on the way to becoming a graceful gazelle. Her mind wraps around the idea that she completed the task and she is proud.

She did it! The elephant did it! She actually convinced herself that it was possible and with the encouragement of her trainer, she completed the task at hand.

Yes, this recruit was the lumbering elephant who once again took on a new challenge that she just could never picture herself accomplishing. This recruit climbed to the top of bar stools and walked across them. This recruit jumped rope. This recruit did frog jumps. This recruit does push-ups. This recruit jumped rows of boulders. This recruit overcame her fear of the situation and took on the challenge of her trainer.

I am a recruit in Warriors of Wine and this lumbering elephant is on her way to becoming a galloping gazelle! What’s next?

Recruit Celebrates Her First Year of Health!- 25th Story

In a little town in Pennsylvania, on Wednesday, October 13th, 1954, Robert Hollenbach drove his wife, Marian, through the remnants of Hurricane Hazel to get to the hospital. After a grueling trip with winds howling and trees down, they made it to Coaldale Hospital where a chubby, red-headed baby girl with blue eyes was born.

The baby girl’s two older brothers welcomed the little baby home and she was called, “Sissy.” At the time of her birth, no one knew that Sissy would have a continual battle with obesity. They also didn’t know that she would become a recruit in a series of boot camps. You see, I am that chubby baby girl who will turn 55 on October 13th.

As I was thinking about my upcoming birthday, I reflected where I was last year at this time and how my life has changed. A year ago, I was living a very sedentary and unhealthy life. Oh, I walked every now and then with my boss, but I just could not seem to get my act together. I weighed in at a hefty 298 pounds, wore a tight size 26/28 and I was tired. My knees ached and I could never think of getting down on the floor or kneeling down to pull weeds.

This Tuesdays, I plan to celebrate much more than my 55 years that God has given me. I plan to celebrate the things He has allowed me to achieve and the people helping me along the way.

A year ago, if someone would have told me that in a year, I would be a recruit in a physically challenging and grueling Boot Camp, I would have thought they were nuts! If they would have told me that I would be exercising five to six days a week or that I would be running, jumping, squatting, doing push-ups and more, I would have checked to see what planet they came from! If they had told me I would be writing a weekly series about my exercise routine and on top of it all, admit in the paper how much I weighed and then appearing on the Today Show and admitting I was 54 and obese, I would have laughed hysterically. Life has certainly changed in one year and what a ride it has been!

Since my birthday last year, I have lost 23 pounds and more that 50 inches all over my body. Although it doesn’t seem like much, it was actually lost since I started Boot Camp in January so it has been over a period of 10 months. I have gone from a tight size 26/28 to a size 22 and am now fitting into some size 20’s. Now for many people, a size 20 is still a very large size! Yes, it is and 275 pounds is a lot of weight, but then I think of where I was and wonder where I would be if I had not taken that first step to get up off the couch? I now have a defined neck and chin instead of the “unineck” I once possessed. My body shape has changed dramatically.

Since my birthday last year, I am able to move. I can now get down on the floor with my grandson, Alex, without having to think about how I am going to get up. I can run around the yard and play ball and chase him on his toy tractor without gasping for air. I can do push-ups, jump rope, sit-ups and frog jumps. My balance has improved tremendously. I feel so different from last year. My physical ability has definitely increased.

Since my birthday last year, I am truly humbled by the number of people who care about me. I started out at Boot Camp at the YMCA where I met Rico, Oshun, Mikey, Nestor, Kevin, Charlotte and others, who I learned, truly care about me. Even though I am currently participating in the Warriors of Wine Boot Camp as I could not work the YMCA Boot Camp into my schedule, the personnel from the Homestead YMCA still stay in touch to see how I am doing. They all care about me which is so hard for me to understand. I have yet to figure out why they care about me!

Since my birthday last year, I have met so many recruits who have been so supportive of my participation in Boot Camp. Most of these recruits are the age of my own children, but they made me feel so special. There is the editor of this paper who privately encourages me and says I inspired him to start training again. There are also the people who read this paper, e-mail or stop me on the street to say how proud they are of me. They are proud of me? They are inspired by me? Why?

As I approach my 55th birthday, I realize now that I have already received the best present I could ever receive. I have been given the gift of being blessed by a support team of trainers, recruits, friends and family. They are the ones who display confidence and pride in me while I feel very unworthy.

I am a recruit in Boot Camp and I am thanking all for the beautiful gifts you have given. The gifts of love, support and friendship for which I will ever be grateful.

Thursday, October 1, 2009


This past week, the Today Show aired a segment that was shown nationally. It was taped several months ago and the only good thing about my appearance is the fact that I can physically, for the first time, see a distinctive change in my appearance. My unineck (chin and neck hanging together) is now gone.

Enjoy the video.


Upon my arrival one early morning at Boot Camp, I noticed that Oshun, our trainer, had a circuit of exercises set up. In one area was a jump rope, another had elastic band, another had five wooden bar stools set up zigzag, one more with weighted balls and the final part had two strange looking metal contraptions that I have never seen before. I wondered what cruel and unusual punishment those contraptions held for us. Little did I know that today I would face my biggest challenge yet at Boot Camp.

We started out by doing regular warm up stretches and exercises and moved into weights and finally onto the mats for more exercises. We were then told to put up our mats and I knew the punishment was about to begin.

Oshun explained that we were going to do some circuit training. She began to explain each position and what we would be doing with the equipment. There were the elastic bands that we would put around the tiki hut poles and do several types of exercises. Jumping rope was another position and we were to jump thirty times. Moving on to the weighted balls, Oshun demonstrated that we were to squat with the balls and then reach up and stretch up in the air and then back down. We then moved over to the bar stools where I assumed that we would be running zigzag between the stools for a cruel and unusual amount of time. Let me tell you that would have been a walk in the park compared to what Oshun had planned.

Oshun demonstrated, climbed up the rungs of the stool and stood on top. Immediately my emotions pulled me down and the fat lady in me took over. I began to tear up as I watched Oshun standing on top of the bar stool. She began moving gracefully in the air from bar stool to bar stool. At the end, she stepped down onto a picnic table and back on the ground. I was devastated. My mind was in a tornado of thought. There is no way this obese old lady can climb up on top of a bar stool and stand up. I can’t do it! It is physically impossible and I will be so embarrassed. Why would Oshun put me in this position? Why is she hurting me? I was scared and on top of everything, she actually wants me to walk on top of the skinny bar stools with all my weight! I tried to hide my tears but there was no way to stop them. At that moment, I began asking myself if I even belong in this Boot Camp. I was finally going to fail miserably. I’m too fat and too embarrassed to even attempt to do this.

Oshun had moved on to explain the contraptions on the floor but my mind was still back at the bar stools. I saw Oshun showing three different ways to do push ups on the metal bars but I couldn’t hear a word she was saying. I kept wiping my face on my shirt but I was so upset that when she stood up and looked at me with questioning eyes, I told her, “I can’t do it.” She responded, “What did you say?” and I again said, “I can’t do the bar stools.” By that time, I was sobbing. I wanted to crawl away but Oshun called all the others around and explained that many of us have fears and things we have to confront and that this was one of mine. She explained that all of the recruits are there to support each other and although it sounded good, I did not want to even attempt the move. I could just hear them saying, “Did you see Doris trying to get up on the stool? She couldn’t even climb up because of her weight!” All of the outside noises just seemed to disappear and all I could hear were my own negative thoughts.

Oshun said I would and could do this. I had to do this. She started me at the bar stools and told me she was there to help me. Yeah. Like her skinny little body can catch me in a free fall? Another recruit, Mark, came over to help and then several others. After a lot of hesitance and tears still flowing, I climbed up on one rung of the stool. Now up to the next. I put my one knee on the top and held onto the side and put the other knee up. Now how am I going to stand my 280 pound body up? Somehow I got one foot flat on the stool. Holding Mark and Oshun’s hands, I tried to stand up. I couldn’t. Oshun told me I could do it and try again. I told her to give me a moment to get my breath. I somehow pulled myself together and with every muscle I had in my body, I stood up. I’m up! I’m really up on top of a stool! Don’t let my hands go. Oshun told me to rest a minute and look only into her eyes. I did and then slowly stepped from stool to stool until I was at the end. Now how am I going to get down? Oshun said to step on the picnic table top and then the bench. I could just see the table tilting over but I had to get down so I moved. I actually reached the grown safely. I did it! My God, I really did it. More tears but I didn’t have a moment to think about it as Oshun made me run the rest of the circuit. I ended up back at the stools and she told me to do it again. Oh please no! Wasn’t once enough? Oshun does not take no for an answer. Once again, with only two people to assist, I was able to do it and actually did it one more time with only Oshun. Three times I climbed up and across the stools! I was in a state of disbelief and didn’t know whether to laugh or cry more.

The funny thing is that I can remember the day months ago when Oshun told me I would have to jump rope and I cried that I couldn’t do it. I think I completed five jumps. This day, jumping rope was so easy that I didn’t even have to think about it and I was not gasping for air but was very comfortable jumping and did more than the required thirty!
As I drove to work that day, I actually felt a twinge of pride in what I had accomplished. I guess one of the things I need to do is to somehow have more confidence in myself. For some unknown reason, Oshun seems to think I can do anything. I don’t like when she challenges me but I am so thankful that she has the confidence that I lack.

I am a recruit in Boot Camp and Oshun is pushing me to new heights! Pun intended!


It is Monday, September 14, 2009. I woke up at 4:45 a.m., the usual time for Boot Camp however, this time when I dressed; it was not in my usual Warrior of Wine T-shirt, sneakers and pants. Today I was dressing in a semi-casual outfit and had to put on my make-up so I wouldn’t scare anyone. You see, today I would be traveling to the ivory towers of downtown Miami. Today I would appear as a prospective juror for criminal court.

I am a person who does not go out of Homestead unless they pay me. Once I get above Cutler Ridge, I get a nose bleed from going so far north. A good friend advised that I should take the Metro Express bus number 34 that takes you to the Dadeland South Metrorail Station and you get a transfer from the bus driver. Others told me to go to Dadeland North for easy parking and get on the Metrorail there. I really think that the bus to Metrorail would be really convenient but I chickened out and decided to go to Dadeland North.

I packed my bag the night before with all the essentials I felt I would need for a boring day. I included my laptop, book, umbrella and some healthy snacks so that I would not be in trouble with my trainer. I thought about packing lunch but my bag was getting heavier by the minute. I may have been missing Boot Camp this morning but I was still going to be lifting weights. I was on the road at 5:45.

Arriving at Dadeland North, I looked for the open parking lot that I remember from years ago. After going around the block two times, I realized that the parking lot had been replaced by a parking garage so I joined the line of cars entering the garage and find a space. I actually thought I was lucky as I found a big enough place where I could back up my truck into the space. I pulled in like placing a hand in a glove and was proud of myself. There was a lady exiting the car next to me who informed me that I better pull in the opposite way or I would get a ticket. I did not see a sign to that effect so how was I or anyone else who does not use Metrorail regularly going to know that? I thanked her and pulled forward.

By the time I gathered my overloaded bag, the woman was gone so now I had to figure out where to go. I then noticed an African American gentleman who had parked next to me so I decided to ask him if I was going the correct way for the Metrorail. Little did I know that this gentleman, Milton Cooper, would become my angel. He informed me I was going the correct way and he walked along with me. He asked if I had the number of my parking spot which I did get because I did not have any breadcrumbs to leave a path to find my car in the massive garage.

Mr. Cooper took me to the turnstiles for the Metrorail. He explained that you pay for parking once inside. I paid the woman two dollars as the turnstiles are being converted to accept tickets instead of tokens. At that time, Mr. Cooper asked if I had the $4.00 in change or tokens for parking. Of course not, so I had to exit the turnstiles and go to the change machine. Mr. Cooper changed the bills and we once again returned and entered through the turnstiles where he entered my parking space number and received a receipt. We then went upstairs and waited for a train.

While assisting me, I realized that Mr. Cooper had already missed one train and I apologized but he said it was no problem. Once on the train, we chatted. Mr. Cooper lives in Homestead, works for the prison system and makes this commute every day. He explained that he would be getting off at the Government Center but that I would travel on for three more stops to Civic Center. He reinforced the directions my husband gave me as to where to walk once I was off of the Metrorail and gave me instructions for the travel back home.

I arrived without incident and was called down to a courtroom at 11:30 and then promptly sent back upstairs. I sat around and finally they called me and sent me home.
I did realize that Boot Camp has even helped with my jury duty. You see, as I walked several blocks from the Metrorail to the courthouse, I did so at a fast pace and it was pleasurable. I was not short of breath and I felt very comfortable even lugging my heavy bag. Keeping in mind that I think my trainer, Oshun, has eyes in the back of her head, I also took the steps at the Metrorail station instead of the escalator on the way back.

There are so many people in this world who do not have any concern for their fellow man. Many people want to keep to themselves. Mr. Milton Cooper is one of those people who confirm that there are good people left in today’s society. Never once did he make me feel like I was delaying him or that he was too busy to help me. He was patient and kind and went out of his way to assist me, a complete stranger, with my travel.

I am a recruit in Boot Camp and it was my pleasure to meet someone like Mr. Milton Cooper!