Staff Stories: My First Half Marathon

Our members aren’t the only ones working towards goals and striving to become a better version of themselves. Elite Sports Clubs staff share some of their own stories about their health & fitness successes.

From “I can’t” to “I did and will again!”

By Alex Yuspeh, Elite Sports Clubs Marketing Director

Alex's First Half MarathonIt started off as a dare. One of those situations where I said, “I’ll do it if you do it.” However, this was not just between myself and another person. This was with my sister, my brother and my cousin. We all agreed in December 2007 to run a half marathon together. My parents in disbelief agreed to fund the run if we all ran it. I was living in Phoenix, my brother in San Diego, my sister in San Francisco and my cousin in Manhattan, this was going to be a destination run. I Googled half-marathons in the late spring, early summer and found a fairly flat, if not a little downhill run in Vancouver in June 2008.

My sister was the only one of us that had done a run in the past. The rest of us more so resembled an offensive line of a football team than runners about to embark on 13.1 miles. My brother and I are fairly competitive. We trained together even though we lived far apart. In January, we started our training with the correct footwear. We bought running shoes and also each bought a Nike Plus to track our runs. I did not do a typical training program. Instead I just “winged it.” All I knew was in 5 months I needed to keep my feet moving for about 2 hours.

My first big hurdle was running one mile. As simple as that sounds now, I struggled when I started. However, it did not take me long to achieve that minor milestone. My brother was ahead of me with his training and warned me of the next hurdle–the 30 minute continuous run. I would go out at first and run as long as I could. I would make it 15 minutes, then walk a minute or two and then run more until I hit 30 minutes. It took me a good two/three weeks to get to 30 minutes of continuous running. Once I hit that mark, I realized that running is as much mental and it is physical. I was astonished that I could do it. After I could run for 30 minutes, I gradually increased my run times and distances. I got up to 10 miles two months before race day. (Before I go into the actual half-marathon experience, I have to say I do not endorse my program. It is not typical and if you are planning on training for a half-marathon, please consult a professional on a program.)

We all arrived in Vancouver and checked into the hotel where all the other runners were staying. You could easily tell who the runners were from the other guests. This is when I realized that this was BIG. The day before the race, we registered, picked up our bibs and went to the trade show. The trade show was an eye-opener. There was so much cool running gear. I then started realizing that running is a huge sub-culture.

On the day of the race, I did my running routine, but this time at the crack of dawn. I had a bagel, banana and an energy drink. We got our bibs on and left our hotel. All I remember were runners and that they were everywhere. My siblings, cousin, and I found a spot to do our stretching. I recall a man saying, “This is going to be fun. There are a lot of people to pass.” I thought that was so cool to have that confidence. That day my goal was to finish (and beating my brother would be a bonus). The experience was surreal. I have never been a part of something so big. My adrenaline was at a high. I was part of something, along with 15,000 runners all with a common goal–to run across the finish line.

The gun went off and I was amazed on how slow it took to even cross the start line as I was stuck in a pack in the back. I ran the first 3 miles with my brother when I wanted to run faster. I found a group of people going at my pace and ran the entire half-marathon with them. When I finished, I received my metal, got water, food and my belongings. I called my parents and found that I was the first to finish in my family. One by one the rest of my family finished.

Since that race, my sister and cousin have run 2 races together; I have run another with my brother and we are planning our next race. Going from a “I can’t even run one mile” person to now identifying myself as a runner has become a great gift, and I am thoroughly happy to be part of the running sub-culture.

We’d love to hear YOUR story! Submit your story of success (and even struggle) and you may be featured on this blog or even in our seasonal magazine!

Member Stories: Gerry & Donald Vogel

We’re extremely proud of our members. Over the years their work out agendas and sporting endeavors serve as healthy examples of how it feels to be Elite, and how exercise not only adds years to your life, but life to your years! Today we’d like to highlight another member’s accomplishments:

Member Stories Gerry Donald Vogel

Within one year of joining Elite, Gerry & Donald Vogel both lost significant amounts of weight. Gerry lost 60 pounds, and Donald lost 40 pounds. They exercised four or five times a week and were pleased when their entire fitness profiles improved.

Over the years, Gerry and Donald have utilized and enjoyed a variety of programs at Elite including: healthy eating programs, pilates, and the exercise machines. Donald attends pilates twice a week and uses the bike, treadmill, elliptical, and weights on other days. Gerry began taking treading classes when they first joined and now she uses a combination of the elliptical, bike, and treadmill four days a week and weights two to three times a week.

Their short term goals were to lose weight and increase their total fitness. Happy with their results so far, they still strive to maintain and improve upon their overall fitness.

“There have been so many positive experiences during our time here,” Gerry explains. “We have met so many people and that is a big part of getting us here every day. The interaction with the training staff has been so beneficial. Having knowledgeable professionals who encourage you to improve and who correct you if needed. Elite is a major part of our lives because of the professional and social contacts. The parties are great too!”

Gerry and Donald have been members since 2001 and continue to stay active at the club. Submit your own “Elite” story! Or tweet us @MyEliteStory!

How do the people you meet at the club affect your exercise routine and strides towards accomplishing your own goals? Tell us in the comments!

Featured Member: Kim McQuillan

We’re extremely proud of our members. Over the years their work out agendas and sporting endeavors serve as healthy examples of how it feels to be Elite, and how exercise not only adds years to your life, but life to your years! Today we’d like to highlight another member’s accomplishments:

Elite Featured Member Kim McQuillan

I first came to Elite as a guest in January & February 2012. I decided to do the training for the Ridin’ 4 Research to help with increasing my endurance for running my first marathon in May 2012. I immediately felt at home at Elite. Karen Bruckner was so positive about Elite helping me with all of my stress of a first time marathon. Annie Weiss was also very positive and helpful not only for the great spin endurance rides, but with how to fuel your body during long workouts.

My favorite workouts will always be in the pool. I got the opportunity to meet Jessica Byrd, an intern at the time. There are not a lot of people who understand and appreciate swimming. She had some great encouragement for me about the marathon. I had a really hard time leaving after only working out here for 5 Sundays.

I did my first marathon and finished! It was great to come back to share my experience with all of the new supportive people I had met. Everyone was so happy for me. I wasn’t even a member! I got lucky at the R4R and I won a one month family membership to Elite. My family and I joined in July. I met many more friendly and encouraging employees and really nice members. At the end of July I chose to continue my membership.

I have committed my life to being healthy. In 2009 I weighed 315 lbs, that year I lost 48 lbs then in 2010 I lost 130 lbs through healthy eating and exercising (spinning, swimming, and walking).

I feel happy when I come to Elite. I think if you pick an activity you like to do and you join a health club you are happy at, it makes it a lot easier to stay committed to being healthy. I have to drive 40 minutes one way to come here, but I am always happy when I leave. I have a new swim partner. I think having someone to workout with is another great way to keep your workouts exciting and fun, or at least in knowing someone else is suffering right along with you during a long, hard workout!

If you have an “elite” story to share about your own personal accomplishment or someone else’s, please share it with us at MyStory@eliteclubs.com or tweet it to us @MyEliteStory! We’d love to hear from you too!

What helps you stay committed to being healthy? Is it your health club, your workout buddy, encouraging staff, or something else? Tell us in the comments!

Featured Member: Rebekah Schaefer

We’re extremely proud of our members. Over the years their work out agendas and sporting endeavors serve as healthy examples of how it feels to be Elite, and how exercise not only adds years to your life, but life to your years! Today we’d like to highlight another member’s accomplishments:

Rebekah Schaefer Elite Featured Member

The tremendous amount of support and encouragement I’ve received from Elite training staff and members has been an integral part of my journey in the last two years. So much positive reinforcement! Never underestimate the impact of a few kind words.

Our daughter was a lovely surprise, but after her arrival in 2008 I didn’t recognize myself. I’d never been heavier, and wasn’t feeling especially confident in my tight, size 22 jeans. A broken futon, a plethora of blood pressure meds and the threat of Type II diabetes provided the kick in the pants I needed to get healthier. With the expertise and guidance of Elite’s Registered Dietitian, Rita Larsen, I’ve dropped over 90 pounds and take only one blood pressure medication.

Spin is my all-time favorite group exercise class; Elite’s excellent instructors keep it interesting and challenging. I’ve enjoyed the intensity of TRX training since October, 2010. It’s ridiculously hard (and I really suck at it), but I’m much stronger than I was a year ago. My “bingo arms” are gradually diminishing! Hooray! I like to zone out while logging mileage on the treadmill or in the pool, and I’ve discovered that yoga isn’t as boring as it looks.

Most of my workouts would not be possible without Elite’s playroom and friendly staff that has cared for my kids since they were infants. Two hours of free childcare* preserves my sanity and helps me meet my ongoing fitness goals. It’s often the only chunk of “me” time I can carve out of a day with two small, very active children, Matthew and Annaliese.

In August of 2011 Rebekah was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. She has since adapted her lifestyle and is fitter than ever! Rebekah has been an Elite Sports Clubs member for 16 years!

If you have an “elite” story to share about your own personal accomplishment or someone else’s please share it with us at MyStory@eliteclubs.com or tweet it to us @MyEliteStory! We’d love to hear from you too!

What gave you the “kick in the pants” you needed to get healthier? Tell us in the comments!

*Childcare is included in all Family memberships at Elite Sports Clubs.

Parker Rios: Taking his love of running to new heights!

By Dave Fidlin of Dave Fidlin Writing & Editing Services, LLC Runner Parker Rios on Elite Elliptical

In his youth, Parker Rios had little interest in running. It’s a fact many find surprising for a person who has competed in more than 100 ultramarathon races and is stretching his physical and mental capabilities in a series of hyper-competitive events. Parker, 46, began running as a student at UW-Madison. At the time, a roommate convinced him to take part in a 10k run to support a charity. The experience was intertwined with one of Parker’s greatest ambitions – competition. The rest, as they say, is history. Parker, a Brookfield resident and a member of Elite since 2004, is married to Kendra Wolff. They have two children: Lacey, 6, and Gillian, 5. Parker says he balances his time with family amid his workout regimens.

Runner Parker Rios Utilizing Elite Drop and Shop ProgramParker uses the club about five times each week for a portion of his rigorous workout regimen. He primarily uses Elite’s ellipticals, treadmills, resistance weight machines and free weights. Parker finds time to train in the club while his children are in Elite’s playroom or in Petite Elite, Elite’s pre-school. Parker sometimes utilizes the “Drop & Shop” program that gives club members an opportunity to drop off their children in the club’s play area and leave the club to run errands or literally run. He says Elite offers all of the amenities to assist in his training.

In the past two decades, Parker has competed in a variety of ultramarathon races – many with the Badgerland Striders, Wisconsin’s largest and oldest running club with more than 1,400 members. Parker has been actively involved with ultramarathon running since 1990. Ultramarathon races are runs longer than a 26.2 mile marathon. The most common distances are 50K, 50 mile, 100K, 100 mile and 135 mile races can last anywhere from 4 hours to 60 hours.

“I enjoy a lot of things about it,” Parker says. “Unlike a traditional race, such as the Boston Marathon, where there are anywhere from 10,000 to 70,000 people, ultramarathon races are held in more secluded and scenic areas.”

Ultramarathoners endure a variety of conditions through natural areas. Parker says running on softer surfaces has been less strenuous on his legs, knees and back than if he were running strictly on pavement. “Every step is very different, and it has resulted in less stress on my body overall,” Parker explains.

Parker emphatically states his love of ultramarathon running has never been stronger. In fact, he has been taking his competitive prowess to new heights by participating in a series of invitation only events.

Parker is in the midst of training for the self-proclaimed “Fire and Ice” ultramarathon races, a feat never accomplished before within a 12 month period by any person. The “Fire” taking place in Death Valley, California and the “Ice” taking place in Alaska. He had to undergo a rigorous application process and learned in February he was selected. Parker’s decision to take part in “Fire and Ice” came on the heels of a successful first-place finish in the Arrowhead 135, an annual 135 mile race held in International Falls, Minnesota, in February, 2013. The Arrowhead 135 is held during the coldest time of year in a city notorious for frigid conditions. Parker pulled a sled with 40 pounds of survival gear before reaching the finish line nearly 44 hours later.

The Badwater 135 Mile Ultramarathon, a 100-person competition starts in Death Valley and ends at one of the tallest portions of Mt. Whitney. Average temperatures reach about 120 degrees Fahrenheit when the competition takes place in mid-July. Parker is training for the heat by spending an exorbitant amount of time in Elite’s dry sauna. Once the “Fire” wraps in July, Parker will gear up for the frigid “Ice,” the Iditarod Trail Invitational, a 350 mile running race in Alaska, which will be held
in February 2014.

In the midst of his training activities, Parker also is fundraising to assist in the cost of the “Fire and Ice” competitions and to lend support to a cause near and dear to his heart. Corporate sponsors will help defray Parker’s out-of-pocket costs for the upcoming competition.

Individual donations will support a new recreational therapy program at the Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center in Milwaukee. Parker’s father, Robert, benefited from the center’s services in 2010 and 2011 before his passing. “He really received excellent care,” Parker says. “The people over there are great.”

Information on how to donate to Parker Rios’ endeavors:

  • Corporate Sponsorship for “Fire and Ice” expenses. Contact Parker via “Fire and Ice Runner” Facebook page.
  • Individual Donations to create a new recreational therapy program at VA Medical Center. Send check, payable to Zablocki VAMC with “Fire and Ice” on memo line, to: Zablocki VAMC – Voluntary Services (135) 5000 W. National Ave. Milwaukee, WI 53295

This member spotlight is from our Elite Sports Clubs seasonal magazine, in which we include an Activity Guide for upcoming programs and events, plus articles on popular health, fitness, and tennis topics written by our own trainers, tennis pros, and staff. Check out a digital copy of the West Side Summer 2013 Elite Magazine, the East Side Summer 2013 Elite Magazine, or pick up your own copy at any of our five Milwaukee-area Elite Sports Clubs locations.

We’d love to hear your story! Email us at MyStory@EliteClubs.com or tweet us at @MyEliteStory!

What’s the farthest distance you have ever run? Is an ultramarathon a goal of yours? How do you train for your own running races? Share with us in the comments!