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Employees push for healthier lifestyles

by Cindy Abole
Public Relations
The U.S. Army’s recruitment slogan: “Be all you can be” is a mantra adopted by hardworking men and women committed to achieving the best through individual effort, self-discipline and hard work. That attitude helped motivate a team of people to push themselves beyond their own limits to train and compete in the spring MUSC Triathlon Training program.
MUSC Team Toe Seekers' Katy Kuder, from left, team mentor Michelle Chavez and  Robert Watson conduct the cycle portion of the MUSCman Triathlon June 5. Team Toe Seekers also includes Contrenia Hayes, Kelly Hedges, Rachel Ahring, Kimberly Cakley, Janet Jenkins-Mitchell, Joan Herbert, Chris Murray,   captain; mentor, Linda McDonald and trainer, Katie Blaylock.

Volunteer Services’ Katy Kuder, Robert Watson and seven others initially joined forces as members of the MUSC Toe Seekers team and as participants in the spring 2009 MUSC Healthy Charleston Challenge (HCC) sponsored by the MUSC Harper Wellness Center.
For 12 weeks (Jan. 15 to March 26), the team competed with 10 other sponsored teams to learn and adopt healthier habits and lifestyles and achieve weight loss throughout this wellness competition. Toe Seeker participants emerged from the experience stronger, wiser, healthier and more confident in themselves because of the experience.
The team continued to work out with each other in the months that followed. In April, they crossed another milestone by finishing as a team at the 32nd annual Cooper River Bridge walk event April 4. High on their own enthusiasm and success, some members raised the fitness bar even higher by committing to a six-week triathlon training program sponsored by the Harper Wellness Center. On June 5, both Kuder and Watson competed along with 13 other participants as they swam 10 laps (¼ mile), cycled 10 miles and completed a three-mile run as part of their first MUSCman Triathlon Sprint event in early June. Inspired by cheers from friends and team mates, the pair finished each event. Watson took third place overall (1:05:17)—11:25 (swim); 29:52 (bike) and 24:00 (run) and Kuder took 11th place (1:40:51)—11:45 (swim); 39:05 (bike) and 50:01 (run).
Triathlon participants received training on a variety of fitness levels. They also participated in nutrition education and an individualized six-week training program for all three events. From June 1-5, athletes opted to participate in the MUSC triathlon sprint event as well as others with the upcoming Charleston Sprint series.
“I learned you’ve got to make goals in everything you do,” said Kuder, reflecting on the journey she’s had since starting her fitness program and triathlon training. “I’ve embraced a lifestyle change that’s helped me and my teammates find success on many different levels. It’s now a new way of life.”
Kuder has come a long way since her first team workout on elliptical trainers in January with Team Toe Seekers HCC team trainer Katie Blaylock. Today, she’s at the gym almost daily and feels comfortable trying new workouts and fitness activities such as the triathlon.
“I remember just struggling to breathe,” Kuder said. “I couldn’t do it and just cried.” Seven months later, a slimmed-down and fit Kuder (She’s lost almost 40 pounds and dropped six dress sizes), is thrilled with her progress. “I may not be a serious athlete, but I feel so much better now. I’m stronger and have more energy in my walking, running and everything I do. This experience has been priceless.”
Watson agrees. “It’s so important to find new motivation to keep you going. There are so many reasons/excuses to keep one from staying active. It’s a good idea to have some project that motivates you or a goal to work towards,” he said. Instead of walking the 2009 Bridge Run event, Watson ran it in 53 minutes, his best effort in years.   
“Katy and Robert did an excellent job,” said Anne Finch, an elite-level Lowcountry tri-athlete who served as the program’s endurance coach. Finch is certified as a USA Triathlon Level 1 and USA Cycling Level 3 certified coach. “They both proved to themselves, fellow competitors and others that a triathlon is just one attainable goal that anyone, who works hard and has proper training, can aspire to. Achieving this is just a stepping stone to newer and exciting new activities that are out there.”
Prior to HCC, Watson tried every product and program available on the market for weight loss but couldn’t achieve longstanding, satisfactory results. So when Kuder recruited him with Team Toe Seekers and HCC, he reluctantly joined. Soon, he, along with the others, quickly adjusted to the group dynamics and enjoyed the team camaraderie. Out of habit, Watson and his friends still check on each other regarding their daily water intake and fiber consumption, compare food journals and share new recipes and products.
“One of my proudest moments is when I see participants still having fun with their new lifestyle habits long after the program finishes. The Toe Seekers team is a great example.  They are still motivating each other, trying new activities, and enjoying life to the fullest with their improved energy and fitness levels. Some of the team even did the Wellness Center indoor triathlon competition in June. Others are doing Boot Camp and participating in local walk/runs. I am so proud of them—they have my utmost respect,” said Janis Newton, HCC director and Harper Student Wellness Center program director.
With eyes focused on their next goal, both Kuder and Watson are training to run the half marathon (13.1 miles) of the Kiawah Island Marathon Dec. 12. Meanwhile, each has made continuous goals. Watson wants to bench press his pre-HCC weight (260 pounds), complete five, unassisted pull-ups and body dips and run a mile in seven minutes. He’s already more than half-way there. Kuder plans to continue her quest to reach a healthy weight, train for the next three months and finish December’s half-marathon event.
“This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” Kuder said. “It’s difficult and tough when you have to reshape the way you think and feel about certain things. To succeed, you really have to examine it carefully and put your weaknesses out for everyone to see before starting. More importantly, I learned it’s an effort you can’t do all by yourself.”

Applications are being accepted for the Fall Healthy Charleston Challenge, Sept. 10 to Nov. 19. Deadline is Aug. 10. Visit
For information, call 792-4141 or visit

Friday, July 24, 2009

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