Local residents say that rec. complex programs are giving them their lives back.
“These people put in their time – their knowledge – to help guide me. I would not want to dishonor them. They’re doing this for me. Not for them – for me. I respect that and respect myself enough to hang in there,”
– Elizabeth Ketecherside, a Winning Tomorrow Today program participant
Earlier this week Dale Chandler went fishing.
For many, fishing is a simple pleasure, but for Chandler who has faced a remarkable recovery through fitness, it was a milestone in a journey towards the rich outdoors life he once lived.
“If this rec. center hadn’t come along, I don’t know if I’d still [be alive],” Chandler said.
The program is Winning Tomorrow Today and is funded by the Tennessee Department of Health.
Chandler’s recovery really started when he was admitted to the hospital Dec. 26 for double pneumonia.
It was a wakeup call.
“I was scared I was going to die. When I found out I could get in at [the complex] I jumped on the opportunity, and I’ve been working on it ever since.”
In the years leading up to Chandler’s hospitalization, his health had deteriorated to the point that he had difficulty getting around, and that he needed help showering and dressing.
“I was hobbling around with a cane; using a walker sometimes. I was on oxygen and taking four sugar pills a day.
“I had to have surgery on my back. After [that] I laid around and gained a hundred pounds. I got to where I couldn’t even move – dress myself hardly.
“That’s what got me…I’m used to working, but I couldn’t do anything. I just basically gave up.”
Chandler said just a few months in the program, he has dropped over 50 pounds, seldom needs to use oxygen and – most importantly – his cane now stays home on the wall.
“Exercising has helped me a lot. Now, I’m able to work out and am gaining muscle mass. I’ve only lost three pounds these last two weeks, but I’ve lost another percent body fat.”
Chandler said that it has been a slow, uphill process, but he has never wavered in his determination to continue at the rec. complex, no matter how much he hurts and doesn’t want to go.
“This morning I didn’t want to walk. I’ve been in pain for three days. After I got on the track and started walking, I walked two miles, today, and then got in the pool and worked out for an hour.”
Chandler said that his first trip to the center, he made it a total of four laps.
“I was done … couldn’t go any further. About two weeks later it took 47 minutes to walk a mile.
“Everyday I would push myself to go further and further.”
Seeing Chandler walk is to see determination – the set of his jaw, the whole set of his body shifts from his usual lighthearted disposition to one of purpose and focus. It’s the stride of a man not with something to prove, but with a job to do, and that job is to improve his health.
“I started walking for an hour instead of laps. I’ve went as far a four miles.
“But not everyday,” Chandler confided. “When I feel good, I make myself go a little further. I have to make myself do something extra.”
Chandler said that at five weeks, he was able to hang up the cane.
The Winning Tomorrow Today program covers more than just exercise. It is a complete approach to health. For Chandler, this, in part, meant a fresh look at food.
“I started eating Special K for breakfast or grapefruit. I get a biscuit from Hardee’s, but use to, I would go in and get two or three.”
The change included a turn from sugar, and what he calls a Mountain Dew addiction, to eat whole grain bread and pasta.
“When I go to the store, I look at every label. I used to just put stuff in the cart. Now if it says above 20 percent sugar, I put it back. I don’t care what it is.”
Chandler’s wife, Sharon, who has shared the journey to health has seen the changes first hand. “We started eating healthier. He’s been sticking to it.”
She is very impressed with the changes her husband has made.
“Without this diabetes program, he would still be sitting on the couch. He has completely changed his eating habit,” she said.
“When I met Dale he was fit, now he’s getting that back.”
Chandler attributes his success to the center’s staff.
“My trainer, Kasie Meeks, started me out walking. By the sixth week she started me out in the weight room.”
Chandler has progressed from just lifting the bar, to pushing 85 pounds with his legs.
“She would come show me what she wanted me to do, but she knows I’ll push myself so she doesn’t have to stand over me.”
Exercise starts early for Chandler. Each day he comes to the center at 6:30-7 a.m. He stays until he’s tired, at least a couple of hours.
For those like Chandler who are who are regaining the vigor they once knew, it is a sense of pride of accomplishment that keeps them going.
Fellow program participant Elizabeth Ketcherside, a third-shift caregiver at a local assisted living facility, said that her motivation to keep going is, in part, respect for the people who are helping her.
“It’s an honor thing. My doctor believes I should come in here. These people put in their time – their knowledge to help guide me.
“I would not want to dishonor them. They’re doing this for me. Not for them – for me. I respect that and respect myself enough to hang in there.”
Her start came ironically as a vacation.
“It took me eight months to get [vacation leave]. My first days were spent getting up at 7 a.m. and going to the gym,” she said.
“Instead of getting up late and staying up late, I got to get up early.”
Ketcherside said that as a caregiver it is difficult if someone is too heavy.
“It hurts you more when you have to lift people and move stuff down the hall.”
Much of her exercise regimen is in the pool.
“I do the deep water aerobics. It involves all sorts of stretching, swimming.
“I’m not a very good swimmer, but I can stay above water.”
On other days, Ketcherside does water zumba.
“That’s in shallow end of the pool. I’m in the pool most days of the week.”
Ketcherside said that she can also walk a mile in just over 20 minutes.
“It’s hard for some of us to lose weigh. We’re used to going out for fast food. It’s good, but sure does kill the diet.”
Ketcherside said that she’s trying to make healthier food choices.
“I really don’t cook that much at home because it’s just me. My sister cooks a pot of stew and we’ll eat on that.”
Ketcherside said that she and her sister will occasionally go to Olive Garden. They make a meal of the soup and salad.
“I can have three bowls of soup and not feel weighed down like I would with a hamburger and fries. We don’t even bother with the bread.”
The meetings that cover food, health, stress and even help with medicines are mandatory.
Winning Tomorrow Today is funded through the Tennessee Department of Health Diabetes Initiative grant.
According to rec. department information, Winning Tomorrow leads participants “to take charge of their health with nutrition education, a personal physical activity plan and coach, and weight control. The program is free and participants get free use of the recreation complex while they are in the program and they meet goals. Education classes are either Mondays at 9:30 a.m. or 5:30 p.m. and are mandatory.”
Those interested must have a referral form signed by their physician and must have a Body Mass Index of 30 or over, be diabetic, or pre diabetic.
For more information about the program and other programs, call 728-0273.