With a new year, gyms fill up with ever-hopeful exercisers convinced that this will be the year they get in shape, lose pounds, run 10 miles, or find the partner of their dreams.
In January, there is hope. By February, the crowds begin to dwindle. Other time commitments crowd out the trips to the gym, and the home exercise equipment starts to gather dust.
Yet some of the “movers and shakers” in the Philly area can tell you it doesn’t have to be that way. They move and have found ways to enjoy it, even integrate it with their professions and passions.
Writer and Rutgers University law school associate professor Pam Jenoff, author of the best-selling novel The Kommandant’s Girl, set in Poland during World War II, looks forward each year to that popular May tradition in Philly, the Broad Street Run, a 10-mile race from Olney Avenue to the Navy Yard. It is, she admits, “one of my favorite days of the year.”
She also lifts weights and has a second-degree black belt in karate (which she practiced before turning to running).
“I have a strong history of heart disease” from both parents, “so not exercising is not an option,” she says, although her demanding schedule — which includes not only writing but teaching law school and raising “three pre-school-age children” — sometimes requires working in exercise whenever she can get the chance.
Her advice to other busy people: “There is always time. Sometimes I only get to the gym at 9 p.m. or for 20 minutes before I get the kids in the afternoon, but at least it’s something.”
The reward: Exercise, she says, helps with “organizing my thoughts, and I love how relaxed I feel afterward.” Jenoff’s program continues to energize her writing. Her next novel, The Ambassador’s Daughter, is due to be published early this year.
Like Jenoff, singer Eddie Bruce considers exercise essential to his health. “I don’t have the luxury of not exercising,” he explains. An important motive for him is the chance to see his granddaughter grow up. In fact, he has a photo of her on his refrigerator as a reminder to take care of himself.
For workouts, he prefers to mix things up — the treadmill or elliptical, along with weights when time allows, and sessions with a personal trainer, with the rationale that “if I’m paying for it, I’m more likely to show up.” The sessions thus encourage self-discipline.
He’s found that the exercise benefits his singing by helping “breath control.”
He’s still busy — building what has become a national cabaret career with major clubs on his schedule. (Locally he has a regular engagement at the Sugarhouse Casino.)
Also in the spotlight in Philadelphia and nationwide, TV broadcaster (Voice of Reason, Comcast TV) and former news anchor Larry Kane has incorporated exercise into his busy life since he was in his 30s, when he began swimming a half-mile to a mile a day. He added weights to his routine in the 1980s.
The Montco man discovered early on that “working out has kept me healthy” and is also good for appetite control. “I have less desire for food when I work out regularly,” he explains.
Like Bruce, Kane finds it helpful to work with a personal trainer. But sometimes his exercise choice is simply a walk outdoors.
Clearly this program is working for him. At 70, he is still involved in broadcast media; besides hosting Voice of Reason, he serves as a special contributor for CBS’s KYW NewsRadio, and consults for Comcast Sports Group, part of NBC Sports.
And he recommends the same consistency for others: “Do it and keep doing it”—after first consulting with a doctor to check for any underlying health problems.
This kind of regularity has helped attorney Lou Fryman remain vigorous at 77.
Walking is integral to Fryman’s daily life. “If you get into a routine, it becomes part of your daily activities,” he explains. It “may not always be convenient,” but “if I don’t do it, I miss it.”
Fryman, who walks two-and-a-half miles per day, has also added light weights to his routine two to three times a week for a practical purpose: “to be able to carry luggage or grocery bags” without a struggle. For him, exercise “promotes mental and physical well-being.”
Fryman remains active in the legal arena, where this partner at the legal firm of Conrad O’Brien has served over the years as chair of the Pennsylvania State Ethics Commission and has achieved national and international recognition for his professional achievements, such as being named a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers and a Fellow of the International Academy of Trial Lawyers.
At the same time, the much respected Fryman has been a longtime community leader, playing key roles in such organizations as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, the Episcopal Academy (former chair), the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and the Pennsylvania Jewish Coalition (past president).
To have so many involvements, yet also remain active physically, does require a degree of commitment, yet Fryman echoes Jenoff’s advice.
“You can always find the time. If you don’t do it,” he says, “later in the day, you’ll know you could have.”
Wilmington writer and avid walker Rachel Simon would agree. The author of six books, including the best seller Riding the Bus With My Sister (featured as a film on Hallmark Hall of Fame), Simon is also a public speaker at conferences, fund-raising dinners, and other events around the country, making for a busy travel schedule at times.
“If I have to travel anywhere overnight,” she says, “I investigate where I can get in a workout.” Her first choice is walking, and she packs the requisite clothes, shoes and hat.
Her day typically includes 45 to 90 minutes of walking or using one of her machines. She also includes weights — and emphasizes that “I like all the stuff I do.”
“I can walk in all kinds of weather,” she says. She recalls a walk in South Dakota, where it was so cold she had to wear all the clothes she packed. Since then, she has come to “appreciate cold.”
The magical aspect of exercise, its ability to bring a person in touch with spirit as well as improve physical health, motivated Rabbi Lance Sussman to develop a unique approach to exercise.
Sussman noted that many of the programs and events at his Elkins Park synagogue, Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel, of which he is spiritual leader, involved sitting for long periods of time, or sitting and eating. Concerned with the overall health of his congregation, he worked with “a preventive medicine doctor” to devise a way to “improve spiritually while getting healthy.”
His solution: to incorporate the normal movements involved in Jewish prayer into a sequence he calls “Torahcize,” which includes such movements as “going up on the toes three times,” “lifting the Torah over the head” and “rotating to the left and to the right.”
He is also considering adding a dance component to services. In fact, he says, some interpretations of Torah passages involve dance — and can be described as “midrash in motion.”
Eddie Bruce reminds us to “love what we do,” and Simon tells readers to find activities they enjoy.
Yet there remains the hard truth: “You sometimes have to give up something else,” says Simon.
Diane McManus is a seasoned writer specializing in health issues. This article originally appeared in the "Perfect Fit" special section.