A final note for new and prospective members of FITNESS IN TRAINING

The single largest hurdle for most new members and those interested in becoming a member, is working up the nerve to walk and/or run with the group on Saturday mornings.  Some feel intimidated and insecure, incorrectly believing that they lack the necessary know-how or ability, and unfortunately sell themselves short as being unworthy to run or walk with such "fast and knowledgeable experts."

The fact of the matter is, those assumptions couldn't be further from the truth.  Every FIT member has been exactly where you are right now, and there are more than a few of us who were there recently.  In fact, some are at the very level where you are right now, while others are still aiming to make it to the level where you are right now.  If you can find a way to make it past your feelings of inadequacy, you'll have the opportunity to meet and converse with some of the nicest people you'll ever know.

When we run or walk, we're not competing against others so much as we're competing with ourselves and the voice within that's always telling us to quit, give up, or accept defeat.  We share your reward when we can help you conquer that voice within, and we all celebrate when any of us is able to enjoy the victory that comes from reaching another milestone.  We're especially pleased when we see that success spill over into other facets of our lives; when what was once deemed impossible becomes an attainable goal.  We've learned much through running and we want you to do the same.  As far as we're concerned,  more is better.  There's certainly enough room in our group for anyone, with any level of interest, and any level of ability.  We know from our own experience that desire, dedication and perseverance can overcome practically any shortcomings that you may possess in natural, God-given talent.

So, if you're still unsure that you have the courage to join us for a walk and/or run this Saturday, please read the following thoughts shared by some of our members regarding their own reservations:

"I first met Tony at Popeye’s a few years ago.  It surprised me that he greeted me by name when I worked out as I tried mightily to remain anonymous at the gym.  Even after being a regular member of Popeye’s for several years, I knew almost no one there.  No problem.  I knew when I entered the world of athletes, I was going to have to swallow a lot of pride and maintain a broad sense of humor.  You don’t queue up at the starting line of a race when you’re slow and overweight and expect to be standing on the podium when it’s all said and done; in fact, your greatest hope is to not be the person bringing in the “last runner” van.  And if you are—as I have been—there’s only one thing to do: have your picture taken to memorialize the event!

Two years ago I entered the Rossville Tall Corn 5K and as I rounded the turn-around and crept back towards town, there was Tony calling out “good job!”  This was like a shot of adrenaline to a slow runner.  The year before when I ran the St. Pat’s Day 10K in Manhattan, the same thing happened to me as I hit mile 5 at Manhattan City Park and saw Brad and Marla Rhoden (long since finished and just running around the park, enjoying themselves) and each called out encouragement even though they did not know me.  What they also could not know was that the reason I was running that race was because my recently-deceased brother’s birthday fell on that exact day.  I was running the race in a t-shirt I had made with his picture on the front and because my brother had been a double amputee and walked awkwardly with two prosthetic legs, I was running to remember him and I was running because he could not run.  I’d never run a 10K before and I felt like quitting by the time I reached the park.  Hearing those words of encouragement hit me like a cup of cold water and I finished that race without another thought of quitting.

Last year I was really struggling with running.  I’d been promoted at work and suddenly I was mentally and emotionally exhausted at the end of each work day and all I could think about was getting out of high heels after a 9-10 hour day.  Run?  You’ve got to be kidding!  After several months, gone was the hard-won self-esteem I’d worked so hard to obtain through running.  Gone was the stress relief.  Gone was the camaraderie from being with other runners.  I volunteered at local races for an entire year trying to get back that loving feeling before I realized that I had to run.  I had heard snippets about Tony’s group for months and admired everything about them.  I was taking a Pilates class from Kathleen Levy and with envy listened to her talk about races she ran with the group, laughing about slow times or getting lost on the course.  Unfortunately, even though Kathleen provided all the impetus in the world for me to contact Tony about the group, I was still intimidated.  By this time I had injured an ankle and my lower back in different attempts to get back to running.  So not only did I feel horrifically out of shape, but I felt a profound lack of grace.

It wasn’t until October 2003 that I finally wrote to Tony about joining the FIT group.  By this time, I was truly a mess.  In fact, the only reason I contacted Tony at all was because my best friend asked me during the course of a frantic conversation about everything going wrong in my life, “What would it take to make you feel better?”  Call Tony.  The most amazing thing happened when I joined the FIT group: I had a reliable running schedule to follow, I met what has to be the friendliest group of runners I’ve ever encountered, and best of all, I slowly began to find my sense of self again.  Tony has taught me that a bad week isn’t the end of the world and that my pace is irrelevant so long as I’m running.  I no longer worry about bringing in the “last runner” van because I’m too busy enjoying the race.  There is simply no way I could have achieved this without Tony’s constant support.

Because I live in Wamego, I’m not always able to join the group for the Saturday morning long runs, but when I have made it, I’ve rarely been alone.  I’ve met some wonderful people and had the opportunity to run with runners of all abilities, including Tony, who has walked with me, jogged with me, kept my strict walk/run schedule with me, and been someone I could count on to care about how my life was going.  I cannot imagine not having the FIT group behind me (or, rather, in front of me!), and am proud to be a part of such an upbeat group of runners."  Laurie McKinnon


"Initially, it is very intimidating when you are going on your first 3 mile run and some of the other runners are running a "Short 6" or a "Long 12."  I think it is very important to have some of the other runners greet the new runners and let them know a bit of their story.  I'm so glad I was able to find Mitzi and pair up with her.  We both were so scared and intimidated with the others and we found our comfort zone knowing we both were the new kids on the block.
I feel like I have improved mentally, emotionally and physically since I joined the FIT group.  I had run maybe two 5k's but really could not go out and just run 3 miles.  I just ran my first 12k and really enjoyed the feeling.  I never thought I would want to run a Half Marathon and now I look forward to the new challenge.  I think your support as my coach and the group's support makes all the difference in the world.  I would not have been able to stick with the program without knowing that you and the group would be there for me every Saturday.
Tony, I think you do a wonderful job and I couldn't have started to run without you.  I love the idea that you care about each one of us and are concerned for our health and well-being.  This is not a short-term, but a life-long goal - a way to stay fit and healthy.  Again, Thank you and I will be back for the next session."  Kim Wilson


"I want to thank you for all of your encouragement and dedication!  I know that you put your all into helping us achieve our goals and it shows.  In just a few short months of being with your wonderful group, I have built more confidence in what I can achieve.  Also, I have developed more courage to keep going and not think so much about what others may think about me.  I owe that to you.  I know that by following your advice and showing up everyday, I will achieve my goals; to be fit for life and to be an example for my friends."  Liz Ganser