Two years of working 60 hours a week and dining on vending machine fare broke Chris Downie's spirit.
Exercise helped him regain it.
"I set some goals about what was most important to me in life," he said. "One of those was long-term health."
He set a goal to do just 10 minutes of exercise a day. And he did just that - 700 days in a row.
Then he motivated himself in other areas of his life. The 34-year-old co-founded a Web site, which was acquired by eBay in 1998 for an insane amount of money (cough! $70 million). In the process, he met his wife. And in 1999, Downie co-founded another site, SparkPeople, one of the world's leading weight loss and motivational sites.
He attributes all that to exercise.
"Fitness is a springboard to meet your other goals," he said.
He's right. At one time, I was a devoted workouter. (Workoutee?) Then one day, Lethargy knocked on my door, we started dating, became couch slugs and had two babies, Tired and McLazy.
Just for kicks, I dumped Lethargy last week and started going steady with Gold's Gym. (I wasn't going to my old gym anyway, and as long as I'm paying for something, it might as well be a place with a smoothie bar.)
And after two consecutive days of working out, I already feel better.
It's amazing the way exercise not only benefits the physical person; it sends a profound and positive ripple through every area of a person's life. There's way too much proof for this to be a fluke.
Take, for example, Jeff Berding, the Cincinnati Bengals' director of sales and public affairs.
The 37-year-old Oakley man lost 47 pounds. But he also shed his stress, his anxiety and his bad nutritional habits.
Three marathons (and in training for another one) later, he has seen an improved personal life he attributes to his committed running program.
"I'm more clear-thinking because I have the time for introspection," Berding said. "We spend a lot of time focusing outward; fitness allows you a time to focus inward both physically and mentally."
There's also Rachel Vonnida, 29, of Kenwood, whose goal was to have a natural childbirth. She went into training for her pregnancy, exercising five to six times a week until the very end.
Vonnida reached her goal - and her labor lasted just six hours.
"It was my first pregnancy, so I don't have much to compare it to," she said. "But I will definitely take the same approach the second time around."
And not only did Tommy Rueff, 37, lose 40 pounds through exercise, he found that exercise made his creativity bloom. That's important for the Northside man - he's the director of Happen, Inc., a nonprofit agency that brings parents and children together through art.
"It feels good to wake up in the morning and know you're taking care of yourself," he said.
Downie wants everyone here to feel this way. He recently launched SparkCincinnati, a three-year improvement initiative to encourage Cincinnatians to reach fitness, leadership and community goals. The people of Cincinnati are challenged to exercise for 10 million minutes in 2004.
I'm excited to be a part of this. So I'm going to keep exercising and improving my life - and waiting for my $70 bazillion to roll in.
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