Thursday, October 14, 2004

Losing weight inspired teacher to help others

By Shannon Russell
Enquirer staff writer

Following Sarah Cecil's lead are (from left) Debbie Burns of Florence, Elisabeth Mihaljevic of Burlington, and Sondra Pilyer.
Enquirer photos by PATRICK REDDY
Two years ago Sarah Cecil, 190 pounds and miserable, slipped into a new, flattering swimsuit for her son's swimming lessons. An instructor approached Cecil and asked when the baby was due.

Cecil wasn't pregnant.

"I said, 'That's it,' " Cecil said. "I've had it. It was time to lose the weight."

The 5-foot-8 Burlington resident and mother of three lost 57 pounds through determination and help from exercise guru Richard Simmons, and she wants you to share in the success.

Cecil, 33, launched Mission to Health at the Boone County Community and Recreation Center Wednesday morning to educate, encourage and inspire participants to live healthier lives. Her classes combine aerobics, weight training and abdominal work for people of all ages and both sexes.

The year-round program, conducted Wednesdays and Thursdays, costs $1 per person per session. And it's more than just exercise.

What: Mission to Health with Sarah Cecil
Where: Boone County Community and Recreation Center, 212 Main St., Florence
When: Fitness classes Wednesdays 12:20 - 1:15 p.m.; Thursdays, 5:35 - 6:30 p.m. Optional health class 30 minutes before fitness class.
Cost: $1 per fitness class, $1 per health class. Child care available for $1. Free for Community Center members.
Call: (859) 371-4680.
Cecil and her group sat cross-legged on exercise mats during the inaugural Mission to Health education group, designed for fitness questions, concerns and triumphs. She passed out charted sheets and encouraged participants to log food, water and exercise entries weekly.

"I liked that part. It helped you feel connected with the people you're with and motivate you more," said Elisabeth Mihaljevic of Burlington.

The hardest part, Cecil admitted to the group, was gaining control of her eating habits and avoiding her favorite indulgence - sweets.

"I can't have cookies in my house or they'll be gone by the end of the night.

"Ice cream, too. I can't have one scoop; it has to be two or three, with whipped cream," Cecil said.

Cecil, a former teacher who used to hit vending machines for a three-candy-bar lunch, vows never to gain the weight back. She earned Aerobic Fitness Association of America certification, and in April attended Simmons' 'Hoot Camp' Teacher Training Program in Beverly Hills to learn Simmons' exercise methods.

Arms twitching and legs kicking, she eagerly segued into the fitness portion Wednesday morning. Her enthusiasm comes from improved self-image, increased energy and a desire to help others, she said.

It rubbed off on Florence resident Debbie Burns, who squeezed in the classes during her daughter Jenna's kindergarten.

"I liked the aerobics because it gets you moving," Burns said. "We need to do things for ourselves, and this felt right."

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