Wednesday, April 29, 2015

From "Getting Off the Couch" to Beast Veterans

John (far left) made the step to become a Beast veteran.
Two years ago, John and Lisa Meyer say they were tired of feeling out of shape and overweight. They took a big step, deciding to “get off the couch” and become more active.
Today, the couple feels like very different people. It’s been a long journey, but they are now “veterans” of Barber Beast on the Bay and a series of other athletic events and races. They say that they couldn’t have done it without each other, and a group of friends that has supported them from the day they started.
John and Lisa, both teachers in the North East School District, had been athletic in high school but then family and other commitments got in the way of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. In 2013, they heard about a weight loss challenge from fellow teacher and friend, Elaine LaFuria. The “58 Day Challenge” was a friendly competition organized by Erie chiropractor Steve Krauza that encouraged participants to exercise and eat well – focusing on natural, unprocessed foods. The person who lost the highest percentage of body fat would win $3,000.
At the end, John came in second place—missing out on the jackpot but winning something even more valuable. John and Lisa had both started exercising with “Team Adrenaline,” a work out group also founded by Dr. Krauza. There, the couple found the structure and support that made the difference. “We had done weight loss programs before but never exercise,” said John. “So, we would lose weight and then put it back on.”
Lisa (842, far right).
Team Adrenaline focuses on an “organic workout” with exercises such as lunges and push ups mixed in with sprints and running in different settings – such as up and down sets of stadium bleachers. But equally as valuable is the camaraderie that the couple experiences with other group members.
When some members of the group were signing up for a Tough Mudder, John and Lisa decided to join them. “We aren’t really runners but knowing that you have signed up for an event really helps you stay in shape,” said John.
Since then, Lisa has completed half marathons, while John has done a few 5Ks and the Presque Isle Triathlon. And they both participated in last year’s Barber Beast on the Bay. Going in, John was concerned about all of the running on sand, but said it wasn’t nearly as difficult as he feared.
“We signed up with Krauza's Krazies and had a blast completing the challenge with friends to support a cause that is near and dear to our hearts,” said John.
As teachers, John and Lisa both work with children with special needs every day. They are also the parents of three children, including their 15-year-old son Brett, who has autism.

“We try to do anything to help groups working with autism,” said John. “So the Beast on the Bay is a fun and challenging way to support a great organization that helps people dealing with their own challenges.”


Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Karen Forcht's Story of Success

     With just four months before last year’s Barber Beast on the Bay, Karen Forcht wanted to be out training for the event.  Instead, she was in a hospital bed, recovering from major surgery. 
But that set back did not keep the 42-year-old Erie resident from realizing her dream of beating the beast.  “To this day, I am unable to fully express the feeling that I had crossing that finish line,” said Karen.
     Karen describes herself as “not the typical 10-mile obstacle course participant” and said that she had never run more than four miles at one time.  But she stared working out with “Team Adrenaline,” an exercise group led by Erie chiropractor Dr. Steve Krauza.   Many of her fitness friends had signed up for Krauza’s Krazies, Steve’s Beast on the Bay team, and Karen caught their enthusiasm.  The team loves supporting events that help great causes, and Karen knew people who have personally benefitted from services at the Barber National Institute.  “That sealed my fate to try the craziest thing I have ever done,” she said.
     Karen planned to train hard through the spring and summer leading up to the event.  But then, she became ill and underwent a hysterectomy at the end of April. 
     “That meant any training would have to be put on hold, which really had me worried because I needed all the training time I could get!”
     When Karen resumed her exercise program in June, she wasn’t sure what to expect.  “It turned out that even though I was WAY behind everyone else, I was still able to complete the workouts.”
     Still, Karen wrestled with a voice in her head that told there was no way she could finish. “I mentally committed to finishing half the course, and then gracefully bowing out after our half-way party,” said Karen. 
     Not wanting to disappoint her teammates, Karen told only a few people about her plan.  Even the morning of the event, she thought that she would stop after five miles. 
     But then, as she began the course, Karen began to believe that she really could finish.  First, her husband, Brian, surprised her at the start line and then cheered her along the course.  Then, team captain Steve Krauza kept his word and never left her behind.  “He never once doubted that I would finish, and though we didn’t say much, his presence was so motivating,” said Karen.
Karen was also encouraged by the number of people—including complete strangers—who shared kind and positive words.  “Never in my wildest dreams would I have imaged that people would have been so encouraging,” she said.
     Exhausted after the ten mile challenge, the only thing that stood between Karen and the finish line was the steep hill on Peninsula Drive leading into Waldameer Park.  The entire Krauza’s Krazies team was waiting, and several teammates came back down the hill to help Karen and a few others get to the top.  “If you’ve never had 60+ people cheering for you, it is incredible,” said Karen.
     But most of all, Karen realized that she was a lot tougher than she thought she was.  She said she overcame worrying about what others may be thinking, and took the course at her own pace.  She felt an “accomplishment in raising money and awareness for a community resource that has touched so many lives, and in overcoming my self-doubt and displaying mental and physical toughness that I never knew I had.” 

     As a daily reminder, Karen keeps the finisher’s medal on her desk in the IT department at Erie Insurance.  And, she’s already registered for the 2015 event.  “I just hope that I can inspire at least one other person to do something great for their community and to do something for themselves that they didn’t think was possible,” said Karen.  “If I can do this, anyone can!”