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Archive for Tuesday, July 6, 2004

Dog Days appealing on many levels

Participants often join for workouts, stay for camaraderie

July 6, 2004

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For some, it's a chance to get in shape to make their high school athletic team or a way to stay in shape after their high school athletic careers are over.

For others, it's a support group to help make a change to a more healthy lifestyle.

Hundreds of Lawrence residents are participating in Red Dog's Dog Days program this summer at Kansas University's Memorial Stadium.

The Journal-World asked four participants to explain what brings them out to the workouts -- sometimes as often as three times a day.

Support group

Ellen Young, 51, is in her eighth summer in the free program, participating twice a day. She has a resting pulse rate of 40 and regularly runs 5K races. But it wasn't always that way.

"I used to be fat," Young said, laughing after completing a three-mile course through KU's campus as part of the Dog Days Saturday run.

In 1994, she was 65 pounds heavier. Then she started walking and running by herself. A daughter, Kristine, started taking part in Red Dog's Dog Days workouts in 1996 to get in shape for athletics at Lawrence High School.

Young, after shedding 35 pounds, decided to join her daughter in the summer of 1997.

"Sometime between '97 and the last couple of years, the last 30 pounds came off, and I've kept it off," she said. "It was a whole lifestyle change. I changed the way I ate and everything. This has really helped."

During the program Young also has made many friends, who have helped her get through difficult family times in the past year.

Her husband, Doug, had a series of severe medical problems -- including contracting West Nile encephalitis last fall after a hospital blood transfusion. He died in May at the age of 52.

Young said the friends she made at the fall and winter Dog Days sessions helped her get through that period.

They even organized a run last December through downtown Lawrence -- "Jingle Bellin' for Ellen" -- to help her family pay for medical bills.

"They were a wonderful support group," Young said.

Keeping in shape

Ryan Wedel, 29, works for Central National Bank in Lawrence. He tries to make it to nearly all the sessions. Wedel, who helps lead calisthenics, has a resting heart rate of 56 beats per minute.

"This is the start of my third year," Wedel said, explaining he first heard about the program while working out at the Lawrence Athletic Center.

He said he enjoyed working out in Kansas University's Memorial Stadium.

"It's phenomenal that we get to use this facility. It really creates the environment for the conditioning that we do," he said. "You can do the hills, do the bleachers, some fieldwork. It's just a great atmosphere."

Wedel said he always has been drawn to athletics.

"But it's really the social aspect that keeps me coming back," he said. "You really kind of develop a bond with the 400-some people that are out here and going through the same pain that you are. And that's what I think is the neat thing about Dog Days is that you have a major support group that can kind of keep you encouraged and keep you coming out here."

Wedel said he had become good friends with Don (Red Dog) and Beverly Gardner.

"You get to know a lot of, not just Red Dog and Bev, but a lot of people in this group on a more personal level as opposed to just being exercise partners with them," he said.

Shaping up

Lacey Burnett, 17, will be a Lawrence High School senior in the fall. She's been attending the workouts for three years to get in shape for softball and cross country.

"My older sister starting coming to it, and a lot of my friends did it," Burnett said. "I just like coming out here and seeing all the people come out who want to stay in shape and get in shape. It's just a fun time."

She said she also liked working out at the stadium.

"It gives us a variety of things we can do. Instead of running on the track all the time, we've got the stairs and the bleachers and the field to run across, so it's pretty good," she said.

She also has a personal goal for the end of the summer.

"The first time I got here, running up the Campanile Hill, I had a little struggle," Burnett said. "Hopefully, by the end of the summer, being able to do it without having to stop would be awesome."

No excuses

Nick Nelson, 19, a Kansas University sophomore studying journalism, decided to take part in the workouts at the urging of his aunt, Beverly Gardner, and his uncle, Red Dog.

Nelson said he played high school tennis for three years but was no longer involved in school sports.

The workouts help keep him in shape.

"For people who don't exercise on a regular basis, I bet it's pretty tough," he said. "And it was pretty tough for about the first week. But once you get to know like what to expect, I think it becomes easier."

Nelson said he enjoyed working out in the stadium.

"It's one of the few places in the nation where we can actually use a stadium like this," he said.

Nelson said he liked the opportunity of coming to a free workout that was open to anyone.

"There's so many opportunities to come that there's really no reason for anyone to have excuses not to be here if they're really wanting to get in shape," he said.














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