Getting healthier is a goal for many people, whether they make a New Year’s resolution, their doctor recommends a better diet or they simply want to feel better. As some Sedalians begin the early days of their health journey, others have been working toward that same goal for years.

Turning fitness into a lifestyle

What started as a need to overcome depression and weight issues has turned into a new lifestyle for Kami Wolf. She was a member of the Healthy U Class of 2015, a time when she was “very depressed and overweight. I was really lost as a person and in a rut in my life.” Her mom suggested applying for Healthy U, and the rest is history.

“I feel like Healthy U taught me I didn’t need to do it on my own,” Wolf said. “I can learn from other people and surround myself with people that have what I want; that’s been my motto. It has pushed me to do things that will hold me accountable and help me while I help other people. That’s why I went into group fitness — I’m certified to teach two classes, I’m president of Running Resolutions. I feel like I can give back but it also helps me in return as well.”

Wolf now teaches Turbo Kick Live and Body Pump at Total Fitness, plus is an advocate for using running and exercise in general to overcome depression and addiction. She said her motivation comes from having her health back, doing things she couldn’t before due to being overweight. But, everyone still encounters struggles. For Wolf, she turns to her accountability friends when that happens.

“For me, it’s surrounding myself with like-minded people,” she said. “The biggest part was Kim Ream, my Healthy U coach — she’s my go-to if I have nutrition questions, she’s the one who pushed me to sign up for the different trainings to get certified. The other person is Courtney Hicks, she’s my workout and running buddy. … That’s what has helped me is the accountability — someone who is expecting you to show up.”

Through it all, Wolf said consistency is key. Accountability can help get from the tough phase to the habit phase.

“It’s going to be tough, there will be times you feel like giving up. It sounds so cliché but you have to fight through it,” she advised. “You’ll be sore and uncomfortable, but it gets better.”

Focusing on strength

Healthy U also kickstarted Ashley Peck’s journey, and she said joining the Get Fit Challenge this year has helped her with having an end goal to work toward.

Peck was a member of the Healthy U Class of 2015 when she also had a lot going on with her health, both physically and mentally.

“I wasn’t myself or what I knew as myself,” she said. “I put on a lot of excess weight — I used to be a fit school athlete, then I got bogged down with school work and that compounded it. I turned to food several times to help emotionally.”

In 2011, she got back to the gym and improved her fitness, but was then pregnant with her daughter. While that offered another health setback, it ended up becoming the inspiration for her journey.

“I didn’t want her to be like me, I wanted her to live a happy, healthy life. For her to do that she needs an example of what that looks like,” Peck said. “I wanted to be a role model for her and my students (at Smith-Cotton).”

Since then, Peck said she has learned how to fuel her body rather than feed it, and learned getting in the gym was the best option to fight her depression. She’s also learned to look past the number on the scale and focus more on how she feels and her overall body composition.

“For me, it’s how much strength I have behind that number,” she added.

That strength comes into play during powerlifting competitions, something she started in 2016 after encouragement from her grandma, a fellow weightlifter in Columbia. Peck’s grandma saw her in one local competition before she died in September 2016. During their last conversation, Peck promised her grandma she’d qualify for worlds someday.

Someday happened in 2017 in Boston. And it’s happening again later this year in Henderson, Kentucky.

Peck qualified for single event worlds at a March meet in Illinois and has since been selected to compete in all three lifts at the full power worlds meet: squat, bench and deadlift.

She said it’s a cool opportunity for a woman from Sedalia to lift with people all over the world and then share that experience with her students. She uses it as a teachable moment to let them know they can overcome whatever life throws at them.

“It’s an amazing feeling, definitely a proud, humbling feeling,” she said. “And any time I start to think about that, I think about it frequently, and then I think about my grandma if she was here and what she would say — she’d probably smile and say ‘I’m so proud of you,’ grab my face and hug me really close. She’s looking from heaven seeing it. That’s what I think about.”

Peck’s advice for those trying to improve their health is to keep it simple — if it seems hard or unrealistic, it probably is.

“Doing something is better than nothing,” she said. “Frequently if I’m going to do cardio I grab the iPad and get on the treadmill. I can watch TV on the couch or the treadmill. Just get up and do something.”

All about moderation

Matt LaCasse is another Healthy U success story, and a recent one at that. He applied to be a member of the Class of 2018 after he was out of breath playing with his kids, just a year before his 40th birthday. After trying to improve his diet on his own, he realized he needed help.

“I took advantage of what Healthy U had to offer,” he said. “I changed my eating habits, I found what type of exercise I really liked to do; for me, that’s riding my bike.”

He learned about proper portion sizes and to eat his favorite foods in moderation, and aims to ride his bike every day, even though that doesn’t always happen. He set a goal to ride 2,000 miles in 2019. 

“My advice to people is it doesn’t have to be riding your bike or running or whatever — it has to just be not sitting on your couch,” he said. “Find whatever exercise you enjoy doing and then go do it, do it as often as you can work into your schedule.”

He said he still lounges on the couch watching Netflix to relax, but that he doesn’t do that all the time anymore: “Life is a balance,” he noted.

He’s been without Healthy U guidance for four months now, but he prepared for it by creating a routine and lifestyle in 2018 that he knew he could sustain for years to come. His motivation to continue that lifestyle is not wanting to return to his previous unhealthy lifestyle that caused exhaustion and heartburn. The main motivating factors, though, are his wife and two kids.

LaCasse advised people to eat less and move more and to set goals that you share with someone who will hold you accountable.

“You’ll be amazed how far you can go, but don’t feel guilty if you screw up because we’re all human,” he said.


Nicole Cooke is the editor for the Sedalia Democrat, overseeing all newsroom operations and assisting with news coverage of Sedalia and Pettis County. She can be reached at 660-530-0138 or on Twitter @NicoleRCooke.

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