Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Family That PLAYS Together...

1987 Urbanski Family rafting trip in Colorado.
Quite a while ago, I had the good fortune to be asked to speak at a Girls On The Run function.  Speaking to a group of middle school girls about the benefits of making healthy life choices, something I'm so passionate about, was a no brainer.  That is,  until one of the girls asked what I thought was a simple question:  Why did you decide to be healthy?  And why is it so hard for other people to choose to be healthy?  Hmmmm.  Yeah....I was stumped.  I mean,  I know MY reasons for choosing a healthy lifestyle, but I can't answer for everyone.  And I don't really know why it's hard for others.  So...I thought it would be really cool to ask others what they thought about this topic.  This post will begin a series of interviews I'll be conducting with various people who have been of significant influence to my choices.    More specifically, these people, I believe, hold great insight into the key to achieving and maintaining a healthy, happy lifestyle and by interviewing them, I hope that myself and my readers will learn more about the benefits of choosing to treat our bodies well.

My first interview is with Mike and Gail Urbanski, who recently became owners of Anytime Fitness, a 24 hour fitness center that provides a unique, non-intimidating environment where people of all ages, shapes, sizes, and fitness levels can come and reach their fitness goals.   Mike and Gail are also parents to 4 children (including me!) and 2 grandchildren.  Mike has been a runner for most of his life, having competed in countless road races, marathons, triathlon and ultramarathon.  Gail has also competed in road races, and has always incorporated endurance and strength activities into her daily regimen whether it be jazzercise in the 80's or rollerblading and cycling.  What better way to start off my interview series, than with the two people who have influenced me most!
Mike Urbanski  
Gail Urbanski 

GG (Gutsy Girl):  What did "healthy" mean to you as you were growing up?

GAIL:  I grew up in Los Angeles in the 50's.  Back then, we were always outside playing.  "Exercise" was not a word we really stressed.  Mostly, I think, because there was no need to stress it--we were constantly moving, rollerskating, biking, jumping rope, inventing games.  There were no special classes and there weren't a lot of organized sports, especially for girls.  My mother was extremely active and quite an athlete.  She played on a church volleyball team when she was young and softball until her father told her it wasn't "ladylike".  But later, as she became an adult, she was constantly seeking out new sports and activities.  I wasn't encouraged to play organized sports, but I was constantly playing hopscotch, tag, tetherball, volleyball, and basketball.  My mother did not let us sit around the house or sleep in.  She would come in our rooms in the early morning and sing loudly to wake us up.

MIKE:  I grew up in Ohio in the 50's.  My parents didn't exercise a lot back then, and they both smoked cigarettes.   But my uncles, who were a little bit older than me were all into sports and very active.  They taught me how to play sports.   I played outside a lot, did little league, midget football, etc.   When we moved to Tucson, when I was in 8th grade, I participated in my first track meet and fell in love.  For whatever reason, being on the cross country and track team made me feel good about myself and this is what really led to my healthy lifestyle.  It wasn't so much by example, but by experience and falling into a sport I really loved.  I did it long enough that it became habit.

GG:  How about nutrition?

GAIL:  In my household, we ate a lot of fresh vegetables and fish from a delivery truck that came by once a week and blew a whistle in the neighborhood.  We didn't have a lot of sugar or ice cream.  Never soda.  On special occasions, like birthdays, we'd have treats.   Our parents went through the Depression though, and we were fortunate to grow up during a very a very good time and our parents wanted to provide more for us.  There was a mentality of "clean your plates"  and "sit there until you finish all your food".  They didn't want us to waste anything.

MIKE:  In the midwest, I ate more ice cream, sop, potato chips and Tasty Taters.  But we didn't overindulge, not the way people do today.  We didn't sit down and eat a whole carton of ice cream.  We didn't have time--we were too busy playing outside!  My mom grew up on a farm and we always had home made meals and fresh food.

GG:  When you met and got married, did you talk about your health or how your lifestyle as a couple would be?

GAIL:  No.  We didn't talk about our health, but I remember that when your dad was running back then, people thought it was odd.

MIKE:  It wasn't until 1972, when Frank Shorter won the olympic marathon that started the running boom in the United States.  In 1976, my brother and I started a running organization in Ohio and it took off.

GG:  How about when you had kids?  Did you make any conscious decisions together on how to keep your kids healthy?

GAIL:  There were a lot of progressive thoughts in the 1970's that contributed to our decisions.  For instance, when you were born, it was a big deal to make your own baby food.  Sugar and soda and things like that weren't talked about as being "bad" for the body as much as bad for our teeth.  But we just knew it wasn't good for our kids.  We didn't really talk about it.  We always tried to keep with our instincts.

MIKE:  I was racing a lot when our kids were born and constantly reading up on what was healthy for me, so that I could be at my best, so it just trickled down to our kids.  We owned a restaurant at the time, so we had a lot of fresh produce and meats and we were committed to being healthy ourselves and providing you kids with the same opportunity.

GG:  Were your kids as active as you were when you were growing up?

GAIL:  You were active very, very young.  You all started swimming early and ran in fun runs by the time you were 4 or 5 years old.

MIKE:  You came to all my races when you were little.  Your mom would run too and because it was a part of our lifestyle, you'd participate.  We just lived this way, we didn't have a conversation talking about how we needed to do this for our kids, it was a normal part of life.  Our vacations were about the outdoors--camping, backpacking, hiking, swimming, running.  You learned early that this is what we did.  As a result, you all wanted to continue to be active and whatever sports you wanted to do, we supported it.
My brothers and me 1988.  Our first backpacking trip down the Grand Canyon.  My youngest brother  was only 6 years old.

As you got older, we knew if you were involved in healthy things, you wouldn't get involved in unhealthy things.  We wanted that for you and for you to always be surrounded by people like that.

GG:  Obviously your family sees the benefit of being healthy and the longevity it has provided you.  People are always commenting on how young and energetic you are.  So what can you tell us about how you feel today and how you've maintained your health?

MIKE:  My shift is now not as much about being fast and competitive, but how healthy I can be.    I log what I eat and the type of exercise I do.  This helps me be more aware of what I'm doing for my body.  I crosstrain more now--swimming, biking, weightlifting ,along with my running.  I sleep better because I've chosen a new lifestyle (Anytime Fitness) that is less stressful, and healthier for me emotionally.  We look at the ingredients we put in our meals and don't eat out much.

GAIL:  I had two sisters die too young and it has really made me take a look at what I can do for myself and it's been a lot about preventative care.  I want to look good and feel good for me and it's why I always go for a yearly check-up to make sure I'm doing everything I can for my body.  It's harder as I get older and it's frustrating sometimes, but ultimately, I want to be good to my body.  It's not all about food and exercise---it's about how you deal with stress and it's effect on your life.

MIKE:  I want to continue to lead by example.  I believe I have an obligation to my family and children and grandchildren to be a role model.

GAIL:  Maybe it takes living and experiencing as much as we have to understand that it's about WELLNESS--it's the whole package.  I know that I have to be realistic and not beat myself up.  I can't be married to the scale, and I can't deprive myself.  I have to eliminate the stress in my life and balance it all out.

Ultimately though,  this works for us because we have an incredible support system in each other.  We both want a healthy lifestyle and it's much easier to achieve it when you have that support!

GG:  What about your gym, Anytime Fitness ?

MIKE:  Some people think we're crazy for doing this at our age, but this is what we do---we take risks, especially when it's about helping others and supporting others in reaching their health and fitness goals. We recognize that so many people are just afraid to get started and that's why we're passionate about offering a non-intimidating environment.

GAIL:   Again, it's the whole wellness thing.  I know the benefits of a life less stressful and I don't want to deplete all of my energy every single day.  It's a lifestyle and we want that for others.

GG:  Thank you for taking the time to talk about this!

GAIL:  This was good.  I think it's important to remember why we do this and why it's so important to us!

GG:  If people are interested in your gymAnytime Fitness where should they go?

MIKE:  Our website isn't done yet, but if you go to the link (click on my links above) it will take you to our Facebook page and you can find out more information.  The renovations start Tuesday 7/12 and we're hoping to open by late summer!
Mike and Gail's grandsons Michael and Grady.  It runs in the family!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Erika...what a great idea and interview. Done really well. I still remember when your mom and dad and the rest of you would be visiting, and your dad would leave for an early morning run while most of us still slept. That's dedication, discipline, and obviously an appreciation for the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. Your whole family is an inspiration. It took me awhile to finally pursue my lifelong health and fitness interests, but as I battle ahead towards a doctorate in PT, I feel good about my decision, and a career that will help others feel good physically and hopefully emotionally.

    your Uncle Steve