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Walking Success Story - Frank Bergson - Doctor Avoider to Super Fit

Frank Bergson - Before Weight Loss
Frank Bergon - After Weight Loss

In 2006, 67 year old Frank Bergson went to his doctor seeking to refill his allergy prescription. The doctor sat him down and scolded him for not coming in for a year.  He said "Frank, last year you weighed 210 and you were going to come back in 4 months to show me how much weight you lost. Now you weigh 220, your blood pressure is 165/95, and your sugar is elevated to diabetic levels. You're a pharmacist; I don't have to tell you what to do. Go home and do it!" Frank consulted an ideal weight chart and discovered his weight should be 164!

By switching to low-fat, sugar-free foods and measuring and weighing his portions, he started slowly losing weight. He knew he could lose weight faster if he exercised. For years he owned a treadmill and a weight bench. The treadmill was excellent for hanging out-of-season clothes and the weight bench was piled with boxes of books. Too lazy to unbury the equipment, he put on his jacket, stepped out the door, and looked at his wristwatch. He started walking down the street, continued for 10 minutes, and walked back for 10 minutes. After a few weeks he was walking about an hour. As his pace quickened he was able to increase the distance from to 2 miles, then 3 miles. His plan worked and the weight decreased steadily.

Like many, Frank sought advice from the Internet. A quick search revealed that weight loss was related to the number of miles walked. He thought five miles, three times a week was a reasonable goal, but he felt he really didn’t have time for this. He pondered how he could walk five miles in the one hour he was willing to devote to walking.  He did a Google search on “fast walking” and among the various listings was Park Racewalkers in NYC.  During a phone call with Stella Cashman, coach and founder of the club, she offered him a free race walking lesson in Central Park. He joined the club, his wife gave him a Garmin GPS/Heart rate monitor/stop watch for his birthday, and he started tracking all of his practices.

In January 2007 he read an announcement for Park Racewalkers’ season opening 5k race in the spring. He mailed in an entry, knowing the race date on his calendar would force him to practice all winter. He felt if he could somehow manage not to be in last place, it would be an accomplishment. To his surprise, Stella hung a gold medal on his neck, for “first in Age-Group” and he was hooked!

By the end of a year of walking, his weight was down to 168 pounds, his blood sugar was normal, and his blood pressure was under control.  The difference was quite dramatic. Frank dropped from a 42 waist all the way down to a 34, and continued entering races.  In 2008 and 2011 osteoarthritis unrelated to walking required two hip replacements. Both times the surgeon, after physical therapy, encouraged a return to continued race walk training.

Frank  improved his time and form by attending race walking clinics and making use of the variety of help available on-line and in books and DVDs. He enters about six races every year, from 1500m races to half-marathons. He’s now a member of the Shore Athletic club and competes at the state level in the USATF Masters division (age 74).  He’s twice qualified to represent New Jersey at the National Senior Games. He finds the sport is filled with friendly helpful people, and is an activity that can be continued for years to come.

Frank Bergson
Whitehouse Station NJ
January 5, 2013                                                


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