Here’s my $5 million idea for the mayor; what’s yours?

July 29, 2012

You have until Wednesday to send Mayor Jim Gray your bold idea for improving Lexington.

Gray will choose one idea to submit next month to Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge, which will give $5 million to the winning city and four $1 million prizes to runners-up to help turn their ideas into reality.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s foundation wants “a bold idea that can make government work better, solve a serious problem or improve city life.” The idea should be tailored to Lexington, but also be replicable in other cities. It also needs an action plan that can achieve measurable results.

So far, citizens have submitted dozens of ideas through the city’s website, by mail and in “town hall” forums that Gray has conducted via telephone and social media.

So what’s my bold idea for the mayor? Set a goal to make Lexington the nation’s healthiest city through better nutrition and more exercise. The action plan would focus on developing our budding local food economy and making it easier for Lexingtonians to be physically active as part of their daily routines.

This project is perfect for Lexington, because the city has both huge health problems and the basic tools needed to solve them.

Think about it: Long before Men’s Health magazine named Lexington as America’s most sedentary city last year, Kentucky was a national chart-topper for unhealthy eating, lack of exercise, obesity, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, you name it.

On the other hand, Lexington has some of America’s richest soil, and it can grow food as well as horses. There is a lot of farmland, plus other good opportunities for healthy food production, from the indoor aquaponics farm now being built in a former urban bread bakery to suburban backyard gardens.

Lexington already has many smart, creative people working on these issues. They include university researchers, health educators, farmers, food entrepreneurs and non-profit community organizations such as Seedleaf and Food Chain.

As for exercise, Urban County Council members Jay McChord and Doug Martin, architect Van Meter Pettit and many others have become influential promoters of trails, bicycle lanes and better pedestrian infrastructure to make it safer and easier to exercise.

Lexington’s size, educated population, culture, soils, climate and central location make this an ideal place to pioneer new approaches to improving Americans’ health. Think how much progress could be made if a well-publicized city health crusade attracted national attention and other foundation funding?

These are just some of the issues to be explored: How can typical American urban and suburban infrastructure be retrofitted to make it safer for walking and biking? How can locally grown produce and meat be made more affordable? How can local food production be leveraged to create new jobs?

City government’s main role would be to help create infrastructure — everything from bike lanes and pedestrian paths to garden plots on vacant city land and commercial kitchens to help people turn local food into value-added products. With the right infrastructure and support, Lexington’s academics, entrepreneurs, volunteers and non-profit organizations could develop strategies other cities could emulate.

Well, that’s my idea. What’s yours? Send it to the mayor by going to the city’s website (lexingtonky.gov) and filling out an online form. Or mail your idea to: Mayors Challenge, City Hall, 200 E. Main St., Lexington, KY 40507.

Dick Robinson’s Legacy

The last couple of times I saw well-known sports agent Dick Robinson, he was telling me about his dream of extending the popular Legacy Trail from the Kentucky Horse Park to Georgetown. Robinson, 71, was an avid cyclist. He died a year ago Monday as the result of a brain injury suffered in a cycling accident.

Robinson’s widow, Christie, and friends Leslie and Keith Flanders have continued working on the idea, enlisting the support of Scott County property owners and officials.

They have set up an account with the Blue Grass Community Foundation to take donations to fund a feasibility study and are in the process of hiring CDP Engineers of Lexington to conduct it. The six-month study will recommend route options and estimate costs of the three- or four-mile extension so organizers can apply for state, federal and foundation construction grants, Leslie Flanders said.

To raise awareness for the project, there will be a 15-mile ride on the Legacy Trail in Robinson’s memory Monday at 8:30 a.m. at the trailhead on Iron Works Pike across from the horse park campground. Everyone is invited to come out to ride, or just to honor Robinson’s legacy dream.


How do we make the most of Men’s Health’s insult?

October 9, 2011

When Men’s Health magazine declared in June that Lexington is the nation’s most sedentary city, some people got angry. Others challenged the highly suspect data on which the ranking was based.

But local leaders and health advocates were thrilled. After all, what could be better motivation for changing the ugly truths behind that ranking?

“We know we’re not really the most sedentary city,” Mayor Jim Gray said. “But we also know we’re not the healthiest, either.”

Men’s Health’s slap at Lexington is a focus of this weekend’s Second Sunday celebration, which is likely to bring thousands of people to the CentrePointe meadow downtown from 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday. Festivities begin with a Sedentary Parade — that’s a parade that doesn’t move — and continue with a 5K race, a bike ride, a health fair and lots of opportunities for fun and exercise.

This is the fourth year for Second Sunday, a statewide effort in which almost all of Kentucky’s 120 counties close a prominent street and encourage residents to come outside and exercise.

Some communities, including Lexington, have expanded the program to monthly during good weather. For the second year, Blue Grass Airport closed its second runway on the second Sunday of June, and thousands came out to play on it. The airport plans to make it an annual event.

The Men’s Health ranking built support for Get Healthy Lexington, a partnership of local businesses that helps put together Second Sunday and similar initiatives.

So where do we go from here?

Jay McChord, an Urban County Council member and one of Second Sunday’s founders, has some ideas. “What if we gave Men’s Health a better story for next year?” he said. “What if Lexington became an inspiration for the entire country?”

McChord dreams of a follow-up story like this: America’s most sedentary city becomes a model of civic fitness. That attracts national attention and funding from private foundations to help Lexington build more infrastructure to make walking, biking and other physical activity a part of everyday life.

In many ways, America’s fitness landscape is ironic. On one hand, organized youth sports have never been more popular. Adult athletic events such as this weekend’s Bourbon Chase fill up only hours after registration opens. On the other hand, more Americans than ever before are overweight and out of shape, and they suffer from diseases that are the result of sedentary lifestyles.

It is easy to see how that happened. Adults drive more and walk less. They ride elevators and avoid stairs. Children play outside less and with video games more.

Because of safety concerns and suburban subdivision design, parents drive children everywhere rather than letting them walk or ride a bike.

McChord uses an economic analogy: We have the health “rich” and the health “poor,” but we have lost the large “middle class of health.” So how can we rebuild it?

As Lexington grows more dense to preserve farmland and limit the costly infrastructure of suburban sprawl, more attention must be paid to creating a less automobile-centric city, Gray said. That will give people more opportunities to incorporate physical activity into their everyday lives.

McChord said several national philanthropic foundations are giving hundreds of millions of dollars in grants to cities and organizations to help them accomplish significant policy changes that promote good health.

What policy changes could work in Lexington? McChord said city officials want to expand so-called joint-use agreements with schools and churches to make public and private athletic fields and playgrounds more available for everyone to use.

He said it also is important to change city development plans and building codes to encourage more physical activity. For example, McChord said, developers could get tax breaks for including bike racks or other facilities in their projects.

Painting more bicycle lanes on streets and building more multi-use trails are important steps. “The Legacy Trail opened up a lot of people’s eyes to what was possible,” McChord said. “We live in one of the most beautiful places in America. We’ve got to figure out more ways to enjoy it outside of a car.”

If you go

What: 2nd Sunday and Sedentary Parade. Non-moving “parade” kicks off afternoon of activities, health information and demonstrations; food and drinks available.

When: 2-6 p.m. Oct. 9.

Where: Robert F. Stephens Courthouse Plaza, CentrePointe lot and Phoenix Park, downtown Lexington.

Info: (859) 244-1944, Gethealthylexington.org. For activities in your county, go to 2ndsundayky.com.


YMCA has students, mentors Run the Streets

September 20, 2011

Jade Finley started noticing something was wrong about a year ago.

“I was getting a little flabby,” said the sixth-grader at Bryan Station Middle School.

So Jade, 11, started running. The more she ran, the more she liked it, especially after she spent this summer participating in a free YMCA program designed to get kids ages 10 to 18 interested in running for fun and exercise.

“I’ve dropped a whole dress size,” she said. “It makes me feel good. I’m really enjoying it.”

Jade’s mother can tell a difference, too.

“This has really made her blossom,” Tanya Finley said. “She has taken a big interest in running, and she says she’s going to try out for the school track team.”

Jade was one of about 15 young people and almost as many adult mentors who have met outside historic Loudoun House three times a week since July 25 to participate in the YMCA’s Run the Streets program.

After stretching and get- acquainted exercises, participants spend an hour each Monday and Wednesday evening and two hours each Saturday morning doing relays and running games around Castlewood Park, and running through the park and the surrounding North Lexington neighborhood.

Students who attended eight of the first 12 sessions received a team T-shirt and a pair of running shoes, courtesy of the YMCA of Central Kentucky and John’s Run Walk Shop. “They all worked hard to earn those shoes,” said their leader, Elissa Roycraft, sports and program director at the Beaumont Centre Family YMCA.

The kids who stick with the program will get a free entry in the Run for Education, a 10K race Oct. 8 in Midway.

“I’ve definitely noticed a health difference in the kids since we started,” Roycraft said. “They’re able to go a lot farther than what they thought they would be able to do.”

Although one boy admitted that he was there because his mother made him, others I talked with told of experiences similar to Jade.

“I’ve improved quite a bit since I started this,” said Elizabeth Minor, 15, who said Run the Streets helped her make Henry Clay High School’s varsity cross-country team.

“He loves it,” Belinda Stewart said of her son, Baylen, 10, a fifth-grader at Sandersville Elementary School. “He’s been running 5Ks with his daddy all summer.”

One key to the program has been having students run with one another and with the adult mentors, many of whom are avid runners in their spare time, Roycraft said. “Even though running is an individual sport, we try to make it as much about teamwork as possible,” she said.

Carol Russell volunteered to be a mentor because she thinks exercise is important to lifelong health. She didn’t start running until age 47. Now 56, Russell said she recently qualified for the Boston Marathon.

“Childhood obesity is a real problem in Kentucky, as is Type 2 diabetes,” said Russell, who helps organize the Girl Scouts’ Thin Mint Sprint, a 5K race at the Kentucky Horse Park each May.

Russell thinks it is important for adults to help kids get into the habit of lifelong exercise because physical activity isn’t as much a natural part of childhood as it once was.

“When we were kids, we all played outdoors,” she said. “We didn’t have video games.”

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From broken neck to Ironman triathlon

August 26, 2011

Brennan Donahoe was on a bicycle ride with a friend, coasting down a hill, when his skinny tires hit freshly mown grass on the pavement. His bike went out from under him, and he came to rest in a wire fence.

Donahoe knew he had landed hard, because his helmet broke in half. But he would have tried to get back on the bike had his friend, a third-year medical student, not told him to lie still.

A CT scan later showed that Donahoe had broken his neck, and he spent three months in a collar to keep his head immobile.

“They said it was the same break as Christopher Reeve, but with no compression,” he said, referring to the late actor who spent nine years as a quadriplegic after being thrown from a horse during a 1995 equestrian competition.

Donahoe’s fate was much different: He will compete Sunday in his first Ironman triathlon. The grueling race in Louisville consists of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike ride and 26.2-mile run. “My goal is to finish,” he said.

People find all kinds of reasons not to exercise and stay in shape. If Donahoe, 35, wanted to make excuses, he could find plenty.

In addition to having broken his neck, Donahoe became a new father five months ago when his daughter, Emerson, was born. He also works as a truck driver and is away from his Lexington home three nights a week while delivering supplies to fast-food restaurants scattered from Gatlinburg, Tenn., to St. Louis.

His wife, Annette Manlief, an English teacher at Scott County High School, said she supports her husband’s physical fitness goals and the training time they require. Her sister, Lisa Lay, shares their home and helps with the baby.

Donahoe trains six days a week. He swims on Monday, runs and swims on Tuesday, runs and bikes on Wednesday, bikes and runs on Friday and Saturday and runs on Sunday. He takes Thursday off because it is his longest work day each week.

Travel doesn’t get in the way of training. “People think it’s funny when you’re fueling a truck with running clothes on, or getting a bike out of the back of the truck,” he said. “But I don’t want to be like all the fat truckers.”

He doesn’t need to go to a gym to lift weights. Over the course of a week, he will unload as much as 35,000 pounds of restaurant supplies from his truck.

Donahoe started doing triathlons in 2004 after biking for many years. He worried after his accident about whether he would ever be able to do one again. While wearing the collar, he said, “I sat on the couch and played Xbox for three months.”

Once his doctor cleared him for activity, Donahoe resumed training. “I couldn’t wait,” he said. “I had missed it so much.” He competed in a triathlon five months later and hasn’t looked back.

“My neck still bothers me some, but I can deal with it,” said Donahoe, who has done several shorter triathlons. “If you look at (the vertebra) on an x-ray now, it is still crooked. They tell me if it happens again it would be hard to walk away from.”

But Donahoe is determined to stay in shape and not be slowed by fear. He does, however, watch the pavement in front of his bicycle very carefully.

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Bike club for kids honors Isaac Murphy’s legacy

August 9, 2011

Writer Frank X Walker was bothered last summer when he attended opening-day festivities for the Legacy Trail and saw only a few other people of color.

“I got to thinking about what I could do to change that,” said Walker, 50, who has ridden a bicycle since he was a child in Danville. Walker’s 73-year-old father is an avid cyclist, and his son rides a bike to classes at the University of Kentucky.

Walker had recently published Isaac Murphy: I Dedicate This Ride, a book of poems based on the life of the great 19th-century black jockey. Murphy’s home in Lexington’s East End neighborhood stood where the trail will begin when it is completed. That gave Walker an idea that many others in Lexington were quick to embrace.

They created the Isaac Murphy Bicycle Club, which organized classes this summer for children in the East End, teaching them bicycle skills, safety and rules of the road with donated second-hand bicycles.

The children also learned about the history of their neighborhood, where more than a century ago, Murphy and other black jockeys and trainers at the old Kentucky Association track helped make Lexington the horse capital of the world.

On Aug. 20, about 25 kids who attended at least two of the three classes this summer will be given new bicycles, helmets, locks, safety lights and water bottles at the YMCA on Loudon Avenue. Then they will all take a ride on the Legacy Trail.

“I remember as a kid how exhilarating it was to ride my first new bicycle,” Walker said. “I want other kids to feel that, too.”

The kids will be encouraged to continue participating in rides and other club activities — and to get their friends and families riding bikes, too. “This might be a way to get people in this part of town walking and riding the Legacy Trail,” Walker said.

The club has received money and volunteer support from many Lexington organizations, including the Urban County Council, the city’s Partners for Youth program, the Bluegrass Cycling Club, the Blue Grass Community Foundation, Dick’s Sporting Goods, the Broke Spoke Community Bicycle Shop, the Police Activities League, the William Wells Brown Neighborhood Association, Seedleaf and the East Seventh Street Center.

“We’ve been collaborating with as many parties as we can find,” Walker said, adding that the club could still use more donations and sponsorships.

The Blue Grass Community Foundation’s Steve Austin, who earlier worked with the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation’s Legacy Project, which helped the city build the trail, said, “I want the kids of the East End, like kids anywhere in the city, to feel like it’s their trail, too.”

When I attended a club training session last week, Dave Overton of the Bluegrass Cycling Club was teaching bicycle skills to a couple dozen kids, ages 6 to 14. Afterward, volunteers served them lunch, including a cake decorated with the club’s logo: a jockey riding a bicycle.

“It’s fun to just be able to go out and have fun and do what you like doing,” said Zion Alaboudi, 10, who can’t wait to get his new bike.

The club plans more sessions of classes, and members are considering ways kids could earn bicycles through good school attendance and academic performance. And the East End was a good place to start, but Walker wants the club to eventually have chapters in other neighborhoods citywide.

His larger goal is to get more people of all ages and races on bicycles and walking to improve their health and get to know their community better. Walker, an associate professor of English at UK, has been leading weekly rides for other faculty members on the Legacy Trail. And he is trying to get 100 families to ride bicycles in the annual Roots & Heritage Festival parade, Sept. 10 in the East End.

“This is how you grow it,” Walker said. “You start with kids this age.”

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UK researchers: stronger muscles mean better health

July 23, 2011

Everyone knows that physical activity is good for your health. That’s why it was embarrassing to have Men’s Health magazine name Lexington as the nation’s most sedentary city.

But doctors and scientists have a lot of questions about why exercise is so beneficial, how muscles work and the role muscle strength plays in overall health.

Answering those questions is the mission of the University of Kentucky’s Center for Muscle Biology, a unique collaboration of more than 100 faculty members, graduate students and postdoctoral fellows from nine different UK colleges.

The center was created three years ago after UK researchers realized they were looking at many of the same questions from different perspectives. They thought they could get further faster by working together.

“Our overall umbrella is the concept of weakness,” said Dr. Karyn Esser, the center’s director. “We’re trying to figure out what makes muscle tissue weak and how to make it stronger.”

With outside grants of more than $12 million, center researchers are looking at everything from injury prevention in young athletes to rehabilitation for elderly stroke patients. Physical activity and muscle strength seem to contribute to everything from better memory to disease prevention.

For example, even moderate exercise can help Type 2 diabetes, which has become epidemic among overweight Kentuckians. Muscles store most of the body’s insulin. “When you exercise and make muscles work, it creates a separate path for absorbing glucose,” Esser said.

The center’s researchers are working with UK’s Barnstable Brown Kentucky Diabetes and Obesity Center and Markey Cancer Center to look at muscle strength’s effects on disease and prevention.

“A lot of us believe that exercise is an anti-cancer approach,” Esser said. That is because muscles send chemical and electrical signals to the brain and other organs that aren’t fully understood.

Drs. Gerald Supinski and Leigh Ann Callahan are studying ways to improve the strength of diaphragm muscles to help patients get off ventilators. It is a huge problem: about 60,000 Americans are on ventilators at any given time, and it costs billions of dollars to care for them, Supinski said. Besides, the longer most people are on a ventilator, the more likely they are to die.

“Is the problem with their lungs or their breathing muscles?” Supinski asked, adding that muscle weakness is the main culprit in about 70 percent of ventilator patients. They are investigating drug therapies that could be used to strengthen those muscles.

Muscle weakness is most often caused by inactivity or infection, Supinksi said. But other causes are not well understood. Why, for example, do some patients lose strength so rapidly after being hospitalized and others don’t?

“My father died of cancer a few years ago, but he actually died of weakness,” Supinski said. “I wish I had known then what I know now.”

Drs. Tim Uhl and Patrick McKeon, who are certified athletic trainers, run a lab that uses high-tech gadgets to study muscle function and improve rehabilitation. They do a lot of work with stroke and breast cancer surgery patients.

They also use mobile labs to go out and screen high school athletes for risk factors that can lead to injuries. Preventing injuries is not only beneficial now; it can help those young athletes stay active as they age. Old injuries are a frequent reason people become less active later in life.

Massage and ice have long been known to play important roles in muscle repair and strength. The reasons aren’t fully understood. Dr. Tim Butterfield has built a machine to standardize massage stimulation, and he uses it to study the effects of massage on mice, rats and rabbits to figure out how to optimize it for humans.

Similarly, researchers know that muscle resistance training — lifting weights — can improve memory in elderly people. Why? Nobody is sure.

How can skeletal-muscular injuries caused by repetitive motion be avoided? It’s not just “tennis elbow” anymore. Researchers now see cases of what they call “Xbox syndrome” and “Nintendonitis.”

Dr. Esther Dupont-Versteegden studies inactivity — what Men’s Health magazine says Lexingtonians are so good at — and the detrimental effects it has on overall health.

“We know that people feel better when they exercise regularly, but why is that?” she asked. “What is inactivity doing to people?”

Much of her work focuses on what she calls “frailty prevention” in old age.

“The elderly in particular are really sensitive to inactivity,” she said. “It’s probably an additional stress on their already physically stressed makeup, but we don’t really know.”

One area of investigation is what she called “prehabilitation.” For example, can exercise before some kinds of surgery hasten recovery? When and how should it be done?

Dupont-Versteegden said there is promising research that indicates an individual’s level of activity may even have benefits for others. Pregnant mice that exercise a lot tend to have healthier babies than those that do not. Is it also the case with humans?

“This is exciting stuff,” she said. “You can imagine short-term intervention that could produce significant public health benefits.”

Help with research

University of Kentucky doctors and scientists are always looking for people to help with their research. For details of clinical trials and research projects now seeking subjects both with and without health problems, go to this website and click on the title of each study.

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The secret to exercise is finding something you enjoy

July 20, 2011

I have a framed photograph of my 35-year-old self covering the 1994 Winter Olympics. I am wearing a colorful Norwegian sweater. But what I always notice first is my chubby face. For the first time in my life, I was getting fat.

My doctor called me on it a few months later. “You need more exercise,” he said bluntly. “Ride a bike. That’s what I do.”

I was never much of an athlete. I hiked as a Boy Scout. I marched with the Lafayette High School band. But after college and marriage, about the only exercise I got was chasing after my two young daughters.

So I bought a road bike, helmet and padded shorts, and started riding around my Atlanta neighborhood. The more I rode, the better I liked it.

I began riding on weekends with the father of one of my daughter’s friends. Soon, I had the stamina and courage to accompany him on long rides. I was comforted that he was an emergency room doctor.

Within a year, I had ridden 2,000 miles. I was 35 pounds lighter, I felt great and friends kept telling me how much healthier I looked. Most of all, I was constantly looking forward to my next ride.

Since moving home to Lexington in 1998, I have continued to ride at least 2,000 miles a year. Now almost 53, I have yet to weigh as much as I did at 35, despite my love for barbecue and bourbon balls.

Men’s Health magazine recently ranked Lexington as the nation’s most sedentary city. That might or might not be true, but studies have shown that most Kentuckians don’t get enough exercise. Doubt the studies? Look around you. Or look in the mirror.

Here is what I have learned from my fitness adventure: Exercise works only if you enjoy it. If you don’t enjoy it, you won’t keep doing it. So find an activity you enjoy.

There is something magical for me about the biomechanical harmony of riding a bicycle. I love going places under my own power. It is a lot like hiking, except the scenery changes faster.

Climbing a big hill on a bicycle is challenging. The reward is the rush you get from flying down the other side. All you hear is wind and the whir of your back wheel’s sprocket; it sounds like a fly reel when a big trout is pulling out the line.

Cycling is best when you ride with other people. You can have some wonderful conversations while pedaling along at 15 or 20 mph, once you learn to pause and resume talking with the noise of wind and traffic.

Several people I ride with in rural Central Kentucky have become close friends. We have shared a lot with one another. It only makes sense; we have had so many miles to talk.

But this might be what I like best about cycling: Each ride is like a mini-vacation in one of the world’s most beautiful places.

I see nuances in the rural Bluegrass landscape on a bicycle that I never notice from a car. Were I not cycling, I would have had no reason to discover  the dozens of lightly traveled country lanes I now know so well. I often ride past beautiful antebellum homes, abandoned distilleries, caves, creeks and waterfalls that most people around here don’t even know exist.

Tuesday morning’s ride was typical. A friend and I met soon after dawn on the edge of Lexington. The sun shone through plank fences, creating beautiful shadow patterns on the road. We sped by horses grazing in fields and saw a young colt being taken for a walk. Birds danced across meadows filled with wildflowers. Squirrels gathered walnuts around stone fences.

We stopped at Windy Corner Market for coffee and a country ham biscuit. I enjoyed those Kentucky Proud calories all the more because I knew they would be long gone by the time we finished our fast, 28-mile ride and parted for our weekday routines.

Cycling has made me healthier and happier. It isn’t just exercise. It’s fun.


Second Sunday back at Blue Grass Airport this weekend

June 9, 2011

Last year’s popular Second Sunday event at Blue Grass Airport will be repeated this weekend. People are invited to bring their bicycles, skateboards, rollerskates, sports equipment and walking shoes to have fun and get some exercise on the airport’s 4,000-foot runway Sunday from 1 p.m. until 5 p.m.

The free event will offer a number of activities, including a batting cage from the Lexington Legends, sports equipment from the YMCA and a display of various aircraft and safety vehicles, including fire engines, police vehicles, helicopters and unusual airplanes.

Participants can register to win tickets to one of three Florida destinations, courtesy of the airport and Allegiant Air. They also can bring picnics to enjoy while watching aircraft take off and land. During the event, aircraft will be using the airport’s main 7,000-foot runway, so there will be no interruption in flights.

Second Sunday participants should plan to enter the airport grounds from Versailles Road, near the Fire Training Center across from Keeneland Race Course. Parking will be adjacent to the runway. Leashed pets are welcome.

Second Sunday offers monthly events in Lexington and annual events statewide to encourage all forms of physical activity and fitness. Last year, 115 counties participated in the annual Second Sunday program in October, in which a section of road was closed in each county for the afternoon so people could use it for exercise and recreation.

Click here to see reports from last year’s event, which was a lot of fun.


Miss airport Second Sunday? Watch the video

July 26, 2010

Several thousand people came out June 13 for the Second Sunday event at Blue Grass Airport. The almost-finished new runway was opened to bikers, rollerbladers, skateboarders and walkers. It was a great community event to encourage people to get outside and exercise

In case you missed it, organizers commissioned the video below. For more information about other Second Sunday events, go to the website.


Second Sunday draws big crowd, despite heat

June 13, 2010

What’s a little heat and humidity when you have a chance to play on an airport runway?  That’s what more than 2,500 people seemed to think this afternoon when they came out to Second Sunday to bike, skate, walk and run down Blue Grass Airport’s nearly finished 4,000-foot runway.

Some, like me, rode out from home on their bikes. Most drove out, filling the main 1,200-spot parking lot. Others were sent to an overflow lot and were shuttled in on LexTran buses. There was plenty of water to drink and several interesting old planes from the Aviation Museum of Kentucky and airport emergency vehicles to see. Plus, you could watch planes take off and land on the airport’s main runway nearby.

(LexTran boss Rocky Burke was there on his bike. I also saw Urban County Councilman Jay McChord, one of the organizers of Second Sunday, and Council at-Large candidate Steve Kay.  Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President David Adkisson was there on a bike with his three grandchildren, one of whom he was pulling in a little trailer.)

It was a great family outing, and a fun way to get some exercise. That’s the whole point of Second Sunday.

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Play on the runway during Second Sunday

June 9, 2010

I was in college before I took my first airplane trip, so when I was a kid, there was always something magical about flight.

My father would occasionally take me to what was then called Blue Grass Field to watch airplanes come and go. And the whole family would go out to see him off to his annual convention of college bookstore managers.

As Dad’s plane would roll down the runway, faster and faster until finally taking flight, I would wave and wonder: If I could pedal my bicycle fast enough down that runway, would I take off, too?

I have learned enough about aerodynamics since then to know it is highly improbable. Still, on Sunday afternoon, I plan to give it a try. You should, too.

From 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Blue Grass Airport will open its nearly completed 4,000-foot runway, which is 75 feet wide, and the parallel taxiway, which is 35 feet wide, for people to bike, skate, walk or run on.

Some of the fresh pavement will be reserved for chalk drawings. Big chalk drawings.

Families are encouraged to bring lawn chairs and picnics and watch at least 15 scheduled commercial flights come and go on the airport’s 7,000-foot main runway nearby. Fire trucks and a police helicopter will be on display. You can bring leashed pets, balls and Frisbees, but no kites.

The free event, dreamed up by Urban County Councilman Jay McChord and the airport’s executive director, Eric Frankl, reminds me of the Blue Grass Field community days that I went to as a kid. But this is the first time the airport has ever let the public play on a runway.

“It should be a lot of fun,” Frankl said. “It will allow people to check out the airport from a different perspective.”

This is part of the Second Sunday series of monthly events throughout Kentucky designed to get average people outdoors and exercising.

Like me, McChord has fond boyhood memories of going out to the airport to watch airplanes come and go. But Second Sunday isn’t so much about nostalgia as about dealing with Kentucky’s modern problems. We eat too much and exercise too little, helping to make Kentucky first in the nation in cancer, No. 3 in heart disease and smoking, and No. 9 in premature deaths of all kinds.

Usually, Second Sunday involves closing a street to cars for a few hours, or having a monthly family bike ride escorted by police. Those rides are much like the recent 10-mile tour through downtown and the University of Kentucky campus that attracted more than 2,500 people of all ages during Bike Lexington on Memorial Day.

The statewide Second Sunday event this year will be Oct. 10 — 10-10-10, for those who pay attention to calendar symbolism. Simultaneous street closings are planned throughout Kentucky to encourage people to take to the pavement and move.

Seventy counties participated in the inaugural Second Sunday, in October 2008; last year, 107 counties participated. Diana Doggett, a Fayette County extension agent and statewide coordinator for Second Sunday, hopes to get all 120 counties involved this year.

Lexington’s plans are still being developed. If you live in another county, ask your extension agent about local plans.

No matter where you live, you are welcome to come out Sunday to Blue Grass Airport. Parking will be available next to the runway. Vehicles should enter near the airport’s rescue training center on Versailles Road, just west of Keeneland. If parking fills up, LexTran will provide shuttles to and from an overflow location, and Pedal Power bike shop will provide bike shuttles.

Based on the crowd at Bike Lexington, Frankl expects several thousand people to come out to the airport Sunday, if the weather is nice, to play on the $27 million runway before it opens to aircraft.

“Obviously,” he said, “this is a unique event.”

If you go

Second Sunday at Blue Grass Airport

When: 2-5 p.m. June 13

Where: Enter near the training center on Versailles Rd. west of Keeneland.

More information: www.2ndSundayKy.com


Lexington program to improve Marine recruit fitness

May 31, 2010

What is a more pervasive threat to national security than al-Qaida? Military leaders say it is the double cheeseburger and large fries, and the sedentary lifestyle of many American young people.

In a recent report called “Too Fat to Fight,” the non-partisan group Mission: Readiness, made up of senior retired military officers, said 27 percent of Americans 17 to 24 years old aren’t fit enough to serve in the military. The number of inductees who flunk their physicals has jumped nearly 70 percent since 1995.

“Obesity rates threaten the overall health of America and the future strength of our military,” Gens. John Shalikashvili and Hugh Shelton, two former chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote in a recent commentary in the Washington Post.

Lexington fitness trainer Steve Mansfield is helping the Marine Corps fight back.

Mansfield, who owns Legion Training Center off Reynolds Road, has begun teaching Marine recruiters across the region a no-frills fitness program that they can use to help get recruits in shape. Many recruits have about six months between when they enlist and when they report for duty.

Since April, two classes of Marine recruiters have graduated from Mansfield’s Legion Warrior PT program. It is an intense three days of classroom instruction and workouts with dozens of strength and endurance exercises that use body weight for resistance.

Mansfield hopes that if the recruiters find the program useful, the Marines will hire him to expand it nationally. So far, the results are promising, said Sgt. John Jackson, public affairs officer for the 4th Marine Corps District, based in Louisville.

“They were very positive about it,” Jackson said of recruiters who have completed the program. “It was very demanding.”

It certainly was. I spent a couple of hours watching Mansfield and his instructors put more than a dozen fit Marine recruiters through a workout that included every variation of push-up, sit-up, jumping jack, squat and kicking exercise you can imagine — and then some.

“They’re going to be able to take kids they couldn’t take before,” Mansfield said as he walked around the gym critiquing the recruiters’ workouts. “They’ll get more kids in good enough shape to serve and, if they’re in shape, get them better able to excel at basic training.”

Mansfield, 52, never served in the military. Until the Bath County native opened his gym nearly three years ago, he said, he worked in business and technology. In his spare time, though, his passion was martial arts, rock climbing, mountaineering and other endurance sports. “I finally decided to make my hobby my career,” he said.

Unlike many sport-specific exercise programs, Mansfield’s workouts are geared toward creating overall, high-endurance fitness. Legion Warrior PT is a combination of military and law enforcement exercise techniques, plus those used in extreme sports.

The idea is to teach recruiters a variety of exercises to help every kind of recruit — and to keep workouts interesting. The exercises require little or no special equipment. Mansfield teaches similar workouts to civilian clients at his gym.

“There’s no new exercise under the sun,” he said. “It’s finding the exercises that work for you and doing them with the intensity needed to get fit. You can’t do the same thing every day, or it will get stale, and then you won’t do it.”

The program also includes four hours of nutrition instruction. “For recruits, nutrition is half the battle,” Mansfield said.

“It will definitely help the people we recruit get in shape for boot camp,” said Sgt. David Harvey, a Marine recruiter based in Cincinnati.

Many high school athletes enlist in the Marines, but even they often don’t have the stamina and endurance needed to succeed. “We also get a lot of smart (video) gamers who can’t do a pull-up,” said Sgt. Robert Pugh, a recruiter in Bowling Green.

“It’s one of the most physically challenging things I’ve ever done,” Staff Sgt. Brandon Rosser, a Louisville-based recruiter, said as he caught his breath during a break. He says the program will help him help Marine recruits. “I never knew there were so many versions of push-ups.”


Second Sunday to become monthly event

October 7, 2009

At least 104 of Kentucky’s 120 counties will close a major street for several hours Sunday afternoon and invite people to come out and exercise: run, bike, walk, jog, skate — whatever they like.

In Lexington, Main and Short streets between Rose Street/Elm Tree Lane and Broadway will be closed from about 2 to 7 p.m.

More than 75 local organizations have activities planned around Second Sunday in Lexington — everything from dance classes to bike polo demonstrations. Plus, Biggest Loser TV show finalist Mark Kruger will speak about how he lost 129 pounds by exercising more and eating less.

For details, go to the city’s Web site, www.lexingtonky.gov and click on the Second Sunday icon. For statewide information, go to www.2ndsundayky.com.

It will be a big afternoon. But what happens after that?

In Lexington, a smaller version of Second Sunday will become a monthly event.

Beginning Nov. 8, organizers plan to sponsor a police-escorted bicycle ride on the second Sunday of each month, said Urban County Councilman Jay McChord.

“For a year we’ve been talking about how to make Second Sunday a once-a-month thing, and eventually a once-a-week thing,” McChord said. “This is a start.”

McChord has been one of Second Sunday’s biggest boosters, seeing it as a way to curb Kentucky’s horrible health statistics, which include being a national leader in heart disease, diabetes and obesity. The hope is that these events will inspire people to exercise regularly and adopt healthful lifestyles.

The new monthly 10- to 12-mile bike rides for cyclists of all abilities who are at least age 12 will begin at Cheapside. Each month, the ride will go to a different Lexington park or neighborhood.

The November ride will begin at 2 p.m. and go out Harrodsburg Road to the Beaumont neighborhood, where old farm roads have become trails. Details of each monthly ride will be posted on the city’s Web site, including cancelation information if the weather turns nasty.

Each event will cost organizers about $750 for a police escort, money that will be covered by sponsors. November’s ride is being sponsored by downtown developer Phil Holoubek and his wife, Marnie. Future sponsors include the Legacy Center and Pedal the Planet bike shop.

“The idea is to showcase the bike lanes and trails we already have and the ones we are building,” said Wendy Trimble, co-owner of Pedal the Planet. “We want to get people out more often and maybe give them the confidence in a group setting to get out later on their own. We also hope it will make people realize that 10 miles on a bike isn’t really that far.”

Holoubek said Mayor Jim Newberry and Lexington police officials have been very supportive of the effort. Eventually, the monthly escorted rides could lead to other activities that will get people outside and exercising all year around.

“We can really change the health culture of Kentucky,” McChord said.