Rachel Handren

Rachel Handren began working for the Parks and Rec Center daycare program about six years ago. As a child, Rachel’s family moved around a lot. As a result, she made friends with children from many different cultures. Her childhood also included being involved with dance. She began lessons in fourth grade, participating in dance competitions and public performances. Rachel’s Northwest Como Rec supervisor, aware of her dance background and her ability to connect with children from many different cultures decided she would be the perfect person to develop and direct a dance program for children at this center.

Rachel began with creative movement classes for children aged 3-5; for elementary aged children she created jazz, ballet and hip hop classes. Classes were held once per week from September through May. As the program grew in popularity, Rachel expanded with more classes. During the summer when classes aren’t typically held, she began holding dance workshops to keep the momentum going. Last year, she added a dance competition league. This league competes in local competitions against private dance studios. Their competitors come from studios that are designed for dance with mirrored walls, ballet bars, etc. as opposed to the Rec Center gym used in Rachel’s classes. To help cover the cost of competition entrance fees, they have a fund raising booster club, set up snack tables, etc. They plan to have a fund raising chair for next season. There are 90+ students now involved in Rec dance classes and the competition league.

Besides teaching children to dance, Rachel’s goal is helping them become more fit. The competition league dancers took a baseline fitness test at the beginning of the year and then set their goals. Each class spent 15-20 minutes on strength, conditioning and flexibility exercises. They were required to practice routines and exercise outside of class as “practice makes progress”. By the end of the first year, every single dancer beat their own personal goal while also growing in the intricate skills it takes to be a competition dancer. The valuable skill of working as part of a team was also learned.

Rachel says she is so incredibly proud of how hard her students work especially on their own personal fitness goals and how they encourage each other to do better. She has dreams of having a real, dedicated space for the dancers in the future. We recognize Rachel for sharing her enthusiasm in bringing the joy of movement and fitness to so many kids, making a difference in their lives.

City Employees Do Yoga

Our June Spotlight article is all about the benefits of yoga. Over the years, the City and Healthy Saint Paul have encouraged employees to enjoy these benefits by offering lunch time yoga classes. Classes have been held at City Hall since 2005; the Water Department has offered classes for the past three years and in January, 2018 yoga classes began at the Police Department. Below is what employees have to say about making yoga part of their regular routine.

Anca Sima is a Public Works employee who is also a very experienced and knowledgeable Yoga instructor. Anca began teaching yoga at City Hall In 2005, and many of the people who began at that time are still participating. Anca stresses that no matter what experience a person may have, her class is structured to accommodate from those ranging from beginner yoga to advanced. Marie Franchett is one of the employees who began with Anca back in 2005 and still participates. She saw this as an opportunity to get in some exercise over the lunch hour. She says it provides a great break in the day, and she finds it rejuvenating. Marie feels the classes have kept her healthy. Since participating for all these years, she hasn’t had any joint or muscle pain issues, except for a sore back due to the shoveling this year!

Dolly Ludden and Dennis Rosemark have been doing yoga at SPRWS since the onset 3+ years ago.
Dollie appreciates the instructor who “is great in continually reminding us on proper form, challenging us in various poses and broadening our scope of what yoga is and how it can help us. Yoga is great for the mind, body and spirit.” After lunch, Dolly goes back to work with a fresh outlook to finish out her day. Yoga was new to Dennis when he began. He says he enjoys being with the positive people who participate as they are more into fun than judgement. He shared, “Turns out yoga is improving my overall well-being causing me to simply feel better and stronger. With this discipline, a little stretching and giggling goes a long way to get through a very busy work day.”

The Yoga instructor for the SPPD, Cailee Stangl, has specialized training as a Yoga for First Responders instructor. Cailee’s goal is to teach how to overcome stress by providing the tools to add calm back to your life. Sgt. Jim Andersen appreciates the knowledge Cailee brings and how she tailors the class to the individual. Employee Ali Cole says it is a GIFT to be able to take a break during the work day and focus on taking care of herself.

Do you have questions for our featured employee?
Send them to us at HealthyStPaul@ci.stpaul.mn.us and we
will publish a Q&A in a future issue.

Gerald Carter

In 2001, Gerald Carter accepted a job with the St. Paul Police Department and moved here from Evansville, Indiana to continue his career in law enforcement. He is 60 years old, has been married for 32 years and has two children. We are featuring Gerald this month to recognize his lifelong commitment to staying physically fit as well as his outstanding achievements.

Since the age of 16, Gerald has been competing in power lifting and body building competitions on both a national and international level. From the start, he has never placed below the top five and is usually in the top 3 in competitions. Throughout his entire life, he has never used enhancing drugs even though for a time it was legal to do so.

Since entering law enforcement, Gerald has chosen to regularly participate in the World Police and Fire Games. In the World games, there are thousands of public safety officers representing 65-70 countries competing at various events, larger even than the winter Olympic games. He has gone up against lifters from the Eastern bloc where the use of steroids is not illegal. In the 2005 World Games held in Quebec City, Gerald received silver in the push pull event and a bronze in the bench press. In the 2009 World Games, he won three medals: silvers in the bench press and push pull, and a bronze in body building. He went on to win a silver medal in the bench press in the 2011 World Games. It was in the 2015 World Games that Gerald captured his first gold medals; one in the bench press and one in the push pull event. In an interview he gave at the time, he said, “Finally, it’s nice to be the bride and not just the bridesmaid”. He repeated that performance as the returning champion in Los Angeles in 2017.

Performing at this level obviously demands a lot of training. Gerald generally trains six days a week for 45-75 minutes/day. Besides lifting weights, he includes 30-45 minutes of a cardio work-out on a stair climber or bicycle. Despite these many years of training and competition, he has not suffered any serious injuries. He attributes that to paying attention to his body – is it just muscle soreness he is feeling or something else? If he finds a particular lift painful, he knows to substitute something else for a while. He instructs people who come to him with training questions to make sure they focus on core strength as well.

Despite all the hard work Gerald puts into competing, he acknowledges that some people are born with a natural ability for different things and have that advantage so he is reluctant to give himself a big pat on the back for excelling as he has. He also acknowledges that he could not have achieved what he has over the years if not for the support from his wife as he spends much time and expense to do what he loves.

Gerald trains and competes because he likes the sport and it helps him control his weight. He enjoys meeting people from all over the world, like the Mongolian police officer who spoke no English. This officer was admiring Gerald’s leather weight lifting belt, as these are not available in Mongolia. So, Gerald gave him his. He looks forward to seeing him and other new friends at competitions, even when they don’t speak the same language.
Gerald’s next competition will be in 2019 in Chengdu, China. We wish him the best and congratulate him on all he has achieved.

Do you have questions for our featured employee? Send them to us at HealthyStPaul@ci.stpaul.mn.us and we will publish a Q&A in a future issue.

Michele LaMere

Michele has worked for the City for 30 years. She has been in her current position as an Accounting Technician with Parks and Rec in the City Hall Annex for 26 years. She loves working for Parks and says her co-workers are an “awesome group.” Her commitment to walking daily on her lunch break began shortly after she came to the Annex when her supervisor invited her to join her on a walk through the skyways. Her supervisor has left the City but Michele has continued her daily, 30 minute walking lunch breaks ever since.

In 2000 Michele’s sister, Diane Schwanke, began working for the City as a Payroll Specialist. She readily joined Michele in her daily walks. Michele says she feels like the luckiest person in the world to be able to get in her exercise while spending quality time with her sister. In the summer months, they enjoy a brisk, two mile walk outside. In addition, they designated certain nights during the week when Michele will get on her elliptical at home and Diane on her treadmill. For accountability, they report back to each other the next day.

Heart disease runs in Michele’s family. She became borderline hypertensive and did not want to go on medication. She opted instead to get healthier by eating better and adding additional exercise. She joined the Omada program in November, 2017. This has worked tremendously for her as she has lost 20 lbs. since joining. She likes being able to bounce off thoughts with her core Omada group. She really appreciates the support they and her coach provide. Michele thinks the lessons, while often things you already know, serve as a good reminder and motivation to incorporate them into your life. She likes the accountability Omada provides as well. She is eating so much better and feels great since joining.

For people whose job like Michele’s involves sitting all day, committing to getting up and moving is important. She loves that her Fitbit reminds her with a buzz when she hasn’t moved out of her seat for an hour. Since joining Omada, Michele has added walking the Annex stairs on her morning and afternoon breaks. She started inviting co-workers to join her and now about five of them often will. She invites everyone to give it a try. It provides a mental break as well as some exercise.

Any day Michele doesn’t get in a walk now feels like a really long day to her. She recommends people get up and walk as it actually can be reenergizing. Regarding Omada, she tells anyone who is considering it not to hesitate. While it is a commitment, anybody can do it. It is a fantastic program and she feels so much better having participated.

PHOT0: Michele Lamere (right) with sister, Diane Schwanke.

Do you have questions for our featured employee? Send them to us at HealthyStPaul@ci.stpaul.mn.us and
we will publish a Q&A in a future issue.

Josh Lego

Commander Joshua Lego has worked for Police for 21 years. During those years, he has worked a variety of assignments. He is currently assigned to the Special Operations Unit responsible for planning for protests and assemblies while coordinating with other agencies. He has a Masters Degree in Leadership and teaches throughout the U.S. and Canada as an expert in policing issues. He is 45 years old, married and has three children.

Josh’s current position can involve working nights, week-ends and very long days. This irregular schedule affected his diet and exercise plans. He was grabbing whatever was handy to eat when he had the time. Days as long as 14 hours left little energy for exercising. It was in his personal life though that stressful circumstances led to living a very unhealthy lifestyle. His younger brother died unexpectedly leaving a young child behind whom Josh and his wife came to adopt.

To cope with the stress in his life, Josh turned to alcohol and food. Admittedly, he was drinking too frequently and eating at the wrong times. One bad habit seemed to fuel the other. He ignored what was happening to him even when put on medication for high blood pressure. His weight climbed to 290 lbs.

Three years ago, he actually just woke up one morning and said “This is enough.” He quit drinking cold turkey. He knew he needed to plan though to be successful. His wife had followed the Slimgenics plan with success so he began to essentially follow that though substituting comparable foods he could find at Target for a less expensive option. He was determined to be intentional with when and what he ate. By quitting alcohol, he was much better able to manage his urge to eat that whole pizza at 11:00 pm as he may have before. When he knew that long 14 hour days were ahead, he brought a cooler with him to avoid having to grab whatever was there.

In addition to having the physical plan, he adjusted his thinking as well. He was not going to become discouraged. If he overate on the week-end, he would get back on track. He purposely did not set a weight loss goal but instead relied on the healthy choices he was making to create a healthier body. He paid attention as to how he felt to determine what was working for him. He didn’t compare himself to anyone else which he knows is important as everyone’s experience is different. Josh didn’t want a diet but a real lifestyle change which meant being content with a slow weight loss. At the end of one year, he had lost 60 lbs. His relationship with food has changed: instead of eating slice-after-slice of pizza, he is satisfied with a salad and a slice; he even has control over the M&M urges he gets. He has gotten back into exercising, doing cardio and strength training that he enjoys.

Josh is now off his blood pressure medication. He feels he does a much better job in his roles as parent, husband, and coach. He acknowledges there will always still be stress in his life but knows he is much more capable of managing it.

Tyler McKean

Tyler has worked for the Parks Department for almost five years. He is 33 years old and athletic competition is still a big part of his life.

Tyler participates in two different, perhaps not so well known, sports- Skijor and Ultimate Frisbee. Saying he “participates” is an understatement. In January, 2017, he competed in the International Federation of Sled Dog Sports (IFSS) World Championships, and this year is headed to the Ultimate Frisbee Master’s World Championships.

Tyler began playing the team sport of Ultimate Frisbee while in college. Ultimate Frisbee is an exciting, non-contact team sport played by thousands all over the world. It is a fast-paced game, demanding its players to develop razor sharp throwing skills and immense stamina and agility. It is fast, nonstop play. To remain competitive in this game, Tyler keeps a regular workout routine that involves explosive cutting with sprint workouts, weight training and other dynamic exercises. At his age, he says, his workout also includes core strengthening and muscle stabilizing exercises to help prevent injury. Many of the players he faces in competition are in their 20’s and despite that, his most successful seasons have been in the past couple years.

In the wintertime, Tyler focuses on Skijoring. Skijoring is a combination of cross country skiing and dog sledding. The dog is outfitted with a dog sledding harness, which is attached by rope or towline to a harness worn by the skier. It’s a cooperative sport that employs the athletic ability of both dog and skier. The skier is not just along for the ride. The dog isn’t pulling like a sled, but rather adding marginal speed and getting the skier through terrain that would otherwise slow him/her down. The aerobic benefits of cross country skiing are huge, burning more calories than competitive swimming, biking and tennis.

In his late 20’s, Tyler began having knee problems which eventually led to a series of four surgeries. It was two to three years before he was back 100%. He had seen fellow athletes become injured which permanently derailed them on their whole fitness journey. However, Tyler’s love for these sports and commitment to being physically fit kept him from giving up. He enjoys the community these sports provide, the competition and the mental benefit from being out in nature. He has found activities he enjoys which happen to keep him in good shape. And, that could be the trick for all of us in sticking with a regular exercise routine.

Do you have questions for our featured employee? Send them to us at HealthyStPaul@ci.stpaul.mn.us and we will publish a Q&A in a future issue.

Benny Williams

Benny Williams
Officer Williams started with the SPPD in 1994. During that time, his assignments have included working in Patrol, Mounted horse patrol, Inspections, Missing Persons, and just recently selected as driver for our new mayor.

Maintaining a high level of fitness has been a priority for Benny throughout his career. Police officers endure strenuous physical and emotional situations every day. Their ability to handle the rigors of running, lifting and occasionally dealing with force or self-defense is directly related to their level of fitness. Because of his dedication to fitness, at the age of 48, Benny was chosen as Saint Paul’s Most Fit Police Officer. He continued to train and ran his first marathon at age 53.

Now at age 57, he continues to exercise though he admits it doesn’t get easier and he has modified his routine. He and his wife hired a personal trainer to help keep them motivated. While he may run less, they regularly climb the 35 floors of their condo and weight train three times per week. For the past three years, he has signed up on the SPPD team for the IDS Stair Climb Challenge benefiting cystic fibrosis. In this 50 flight challenge, he is proud to say he has been faster than much younger officers. His quote is “I’m old but I’m not cold”.
What also motivates Benny is maintaining his health. He has high blood pressure and his mother recently died as a double amputee as a result of diabetes. He knows regular exercise will help reduce his risk for disease.

Over the years, Benny has worked at many of the City’s running events. He knows crowd support is helpful to the runners, so he cheers them on, offers “High 5s” and will even run a few yards with a struggler to keep him/her going. Many of the regular runners in these events have even come to look for Benny and his partner, Officer Mong Lee, to help keep them going.

Cassi Johnson

Cassi has worked for the City for one year with the Office of Financial Services (OFS) as a Senior Innovation Consultant. In her job, she supports leaders and teams in the City on projects that catalyze innovation, redefine City services and/or improve performance.

While in college, Cassie worked on a farm doing manual labor tasks. It was there that she suffered a serious back injury which resulted in acute back pain. She was treated with chiropractic and physical therapy for many years while battling chronic pain. It had been a challenge ever since that injury to determine what activities should be avoided that might cause a flare up.

For the past four years, however, she found help by using a different modality of treatment with the Institute for Athletic Medicine (IAM). The first difference she noted with IAM was all the diagnostics they did to really zero in on what treatment plan would be best for her rather than a generalized program for anyone. The No. 1 priority for IAM is to get the individual back to exercising which ultimately will help with fewer flare ups. Surprisingly to her, she found out that Yoga and Pilates were not something she should do which was a disappointment to her as she had always enjoyed that. What she found did work for her, however, was regular walking, running and lifting weights. She began working with a personal trainer who helped her get over her fear of lifting weights and will help her modify movements as needed. While it may sound counterintuitive to lift heavy weights, fewer repetitions are done which puts less stress on her joints than lighter weights and high repetitions. She stresses that this is what works for her and not necessarily others with back pain.

Cassie has two young children now and it is important to be active with them. She doesn’t lose time off work because of her injury. By sticking with her exercise program of weight lifting, walking/running, and staying aware of her movements, she has been able to reduce the likelihood of painful flare-ups. Even though she has gained strength she knows she still needs to be careful about performing certain movements. She recommends that others suffering from chronic back pain find a trusted professional with whom to work to personalize a program specific to their injury.

Healthy St. Paul Runs TCM

This year, for the first time, Healthy Saint Paul sponsored a team in the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon (TCM). The Corporate Team Challenge is designed to get employees of all ages and abilities moving.

By joining the City team, employees can enjoy extra perks and amenities on race day like use of a heated tent with a changing area at the finish line along with special food, massage, and door prizes. If you choose to pack a gym bag in advance with dry clothing, they will also make sure it is in the tent for you at the end of the race.
The creation of the City of Saint Paul team happened somewhat late in the game this year though we were able to sign up six team members. We know there are more City employees who ran this race and want to encourage you or other first time TCM runners to be part of this team in 2018. Regular, single registration rates apply but there is no cost to be part of the team. The City’s team came in 19 out of 29 using age-graded scoring – a good showing considering this our first year with few members. Recognition is also awarded to the top three teams with the greatest number of runners – we hope to have a shot at that award next year. Watch for more information on joining the City of Saint Paul TCM 2018 team in February when registration opens.

Team members included one who has run every TCM since its beginning to a first time marathoner. They came from various departments: Dave Gontarek, PED; John McCarthy, OFS; Amanda Feist, Library; Alice Messer, Parks; Bridget Morales, OFS; and Joe Ellickson, PW. Despite the differences in their marathon running experience, the team members’ personal experiences for this marathon were similar. First of all, they all said they had a great time, which was a primary goal. The TCM is known as the most beautiful marathon in the US, to which they all agreed. They all were so grateful and amazed at the support and encouragement the cheering crowd provided. Also, enjoying the benefit of the heated tent that is only available to corporate team members made a big difference. Joe compared that end of race experience to like being bumped up to first class on a long flight. Those on this year’s team who decide to run it next year will definitely join the City of Saint Paul team.

Below is more about each of the runners.

Dave Gontarek

Dave is by far the most experienced TCM runner, being 1 of only 22 runners who have run every TCM since its inception 36 years ago. Despite his extensive experience, he learns something new each time. This year he learned that even if no rain is forecast, he should bring a garbage bag to the starting line to use as a cover, just in case. As it turned out, it rained quite hard at the starting line and again at the end so he was soaked. He still had a fabulous time.
Dave admits he isn’t as driven to run as hard as he did in his earlier days. He is slower than when he was younger, but runs it for the enjoyment. His goal is just to run the whole race and not walk. He is okay with that. He likes to say that “without the back of the pack there can’t be a front of the pack.”
The benefit of the heated tent at the end of the race was great as he could warm up, change out of his wet clothes, and get food. He will be running next year’s marathon. Dave quoted a runner who said “In running, as in life, you can’t fail as long as you keep moving”. Anyone who intends to run it next year should spend some time talking with Dave about all he has learned over the years of running this beautiful marathon.

John Mccarthy

This was John’s fourth TCM and fifth marathon overall. John’s father was a marathon runner and got him into running at an early age. He lives along the course so most years participates in one of the sponsored events along with his wife. John really pushed it this year, and it turned out to be his best time yet, qualifying him for the Boston Marathon next year. While at the end he felt the consequences of pushing himself so hard, he learned from that and will not make the same mistakes next year. He thinks the TCM is the most well organized race he has done. He recognizes this happens as the result of a number of City employees from Police and Fire that work to keep it running smoothly and safely. The cheering crowd is also so motivating in helping to keep runners going.
As for being part of the Corporate team, he got to know a few people in the City he didn’t know before, and it was nice for the camaraderie. In the future, he sees joining the team as another way to network and connect with other City employees in a more social way.

Bridget Morales

This was Bridget’s second marathon and her best, despite the rain, wind and development of some foot issues during the race. She finds the crowd support so helpful. She saw several City workers and friends along the way who cheered her on. At the end, Bridget was most grateful for the warm tent as a place to comfortably sit down, warm up and get food and drinks like hot soup, sandwiches and Gatorade without having to walk much further. The changing tent and massage were also a big plus. Bridget advises anyone contemplating a marathon to start by finding and following one of the many training programs that are available online or join a running group. It is a lot of training to do but you will find that you can do so much more than you thought you could.

Amanda Feist

This year’s TCM was Amanda’s first marathon. She started running about 2 years ago after she bought a jogging stroller for her children. Before this year, she had only run a few 5Ks. Amanda knew other people who were going to be running the TCM this year so decided to sign up for it in April. She combined a couple training programs to keep her on track and help with her nutrition as well. Though she admits the weather was crummy, and she suffered an injury at Mile 15, she thought it was fun. Her training is what helped her power through her struggles to the end. Also, there was so much good energy from the crowd that helped keep her going. She is contemplating participating next year and sees the benefit of being part of the City team. She sees it as motivational as it provides a sense of running for something bigger than yourself. Training runs together would be great. It would also be nice to have time to get together with team members before the race. As a selling point also for running a marathon, she sees it as really good experience for anyone who has project management in their job responsibilities as you have to be committed to it. it is not something you can do on a whim.

Alice Messer

Alice’s first marathon was Grandma’s in 2004. That was before she had children so since then, she has been running one or two ½ marathons a year which involves less training time than a full marathon Alice takes advantage of her lunch break to run during the week, using Saturday mornings for her longer runs. She decided to run TCM this year after a friend asked her to join her. There were so many people out there cheering everyone on. While the weather was a bit cold at the end, she thought it was a great experience. She met her goals of having fun and not walking and beat her previous time. If she decides to do it again next year, she will definitely join the City team.

Joe Ellickson

Joe is an experienced marathon runner, having run six in the past along with other long distance races. By far, he thinks the TCM is the most beautiful of all. He reiterated what the other team members had said about the crowd being so encouraging along the way. For any runners out there contemplating a marathon, he highly recommends choosing this one. Joe was so thankful for getting to be part of the Saint Paul team which provided the use of the heated tent. It made so much difference to the end of this race experience compared to other races he has finished. He felt like he had been bumped up to first class on an airline seat. From entering the warm tent, he was greeted by the volunteers and given the opportunity to enter a drawing – in which he won a great prize. There was hot soup and coffee, sandwiches, and other treats. Because the heated tent is only provided to corporate team members, he didn’t have to wait long to get a massage and, best of all, no long lines at the toilets. He encourages any City employee who plans on running next year to become part of the City team.

Joe Beatty

Joe Beatty has worked for the City since May, 2013. He presently is a heavy vehicle mechanic for the Fire Department.

As a teenager, Joe was very overweight. He recalls a vacation to the Boundary Waters Canoe Area with high school friends during which he almost sunk the canoe. At that time, he was 100 lbs. heavier than he is now. After that, he decided to make a change. He began to exercise and control portion sizes.

When Joe first started working for the City, he had just come back from his second military deployment to the Middle East. It was the lightest he had ever been. His job overseas had him moving around a lot. Also, there weren’t distractions to his fitness routine or temptations to overeat.

It was a struggle when he first returned from that deployment to get back into “normal society”. Gradually though, he got back into an active exercise routine. He was living close to work so he decided to bike to work. He soon added biking to the gym every day. He enjoyed biking so much that even when he moved to where he presently lives in St. Louis Park, 12.5 miles away, he continued to bike to work. Joe isn’t just a fair weather biker either. He will bike to work every day throughout the winter unless the temp drops below 0 or there are glare ice conditions. He misses only a few days each winter because of weather. He is happiest when he is biking.

Joe is 45 years old now and much healthier than he was as a teenager. At one time he thought that being overweight was just the life that he had been dealt but he knows now it is all about choices. That doesn’t mean it is always easy for him though. He admits to not getting in the fruits and vegetables he knows he needs. Portion sizes can also be a challenge. He would like to lose 20 lbs. He recommends when snacking to avoid foods that come in a wrapper unless its one that Mother Nature provides.

Joe knows bicycling isn’t for everybody; it is what he enjoys. He believes you owe it to yourself though to find something to keep you active and to live the healthy life that you deserve.

photo: Joe pictured with girlfriend Hope