My Heroes

There are people who flow through your life, they may play a role in your life and/or you in theirs. The role may be large or small, significant or fleeting, reinforce an existing belief or start a whole new way of thinking. For my Journey to Fitness, the following people have played an important role in everything from helping me find the courage to undergo gastric bypass to being an outstanding example of nutritional and physical self-management.  They are my heroes.

For providing inspiration, motivation, and a living example, the following people are my heroes:

** Al Linoski **                 ** Lynn Inskeep **                  ** Lynn Aventino **


Al Linoski

In January of 2008, during a vacation in Myrtle Beach with my two sisters, my mother had a stroke and passed away. It was an intense week of traveling back and forth between Ohio (where we live), South Carolina (where she was hospitalized and died) and Michigan (where mom and my sisters live, and where the funeral would be held).

As often happens, we had visits from people we hadn’t seen in a long time, including my old friend Al Linoski. I first met Al in April of 1981 when I interviewed and hired him to work on my team of energy auditors. Then, I worked for Equifax and we had been hired by Detroit Edison, the local electric company, to perform energy efficiency audits on residential homes throughout Michigan.


Al is my hero!

Al and I became friends and we spent a lot of time together, first as single guys, and over time as couples with our spouses and with other couples. However, my career took Colleen and I away from Detroit, first to Chicago and then to Columbus. Although we tried to stay in touch, and we did see each other from time to time as I traveled back to Detroit for business, for family visits, or to take care of my aging parents. Between 1988 and 2008 I never saw Al again, and we only occasionally sent or received a message to each other, usually through another person we both knew.

Then, in 2008 my mother had a stroke and passed on. Her funeral was held in Royal Oak, MI and an obit ran in the Royal Oak Tribune and the Detroit News. As it happened, Al read the obit and, certain it was my mother, and wanting to pay respects, and hoping to meet up again, he and made his way to the funeral home.

It was the first day of moms viewing. I was out running an errand and returned to see Al sitting in the parlor. Even after 20 years I recognized Al immediately… he looked exactly the same as he did 20 years earlier. Maybe a gray hair or two on his temples, but he looked just as trim, just as fit, just as nimble, just as healthy as he did in 1988. I, on the other hand, I had gone from a relatively healthy 218 pounds to over 360 pounds during those same years. I was wearing a size 58 jacket, a 3x shirt, and size 50 pants. Al was surely wearing the same size clothes he did 20 years earlier – likely a size 30 inch waist and a size 38 or 40 jacket.

I walked up to Al, and after hugs and his expression of condolence, I couldn’t wait to ask him the magic question… “Al, you look so good… just like you did 20 years ago – you’ve barely changed a bit! WHAT IS YOUR SECRET?!!!”

I will never forget both the look on his face and his answer… “Well,” he said (with a puzzled look on his face that I immediately interpreted as ‘there is nothing mysterious about this’), his voice hesitating a bit as if I had not really asked such an obvious question that needed an answer, “I.. I eat well and I exercise.”

Shit! Shit, Shit, Shit! I said to myself. You mean there is no magic pill? No wonder drug? No extra special and effective exercise? No “Eat all you want, no exercise required” diet plan?

I was devastated. Al kept himself healthy and fit by taking in less calories than he burnt up and by making time for regular exercise. Not that again. Not personal responsibility and self-management. Not that. Uuuugh.

It was Al’s expression of total ownership. “I” eat well. “I” exercise. In a simple statement of fact he accepted responsibility for his own actions and their outcome. He didn’t say, “I try to eat well,” or, “my trainer designed me a diet and exercise plan.” His path wasn’t dependent on anyone else, or on any product, service. Nobody was responsible for Al’s condition other than Al.   It was a simple declaration of self-determination, of self-actualization… “I”… And I felt awed by it, scared by it, motivated by it, dumfounded by it… his words were now etched into my mind and they would not fade.

Although it would be another 20 months before I underwent GB, meeting up again with Al changed my life. Not only did it nudge me closer to the decision to undergo GB as a means of changing my life, more importantly it gave me an outline, a road-map, an example of the personal self-management I would need to learn and use to succeed after GB surgery.

I would not have had the success I have had with GB and the development of a new lifestyle, a healthy lifestyle, without that exchange with Al. For learning the secret to maintaining his health, for accepting the responsibility of putting into practice the art of taking care of himself, and for his insights shared with an old friend, Al Linoski is a hero of mine.

Every day since my surgery I remembered that meeting, I remember Al’s words (and the tone of his voice and the look on his face), and I repeat them to myself constantly.  It is my mantra now.

So please say with me… “I eat well and I exercise.”


Lynn Inskeep

I met Lynn when we were both in our late 30’s. She was trim and in good shape.  I had overheard conversations that led me to understand that she liked running, and I had noticed that she appeared to eat well – that is, nutritious and healthy.

It took me a while to understand that the fact that the fact that Lynn ate well and exercised was precisely why she was trim and in good shape.    Further, it didn’t just happen that she ate well and exercised, no, those actions were conscious choices, thought out plans of action that she was following. What Lynn eats is determined logically and is thought out.  Likewise, when and where Lynn works out is also a thought out and planned activity.   Lynn is a good manager of herself and for being a living example of self-actualization for nutrition and physical management, Lynn Inskeep is a hero of mine.

WHS: What is your favorite exercise?  Either form (weight lifting, running, aerobics, etc) or a specific exercise (planking, squats, etc)? Any why?  What does your favorite workout involve?

LYNN: My favorite exercise depends on the time of year.. I love running and walking in the cooler seasons.  I could do yoga all the time. All forms of exercise tend to relax or “destress” me.  That is my goal, is lessening my stress level.  I am lucky in that I have never really had a weight issue, so I have never had to exercise as a diet.

WHS: What are your healthy eating weaknesses?  I.e.: what food makes it difficult for you to be a clean eater?

LYNN: I am and have never been an over eater, and to be honest have never been in love with sweets or colas ( the worst things to eat)  must have been raised right, we never had a lot of candy and colas were for very special occasions when I was growing up, so I never developed a liking for them, I would prefer ice tea or water with fruit in it.  I would say my biggest weakness is more the salty snacks. even those I have the willpower to walk away.

WHS: Has eating well and exercising always been a part of your lifestyle? Or have you have times where you didn’t do well and others where you’ve done better?  What were the factors involved?

LYNN: Yes, I have always been very active and just like healthier foods. I can’t really say why.  I can’t say I have always led a great lifestyle,  I smoked for years but worked out and ran while doing so. But I have been tobacco free for over 11 years.

WHS: What is your favorite holiday?   

LYNN: I love them all, Christmas is  probably my favorite just because of camaraderie of family and friends

WHS: How much: Water do you drink a day?     Sleep do you get a night on average?

LYNN: I usually have anywhere 24-36 oz per day.  I try to get 6-7 hours  but as I get older I have more trouble doing that.

WHS: Anything else you’d like to say:

LYNN: I am very proud of you and the journey you are taking.  I think if you are looking at a weight problem the best thing you can do is get and move.  Walk, Swim. Dance… anything that gets you moving.


Lynn Aventino

Although I like to get exercise from a variety of activities, I take several weekly adult exercise classes at our local community recreation center. I do this because it is convenient (just a mile from my house – walking, running and biking distance), inexpensive, and fun. But I mostly do it for one really great reason… my favorite instructor, Lynn Aventino.

Exercise is one of the two tenants of success… Eat Well being one, Exercise being the other.

In order to help me stay motivated to Exercise on a regular basis, I follow two rules: 1) I keep changing it up so that I don’t get bored or complacent with my routine… it keeps me interested and spreads the workout around my body, and 2) Make it fun.

Lynn instructs the “Total Body Fitness” class I take each Tuesday and Thursday morning. She also leads my Friday kickboxing cardio class, and the Sunday morning weight lifting class. There are lots of other fine instructors at the community center teaching lots of other fine classes. I take Lynn’s classes.

Why do I take classes with Lynn? I like the way she designs workouts and the way she leads the class. I like the way she keeps it fresh and new – with new routines designed to reach and work different muscles and muscle groups. I like that she doesn’t skimp, cut corners or go easy. We do “six sets of eight” when I’d rather do two sets of four!   And I like the results I’ve seen… the new-found arm, leg and core strength, the increase in my heart and lung capacity and endurance, the decrease in pain and expanded flexibility of my joints.   She changes it up, keeps it interesting and challenging, and works my entire being!

WHS: What is your favorite exercise?  Either form (weight lifting, running, aerobics, etc) or a specific exercise (planking, squats, etc)? Any why?  What does your favorite workout involve?

Lynn: My favorite exercises are strength training exercises. They provide so many benefits – increased bone density, increased metabolism and a beautiful physique. Not to mention the associated strength and muscular endurance that support our daily activities. Plus, there is such a variety of moves to do and equipment to use that the boredom factor never sets in! One of my favorite workouts is going to the football stadium in my hometown that has a solid set of concrete bleachers. I run the steps for about 30 minutes. It is a great cardio/leg/core workout!

WHS: What are your healthy eating weaknesses?  I.e.: what food makes it difficult for you to be a clean eater?

Lynn: I don’t think there is any food that I absolutely am weak for, however, I do enjoy wine, which is unnecessary calories! I think “everything in moderation” is a good mantra for a balance of enjoying life and maintaining a relatively clean diet.

WHS: Has eating well and exercising always been a part of your lifestyle? Or have you have times where you didn’t do well and others where you’ve done better?  What were the factors involved?

Lynn: Before I had children I was a lot stricter on my diet, I counted every single calorie and ate a very low fat diet. I was my lowest weight ever. I think I could say when I went out to eat with friends I would make them uncomfortable with the strictness of my diet! I also would try to balance my calories with the calories I burned in exercising (exercise bulimia). Over time, and as I have gotten older, I allow myself things that I would never, ever, have eaten when I was on that diet – pizza, an occasional sweet treat, fried chicken. Even though I now let myself enjoy these things, I still try to watch the portions of what I am eating.

WHS: How long have you been teaching at the Rec Center? At any facility?

Lynn: I have been teaching at the Rec Center since it opened in 2001. I had just had my second child and was encouraged to “get out” and do something for myself. It seemed like a good opportunity to begin a career in something I was passionate about and share what I have learned with others. I have also taught at a variety of other centers – country clubs, hospitals and universities. The Rec Center is my favorite place to teach! I cherish all the friendships I have made, my favorite part of this job is the great people that have come into my life because of it!

WHS: How much water do you drink a day? 

Lynn: I don’t know the exact quantity, but I have a water bottle with me all day, and even one by my bed at night! I just sip the water all throughout my day and it is also water I drink with all my meals (except for my coffee at breakfast!).

WHS: How much sleep do you get a night on average?

Lynn: I certainly do not get enough sleep, less than four hours a night. Not by choice, but because of the demands of my life!

WHS: Anything else you’d like to say:

Lynn: I have had a lot of experience recently losing people I love to diseases where they were unable to control the disease that eventually took their lives. While we don’t have control over everything with our bodies, we can certainly make time (we never do have the time, so, yes, we need to make the time!) to do all we can to put ourselves in a good position for our bodies to gracefully carry us through to our older years! It is not easy, it takes a strong commitment, but it will be worth it!

Why do I take classes with Lynn? Because I like and trust her – and she makes class fun. It’s genuinely difficult to manage myself through proper eating and exercising actions. I have a track record of not following through on plans when the going gets difficult. So it is important to me that I enjoy my workout. In many of Lynn’s classes I’m the only guy… just me and 20+ women. They take working out seriously, and so do I, but we have fun – Lynn makes sure of that.

Lynn would be a hero of mine if for no other reason than she successfully balances being a mother of three children, a wife and a homemaker – all while teaching dozens of exercise classes a week.

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