Ham says she grew up in a household full of smokers. "Both parents and every adult I knew were smokers; "even my older siblings started smoking by the time they started high school. I never did take up smoking myself, but I was definitely a chain second-hand smoker. My school participated in the physical fitness assessments each year, when children were tested on the number of sit-ups and chin-ups they could do, or if you were a girl, how long you could hang from the bar. The worst test for me was the 600-yard dash. Dashing is not what I did. I ran at my fastest pace, which was the slowest pace of all the other kids. Before long, my lungs would feel like they were on fire. Even though I had a normal weight, I was always the slowest kid. Even the overweight kids came in ahead of me. I also remember having a raspy voice and the burning feeling in my chest for a few days afterwards."
Other attempts at fitness were also catastrophes, says Ham. "I took swimming lessons, but could never learn how to keep water out of my nasal passages. I was terrified of the water. In the 6th grade, I went on an organized 10-mile bicycle ride for kids, and had to be given a ride home because my lungs and legs gave out."
In her early twenties, Ham met and later married "an outdoorsy type who loved rock climbing, mountain biking, wind surfing and other crazy sports." For many years, she tried to do some of his favorite sports, usually failing; other times she refused to participate altogether.
"My husband started running, and one day he received an ad for a marathon training program," says Ham. "By then I was about 40 years old and unhealthy. I decided to join the training program, just to start walking and jogging as a way to get in better shape. I had zero intentions of running a marathon. Long story short: The training program was geared to beginner couch potatoes like me, and before I knew it I was able to run a marathon! Okay, it took me a year and a half, but I eventually walked/ran my first marathon. What an amazing feeling to accomplish something that in my own mind had previously been an impossibility."
William Crowe, librarian at the University of Kansas in Lawrence, tells of a different kind of wellness journey, a lifelong struggle to achieve a normal weight and good health. "I can recall the whispers and snickering," he says. "There was the 4th-grade physical examination to be allowed to participate in sports, when I was found weigh 100 pounds, and my summary dismissal from the preinduction military draft physical screening at age 21, when I came in at 314 pounds."
There have been ups and downs in his weight over the years says Crowe, but mostly ups. "When I reached 300 pounds the last time, in mid-2000, and began to see the effects on my and my family's life, I knew that I had to take some decisive action."
In that same year, the University of Kansas began a team-based research project on weight management. "I was accepted as a subject, signed the protocols promising to follow the rules and submit all kinds of information about my behavior, and set off on the journey," says Crowe. "I was supported by my wife and daughter (both librarians!), friends across campus and around the country, colleagues at the KU Libraries, and by the other 'morbidly obese' folks who were in the study cohortto which I had been assigned. Losing weight was the easier (not easy) part; we simply had to follow the prescribed diet. Within 18 months, I was at target, coming in at 180 pounds."
"This quest has not been easy, and I have lost my way from time to time over the years," Crowe admits, "but I have learned--finally--that none of the journeys we take in life is without some stumble or setback. Today, I weigh 179 pounds what I need to do to stave off that weight gain: Stay on the path."
Talk to colleagues at your library and you will hear similar stories. …