By Eve Graves
My passion in life is getting people to move, just get off the couch and be in motion-so I created some “extreme beginner” classes that are the exact opposite of many classes, which push you to your limits.
If I feel someone could benefit from one of my classes, I hound them into taking one, even if I don’t know them well – or at all, for that matter. Mark Hakes is one of the most reluctant, who turned into one of my “star” pupils.
While cooking on Wednesdays at Peace United Church of Christ, where Hakes became the Youth and Children’s Minister in July, 2012, I identified him as one my targets for the class. As the overweight children’s minister ambled into the kitchen to grab a dessert during our prep time each week, I would ask him if he wanted to sign up for my class. With his melodic, deep-chuckling voice, Hakes would reply, “I don’t run!,” and then grab another cookie or three and swiftly depart the kitchen. This scenario was a weekly routine for almost two years.
Hakes – who said he had always been “husky” – claims his weight really shot up during his college years due to poor eating habits and lack of movement.
My pressure on the chubby young man continued into the winter months, when I felt certain I had him ready to sign up for Xtraining 101, my very beginner, slow-moving Nordic ski class. Hakes genuinely appeared committed to it, until he “remembered” he had knitting class on Tuesdays and basket weaving on Thursdays, both during my class times.
Finally signing up!
I was determined to get this young, overweight, yet healthy 20-something into shape, and my continued harping finally paid off! In July of 2014, the six-foot, 285-pound Hakes signed up for my Trails 101 class!
Concerns about his having a heart attack or one of his knees giving out did loom over me during our first few classes. I suggested walking at first, but Hakes was determined to run, except on the “uphills” when the whole group walked.
Hakes has asthma and the heavy huffing and puffing, along with slight wheezing sounds he made while ambling along the remote trails was more than a bit concerning, but he kept on moving forward and upright.
With a background of only a couple of years of dance classes for athletic activity, and despising running even the mile while in school, in combination with the youth minister’s measly salary, Hakes was completely unprepared to dress appropriately for his new sporty activity. Tortoise and Hare Footwear worked with him to get him into excellent shoes at an extremely discounted rate, so he’d have a good experience with reduced potential for injury. My husband and I searched thrift stores and garage sales to hunt for XXL running clothing for Hakes, which luckily for him, quickly became too large!
Hakes caught the running bug after that first time out with us. I stuck by his side during his first race, the Hummingbird 5K on the Saturday before Labor Day in Duluth, Minn. Despite running for barely more than six weeks, he pushed really hard and had quite the drive, finishing somewhere in the upper 30 minutes for time.
His running career at the time of this writing consisted of a combination of distances, both road and trail, including two 5K and two 6K races, five half-marathons, and one 16.1-mile. Hakes is currently training for Grandma’s full marathon.
Having quickly surpassed all those in my novice group, Hakes says he now enjoys training on his own.
“I think what made it click and kept me exercising was finding out I had more energy,” he explained. “It also gave me an opportunity to spend some time alone. Running is a great time for me to think.”
When asked what his preferred distance is, he replied, “I enjoy and am good at ten miles on trails; this is probably my favorite.”
Hakes went on to try Xtraining 101 – the Nordic skiing class – after his positive experience in Trails 101 that kept him motivated to continue moving. My husband, who is normally full of positive comments, said after a day on the trail with Hakes, “I didn’t think anyone could fall that much.”
Based on my experience, I am pretty sure Hakes holds the record for falling on skis. His ballet background, however, made them mostly very graceful falls.
This winter I was able to ski with a hundred pounds less of Hakes, and, Wow!, he was fast and upright! He attributes his drastic Nordic progress to being in better overall shape and having better balance after shrinking from a 44 to 34 waist.
Weight and changes
Hakes is maintaining his weight at 185 pounds. He says dropping 100 pounds has helped him in many ways.
“My asthma is better regulated for sure and I have more energy,” he said. “The toning of my core has helped improve my control in singing”.
Hakes, a professional vocalist among his other talented roles, improved so much that on some of our longer trail runs, he would break out into song with his rich, powerful singing voice.
I was born without any sense of direction. Some in my classes renamed the Trails 101 class “Eve’s Adventures” as a result of our many “extra credit” unplanned miles while we have been lost.
During one of our runs, Hakes loudly broke out into a song to the tune of “I Will Follow Him”, it started with “I will follow Eve, follow her wherever she may go…” And follow me, he did; now he passes me!
I look forward to Hakes’ texts, letting me know about his latest accomplishments. From starting out struggling to run a mile in 15 minutes to easily running many miles at a 7- to 8-minute pace in just over two years is mind blowing! Hakes is definitely one of my “star” students with incredible drive to learn as much as possible about safely completing miles, and motivating himself to do so.
Hakes is currently living in Little Canada, Minn., awaiting his next calling as a Jesuit Priest. He plans to continue his exercise and healthy lifestyle, running, biking, and Nordic skiing.
When I asked Hakes how others have reacted to his dramatic transformation, he had this to say: “It’s always something along the lines of ‘you look great.’ I would caution people though. I think we put too much emphasis on how people look. Find other ways to compliment people. While I’ve definitely lost weight, I kept exercising because I felt better, not because I looked better.”
Hakes also said his eating habits have changed.
“I’ve learned a ton about good nutrition,” he noted. “I eat food to fuel my runs, making sure I get plenty of complex carbs and lean protein. The vast majority of what I eat now is fresh food. I never dieted, I just started to eat smarter.”
Here is his advice for others: “I’d encourage everyone to get out and move. It doesn’t matter what you do, just get out and go.”