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Julie Kenney Focuses on Fitness

Published: 3/23/2016
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Editor’s Note: Julie Kenney runs Blackberry Farm in Harpswell, Maine. She’s an avid, thoughtful horsewoman and a life-long learner. When I heard that she was making changes and taking strides to be healthier and fitter, I knew she’d be a welcome addition to our Focus on Fitness. Although she wrote that publicly documenting her progress is much harder than she realized, we’re thrilled she’s said, “Yes!”

Part I

By Julie Kenney

All during my childhood, I watched my mom struggle with her weight.  She participated in all the diet programs out there, some more than once.  I loved her through all her weight fluctuations and I thought she was beautiful no matter what.  I have inherited, through multi-generations of women in my family, this plump factor.  It doesn’t mean I have to stay that way, but it is something I have to work at all the time.  Now that I’m in my mid-40s, I know that taking and keeping the weight off will be harder than ever, but easier than when I hit my 50s!

So, here I begin again - another year, another renewed desire to get lean and mean.  Reading here and there about the need for rider fitness spurred me on.  I decided to find half-hour workouts to keep me on track. I currently cross-train with four different types of workouts, all in the comfort of my own home.  Joining a gym and exposing my body in tight workout clothes was not my idea of fun, nor did I want to commit serious money to the endeavor either.  Going solo works for me.

I had to laugh at myself the first time I went for a jog outside.  I walked my driveway for a warm-up, stretched my quads, hamstrings, and calf muscles, and then I took off running.  I felt so alive and strong for two minutes.  That’s how long it took for my heart rate to skyrocket and my breathing to sound like someone suffering with emphysema.  It was embarrassing.  I slowed my pace to a jog, but getting my heart rate and breathing under control was much harder.  I eventually had to slow down and continue at a walk, all the while hoping my faux pas wasn’t obvious to anyone looking.  

Was anybody looking or did they care?  Most likely not.  

My subsequent jogs were at a much steadier pace.

After a month of working on my fitness, I added in riding my horse and getting him back into shape after the winter.  Horses need to have a gradual fitness program that slowly increases their heart rate and lung capacity just as humans do.  They need to have their muscles and tendons strengthened equally on both sides, so lots of walking, long trotting, and hill work are my go-to workout routines.

Goals are so important for me and my horse.  Late this spring, I will again take my horse to Memory Lane Vacations in Andover, Maine.  I know from previous visits that rides can take anywhere between one hour and three hours.  My horse and I get very bored just walking, so whenever the trail conditions warrant, we would long-trot or lope.  After months of just 24-hour turnout for activity, we both need to get into shape.

  • I’m a Sunkist and a Peanut M&M addict.  I rarely have either one now, but there was a time that I had that delicious, sweet, cold, orange soda once a week.

  • Years ago, I cut out pre-packaged and highly processed dinners and anything with fake sugar in it for my family.  Over the last year, I’ve deleted products with corn syrup, or at least made a concerted effort.  

But I do not completely deny myself all the yummy snacks or foods that I really love.  I find healthier alternatives or keep them for very special or rare occasions.  Once I started working out, the desire to eat unhealthy actually went away.  I’ve put too much sweat and tears into losing body fat and gaining muscle mass to ruin it all with a highly-sugared, no-health-benefit snack.  Plus, drinking water has become my new habit of choice.

I know this path I’m on wouldn’t work for everyone.  The journey is very personal.  But my husband has always been and will always be my biggest supporter. Of that I am extremely grateful.  

I also have a deep and abiding love for Jesus; my faith rests in knowing where I am going after this life and that my weight won’t be a concern or worry forever.  Until then, I will continue to strive for a healthy body shape to help me make the most of life here on earth.

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3/26/2016 Dr. Steve Peters
Julie, Thank you for sharing. Your article did not hide the struggle nor the fact that it is hard to get moving and change habits. But your focus and determination shine through. The more people who start to move in this direction the more strides we can make in changing an unhealthy American lifestyle that impacts lives. Good for you and your horse! Im sure your words will inspire others. Way to Go!

"Anyone who is concerned about his dignity would be well advised to keep away from horses." - Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh