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For Sport

April 1, 2000
The Physical Education Department of RDH magazine smells like a gym - plenty of sweat flying around. Whether it`s running, cycling, skiing, golfing, aerobic dancing, swimming, etc., hygienists carry their message of good health into their personal lives. In this issue, RDH shares some letters and photographs from some very physical readers.

Readers find getting physical represents a healthy balance with the job!

The Physical Education Department of RDH magazine smells like a gym - plenty of sweat flying around. Whether it`s running, cycling, skiing, golfing, aerobic dancing, swimming, etc., hygienists carry their message of good health into their personal lives. In this issue, RDH shares some letters and photographs from some very physical readers.

If the coaches in the RDH PhysEd gym pooled our thoughts on an "athlete of the year," we`d have to consider Elaine Christy of Brookline, Mass. The 36-year-old hygienist sent us the stats from her performance at the New England Triathlon Tour. She finished first in her age group at the Infinium Software Sprint II in Hyannis. The event called for a quarter-mile swim, a 10-mile bicycle sprint, and a 3.6-mile run. She finished with a time of 1:03:43.

As far as RDH knows, Christy is the only hygienist who can do all of that in just over an hour.

"I am a second-year triathlete," Christy writes. "I am fortunate to be able to find a good balance with practicing dental hygiene and racing and training for triathlons. As a bonus, I have been very fortunate to have a successful season after a lot of hard work during the past year. This season, I have competed in six triathlons, five sprint-distance events, and one ironman qualifier."

Christy has been practicing in a group practice in the Boston area for the past six years. "I truly enjoy working in the dental hygiene field," she said. "Exercise and feeling good about yourself is a reflection of who you are and how you project yourself to others, including your patients, on a daily basis."

Still running after all these years

From Denver, we received the following recap of a unique wedding ceremony:

"On my wedding day, I held a race. It was a 10K, and everyone from my office participated, along with my relatives, patients, friends, and even some world-class runners. We gave everyone `Marital Blitz` T-shirts, and had a breakfast in the park after the race. My father is in the athletic business, and he designed a running wedding outfit for me. It had lace around the midriff and a sweatband veil. The race helped to make my wedding day perfect."

The writer is Tamara Verkler, a 1981 graduate from the University of Iowa. She worked in Des Moines for five years before she and her husband relocated to Colorado. She has two children, 13-year-old James and 10-year-old Ellen. The kids play soccer and basketball, and the family goes skiing and mountain biking among other activities.

"Our family is dedicated to becoming and staying fit," she writes. But make no mistake about it, as she writes next: "My greatest love, besides my family and hygiene, is running."

Verkler`s description of her youth is an interesting one. "I have been running since I was 16 years old. My first race was a 10K when I was 18. There were 40 men in the race and three women. When I was in high school, our school did not have a girl`s track team. I ran three miles a day on country roads in Iowa, just for the pure joy and exhilaration of being outdoors and striving for fitness.

"I belong to the Iowa City Striders Club when I was a college student. We raced informally every weekend and trained together all year long. I ran every day and usually covered 35 miles a week. My first year out of college, I met a dental assistant in the office I worked in, and we became running partners. We ran between 30 and 50 miles a week, and, by the end of the year, we had completed three marathons."

Verkler is still running - at least 25 miles a week. She calculates that she has run in "20 different countries, through all types of weather, with baby joggers, with kids on bikes, on varied surfaces, indoors, in pools, and so on." She currently runs in 5K runs with James and Ellen, organizing races at their school to raise funds for needed technology.

"It is an economical sport that takes a minimum amount of time and training - perfect for a Mom who is a dental professional," Verkler said.

Verkler won`t get any argument from Barbara Briley who lives and practices in Prunedale, Calif. - a small town just a few miles up the road from scenic Carmel and Monterey. Let`s listen to her personal belief before we finish the introductions.

"I do believe a family that plays together stays together," she wrote. "One of our annual events we do as a family is to run the local cross-country 5K. Our office is one of the sponsors, so it is exciting to run in this local event.

Briley said she was a "tad slower" last year, finishing second in her age group. Her daughter, 18-year-old Amy, has placed first among all female runners for the last three years. Her son, 15-year-old Collin, plays basketball, track, and runs cross-country.

She added this anecdote about the male members of the family: "Weekend surfing is set aside for my husband, Patrick, and Collin. We live only 20 minutes from a beach called Moss Landing. Pat has surfed for more than 25 years, and it is a joy to photograph father and son while they search for that perfect wave. Sometimes I`ll don the wet suit just to see if the ol` girl still has it."

Briley is a latecomer to the profession, graduating from Cabrillo College in Aptos, Calif., in 1994 at age 37. Her family and dental hygiene have been a good mix.

"Our family is very active," she said. "I spend much of my time behind the camera, documenting my children`s sporting events. My office of five years is very supportive of my desire to be involved with these activities, as are my patients who also ask for an update at their three-, four-, and six-month recalls."

One of Briley`s colleagues in California wrote to RDH about her "euphoric experience" in crossing the finish line at the Mayor`s Midnight Marathon in Anchorage, Alaska. A 44-year-old mother, Lisa Plavan took advantage of an offer by San Diego`s Leukemia Society to train for the Alaska marathon run.

"I never ever thought I would run a marathon," Plavan said. "But with the Leukemia Society`s program, there was excellent training, people with interesting stories to meet, the thrill of being a good fundraiser, plus a trip to Alaska! That is a definite win, win, win! What`s next? The options are endless, but goals seem more achievable now and, boy, am I feeling adventurous."

At the time of writing her letter, Plavan said she and her husband, Mike, were trying Korean-style karate.

Where gym rats roam

In the evening shadows of the Appalachian Mountains, four dental staff members congregate each day at the Curves for Women facility in Galax, Va. Donna Hale, Melany Vaught, Kay Bryant, and Sandy Davis spur each other on in the quest for physical fitness.

"We feel that regular exercise helps to relieve the stress of the daily routine," their letter noted. "Our 30-minute workout helps to keep us both mentally and physically healthy. We encourage each other to go, and we always have a good time! We challenge all dental team members to make exercise a regular part of their lives. You will be amazed at the difference it makes."

Hale and Davis are the hygienists on Dr. David Ritchie`s staff. Vaught is an assistant, and Bryant is the receptionist. Hale graduated from East Tennessee State University in 1987. Other activities for Hale and her husband, Jamey, include biking, camping, skiing, and traveling. Davis graduated from Wytheville Community College in 1997. She also plays basketball, but two young ones - 4-year-old Patrick and 1-year-old Jocelyn - remain her "favorite pastime."

Tina Keffer, a full-time professional representative for Colgate Oral Pharmaceuticals, pumps iron, as the related photograph reveals. "My lifestyle is very hectic, so I work out three times a week at 6:30 a.m. This is how I maintain a somewhat balanced life."

Keffer is also president of the Western Pennsylvania Dental Hygiene Asosciation and works part-time at dental offices in Greensburg, Pa., and Charleroi, Pa.

In Rochester, N.Y., Joyce Christopher definitely sees a link between occupational health and jazzercise - the combination of dance and aerobic exercise.

"It keeps me fit and energized," she writes. "Jazzercise has been a part of my life for nine years. I meet interesting people and make new friends. It helps me keep peace in my heart, because it reduces my stress level. Good or bad stress - we all have it. It is how we deal with it that makes the difference."

A 21-year veteran of the profession, Christopher currently practices in Dr. Michael Lewis` office in Rochester. The staff frequently participates in seminars hosted by the American Academy of Dental Practice Administration. "I continue to challenge myself both personally and professionally. Our special gifts are enriched by our willingness to share information."

Christopher has three children - 17-year-old Jenna, 15-year-old Ashlee, and 11-year-old Phillip.

Down a steep slope

In California`s Central Valley, about halfway between San Francisco and Yosemite, Lonna Montgomery probably gets as much exercise keeping the RV stocked as she does snowboarding. The Modesto hygienist describes her winter like this:

"Three years ago, we put our son in a ski program. My daughter is now on the ski team as well," Montgomery said. "We stay in a motorhome every weekend from the middle of December to the middle of April. I had always been an avid snowskiier until my husband took up snowboarding. So I figured: If you can`t beat it, join it. I enjoy our time in the mountains and on the slopes so much that winter does not come fast enough. It is truly a wonderful way for the family to unwind after a hectic week."

Modesto has been home to the Montgomery family for the last 10 years. She graduated from Cabrillo College in 1987. She splits a part-time schedule between two dental offices in Modesto and recently became certified to use a laser for periodontal management in one of the offices.

When the snow melts, the Montgomerys switch to other forms of skiing. "We have a ski boat for summer activities such as wakeboarding, waterskiing, and inner-tubing," she said. "We truly are fortunate to love in a central location that is close to either the mountains or lakes."

In the northwestern corner of Oregon, Lisa Tomlinson shares a similar lifestyle with her son, Austin.

"I currently work and live on the Oregon coast in a small town (Gearhart) of about 5,000," Tomlinson writes. "It is a town that I grew up in, and I returned to live and raise my son. Austin and I are very active. We surf, and we are avid snowboarders in the winter at Mt. Hood, which is three hours from our home. We ride our bikes daily, and I jog four times a week with my dog, Merry."

Tomlinson worked as a dental assistant for 17 years before becoming a hygienist two years ago. She works in three offices - three days as a hygienist in two general practices and one day in an oral surgery practice. "I work for a oral surgeon one day a week, giving local anesthetic and work as a surgical assistant," she said. "It is a great way to keep my skill of giving local anesthetic. I love my jobs and the flexibility I have with each one because being a mother is just as important."

A slower pace, but still healthy

One of the most enticing proposals for exercise came from Brunswick, Maine. Karyn Pottle, a 1991 graduate from the University of Maine at Orono, recently married, and the couple "dream of where we will put our log home" on 30 acres of land they own in nearby Bowdoinham.

Pottle writes, "I love to walk and try to do so regularly for stress relief and also to stay in shape. Brunswick put in a `bike path` last year that is three miles long and runs along the Kennebec River. It is so beautiful. They even plow it in the winter, so that if you dress warmly, you can walk any time of the year.

"I usually go for 60 to 90 minutes at a time and forget the cares of the day. Autumn is the best time of the year, because it is cool, but still sunny at times, and the foliage along the river is breathtaking."

This article includes a photograph of Denise McCarthy playing golf. Her letter did not refer to her handicap or ambition to join the LPGA tour. But Buffalo, N.Y. - her hometown - has some nice courses, and it`s a pleasure to witness a hygienist playing the game typically relegated to dentists.

McCarthy has spent 13 of her 15 years as a hygienist with the West Seneca Dental Center. She wrote, "The greatest reward of remaining in the same practice for so long is that you develop not only strong professional relationships with your patients, but lasting friendships as well. I have been skiing and golfing with some of my patients, and I feel fortunate they consider me a friend as well as their hygienist."

Next month, RDH will share some letters who have some unusual pastimes, not necessarily athletic in nature.

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Christy: Athlete of the year?

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Verkler: A race at the wedding

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Briley: (right) Family runs together

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Plavan: At midnight

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Davis, Hale: (back row) Laboring together after work

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Christopher: All that jazz

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Keffer: Pumping iron early in the morning

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Montgomery, Tomlinson: Wintertime fanatics

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McCarthy: Golfing with patients