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Thursday, Jan. 24, 2019 12:11 am

How I got my groove back

Moving away from an unhealthy lifestyle


Shawn Balint is a local radio personality who works as the news director for Neuhoff Media.

Some people figure out how to be Superman, but they don’t know how to be Clark Kent.  That could be said about the singer that excels on the stage but has no clue how to have a personal life or real conversation.  I’ve aced being the booming voice that invades your radio or smartphone speakers, but I haven’t figured out what to do when the microphone is off.

My personal life has been filled with what we call “dead air” in the radio business.  A big part of that story has been my physical decline.  A toxic cocktail of a fall at Lambeau Field, a disease called lymphedema, back and hip pain, plus the dangers of eating for one and being an emotional eater made it hard for me to live life to its fullest.

I’d cover a press conference and if I had to stand, parts of my body would “pinch” and suddenly, I’d sweat profusely. People would ask if I was all right and I hated it; I just wanted to hide.  Every social or work event that involved walking or parking was planned as if it were the D- Day invasion.  If I had to walk too far, I would sweat like I was having a heart attack.  It was isolating, but I was a bachelor and didn’t have to face someone else day-to-day.  I was a successful recluse in public view. 

Then unexpectedly, I found myself in a relationship for the first time in years. Those physical shortcomings suddenly couldn’t be hidden.  Walking a Florida beach felt like someone was taking a sledgehammer to my feet, due to the lymphedema.  That relationship was like a rainstorm after the Dust Bowl but soon it was over. Then I lost my mom to cancer and my grandmother.  Suddenly, with no family of my own, the world felt very small. What did I have left?

Then one fateful day, Mike Suhadolnik, a coach for CrossFit Instinct, enters the studio to talk about his past (in construction) and his present (leading a fitness revolution).  I tried to pick his brain for tips to somehow improve my functionality, but instead he pulled me into his world. 

CrossFit?  Are you kidding?  I can’t walk, stand or sometimes sit.  But I took the invitation because I felt like I had reached the “I’ve got nowhere else to go” moment from Richard Gere’s character in Officer and a Gentleman. Here was a man who had the presence of a drill sergeant but also was a master motivator. Mike provided the encouragement to get me to buy in and believe I could do things I thought were impossible.

I won’t lie. The workouts hurt. I didn’t think I’d make it through those first days, but there were people who got behind me.  Among them was SHG football coach Ken Leonard, who visited me on day three. The record-setting coach brought out the inner football player I never got to be – even though I had some gridiron skills – since my school didn’t have football.

Coach Mike knew my body like a Nascar crew chief knows a car.  He knew my weaknesses and my strengths. He improved my mobility until I walked three miles – which seemed unthinkable – slashed my weight by 60 pounds in a short time and helped my battered self-esteem. 

Getting my eating curtailed (quantity and quality) has been a challenge.  It’s like the person in AA who identifies as an alcoholic, even without having had a drink in years.  If you’re struggling out there, the solution isn’t in a bottle or an infomercial.   It’s in your pores, your sweat glands.  As the late, great John Houseman used to say in those investment commercials: with CrossFit, you lose weight the old-fashioned way ...”you earrrrnnn itttt.”    

I’ve got a long way to go. I haven’t been perfect, but I’ve pushed myself.  Don’t expect perfection from yourself, just progress.  The great thing about the CrossFit concept is that it’s adaptable.  I wasn’t asked to do what a guy who was deeply invested in health and fitness for decades could do.   

If I can do it, you can do it.  Some of you can turn it all around on your own, others need someone to show them the way.  I was certainly the latter.  Life’s too short, take your life back.  Don’t wait, or as they say in the commercials, ACT NOW!   I can work the microphone like I’m from Krypton but the real challenge, feeling comfortable in my skin, is the Clark Kent side of my life finally taking flight.

Shawn Balint has been a fixture on the Springfield airwaves for a quarter of a century, bringing a unique style of news, sports and comedy to the airwaves.


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