A racquetball player for 15 years, Jim Panagos thought he was in pretty good shape. Until last summer, when the 45-year-old aerospace manager at McDonnell Douglas in Long Beach was on his annual fishing trip in the Sierra.
"I got altitude sickness and was absolutely exhausted during a hike," he said.
The incident underscored what Panagos had managed to push to the back of his mind. His weight had been creeping up slowly but steadily.
"I knew I was carrying around an extra half body with me," he said. His weight at the time was about 223 pounds.
During the trip, Panagos said he rededicated himself to improving his fitness and health. At the time, he recalled, his only exercise was playing racquetball three times a week.
Once he got home, he stepped up his exercise routine. Three nights a week, he plays racquetball and weight trains for two hours at LA Fitness, a Long Beach health club. Besides the gym workouts, he does 20 push-ups and 20 abdominal curls every day at home. "And at work, I use the stairs instead of the elevators."
He's also improved his diet and has lost 25 pounds since July.
His workout routine is not flexible.
Dinner Without Dad
"I go to the gym no matter what else is going on," Panagos said. On workout nights, his family--wife Carol and (when they're home) sons Steve, 23, and Jerry, 20--eats without him. Not everyone always understands, Panagos said, but he remains firm about sticking to his workout schedule. "It's my time. If it's somebody's birthday, for example, I say, 'I'll go, but I'll be an hour late.' I'll earn my cake first (by working out)."
Not that Panagos eats much cake these days. Or red meat. Nor, he said, does he sip regular beer anymore. To achieve his weight loss, he said, he cut down his alcohol consumption and gave up regular beer entirely, switching to light beer. He tries to make fish and vegetables the mainstays of his diet.
He's now down to 198 pounds, but the 5-foot-11 Long Beach resident is not yet satisfied with his shape. "I'd like to try getting to 180," he said.
His wife doesn't work out with him but does offer encouragement: "I greatly admire his willpower," she said.
Panagos said he hasn't been to a doctor for a couple of years and doesn't know his blood pressure, resting heart rate or other indicators of health and fitness. "But I feel pretty good and I don't get colds or flu," he said.
He depends on his exercise routine for weight control. He was at his heaviest, 230 pounds, during an eight-month recuperation after he slipped on ice and broke both ankles back in his 30s.
Besides the motivation his scale provides, the competitiveness of racquetball and company-sponsored tournaments keeps him faithful to fitness, Panagos said.
"I'm a high-C/low-B player," he said. "In tournament play, I've won a half dozen trophies for first or second place."
He said regular physical activity helps him cope with the pressures of his fast-paced but sedentary job at McDonnell Douglas, where he has worked his way up through the ranks over the last 22 years. As a manufacturing division program manager, he often works on government projects. His work week, usually 60 hours or more, is crammed with meetings, phone calls and travel.
Then, too, Panagos can always count on some needling--and motivation--from Doug Deusterman another McDonnell Douglas manager and one of his hiking and fishing buddies.
"I've been on his case for a number of years (to increase his exercise regimen)," said Deusterman, who keeps in condition by jogging four or more times a week. "Since July, he's significantly reduced his midriff bulge. I marvel at his progress. He's trying very hard not to make peace with nature."
Fitting in Fitness
Occupation: Aerospace manager
Regimen: Three racquetball sessions, two weight-training sessions, 140 push-ups, 140 abdominal curls a week.
Fitness motivation: "It's better than sitting around watching television."