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She Heeded the Call to Get It in Gear

January 07, 2002

Carrie Angelakis is living proof that slow and steady wins races. Though it took her seven years and one very dedicated trainer, the 42-year-old Laguna Niguel resident, who once weighed 185 pounds and slept away much of her day, is a svelte, head-turning 138 pounds. She not only runs half-marathons regularly, but also consistently places in the top five for her age group.

The transformation began in 1992. Six months after her fourth child was born, Angelakis looked in the mirror and saw an overweight, depressed woman. Almost too embarrassed to set foot in a gym, she finally got up her nerve. Once there, she begrudgingly got on the treadmill and tried consulting with a few of the gym's trainers, with whom she tended to talk more than exercise. "I was doing everything I could to avoid working out."

Then she met fitness trainer Nancy Hunsaker. "She didn't let me get away with anything." Hunsaker gave Angelakis a journal to write down her goals and track what she ate. When she saw how miserable Angelakis was inside the gym, she took her outside for walks, which Angelakis enjoyed. Gradually, Hunsaker incorporated jogging into the walks by suggesting they jog to the next pole, or the next stop sign. She kept pushing Angelakis until they ran a mile.

"I couldn't believe it," said Angelakis. "I went back and clocked it in my car."

To show her gratitude, Angelakis brought Hunsaker goodies, like Danish and cheesecakes--stuff Hunsaker never touches. "She would politely take them and later throw them away. That shows you where I was. My life was about food."

Slowly, however, that was changing. After four months, Angelakis was running three miles, and Hunsaker signed her up for a 5-kilometer run. Meanwhile, the weight was coming off, but slowly. After 18 months, she'd gotten down to 168, an improvement, but still 30 pounds above her ideal.

"That was my fault. I wasn't doing what Nancy said. I was taking diet pills and drinking alcohol." But Hunsaker hung with her. Some days Hunsaker would actually bring groceries over and stock Angelakis up with the foods she should be eating. One day she cleaned out Angelakis' pantry, throwing away "everything in a box."

Eventually, their persistence paid off. Angelakis began running longer and harder and eating the way Hunsaker had taught her. The weight tumbled off, and her race times soared. She hit her goal weight of 138 in August 1999 and has held it ever since by exercising regularly and eating carefully. Over the last several years, she's run a marathon and nearly 20 half-marathons, clocking a personal best of 1 hour, 37 minutes in the San Diego half-marathon last year, placing second in her age group. She also placed in her age group in a 10K last year with a time of 43 minutes, or just under seven minutes a mile.

"Nancy made me sign up for these races, then would meet me there to make sure I showed up, then she'd run alongside me. I could cry when I think of how she changed my life."

Angelakis now runs six days a week, six to 13 miles a day, and takes Hunsaker's Spin class twice a week. Often on her runs she invites others along and coaches them to greater distances and to attend races.

"Running and exercise change your mind," she said. "It's made me a better person. I used to be so critical because I was so unhappy. Now I'm a lot more positive. I'm a lot more like Nancy."

*

THE CLIENT

* Carrie Angelakis (before) once weighed 185 pounds.

* Now she eats better, weighs 47 pounds less, regularly runs half-marathons--and says her life has changed.

*

THE TRAINER

Nancy Hunsaker, 44

Background: Certified by the Aerobics and Fitness Assn. of America as both an aerobics instructor and personal fitness trainer.

Personal best: Best time was a half-marathon (13.1 miles) in 1 hour, 18 minutes (just under 6 minutes per mile). She's slowed down a bit since having five children but still consistently places in the top three in her age group. Her best time last year was 1 hour, 30 minutes. In 2000, she ran the San Diego marathon in 3 hours, 18 minutes, and last year qualified for the Boston Marathon, which she finished in 3 hours, 24 minutes.

Key in this case: "Carrie's sense of humor pulled her through. If I could just get her to laugh, it would take her mind off how hard her workout was."

Personal fitness routine: When not training for an event, she runs five days a week five to 15 miles, or a total of 50 to 60 miles; teaches two advanced Spin classed twice a week at the Sweat Shop in Dana Point; and does one hour of weight training twice a week.

Philosophy: "I like to get people to focus on a fitness goal--whether it's walking around the block, getting in shape for ski season or running a marathon--instead of focusing on the weight loss. The weight loss follows; it's part of the process."

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