Positive role models, we all need them. Parents, teachers and coaches all have a lifetime influence on us and what we learn from them we pass on to our own children.
Marleen Pascua Okamura, a counselor at Keaau Middle School, is a positive role model when it comes to health and fitness.
Okamura has spent her life involved in a variety of sports activities and looks every bit like an athlete.
“I played softball and baseball since I was five and I paddled canoe since middle school. In high school I played volleyball and softball, I also ran track and paddled canoe,” Okamura said.
At Leileihua High School Okamura was an all-state athlete in softball and she also reached the all-state level for track while running on the Mules 4×100 relay team.
Okamura was offered an athletic and academic scholarship to college and was able to play for Pacific University in Oregon and the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
During the offseason at UHH Okamura would cross-train by kickboxing and body boarding, and later went on to study Martial Arts and trained in muy thai kickboxing as well as grappling before giving birth to her son, Sky, in 2002.
Today, at age 37, Okamura continues to paddle competitively with the Keaukaha Canoe Club at Hilo Bay. She is also an assistant coach, along with Miri Sumida, for the women’s paddling program.
“I love all water sports,” she said. “I know that we have strong and talented women in our club and we definitely have the potential to do extremely well in both the regatta and long distance season.”
Okamura has also set numerous other goals for 2009, “I plan on training for the Molokai Channel “Na Wahine O Ke Kai” which I have done several times, but would like to place in the top 20 with the Keaukaha.”
Part of Okamura’s success in sports is due to her belief in a healthy diet. At the top of her list is water. “Water, water, water!!! Along with lots of fruits, vegetables, fiber, good protein and good carbs,” she said.
“It’s important for me to watch what I eat because I want to stay healthy and not have complications later in life. We have a choice, Prevention vs. Treatment, I would rather prevent things from happening now rather than go through treatment for the rest of my life,” Okamura said.
“Being healthy and improving my health is a way of life for me,” she said. “I will be the first to admit that things are not always perfect for me especially when family parties and holidays occupy most of our lifestyle and culture, but it’s about making good choices.”
Okamura will exercise four days per week and now that she is into the canoe season she includes cardio exercises and agility training along with paddling.
Besides regular physical exercise and a healthy diet Okamura also has a positive attitude about life and she loves her job.
“As a counselor I am able to reach out to students, providing an atmosphere of learning in social, emotional and behavioral growth. Having students spend their recess and lunch with me because they want to and not because they have to is a plus,” she said.
Okamura is engaged to her college sweetheart, Michael Clarke, and the couple is both into exercise and taking care of their bodies.
“Mikey (Clarke) was the 1991 Oahu Interscholastic Association player of the year in basket basketball for Mililani High School,” Okamura said. “He also played football and was a star soccer player while growing up.”
The couple will go to the golf course driving range to hit balls or to the courts to play tennis in their spare time.
“Mikey is always telling me that I don’t have to kill the ball at the driving range,” Okamura said. “I usually smile back at him because I know he is right, but it just feels good to whip something that hard and to see it disappear in to mid air.”
Okamura is always learning and always open to new adventures in sports. She is multitalented and has explored and continues to explore a wide variety of activities.
“Just for fun I’d like to train in the rigors of the Mixed Martial Arts mat, possible with BJ Penn. Mainly to see the result of MMA training, getting stronger, leaner and experiencing the intense training that men endure,” she said.
Okamura strives to maintain her weight from college and would like to reach her goal of 10 to 15 percent body fat. “I love working out and I do my best to stay in shape mainly because I love sports, but also to prepare for some of my future goals in athletics, like continuing to do marathons, O-C1 paddling, and maybe one day the triathlon,” she said.
For those who are just starting out or thinking about beginning a fitness program Okamura has the following advice:
“Make the decision first and let your actions follow. And if you have a friend or friends that are willing to join you, have fun and make crazy bets along the way. It’s funny to know what motivates people. Years ago my friend and I made a bet to see who could drop down a few dress sizes. I went from a size 7 to a size 4 and all for $50 and dinner,” she said.
“Aim at nothing and you will hit it, so make sure you have short term goals, long term goals and daily goals as well.”
“Always remember that successful people do what unsuccessful people don’t want to do, so you decide. Start Today!” Okamura said.
Keaau Middle students should feel lucky that they have such a positive role model, just one of many, at their school.