Wayne Joseph’s Blog

Running with the Big Dog

Okura listened to her Middle School teacher and just kept moving

Amy Okura

It all started from a physical education teacher at Hilo Union School according to Amy Okura and that is where she fell in love with movement.

“When I was in Hilo Union I loved the P.E. fitness tests we did and I raced with the boys at recess,” Okura said.  “I started playing AYSO when I was 10 and what I initially lacked in skill I made up for in determination and enthusiasm.”

Today Okura works as a legal assistant at Okura and Associates where she occasionally finds her job quite stressful.

“I specialize in getting Medicaid to pay nursing home costs for our clients, this tends to be a very emotional and financially stressful time for people as they are watching their loved ones go though injuries, illness, and transitioning into a nursing home, which without the help of Medicaid cost most people about $12,0000 a month.”

Okura has a lot deadlines to meet which makes her job that much more stressful. 

“There is unexpected turn of events to deal with on short term notice,” she said.  “Sometimes I have long days, but my biggest challenge is to always remember to be patient and kind to others who are going through an entirely different stress.”

Okura remembers the advice she was given at middle school P.E. class which was to relieve stress just keep on moving.

“My P.E. teachers all taught me that movement while playing is the best way to relive the outside influences of stress.” Okura said.

Play she does, Okura favorite activity is swing dancing.

“I love to dance,” she said.  “I dance Lindy Hop and other variations of swing dancing with the Hilo Hep Cats; I’ve also started dancing the Argentine Tango with Tango en las Rocas.

Besides dance Okura is going through a 12 week fitness program with her own fitness coach.

“I am in a three month fitness program with Stefanie Basso,” Okura said.  “I am in no way aiming to be a competitive figure builder, I just want to get stronger and feel better about myself.”

The program currently has her doing strength training 4 days a week and cardio 6 days a week.

“For the sake of maintaining balance in my life, my ideal week includes 1 to 2 nights of dancing and about 3 days of running and working out,” Okura said.  “Actually, an ideal week would include 7 nights of dancing, but I’m trying to be realistic.”

For diet Okura admits to liking meat with just a little fruit and vegetables.

“Everybody responds differently to foods,” she said.  “I truly believe that the joy of life is enhanced by eating beautiful, flavorful food.”

Some of the foods that delight Okura’s palate are Brussels sprouts squash, nuts, fish, and quality local grass-fed beef.  She also loves dark chocolate, wine, cheese, micro/draft beer, and French fries.

“As long as I stay active and eat a mainly clean diet, my body gives me honest feedback about how it feels with what I’m putting into it,” Okura said.

Okura is trying to stay active; she even entered her first race this past March.

“I started running again this past year, I was so slow when I first started,” she said.

“I was extremely anemic and my heart couldn’t handle the aerobic activity,” Okura said.  “With the consistent encouragement of several friends and a lot if iron supplements, I slowly started to run more often.” 

Like most runners Okura likes to run with friends to push her farther and at others time she like the solitude of running alone.

“I run alone for my peaceful meditation time,” Okura said. “I like running with friends to push my pace and distance.”

Friends can keep you from falling off pace, and in Okura’s case it could lead to your first organized race, the Hilo Half Marathon held the past March.

“My only goal for that race was to not walk any portion of the 13.1 mile race, and I didn’t,” Okura said. 

Since March Okura has been doing a variety of events, including the Volcano Rainforest 10 K run.

“I was pleased with my performance at the Rainforest 10K and can hardly wait to push myself again at the next race,” Okura said. 

She doesn’t have to wait long as Okura and several of her friends have signed up for the Hana Relays on Maui.

“I am already looking forward to the next race after that and I believe the Great Aloha Run is in February and then I’ll give the Hilo Half another try, setting my target time a little higher,” she said.

Okura’s exercise related goals are fairly simple; “I just want to do better and better and have more and more fun with it,” she said.

She’s on track for achieving both her goals.

“I love the way working out and running keeps my body fit and healthy,” Okura said.  “I love the quality of sleep that I get when I am active.  I love the way the endorphins feel.”

And it doesn’t end there as the list of energy packed benefits is limitless.

As her P.E. middle school teacher from Hilo was right in that there are many good reasons for keeping the body moving.

“My moods are less subject to forces outside of myself, my personal relationships are healthier, easier, and more enjoyable,” Okura said.  “Exercising brings a better me to the table, in whatever I am doing.”

And someday should you happen to see a tall, thin jogger remember to say ‘woof’ and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.’


October 15, 2012 Posted by | Profiles | , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Hilo Weight Watchers Diana Kahler going stong and keeping fit

Recently I was on the Keaau High School track instructing middle school athletes how to read passing zone markings so that they could understand the rules for a successful relay team.

During the two hours that I was helping I noticed a woman walking laps on the grassy infield, wearing a Big Island Marathon 5K finisher’s tee shirt.

On the second week of my tutorial the same woman appeared again walking laps on the infield but this time I decided to strike up a conversation.

The woman turned out to be 73 years young, Diana Kahler.

“I’m actually 73 and a half,” Kahler said with a wide grin.  “I walk everyday no matter where I’m at and since I had to drop off my great granddaughter for track practice I thought I’d do a few laps.”

Kahler is a mother of 6, a grandmother of 11 and a great grandmother of 11.

Born and raised in Marquette, Michigan Kahler grew up playing a lot of different sports.

“My childhood home was a half block from the shores of Lake Superior and summer vacations were spent swimming, playing sandlot baseball and kickball,” Kahler said.  “Television was not invented yet and in the winter I would go downhill skiing and sledding, but ice skating was my favorite activity.”

Kahler had chilling memories, no pun intended, of outdoor skating rinks and fire fed warming shacks.

Walking had always been a part of her life, so doing laps around the track for two hours was a piece of cake for her.

“I walked eight blocks to and from school four times a day during the school months,” Kahler said.  “Sometimes there were snowdrifts five feet tall and that never stopped me from walking to school.”

Kahler started walking to school in the first grade and it continued through high school.

“I believe those walks to and from school is where I got my love for walking which continues now,” she said.

It was during high school that Kahler joined the Girls Athletic Association and played volleyball, basketball and softball for all four years.

“I received the school letter in athletics in my junior year,” Kahler said.

While growing up Kahler listened to the radio and one of her favorite programs was ‘Hawaii Calls.’

“While listening to Hawaii Calls I would dream of living someplace where the skies were often blue and the weather always warm,” she said.  “When the opportunity presented itself 35 years ago I took it.”

Once here Kahler took advantage of our beautiful weather and began walking everyday without the snow drifts.

“I found walking to be a marvelous method of managing my stress as I was working fulltime and completing my degree at the University of Hawaii,” Kahler said.

Her enthusiasm with fitness and tropical weather saw her complete her first half marathon on Oahu I 1999 and six weeks later she became a finisher in the Honolulu Marathon.

“I participated in the Great Aloha Run in 2000 and then began walking less,” she said.  “In 2001

I rarely exercised and became overly absorbed in work and volunteering. I began eating as a method of managing my stress.”

The following three years following Kahler’s decision to stop walking was a disaster as she gained 40 pounds, developed aching joints and saw her cholesterol and blood pressure shoot up.

Motivated by two of her friends who had joined Weight Watchers and lost 100 pounds Kahler joined the Hilo group and lost those 40 pounds within a six month period.

“I returned to walking regularly and eating healthy, with the help of Weight Watchers I remain at my goal weight to this day,” Kahler said.

Retired from a lifetime of work, primarily in the Early Childhood Field, Kahler works a few hours a week in Hilo helping others take better care of themselves and keep their weight off.

“I find retirement a bit stressful due to the reduced social interaction,” she said.  “But now I have more time to be involved with my Hawaii family and I find it a delightful benefit.”

Today Kahler walks three miles, six days a week, either at the Hilo High Track or around her neighborhood in Naauao.

“I plan to increase my mileage to four while adding in some hills and to increase the intensity in February,” Kahler said. 

To maintain her upper body strength Kahler will work with hand weights and resistance cords daily.

“My goal is to stay healthy and injury free and mitigate some of the disabilities that so frequently impact the independence of the elderly,” she said.

Kahler’s infectious enthusiasm for walking has spread to family and friends.

“Walking is a great family event and it is free, you can do it almost anytime and anyplace,” she said. 

Kahler has gotten her great granddaughter, Tawnee Respicio and her grandson Treysin Brugman to participate in the New Years Day Resolution Run/Walk. All three walked and finished the 5K of the Big Island International Marathon on March 18, 2012.

“Several members of Weight Watchers came out to do the Resolution Walk with us,” Kahler said.  

Kahler continues on her healthy diet which includes a daily intake of five servings each of fruits and vegetables, power foods, non fat dairy and whole grains.

We can all learn from this healthy 73 and a half year old!

March 26, 2012 Posted by | Health and Fitness | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hilo’s Trudy Sleightholm finding ‘My Time’ to exercise


One of my favorite American poets is Maya Angelou who said, among other things, “This is my life, it is my one time to be me.  I want to experience every good thing.”

Following along Angelou’s sage advice is Hilo’s Trudy Sleightholm who knows what she wants in her life and makes time for it.

“Running has always been my ‘me time’,” Sleightholm said.  “I have always been athletic to some degree throughout my life and I have always come back to running.”

Sleightholm was born in Kona, but raised in Hilo and started playing basketball from the fifth grade to her junior year in high school.

In high school Sleightholm discovered cross country and track & field along with joining the swim and soccer teams.

It was through cross country that Sleightholm found something she could take with her and do by herself.

“Right out of high school I went to Oahu for college,” she said.  “I lived at the University of Hawaii dorms and I would run from my dorm room to the Punahou gym, maybe 25 minutes away, workout and then run back to the dorms.”

Sleightholm’s break from school work to the gym was considered her ‘me time.’ 

“Running has always been my ‘me time’ as I always felt so good afterwards,” she said.

After college Sleightholm continued her running and included yoga.

“I took a liking to bikram yoga, which is a very intense type, but I always felt so energized after,” Sleightholm said.  “I would go to a yoga class in the morning before work, then after work go for a run along Kapiolani Park.”

Yoga, along with running, according to Sleightholm became a way of life as she fell in love with staying fit.

“I did the Great Aloha Run a couple of time, but just never pushed myself any further than that 8.5 mile distance,” she said.

Five years ago Sleightholm moved back to Hilo and opened her own business, a salon.

“Being a business owner can be very hectic, but it is also very fulfilling,” Sleightholm said.  “I wouldn’t have it any other way now that I am my own boss.”

Being her own boss gives Sleightholm a little more ‘me time’ which is advantageous to a 33 year old with a three year old child.

“I am allowed a little more freedom to take care of things on my own schedule,” she said.  “My days are very long though as I juggle my time with my daughter, working and running, but I love every second of it.”

Since returning to Hilo Sleightholm has done less yoga and more running until a knee injured forced her to make the reverse switch.

“I injured my knee  last October in the Nike Women’s half marathon,” she said.  “That was an awesome run, but my knees could not handle it.”

Sleightholm worse fears began to arise from her knee injury.

“I thought I wasn’t going to be able to run anymore and I just didn’t want to hear that,” she said.

Sleightholm went to ashtanga yoga classes three to four times a week, while trying to lightly jog.

“I wasn’t going to let my fire for running burn out,” Sleightholm said.  “I was in training for the Honolulu Marathon last year and I did not want to give up.  I trained as hard as I could and took all the extra vitamins to try to help my knees and joints heal.”

Sleightholm stubborn, never give up attitude, helped her to finish the 2010 marathon with two of her friends, Misty Pacheco and Summer Mochida.

For the 2011 marathon Sleightholm managed to put in the training necessary for a successful 26.2 mile run.

“My knee has given me a little stress, but I have been running through it,” she said.  “No pain, no gain!”

Running has also helped Sleightholm maintain a healthy weight as she admits to having a sweet tooth and a carefree diet.

“I have the sweetest tooth I know as I love sweets, which is why I stay active,” she said.  “I don’t really watch what I eat, but I do eat healthy.”

Sleightholm doesn’t like soda, doesn’t drink alcohol and stays away from red meat.

“I love to eat salads,” she said.  “I tend to eat more pasta and drink lots of water or Gatorade before doing my long runs.”

Sleightholm also discovered the value of keeping track of her mileage on a daily basis as she can now see her progress recorded.

“I logged most of my runs on jog tracker and it totaled 1045 miles from May 2011,” she said.  “After seeing my logged runs I wished I had logged all of my runs from January 2011.”

Sleightholm believes that her workouts have contributed to her good health.

“I am grateful to not having any health problems,” she said.  “Running and yoga has kept me stronger inside and out.”

And someday should you happen to see a healthy senior having some ‘My Time’ by  jogging through the streets of East Hawaii remember to smile, say ‘woof’ and never shy away from “Running with the Big Dog.”

And here’s wishing all of you the very happiest, healthiest New Year.  Be safe, be kind to others and remember to exercise and eat healthy.

Email the Big Dog at waiakeabigdog@aol.com.

December 26, 2011 Posted by | Profiles | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Vulcan Booster Luncheon profiles Volleyball and Cross Country

Hillary Hurley and Coach Reyes

The University of Hawaii at Hilo Vulcan’s booster club hosted a luncheon at the Naniloa on Tuesday, Sept 13.

Many of the high profile coaches from the athletic department were on hand including Vulcan Athletic Director Dexter Irvin.

Volleyball coach Tino Reyes and star player Hillary Hurley were on hand to say a few words about their program.

Reyes, when asked who will be the Vulcan toughest opponent this year, jokingly said BYU China!

“I don’t think we could have beaten Hilo High at the start of last season,” Reyes said.  “We have a good volleyball team this season.”

Hurley, who is the reigning conference champion, is a senior from Redding, California and has been offered an assistant coaching position at Chico State.

The Chico State offer is for next season and with it comes the opportunity for her to continue on with graduate school.

Nadia Ramirez and Coach Guerpo

Cross Country Coach Jaime Guerpo and lead runner Nadia Ramirez also said a few words at the luncheon.

“I’m just glad I can say I’m still a cross country coach,” Guerpo said.  “Like I tell my runners, we need to take it one step at a time.”

Guerpo was talking about the lack of funding for his sport which almost saw him without the necessary funds to continue the harrier program.

Carole Kai and the Great Aloha Run stepped forward to fund his women’s team with the necessary travel funds to keep the program going this season.

Guerpo will need to fundraise in 2012 to ensure the existence of cross country at UHH.

Ramirez, an incoming freshman from Hilo High, has led the Vulcan’s during the early season meets.

“We have five freshmen on this year’s team,” Guerpo said.  “We started with seven girls and we’re down to five left on the team.”

BYU Hawaii is the top women’s team in the league and Guerpo is hopeful that his ladies will qualify for the conference championships which will be held on Oct. 29 at Grand Canyon.

September 13, 2011 Posted by | Events | , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

UHH women’s cross country program saved

After given a death sentence the University of Hawaii cross country program might have received a last minute reprieve.

In April Vulcan runners were given the news that, due to budget restraints, the Athletic Department decided to cut both the men’s and women’s programs.

“We were devastated,” UHH cross country coach Jaime Guerpo said. 

Guerpo broke the news to his team four weeks ago as the cuts were necessitated to save the athletic department $100,000 or 10 percent of their overall budget and cross country was targeted to receive the death blow.

Since that time Guerpo had spearheaded a community campaign to try and raise the necessary funds to keep the program alive.

“I feel it’s my duty to try everything in my power to keep this program going,” the veteran Vulcan coach said.

Many people sympathetic to the cross country demise have made pledges of various amounts which has given new life to a once doomed program.

“We seem to have generated enough funds to keep the women’s program alive as travel cost were our main concern,” Guerpo said. “Not enough money for the men to compete, although I feel very bad for my returning runners, but I guess that’s how it has to be right now.”

The Vulcan women will run a bare bones program with no scholarships being offered, but interest and commitments are still running high.

“I have four committed runners to the program and I’m still looking for more walk-ons,” Guerpo said.

Stephanie Adams from Boulder City, Nevada, Jordan Bledsoe from Omaha, Nebraska, Nadia Ramirez from Hilo and Brithany Ariga from Kamehameha-Hawaii have all committed to running for the Vulcan’s in the Fall according to Guerpo.

The UHH squad will be made up of all new faces as none of the veteran runners are either eligible or interested in coming back, at least at the present time according to Guerpo.

“We’re going to start our summer training in June and if there are any women interest in walking on they should call or email me immediately,” Guerpo said.

To keep the program going Guerpo has agreed to a 50 percent pay cut and believes that the entire amount needed to fund his women’s programs travel cost is $20,000.

“I just got a call from Carole Kai of the Great Aloha Run and they have committed a large amount for our travel cost so I am very optimist that we will be able to keep this program going for years to come,” he said.

UHH athletic director, Dexter Irvin, was equally enthusiastic about resurrecting the women harriers.

“We are very excited to be able to resume our women’s cross country program,” Irvin said.

In a UHH press release Irvin was quoted as saying “Community support has made next season possible.  The funds raised will cover interisland travel for the squad.”

Guerpo will enter his 12th season at the helm of UHH cross country and Irvin has announced that a two year suspension of the men’s program will stay in tack.

“Credit goes to Coach Guerpo,” Irvin said in the UHH press release.  “He knows the situation the department is in and accepted the challenge to keep the program running despite the loss of operating and scholarship funds as well as his salary.”

   The UHH women will remain in the PacWest and be limited to a five race season which includes the UHH Invitational.

Brigham Young University-Hawaii, Chaminade University and Hawaii Pacific University will also host PacWest meets and the UHH women will be provided the opportunity to participate in the PacWest Championships.

“We had to make a tough decision to keep our athletic department in the black,” Irvin said in a phone interview.  “When looking at making cuts we wanted to affect the fewest number of student/athletes and coaches and that is why we targeted cross country in order maintain our fiscal responsibility.”

Irvin expressed his desire to revisit the men’s program and was hopeful that UHH could bring the men back in 2013.

“It is an extremely difficult decision to make these cuts,” Irvin said of keeping the men’s program on suspension.

“We’re feeling the pain in higher education and in the athletic department we are only able to fund our conference schedule,” Irvin said.

Irvin was asked if he would consider any coaches request to give up a small portion of their budget to help the cross country program and he replied with an emphatic “no”.

“Every one of our teams are on a minimal budget and I would not allow them to voluntarily cut their budget even further as this would put our athletes at risk,” he said.

Irvin explained that the budget crisis he faces for his 250 student/athletes is so complex that it would be difficult to paint a clear picture during this interview.

In the meantime women’s cross country has survived due to the generosity of the public and the willingness of the coach to operate on a travel only budget.

Guerpo can be reached at guerpo@hawaii.edu.

May 21, 2011 Posted by | Running on the Big Island | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments