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At the starting line of health

Just three months ago, Amy Martinez had a hard time getting out of bed without grabbing hold of the nightstand, and it hurt getting out of a chair and standing up.

On Saturday, the 39-year-old will be at the starting line of the Mayor’s Cup Fun Run — one of hundreds who will take to the streets to walk or jog the one- or two-mile course through downtown Medford during the 40th annual Pear Blossom Festival.

Martinez plans to run both.

The fun run is a “graduation” of sorts for Martinez and others who have survived the rigors of the “Healthier New You” wellness program at the Rogue Valley Family YMCA. The first phase of a 12-week program wrapped up Monday.

Most participants come with “25 to 50 pounds or more to lose,” says Tammy Miller, the Y’s wellness supervisor. “Many come with high cholesterol, high blood pressure and are pre-diabetic or have Type 2 diabetes.”

The goal for all, she says, is to lose seven percent of their body weight through weekly nutrition meetings and group workouts. Included are field trips to the grocery store, counseling sessions and six 30-minute appointments with a personal trainer — along with weekly weigh-ins and measurements.

Participants “have to dig down deep to learn emotional hunger versus physical hunger,” Miller says. “We look at behaviors and triggers, and set an action plan.”

She says she’s had participants come off insulin, as well as medications for cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Martinez has surpassed two goals already. Thirty-five pounds lighter and 21 inches trimmer than she was in January, the mother of two says she feels “fantastic.”

“I’m running circles around my children,” she adds. “More importantly, it’s all clicked, and I’m able to function.”

Bill Hymas, 62, says he was "bucking up toward 240 pounds” when he joined the class, and was “quickly approaching pre-diabetes.” He has lost 25 pounds in the first 11 weeks.

“I’ve always been interested in nutrition but couldn’t afford a personal trainer or nutritionist,” he says. “This program really turned me around. … I learned what to buy and what to leave on the shelves (of the grocery store).”

Miller says, “there is no diet, per se — the focus is on real food.”

“My motto is: ‘If it’s not from the earth, not from an animal, don’t put it your mouth.' ”

Hymas admits, “it is a different way to eat, but it’s not hard.”

Mindy Kautzman says she and her husband, Darrel, have replaced boxed foods with fresh veggies and whole foods.

“We learned that food is the gasoline to keep our bodies’ engines running,” she says.

Both 56 years old, the Kautzmans are enthused by their progress, in pounds and inches. They too plan to participate in the one- and two-mile events.

In addition to developing a food plan, participants are urged to incorporate 150 minutes of physical activity each week.

“That’s just 30 minutes, five days a week,” Miller says.

Although “fairly active” most of his life, Hymas says his new exercise regimen has him working out at the YMCA several times a week.

“I have gone from 10 minutes on the elliptical to one hour,” he says.

The current group is Miller’s 10th, and in the last two years, participants have lost more than 3,400 pounds and 4,000 inches.

This year, past graduates will run the 10-mile Pear Blossom Run, she says. Others who discovered a passion for running are now competing in marathons all over the country, she adds.

Martinez has her girls, ages 6 and 13, signed up to run the one-and two-mile events with her. Crossing the finish line Saturday will be only the beginning for her family. She has already enrolled in Phase 2 and Phase 3 of the program, and is on her way to “being a better, healthier mom,” she says.

“I plan to put in a full calendar year,” she says. “This is the greatest thing I’ve ever done for myself.”

For more information about the Healthier New You program, call the Rogue Valley Family YMCA at 541-772-6295.

The one-mile fun run begins at 7:50 a.m. Saturday on the Eighth Street side of the Jackson County Justice Building. The two-mile run gets underway at 8:30 a.m. To register, call the YMCA.

Reach Grants Pass freelance writer Tammy Asnicar at tammyasnicar@q.com.

Danielle Roberts, left, of Medford, Bill Hymas of Phoenix and Amy Martinez of Phoenix are participating in the Mayor's Cup Fun Run during this weekend's Pear Blossom Festival. Mail Tribune / Denise Baratta