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Fitness group is an outlet for Central Texans with lofty goals

Deep Eddy Mural dedication set for Sunday

Pam LeBlanc
pleblanc@statesman.com
Sarah Hales serves Judy Collins, 42, a My Fit meal after a training session.

If you're more than just a few pounds overweight, the prospect of joining a gym or exercise group can seem overwhelming. It helps, though, if you're aiming for a lifestyle change along with other folks facing the same challenge you are.

A new fitness group at RunTex called ATX100 is only for people with 100 pounds or more to lose.

The group meets three times a week for exercise and to listen to a lineup of speakers that includes a psychologist, a cardiologist and a nutrition expert. Unlike many fitness programs, which culminate with a walk or race, this program is ongoing, with 5K events along the way to keep members focused.

Among the participants is Joe Bacon, who writes a blog called "A Little Less Bacon" at www.alittlelessbacon.com. (Best name ever!)

Bacon dropped 40 pounds off his 408-pound frame through another exercise program five years ago. But after the program ended with the 5-mile Turkey Trot, Bacon checked out.

"When the Turkey Trot was over, I walked 20 yards past the finish line, sat down and didn't do anything structured until four months ago," he says.

His weight bounced up to 418 pounds.

This time, he vows, that won't happen.

"The difference is I can't have it end," he says. "There is no finish line. This is the way I intend to live the rest of my life."

Bacon has lost 41 pounds since January, but it hasn't been easy. Just last week, he blogged about how hard he worked to lose 1.5 pounds, only to have 4 pounds jump back on seemingly overnight.

The ATX100 group, which has about 40 members, meets for exercise Tuesday and Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings at RunTex, 422 W. Riverside Drive. Saturday's session includes a healthy lunch from My Fit Foods and a speaker.

The program costs $100 per year and includes a pair of running shoes and a yearlong discount at My Fit Foods. There are no weigh-ins, just exercise, camaraderie and support.

"This is not a weight-loss program, it's about endurance and giving people the lifestyle they want to lead," says RunTex owner Paul Carrozza, who teamed with My Fit Foods to offer ATX100. (A separate ATX50 program is designed for those who want to lose 50 pounds.)

Carrozza, who shows up for the occasional workout, also understands that it's far more difficult for an overweight person to exercise than someone like him, who is already in shape. "Their walk is the same work I'm doing on a run," he says.

Kenny Taylor, a consultant for nonprofit corporations, says he sometimes feels like an outsider in Austin, which is full of fit people. That's why he likes ATX100.

"You want to do things with people like you, people who understand your struggle," he says.

So far, the exercise isn't a problem.

"My thing is the food and staying on track with what I put in my body," he says.

For more information about ATX 100, contact coach James Russell at 472-3254, email him at james.russell@runtex.com or register at atx100.eventbrite.com.

Mural will be dedicated Sunday

When the Deep Eddy Mural is dedicated Sunday, it'll mark the culmination of an idea a decade in the making.

Leila Levinson, a local author, professor and longtime Deep Eddy swimmer, hatched the idea for a mural as a way to turn a less-than-attractive piece of infrastructure into a work of public art.

"When they put in the handicap ramp and created that huge wall of concrete, I just thought it was atrocious," Levinson says.

She brought the idea to Christi Rogers at Clay Ways. They eventually enlisted the help of art teacher Wanda Montemayor and artist Lisa Orr.

The City of Austin Art in Public Places program provided $41,400 in grant money, with additional private funds raised by Levinson and the artists through the Friends of Deep Eddy. Contributors include the Austin Mosaic Guild, Daltile, Custom Building Products, ProductionFor and Ridgway's.

Work began in January 2010. Art teachers from nine participating schools hand-sketched tiles and about 2,000 students from across made and colored the pieces.

"It really was very much a community project from the get-go," Levinson says. "It took an entire army to create it."

Today, the mural's handmade tiles and shimmery bits of colored mirror highlight the colorful history of Deep Eddy Pool, the oldest swimming pool in Texas. The art is based on historical photographs and information from the Austin History Center.

Levinson says she felt a little sad when the mural was finished but is thrilled with the finished product.

"We're surrounded by beauty when we swim at Deep Eddy," she says. "The mural echoes the natural beauty of the sky and the trees there. It makes it exquisite aesthetic experience."

The dedication ceremony, with music and refreshments, is scheduled for 5-7 p.m. Sunday at the mural, just northwest of the pool at 401 Deep Eddy Drive. For more information, go to www.deepeddymural.org.

A strong presence from LiveStrong

Expect to see lots of yellow around town this weekend, as the LiveStrong Challenge Austin gears up.

The event includes a 5K run/walk through downtown Austin on Saturday and a 20-, 45-, 65- or 90-mile bike ride through the Hill Country on Sunday. It all benefits the LiveStrong Foundation, which works to help people living with cancer.

Last year, 5,500 participants raised more than $3.1 million for the nonprofit foundation.

Registration is $35 for the run or $50 for the ride. Cyclists must also raise $250 for LiveStrong. For more information, go to www.livestrong.org.