LIGHTHOUSE: Meet Jan Wright

The Lighthouse Fitness Project is an opportunity to share and grow the vision, mission and focus of the Platte River Fitness Series through the stories and photographs of 10 individuals who have generously agreed to let us share their journey to wellness and the “Lighthouses” who helped guide them. Click here for more posts from the Lighthouse project.

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Lighthouse Fitness Project, a photo project of the community fitness initiative the Platte River Fitness Series, will be introducing you to 10 people who are living the mission and vision of the work of the PRFS. They are all champions. Not because they win races, but because they have found a way to use races to help them win at becoming healthier, happier and more of who they were meant to be. We are a fitness family, and we are proud to share the success of just 10 of the thousands of athletes who share in the work of the Platte River Fitness Series.

Jan Wright in 2014, with her weight goal reached and maintained

Jan Wright in 2014, with her weight goal reached and maintained

We are pleased to introduce you to our first athlete, Jan Wright of North Platte.

"If you want to see your children graduate from high school, you have got to do something about your weight and about your health." This was the admonishment that Jan Wright received a little over a decade ago from her physician.

With that warning, Jan's physician would become her first "lighthouse." A fitness lighthouse is someone who helps another navigate and find their way as they journey to wellness. They recognize that we all need each other, and that community helps us make and keep positive changes.

Jan, age 55, is a mother fierce in her love for her two sons, Jake and Luke. For her, the idea that she might not share in every milestone of their lives, guide them to adulthood, and share in the lives of her grandchildren ignited a desire for change.

Jan is the world's most inspired supporter of her sons' athletic endeavors. She was comfortable in the role of cheering from the sidelines. She began her connection with the Platte River Fitness Series in that same capacity, an eager and brilliant volunteer for the first triathlon. We had no idea how to time a triathlon, and Jan was part of the team who developed the program that was used for the O'Rourke Triathlon for years until a timing company began to time the event. As the events grew in number, Jan could often be seen at the finish line, in the results room, or anywhere she might be needed, comfortable in her place. Her big voice, tailor-made for cheering, her electric smile, and vivaciousness made her the perfect volunteer. Jan watched others, just as she watched her sons, from the sidelines.

Jan's highest weight was 275 pounds. A breast cancer scare made her doctor's words take on a whole new significance. Women who are obese or overweight after menopause have a 30-60% higher risk of breast cancer. According to the Susan G. Komen Foundation, "maintaining a healthy weight makes a very big difference when it comes to breast cancer." Once a woman is diagnosed with breast cancer, being overweight increases the risk of reoccurrence and lowers survival rates. In addition to the breast cancer concern, Jan was at a much greater risk for heart disease and heart attack with a cholesterol level near 300 and blood pressure so high she was at risk for hypertensive heart disease. The risk factors for heart disease include, obesity and overweight, high LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol, physical inactivity and high blood pressure. Jan scored in all categories. It became clear that she was going to have to get in the game and reclaim all life had in store for her.

Jan in 2011, halfway to her weight goal

Jan in 2011, halfway to her weight goal

Jan moved from volunteer to participant, first walking, then "wogging" (walking and jogging). She started with 5Ks, lost weight, and even tried her hand at that triathlon she had once volunteered for.

Jan is now an integral member of the Platte River Fitness Series Fitness Family, and as she says, she has "lost a whole person," with an incredible 125 pound weight loss. Jan has taken back her life and her health, not quickly, not with a pill or some miracle diet. She did so with a new focus on her nutrition for life and by becoming dedicated to an exercise regimen. She runs those 5Ks now, and is a Spinning instructor. She is energetic, engaged, and a role model to her sons. She has kept those 125 pounds off now for more than three years, and most importantly, her cholesterol and blood pressure are well within the normal range. The cost savings alone in avoiding the medications and complications of an unhealthy lifestyle are only an added bonus.

What is truly important is that she reclaimed her potential and she will be there to welcome, nurture, and watch her grandchildren grow. She will see her sons graduate from college, fall in love and marry. She will continue to grow as an important part of the GP Health team and in her profession. She will be there to share with friends and her husband, Dennis, a light that is truly one of a kind. She will care for her community with zest.

Jan credits several other "lighthouses" besides an honest and caring physician. She has been guided along in her training and racing by her best friend Cathy Poppe. Cathy and Leland Poppe have given her continual encouragement and support. She credits Mel McNea and Wendy and Grant Schramm for lighting the way for her as she moved from standing on shore watching as others sailed their ships to being the captain of her own destiny. Jan's message to others? "Yes, you can."