Marc Lalonde would just love Bob and Mary Kanko. He could take them on a tour of the country as Exhibit A in his argument for fitness. The federal health minister wants more Canadians to practise preventive medicine (i.e., get fit). Bob and Mary Kanko are so fit most Canadians would break out in a guilt rash after a day with them.
They were not always this way. Three years ago Bob Kanko was well into the traditional post-university syndrome. At 27, he had a job, a regular pay cheque and he was getting fat and lazy—20 pounds overweight and out of shape. “I looked around,” he says, “and found myself on a collision course with some kind of physical disaster. I decided that wasn’t going to happen to me.” He joined the Toronto Central YMCA fitness classes and began attending three or four times a week. He discovered running. Within a few months, down to his proper weight of 170 pounds, he vowed never to be out of shape again.
He hasn’t been. The Kankos have been married three years and fitness is a natural and integral part of their lifestyle. At least three mornings a week they rise at six, eat a good breakfast and head for the Y. He leaves a half-hour early to run his standard three miles. She arrives in time for the fitness class where he joins her. Then they go their separate ways— he to his yardmaster’s job with CP Railways; she to her supervisory job with Bell Canada. On winter weekends, they cross-country ski or skate at a nearby outdoor rink. In summer, they jog, swim or bicycle. If Bob Kanko invites you to dinner, he’ll ask you to bring along your skates, skis, sneakers or bicycle, depending on what the Kankos plan to do that Saturday. On the wall in their apartment is a poster which says: FITNESS IS A
WAY OF LIFE.
But the Kankos are not obsessives. “You just decide how fit you want to be and you do what is necessary to maintain that,” says Bob. “You have to keep it in perspective. Fitness is not a goal in our life, it’s just part of our life—a part that will help us achieve some of our real goals.” The Kankos even occasionally review their fitness program to make sure it is not getting out of hand and that it is doing for them what they intend.
“We want to make sure we’re not getting competitive about it—like running farther and going to the Y more often just to impress people.”
A few weeks ago, when they discovered that Mary was pregnant, the Kankos sat down to discuss how a pregnant Kanko was going to adapt to the family regimen. “We plan long evening walks,” says Mary. “I’m not sure what kind of routine we’ll establish, but you can be sure we’ll work something out. I’m not going to get out of shape while I’m pregnant.*” And when the baby is born, fitness—Mary Kanko promises—"will just be part of his life from the day he’s born.” Out of such commitments, the fitness ethic will be passed to a new generation of Canadians.
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