Editor’s Note: Kelley Tyan is a health and fitness columnist with ThisWeekinWorcester.com. She is the daughter of Paul “Cooch” O’Mara and the author of this story.

ThisWeekinWorcester.com’s Person of the Week

Most of us have a favorite superhero, but it’s not every day we have one living among us.

Worcester residents may not realize that under Paul “Cooch” O’Mara’s running jacket he wears a virtual “superpower cape” that attacks and destroys despair and disappointment and replaces it with optimism, hope and achievement for the greater good.

When meeting Cooch, most would assume he’s a healthy man in his sixties who is able to run 8.5 miles every day from his home on Grafton Hill, down to Lake Ave, over the White City bridge onto South Quinsigamond Ave to RT 20 and back to Grafton St.

For more than 45 years, O’Mara has been running the streets of Worcester without the need for any medications. That all changed with one doctor’s appointment last November 2016,  when his shortness of breath was diagnosed as Myelofibrosis — a rare blood Cancer that attacks bone marrow and often leads to leukemia.

Only 18,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with Myelofibrosis. Cooch was also informed that his spleen was enlarged, and it was recommended that it be removed. He wasn’t guaranteed more than a few years to live.

O’Mara pursued a second opinion at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston that offered a radically different approach. Rather than move forward with the removal of his spleen, his doctors recommended that he undergo a bone marrow stem cell transplant.

It was a complicated process with no guarantee of recovery and O’Mara was immediately on a stem cell waitlist. His response to his diagnosis and this treatment was a resounding, “Yes, I am going to do what I need to do, and that’s that.”

He wasn’t afraid, he didn’t have any fears and O’Mara said, “Let’s get this over with. I want to move on.”

Norma, Paul and Kelley

After months of waiting for a stem cell match, O’Mara was admitted to Dana Faber on April 7, 2017 for at least a four week hospital stay. He underwent heavy doses of chemo, became exhausted and weak. His hair fell out and he was extremely sick.

By week three, however, his condition improved while his blood counts increased,  and he was released from the hospital a week early. Cooch never doubted his recovery. His deep faith gave him strength, as did his wife Norma’s reassuring prayer: “Cooch, you are already healed, we don’t need to worry.” He and his close family’s firm faith kept these words in their hearts and kept their outlook positive.

At home, O’Mara was extremely weak and didn’t have an appetite, but his attitude remained extremely optimistic. He could not have public contact with people besides his immediate family, and he was required to wear a medical face mask and gloves at all times if he did leave the house.  His doctors explained that he needed to be isolated for one year and all of his food had to be prepared in his home only by his wife and daughter.  His house also had to be cleaned with bleach daily to avoid any germs.

Paul and Norma O’Mara

While recovering at home in week two, Norma — Cooch’s wife of 45 years, his best friend, and high school sweetheart — suddenly passed with no warning of an aneurysm. Norma had suffered from severe Rheumatoid Arthritis for over 40 years after giving birth to their only daughter Kelley.

Cooch’s care of Norma over the years included getting her dressed from top to bottom, cooking, and he even did her hair at times!  He took full responsibility of his beautiful wife with a smile everyday.   He drove her to her weekly doctor appointments, which were numerous,  and he loved every minute of it. Now, his life partner was in Heaven as he was being healed, as Norma promised him.  

Of course his heart was completely broken, and still is.  The void and sorrow is agonizing, but he often repeats his favorite biblical verse: “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” [Phil 4:13]

His doctors’ 100 day restriction to not leave his house was lifted by the 85th day due to Cooch’s progression of his recovery.  He was allowed to sit outside any restaurant and eat the food served there, which was a big deal for him and all his family.  

Months later his doctors approved of his return to running and said, “If you feel good, do it”. That’s all he needed to hear and he was back to his favorite route!

Kelley and Paul

Kelley inquired what went through his mind while running because he never wears a headset or listens to music during his runs. He replied, “I think about your mother every second and that gets me through. I listen to my body, how my breathing sounds, and my muscles feel. I am content running alone and this brings me peace. It always has.”

His many friends and family are beyond amazed with his recovery and daily routine.

On Sunday, Nov. 12,  Cooch will run in the March of Dimes for Babies 5K race. Next June he is already planning to run the Worcester 1/2 marathon again.   Cooch will continue to wear his favorite running jacket and race number, but under his jacket he’ll be wearing his “superhero cape.”

I encourage readers to support the March of Dimes for Babies and, who knows, you just may run into Worcester’s own Caption Courageous!

So many people say they are on a diet everyday of their lives.
Growing up, my mother would say this to me and now that I am older, I completely understand where she was coming from.  She tried the soup diet, the cabbage diet, the 17 Day Diet, the South Beach diet…etc.  Magically, they all worked, but the truth of the matter is, anything you start then stop and go back to your old ways, brings your body back to it’s original weight.  For example, if you eat and drink processed foods or whatever you feel like,  then all of a sudden clean up your nutrition by taking those sugary and processed foods out for a short period of time,  of course you will lose weight and possibly feel better fast.   However, the chances that you will stay on this plan for the rest of your life, are slim to none, hence the term yo-yo dieting begins.
There is research out there that may make you feel better or even shock you: babies are born with a sweet tooth and it doesn’t need to be learned, its just there.   Although some people may not agree with this and say,  “If we don’t introduce sweets to our children, they won’t prefer them,” I beg to differ.  Whether you were exposed to sugar at 4 months or 6 years, I believe you are still going to prefer the ice cream over broccoli, can you agree with that?  Which one makes you smile more before you eat it?
Let’s get back to the word diet.  When you say that you need to diet, it’s almost like giving yourself a death sentence, isn’t it?  No-one really wants to go on a diet, and it becomes stressful and life isn’t as happy, isn’t that true?  I want to give you a new way of looking at food so you can live a happy and healthy life and never use the dreaded word again.   \
Are you ready to take on a new way of life with no more yo-yo dieting?  It is called clean eating and balance.  I know you have heard of this before, so lets go over what this means and here are some clean food examples to choose from:  lean meats, fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, fish, complex carbohydrates such as sweet potato, quinoa, brown rice, and healthy fats.
Processed foods that have artificial ingredients, high fructose corn syrup,  have added sugars, or artificial sugars, and  most bakery goods, are not on the clean food list.  You need to do a little research if you are not sure what is clean, and what is not.  As I stated above about having a sweet tooth, you don’t have to give up eating sweets, there are many options to curb your cravings, but won’t pack on the pounds.  With the internet at our finger tips, try pulling up some Paleo dessert recipes and you will be surprised how amazing they taste!  I also substitute white sugar for Swerve when baking at home.  My favorite go-to snack is the Larabar. Give one a try!
As I have stated over and over in previous articles, you must ask yourself how badly do you want to change for the better?  I always say, “change nothing, and nothing changes.”  If you are sick and tired of being sick and tired, you must make a change.  You don’t have to eliminate everything in your house  all at once, but make a few clean switches each week, and you will be on your way.
My biggest advice is this: do NOT buy anything that tempts you, then there are no excuses.    You will never have to say the word diet again if you can just make yourself realize that clean foods = feeling good = looking good.  The old saying that goes back in time and has more truth than people realize is, you are what you eat.  We are all in this together, but somewhere along the line, you got caught up in all the processed foods that are thrown at us through TV and the media and are a quick and easy fix.  They make them so mesmerizing on TV and extremely  convenient to get which then leads to food addictions.   They don’t tell us these foods may cause depression, weight gain, low energy, and even certain diseases when eaten in excess.

Kelley Tyan

What it comes down to is that we all have a choice each morning upon waking up: choosing clean foods for fueling our bodies, or packing on more pounds with processed and sugary foods or drinks that will cause you to crash and burn by mid afternoon, which then you will grab another sugary food or drink and the vicious cycle keeps going.
Make up your mind today to try eating cleaner foods and give it one full week.  Prepare yourself that you may get a few headaches coming off sugar, but they won’t last and if you can do 1 week, you can do another.  I believe in you and I know how amazing you will feel in a short period of time.  You will never have to say the word “diet” again, because your life will be about clean eating instead and this will become your new normal way of life.   You are going to have slip ups, but they will not last after a while because you will realize that you don’t want to feel tired and miserable anymore.
Your new normal eating pattern will give you energy, more focus, and weight loss, so try it out and please comment to me after 1 week.  Don’t forget that exercising and drinking plenty of water can speed up the overall process of feeling better.  If you need any help, I would love to work with you.  Let’s start a new chapter this year and set the tone for our families.  Everyone needs motivation so why don’t you take charge and be the motivator yourself!
Try baking my favorite protein cookies at home!
You will need:
2 ripe bananas
1C unsweetened shredded coconut flakes
1 scoop of protein powder (I use Quest Banana Cream)
1/2C almond butter
1 egg
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt
Preheat oven 350.  Mix all ingredients together then place tablespoon size dough on parchment paper and bake for 10-12 minutes.  (you can add a few chocolate chips if needed).  Store in refridgerator up to 1 week.   Enjoy!
Since October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, I want to start by saying I am a survivor.  I survived the worst nightmare, and guess what? I picked myself up off the floor and made a decision to move forward and get serious with my health and fitness.
I had always worked out and thought I was eating pretty good overall,  but I wanted to dive in and step up my game, because at this point, my health meant everything to me.   I began to see fitness in a whole different light and I realized it truly is a mindset.  When we make up our minds and commit to getting healthy or fit, doesn’t it take everything inside of you to really focus on what you are doing?
Working with hundreds of clients over the last several years has taught me that we are all very similar in so many ways.   We have the same thoughts about our bodies, the same cravings for foods, and even the same ups and downs in life that leads us from being super motivated, to becoming super unmotivated. The challenges we face day to day when it comes to health, eating clean, and trying to get in a workout are constant for most people.  We all have good intentions, but when the push comes to shove, what is the final decision you make?  Do you get yourself to the gym after a long day at work, or do you go home because you are too tired?  Do you cave in and eat the pizza and cookies  that the office brings in, or do you bring your own clean lunch and a healthy snack?  This all comes down to our minds and I know one thing for sure: we are much stronger than we think.  When we set ourselves up for success and really plan out our days ahead, we are more successful at everything, aren’t we?  The challenges will always be there, but when you have your mind set up that nothing is going to stop you, I believe nothing will stop you.
I hear people say all the time how tired they feel and need more energy, but  what are you doing to make a change to gain this energy?  You have heard this before, “if there is a will, there is a way”. Once you get it in your head that you want to make better choices, or change the way you eat, then you have to step up to the plate and this all starts with your mind.
Here are a few tips to try:
#1 – And this is the most important: you have to mentally prepare yourself ahead of time, commit to your goal, and plan a start date.
#2 – Give yourself enough time to mentally prepare so you can really  set yourself up for success.
#3 – If you do not have a gym membership, go visit a few then choose the best fit because not all gyms are the same.
Kelley’s Bootcamp is a great fit for all women looking for group fitness with women of all ages and fitness levels.
Research and plan your healthy meals and take your grocery list to the store for the week ahead. There are also many meal prep companies that can prepare your foods and ship them to you.  This makes life easier if you have the funds to do it.
Don’t be afraid to hire a coach for help in the beginning.  That is what we are here for.
Ask a friend to join you on this journey because you will need to lean on each other when times get tough.
Realize ahead that this is not going to be a cake walk.  There are always highs and lows when it comes to starting a healthy and fit lifestyle.  The highs will carry you through, but the lows can mess with your head and sometimes trick your mind into wanting to quit.  Try to read positive and motivating quotes daily to keep your head in the game.  My big piece of advice is, on the days you do not want to workout or eat clean, do it anyways.  Force yourself, because when the day is over, you will feel a sense of accomplishment and be so proud of yourself that you will want to thank me, which I would love for you to reach out.
If you constantly feed your mind positive thoughts, you will become more positive.  If you constantly judge yourself in a negative way, you will never reach your full potential and see yourself the way you should.  Positivity breeds positivity, right?  Don’t be so judgmental about your body, focus on your goal of becoming the best you while you can.  It all comes down to how badly do you want to feel better than you do today?  You are the only one to answer this question.  So the choice is yours alone.  What is it going to be?
Please reach out to me for any help in these areas.  My passion is to help you get on this healthy lifestyle train.  We all need someone for accountability and  to keep us on track, lets start today.
I have been in the fitness industry for over 15 years and let me tell you the truth, it is not always rainbows and unicorns.
One of the top questions I always get asked is, “How do you stay motivated all the time?”  My answer is always this: to be honest, I am NOT motivated all the time, but I know at the end of the day, I want to go to bed feeling accomplished.
In my world, getting in a workout 4-5 days a week is an accomplishment.  It is not always easy,  but I have set up habits over time so it is like brushing my teeth everyday.  Do you brush your teeth daily?  What do you do daily that is a habit? Once you start doing something over and over again, it becomes second nature to you even when you don’t feel like doing it, right?  Again, compare that to brushing your teeth.
The motivation comes from the habit that is created,  I have good days and bad days just like you, and I have been knocked down many times through life, just like you.  I have realized over the years that no one escapes adversity at times, but the question is, do you get back up on your feet or do you let your circumstances take over and keep you down?
When it comes to fitness and health, I believe you have to want it from deep inside or you don’t.  There is no in between.  People are driven by what they want, not necessarily by what they really need.  You could need to lose to weight, but do you really want to?  Do you want to put in the work it takes or be disciplined enough to eat the right foods to help you?  Sometimes, the hard answer is no.  Wouldn’t it be a perfect world if others could do the work for us, or pick us up off the floor and make us workout out or eat clean, but that is not happening.  It all comes down to you and your own decisions, so please look deep inside yourself and ask the question: do I want to be healthy and fit to live a more fulfilling life?  Or, am I going to stay home and wish for it.
There is one thing I know for sure, there are going to be times when you want to stay in bed or you had a bad day and don’t feel like doing anything at all.  These are the times you want to push yourself more because bad days can make great workouts.  Try it once and you will know exactly what I mean. You all have what it takes to become your healthiest and to be fit.  The choice is yours, and yours alone.
Here are a few things I do every single day to set myself up to be successful and I am going to share them with you:
#1 – Plan your workout ahead.  If you don’t have a plan, you will not be motivated to do much of anything when you get there.   This is where it is helpful to have a coach if you can, or find a workout online that you want to try within your fitness level.  Planning ahead is half the battle, but this can actually get you excited to go.
#2 – I set my alarm after dinner so mentally I am prepared, and I get my gym clothes ready.
#3 – I always have positive and motivational quotes in my bathroom, so I read them while I am brushing my teeth.
These don’t seem too hard, so give them a try and if you need help, you know where to find me!
So back to where do I get my motivation from? That is not the question you should be asking yourself, you should be asking,  am I ready to form a new habit of exercising each week or eating cleaner for my body?   Are you ready to commit to that answer, or are you going to stay home and let each day continually pass by?  I have hope that someone reading this will start a new life today and overtime, look back and be proud of what you have accomplished.  Trust me when I say this, there is no greater feeling than when you finish a workout, even if it is a 15 minute walk outside.  Your mind may be clearer, your outlook on life that day may be more positive, and you will be proud of yourself.
I always want you to remember one important thing: the best investment you can make, is in yourself.  Post that somewhere and read it every day for a reminder when you forget.  Please contact me for any fitness, training, or nutrition help.  I will be waiting!

Group Fitness: Is it For You?

Have you always thought of joining a group fitness class, but you’re not sure if you would like it?
Owning and leading Kelley’s Bootcamp for over 10 years has been an amazing experience for me for many different reasons.
My clients feel they have to show up and be accountable, especially if they have made friends in the class.  They also love competing against one another whether they admit that or not.  The atmosphere and “coffee talk” can actually make you want to work harder all together.  However, while some people love group fitness for many reasons, there are others that want to throw the headphones on, crank the music, and not speak to anyone in the gym.  They have laser focus on their workouts and they don’t want to start up a conversation or be interrupted during a set of exercises.
As much as I love working out alone,  I love the encouragement and support from the others in a class.   The energy is usually high, and sometimes there are even a few high fives which you won’t get when you are alone.
Some people are so afraid of the gym and they are also afraid to step into a class alone. They don’t know where to start and even can feel embarrassed which leads them to not doing anything at all.  I am here to tell you that no-one in the class is staring at you because they are focusing on themselves.  Everyone is in it together and we all have one goal: to make it through the class so we can feel proud.
Here are a few ideas to help you take the first step:
  • Try calling a friend to join you and make a plan to drive together so you do not back out.
  • Schedule your class as an important appointment in your calendar so you cannot break it.  Would you just NOT show up for a doctor appointment?
  • Register online and pay for your class or membership and remind yourself that if you don’t go, you are wasting your own precious money.
  • Find an instructor you connect with because we all have different personalities.  This may take going to a few different classes, but I assure you, when you find the right one, you will love it.  You will feel you belong to something, which as humans, we all love the feeling of belonging, right?
There is one major concern I have to tell you: going to a group fitness class may cause your heart rate to increase, which means you are burning calories, you may find new friends for life, and you might even lose weight and feel amazing about yourself.
So now,  you must make the decision, are you going to try group fitness and find out if it is for you, or stay home?
You won’t know until you try, and this could be one of the best decisions you ever made!