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Father Walker getting ready to go the distance

St. Rose parish vicar loses 70 pounds kickboxing

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    Father Walker, vicar at St. Rose Catholic Church in Perrysburg, has lost 70 pounds since May, 2015, with the help of Weight Watch­ers to manage his diet and his kickboxing regimen at 9Round Fitness.

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    Rev. Jeff Walker wraps up before he works out at 9Round Fitness.

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Things were not going well for the Rev. Jeff Walker after 20 minutes into his first serious physical activity since high school gym class.

The workout, with three-minute bursts of speed bag punches, bag kicks, and weighted abdominal exercises, was wearing out the kickboxing novice.

“You know, you don’t have to do all nine rounds your first time,” said Tony Perna, owner of 9Round Fitness at 126 W. South Boundary St., Perrysburg.

“I was crashing and burning,” Father Walker, parochial vicar at St. Rose Parish in Perrysburg, said. He finished the workout anyway, then sat absolutely still for 20 minutes, fighting the urge to vomit.

“It’s pretty intense if you come in the very first time, and come out of the gate really fast,” Mr. Perna said. “You’re going to pay for it.”

After he collected himself, Father Walker began to leave with plans of returning in a few days. A trainer told him to come back the next day, before the worst of the soreness struck, so he did.

“I came back the next day, and I’ve been going regularly ever since,” he said, 30 pounds lighter than when he started in June.

“I’m not where I want to be yet, but I’m definitely heading in the right direction,” he said.

Dating to May, 2015, when he began using Weight Watchers to manage his diet, Father Walker has dropped 70 pounds and wants to lose another 70.

“I don’t have a deadline for my scale goal,” he said. “I want to be at a healthy weight, I’m not quite at a healthy weight yet, but I realized that might take me another year, another two years, but it’s something I’m going to be living for the rest of my life.”

Father Walker goes to 9Round as often as he can, which usually means four or five times each week. The kickboxing gym offers a half-hour circuit training workout starting every three minutes, with a new workout every day. New members pay about $52 to $66 a month depending on their package plan, including a trainer, boxing gloves, unlimited workouts, and wraps.

“It’s similar to a nine-round boxing fight,” Mr. Perna said, though there is no fighting or sparring among gym members. “It's a full body workout, every time, including cardio.”

That constant variation appealed to Father Walker, along with the prescense of a trainer at each workout.

“We’re helping you with form. We’re helping you with your goals,” Mr. Perna said.

The combination of the trainers, the varied workouts, and a friendly atmosphere at the gym have kept Father Walker on track, despite a prior strong aversion to working out.

“I didn’t like physical activity,” he said. “I didn’t want anything to do with it. I only run if someone’s chasing me.”

But the workouts had him feeling better, both physically and spiritually. A Facebook post from 9Round, which read “First we form habits, then they form us,” summarized the change for Father Walker.

“They’re talking about working out, which is true,” he said. “You start getting into the habit of fitness, then you get into shape. But that’s the same with the spiritual life as well. We choose actions to do good things, and then our good choices form us into holy virtuous people. So there’s connections there.”

In the new year, his goal is to run a 5k with the middle school students of St. Rose, who organize a race in May.

Contact Zack Lemon at: zlemon@theblade.com, 419-724-6282, or on Twitter @zack_lemon.

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