Live Lee - Issue 3 - Health & Wellness - E-edition

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"Trail Magic" : Jessica Mills is an avid backpacker. Read more on page 48


Health and Wellness


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Health and Wellness


CONTRIBUTORS Emery Lay Natalie Salvatore Ally Shumpert Abigail Woods

DESIGN ILLUSTRATION LAYOUT Hannah Lester Yates Clanton Michelle Key

MARKETING Woody Ross Rena Smith

PHOTOGRAPHY Josh Fisher Hannah Lester

Michelle Key, Publisher Originally from Albertville, Alabama, Key and her family moved to the Opelika-Auburn area in 2011 after her husband’s retirement from the U.S. Navy. She is a graduate of Troy University, and she joined the Observer in 2014 as an office administrator before assuming ownership of the newspaper in January 2018.

Hannah Lester, Live Lee Associate Editor Hannah Lester is a 2019 journalism graduate from Auburn University who is originally from Birmingham. She started with the Opelika Observer in July and began as the Associate Editor for the Live Lee Magazine. She assigns, writes and edits pieces for the magazine, as well as helps to design the pages.

Will Fairless, Opelika Observer Associate Editor Will Fairless graduated from Auburn University’s journalism program in 2020. He is from St. Charles, Missouri, and has been working at the Opelika Observer since June 2019 as an associate editor.

Robert Noles

CONTACT US Key Media, LLC 207 N. 3rd St., Opelika Phone: 334-749-8003

Wil Crews, Opelika Observer Associate Sports Editor Wil Crews is an Auburn University 2020 journalism graduate originally from Prattville, Alabama. He works as the Opelika Observer’s associate sports editor and assists in developing the weekly paper and Live Lee Magazine.

LIVE Lee is a publication created by Key Media, LLC.

Robert Noles, Photographer Robert Noles is an award-winning photojournalist who has been with the Opelika Observer for more than 10 years. Originally from Tallassee, he is a graduate of Alabama Christian College and Auburn University. *Note from the publisher: Articles and opinions in this publication should not be construed as medical advice. Please consult with your physician before starting any diet, exercise routine, treatment or vitamin supplements.


TABLE OF CONTENTS Letter From The Associate Editor ..........................................6 Pandemic Workouts ................................................................8 Lee County Parks ...................................................................10 . Rowing With The Punches ...................................................20 Vitamins: A Key To Your Health .........................................27 A Heart To Heart ...................................................................30 A Different Gear ....................................................................34 Getting Active And Having Fun .........................................38 Healthy Eating .......................................................................42 Trail Magic .............................................................................48 Sports For All .........................................................................54 Life As A Respiratory Therapist ..........................................58 Early Morning Swim .............................................................62 KageFit ....................................................................................69 Changing With The Trends ..................................................75 Pickleball: Opelika’s Growing Sport ....................................80 The Unexpectedly Challenging Workout ...........................84 A Piece of the Healthcare Puzzle ........................................86 Once Bravehearts, Always Bravehearts ..............................90 Aspire Health – A Childhood Dream ................................96


Town Creek Park

Health and Wellness 1150 S. Gay St. Auburn

Letter from the Associate Editor in a row that my New Year’s resolution involves health in some way. I want to get eight hours of sleep, exercise more and eat healthier. The photo to your left is of me on my first backpacking trip in 2019. I didn’t really know what I was doing, but I sure had a lot of fun. Getting outside, in some form or fashion, is my favorite way to promote my health. One of the great things about being healthy is that it does not take a huge commitment. You don’t have to go for a run every day, meal prep for a month at a time or go on a crash diet. Making healthy choices is as simple as going for a walk with your dog or picking up an apple rather than a piece of chocolate. If you are wanting to make healthy choices, start with the simple things. This is our health and fitness issue. When we came up with the idea, however, I had a clear idea that I did not want this magazine to look like ‘Men’s Health,’ or include a lot of ways to promote ‘health’ in unhealthy ways.


cross the world, people made resolutions for the new year. Many of those resolutions will involve personal health in some way. Perhaps you made a resolution to exercise more, to give up sweets, to eat more fruits and veggies or to get more sleep. Health, fitness and well-being are at the forefront of many people’s minds when a new year hits. That’s why the gyms are always packed in February and more people are googling ‘healthy recipes.’

I wanted this issue to look like our last four issues — local people, local businesses and local stories. So, inside this magazine, you can read about a woman from Opelika who has made backpacking her life, the Auburn University Rowing Team and much more. Each story is about someone you may know, or could know, that are making healthy choices for their lives in a fun and unique way. Because being healthy is a lifestyle — and it comes with simple steps. — Hannah Lester, Associate Editor

I’m right there with you. This is the second year


Let's work together to keep our community clean for everyone's health. Contact Lee County District 4 Commissioner Robert Ham for information on how you can help keep litter off the roadways in your community.



Health and Wellness



Story By Hannah Lester Photos By Josh Fisher and Hannah Lester

hen you work out, you increase your serotonin levels, you lower your risk of diseases and chronic conditions and you can bump up your mood. Working out, however, in a crowded gym may not be your cup of tea during a pandemic. But don’t give up on your health — you can work out at home or outdoors! Here are some workout ideas to help you mix it up and keep form getting bored: Running Running requires little equipment — a pair of shoes and a place to run. I like to run in a local neighborhood by my apartment. I have friends who enjoy running downtown. We also have sev-

eral local parks in Auburn and Opelika that have trails for running (turn to page 8 to see our beautiful parks.) Make sure you pick a quality pair of shoes or you’ll start to experience shin splints and foot pain. I prefer the Salomons brand. The company makes shoes for trail running and pavement running in men’s and women’s sizes. Biking Biking also doesn’t require much equipment, at least not in Auburn. The Sustainability Office has a ‘War Eagle Bike Share’ program. Anyone can create an account ( war-eagle-bike-share/) to borrow the bicycles, and they aren't just for students.


The bikes do have to be kept within certain areas of Auburn, but the map is available online and it covers a wide area. Biking allows you to workout, combined with the added benefit of transportation. Hiking Auburn has hiking trails in both the Kreher Preserve and Nature Center and Chewacla State Park. Chewacla, located at 124 Shell Toomer Parkway, is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. each day, although it does require an entrance fee of $4 a person. Children age 4 to 11 and adults 62 and up can enter for $2, and if your child is under 4 years old, they can get in for free. The park also offers annual park passes. So, if you enjoy hiking and plan to go often enough, the annual park pass may be worth it to you. The Kreher Preserve and Nature Center has six miles of trails, and there is no entrance fee to the preserve. Hiking allows you to spend time in nature while also taking care of your daily exercise. Depending on how strenuous your hike is, wear your tennis shoes or a pair of hiking boots. I have a pair of Salomon boots with good traction that are also Gore-Tex so that I can hike through water and on slippery surfaces without taking a spill.


Calisthenics I do a lot of my exercising indoors, with minimal equipment. I have asthma, so once the winter months hit, I can no longer go running. The cold air negatively affects my lungs. I use calisthenics, such as bodyweight exercises, to get my heart rate up and to tone muscles. Although not necessary, I like to have a mat so that my elbows and knees don’t get sore. Try starting with some pushups, squats, lunges, jumping jacks and a plank. If you want to ramp it up, invest in a jump rope. Weights If you’re used to working out at a gym, with lots of weight sets and machines, consider investing in a set of exercise resistance bands. They will take up a lot less space in your home than a full weight set but still give you the benefits of resistance on your muscles. Workouts do not have to be a set amount of time in your day dedicated to working out; you can make choices every day that keep you active. Take the stairs instead of an elevator, park at the back of a parking lot and walk in or take your pet on an extra walk in the afternoon.

Kreher Preserve and Nature Center 2222 N College St., Auburn, Alabama, 36830 Photos from many of the beautiful parks throughout Lee County can be found in the following pages.

Health and Wellness

Whether it’s a relaxing stroll, fun hike or a playdate for your dog, Auburn and Opelika’s parks have it all.

Park Photos By Hannah Lester and Robert Noles


‘Town Creek Park (1150 S. Gay St. Auburn, Alabama)


Health and Wellness

Shady Park (2808 3rd Ave., Opelika, Alabama, 36801)

Kiesel Park (520 Chadwick Lane, Auburn, Alabama, 36832)


Kiesel Park (520 Chadwick Lane, Auburn, Alabama, 36832)

Municipal Park (Park Road, Opelika, Alabama, 36801)

Municipal Park (Park Road, Opelika, Alabama, 36801)


Health and Wellness

All Photos: Stern Park (1-99 N. 5th St., Opelika, Alabama, 36801)


Ray Ward Park (Crestview Street, Opelika, Alabama, 36801)

Spring Villa Park (1474 Co Road, 148, Opelika, Alabama, 36804)

Spring Villa Park (1474 Co Road 148, Opelika, Alabama, 36804)


Health and Wellness

All Photos, Hickory Dickory Park (1399 Hickory Lane, Auburn, Alabama)


Both Photos, Siddique Nature Park (3600 Waverly Parkway, Opelika, Alabama, 36801)


Health and Wellness

Floral Park (600 Floral St., Opelika, Alabama)

When Experience Matters • Personal Care & Companionship • Housekeeping & Laundry • Meal Planning & Preparation • Shopping, Transportation & Errands • Medication Reminders & Monitoring • Memory Care from Specialty Trained Caregivers Locally owned and operated by a Lee County native 334-539-5140 • 611 Glenn Ave, Ste. C • Auburn, Alabama 36830

Rowing With The Punches Story By Wil Crews Photos Contributed By The Auburn University Rowing Club



hether it’s cold and raining or it’s hot as Hades, the Auburn University Rowing Club is in the water. For years, it has competed regularly and on schedule. The club competed and medaled in a race called the Head of the Hooch in Chattanooga, Tennessee, in November of 2019, just four months before the onslaught of COVID-19. Club President Nick Belvin said it was a huge deal, as the club had never medaled at this particular event. It was an encouraging showing for the team, which typically consists of about 25 to 35 people, and a signifier that the club was heading in the right direction. In his wildest dreams, Belvin said he couldn’t have thought the race would be his last to date. “We got crushed by COVID,” he said.


The rowing team was in the midst of its final preparations for its first spring regatta — what they call a race — when COVID-19 shutdowns began and Auburn University went fully online, effectively, and unknowingly to Belvin, cancelling the 2020 rowing season. “It didn’t feel real when our season was cancelled,” said Rowing Club Vice President Annaka Brewer. Normally, the team would compete year-round in about seven events each season. The fall events feature longer races, rowers twisting and turning for up to five kilometers as they travel down the river. The spring is sprint season. This is the type of rowing that most novice water sport watchers are familiar with. Picture the Olympics, where boats filled with up to eight people race down a straightaway alongside other boats. You’re either first or

Health and Wellness

you’re last from there. When the rowers are not competing, practice is six days a week. However, it’s not steadfast for everyone; they stagger practice days due to limited equipment. The freshmen are eased into it and might get off with just two practices a week. “Unlike a lot of college sports, we are flexible with our schedules,” Belvin said. “Most freshmen didn’t know they were going to join the rowing team when they made their [school] schedules.” For the rest of the team, three days are spent in the water — well, in the boats that are in the water — and the three remaining days are spent working out in the campus recreation center. Two of those three rec days feature two-a-day workouts. For those who were fortunate to have not experienced these in their adolescence, it simply means two practices are happening that day and you will be exhausted by the end of it. It starts with one workout, either at 6 or 7 a.m. to allow for schedule flexibility, and those sessions are spent on the rowing machines. The afternoon is spent lifting with fitness trainers at the rec center. “Because we practice almost every day and some weekends, my teammates became my family,” Brewer said. “Practices were not only a great way to stay in shape, but an even better decompress from all the stresses of college and life.” The team has a little piece of property out on Lake Harding where it practices. The locale is about 45 minutes away from Auburn on the Alabama-Georgia line. Belvin said the beginning of the practices at the lake typically focus on aerobic capacity. “If you’re on a high-level varsity boat, one of those days out on water you’re going to be doing a 10k or 15k,” Belvin said. “It’s going to be decently low heart rate, no sprinting or anything. That’s going to really build your base. “As we move more into the season we will start adding in more mid-range and sprint pieces. That could be 500-meter pieces, or 6 by 1k mid-range piece, up until we peak for competition. Then we will back off a little on our intensity to give people some time to recover before a race.” However, all of that has been on hold since the spring

shutdowns because “club sports weren’t given too much leeway this semester,” Belvin said. Recently, the team was granted the ability to practice about six weeks into the 2020 fall semester, but only 12 members were permitted to gather at a time, and only two one-hour long practices were allowed per week. And the season was still completely canceled. “Now that we are slowly able to practice again, it feels great to be back,” Brewer said. “But it’s going to be a lot of work to get the team spark back. With a canceled season, team camaraderie became a top priority to maintain our current numbers and grow for seasons to come.” Furthermore, the missed practice time and canceled competitions have made Belvin wary of the team’s viability in the future. “There’s nobody to take over our key positions,” he said. “We have boats that need constant care, engines that need care, a 16-foot trailer that needs constant care; and not having funding or access to my rowing bank accounts to work on that stuff and keep it sound isn’t great.” Still, Belvin said he knows “a lot of clubs that have it a lot worse than us, so I’m grateful for that.” According to Belvin, the Auburn University Rowing Club has been around since 1992 or ‘94. He has been rowing since his freshman year of high school. “I saw [Auburn] had a team whenever I came down, and I joined up.” A D.C. native, Belvin said he knew rowing was “really small in the South.” The nature of the sport isolates it to bigger cities that run along river bodies. But Belvin insists there are parsecs of potential for rowing to grow at Auburn. “It’s something that once you’re in a rowing world


you don’t want to leave it,” he said. “Anybody that has stuck with us for more than a month haven’t quit the club. It’s very much a family. It’s also a full body workout. It’s one the few cardio sports where you’re not working just your legs, you’re working every muscle when you’re rowing.” Belvin went on to say that before his time at Auburn, there were rumors that either equestrian or women’s rowing would be the next varsity sport added to the university’s official lineup. The fact that the rowing team operates without a coach may have hurt their chances. “There has been on and off coaching through the years,” he said. “But that’s truly a shame with Auburn being such a big university and sports-oriented school. If someone were to lay their roots here, they would find a lot of success.” Equestrian has gone on to see great success, which might have made it an even harder pill to swallow, but Belvin has remained positive. He joked that the club’s best shot at becoming an official university sport just went out the window with Gus Malzahn’s buyout. Belvin is a junior majoring in electrical engineering, and he’s had a passion for rowing for many years now. However, he says the typical member of the rowing club is nothing like him. “Most people who join our rowing team don’t have any experience,” he said. “It’s one of those college sports where you don’t have to have ridden to join up.” Brewer fits that mold. “Going into my freshman year of college I wanted to try any and everything until something stuck for me,” Brewer said. “Rowing stuck!” The feeling of camaraderie and physical aptitude that is built when rowing is second to none. “Before and throughout a race, there is an indescribable amount of togetherness and adrenaline a rower feels,” Brewer said. “Every stroke of movement is felt in that boat and when your boat is in sync, reaching your max pressure, there’s no rush like it.” Belvin spoke to that same appeal. “It’s very much a team sport,” Belvin said. “It

revolves around rowing for the men or women in front of you. You’re either in a two-person, four-person or eight-person boat. In that aspect of rowing, it’s very important to be in time; it’s a very rhythmic sport. A lot of people in the sport call it the king of team sports.” It’s not easy to be king of anything. However, besides having a royal bloodline, rowing might be one of the easiest ways to earn that title — albeit selfproclaimed. Regardless, it is a sport that works every major muscle group in the body and is a great way to stay in shape. “One of the unique things about rowing is that anyone can do it,” Belvin said. “You don’t need experience. We don’t have tryouts; we don’t cut anyone. If you’re looking to be athletic or find a sport to get you out and exercising every day, this is a good sport to try out.”


You don’t need experience. We don’t have tryouts; we don’t cut anyone. If you’re looking to be athletic or find a sport to get you out and exercising every day, this is a good sport to try out.


Health and Wellness


Vitamins: A Key To Health Story By Abigail Woods


o you take your vitamins as a pill? A gummy? Do you make sure you get it in your fruits and veggies? No matter how you take them, vitamins are essential to

your health. According to Merriam-Webster, the definition of vitamin is “any of various organic substances that are essential in minute quantities to the nutrition of most animals and some plants, act especially as coenzymes

and precursors of coenzymes in the regulation of metabolic processes but do not provide energy or serve as building units, and are present in natural foodstuffs or sometimes produced within the body.” That’s a lot of words to say that a vitamin is something required for life that we, in most cases, are unable to produce in the body. The only way to acquire many of the vitamins we need is through consumption of animal and plant foods.


Health and Wellness

Vitamins and supplements are made in four different grades, according to Terry Wingo, RPh, pharmaceutical, medical, food and research. “The vast majority of nutrient products sold are food grade because they are the cheapest to manufacture and often require no testing,” Wingo, who is a pharmacist at Madison Drugs in Huntsville, said. The food-grade vitamins often have inactive forms of the labeled ingredient and may include binders or fillers that could interfere with activity. More often than not, the majority of online products are food grade such as mail order, multilevel and market products. Because of the way food is produced today, many of the nutrients we take in are rich in calories, but lacking sources for active forms of vitamins. Our bodies also require other nutrients like minerals, which, according to Wingo, are not easily balanced from commercial food sources. COVID-19’s prevalence in the United States is going on a year now, and people have turned to vitamins and supplements to protect them from the virus and strengthen their immune capacity. “The top three nutrients needed to maintain immune response are vitamin C, vitamin D3 and zinc,” Wingo said. Vitamin D3 Vitamin D3 has “broad implications for immunity with optimal levels being associated with lower cancer risks as well as maintaining our bodies’ antiviral response,” Wingo said. Vitamin D3 is a form of vitamin D that you can take in naturally through foods or sunlight. “Vitamin D isn’t found in many foods, but you can get it from fortified milk, fortified cereal and fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines,” said a report by the Mayo Clinic. “The amount of vitamin D your skin makes depends on many factors, including the time of day, season, latitude and your skin pigmentation. . . Many older adults don’t get regular exposure to sunlight and have trouble absorbing vitamin D, so taking a multivitamin with vitamin D will likely help improve bone health.” A study for the Royal College of Physicians Clinic Medical Journal discussed how vitamin D could improve a patient’s response to the coronavirus. COVID-19 responses and outcomes are determined by a number of pre-existing factors, including whether the patient has pneumonia, severe acute respiratory distress syndrome, myocarditis and more.

In other words, is there inflammation? Vitamin D is known to counteract inflammation, the study said. “The fatality rate was high in vitamin D deficient (21% vs 3.1%),” said a study conducted by researchers at M.L.B. Medical College. “Vitamin D level is markedly low in severe COVID-19 patients. Inflammatory response is high in vitamin D deficient COVID-19 patients. This all translates into increased mortality in vitamin D deficient COVID-19 patients.” Of course, this is a novel virus and researchers are still learning new information. While the Mayo Clinic said that there is not enough information to definitively say that vitamin D can help prevent COVID-19, it also said that there have been studies that show that those who are vitamin D deficient may be more prone to contracting the virus. Vitamin C Vitamin C is another one of those vitamins that you can take in through food. Particularly citrus. Grab an orange and soak in that vitamin C. Vitamin C stabilizes immune response by multiple mechanisms and is required for cross-collagen linkage, aka tissue repair. Americans eat a lot of sugar, specifically processed sugar, and Wingo said that the intake of sugars impairs vitamin C transport and reduces white blood cell activity. The Mayo Clinic said that most Americans can take in enough vitamin C through healthy-eating habits. Zinc As for zinc, it is the second most depleted mineral under stress and is part of over 200 different enzyme pathways, Wingo said. He further explained that zinc helps with viral immunity, thyroid transport and binding and the activation of testosterone receptors. Zinc is found in all kinds of common food including meat, shellfish, legumes (like chickpeas), seeds, nuts and dairy, among others. While there are countless vitamins on the market, and all are technically required, many of the products sold in the supplement category are not necessary. According to Harvard Health Publishing in an article titled, “Can supplements help boost your immune system?”, people are encouraged to wash their hands, maintain a healthy/balanced lifestyle, manage stress and get vaccinated. These strategies, combined with the consumption of vitamins may prove to keep a person both happy and healthy.


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A heart to heart


Story By Ally Shumpert Illustration By Yates Clanton

ach year, 224 million roses are grown and cultivated in preparation for Valentine’s Day, but from one heart holiday to another, it takes a lot more than a dozen roses to keep a heart healthy during the month of love. With approximately 801,000 victims each year, heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States according to the Center for Disease Control. Like many other states, the state of Alabama

follows this trend. More than 13,110 Alabamians died of heart-related diseases in 2017, making it the fourth-highest state in the number of annual heart-disease-related deaths. Heart Disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and is also the most preventable, according to the Heart Foundation. Each February, organizations across the United States team up to increase awareness of heart health by sponsoring events, creating awareness campaigns and encouraging increased exercise among Americans.


“Heart Disease is the leading cause of death in the United States and it is also the most preventable, according to the Heart Foundation”


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The campaign first began in December 1963 when President Lyndon B. Johnson declared that February 1964 would serve as the first Heart Health Month in the United States. In his proclamation, Johnson urged “the people of the United States to give heed to the nationwide problem of the heart and blood-vessel diseases and to support the programs required to bring about its solution.” Thus, American Heart Health Month was born. Since 1964, the United States has celebrated Heart Health Month a total of 56 times, but there is still work to be done. The National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute has teamed up with The Heart Truth® to emphasize the importance of taking care of our hearts and bodies, in the wake of a rise in heart-disease related deaths. Each year, the two organizations team up during Heart Health Month to encourage Americans to adopt healthy lifestyles in hopes of decreasing heart disease nationwide. This year, the organizations are asking members to participate

by sharing posts on social media platforms that include the hashtag, #OurHearts. In addition to the custom hashtag, the organizations have created day-of-the-week themes to promote various self-care items throughout the course of the month. From #MindfulMonday all the way to #SelfieSaturday, participants are asked to make heart health a regular part of their self-care routine. The Heart Foundation said the best way to get involved during Heart Health Month is through the following five ways: wear red on National Wear Red Day, hold a fundraiser or start a fundraising campaign, donate to the Heart Foundation, increase awareness through social media and educate yourself on the seriousness of heart disease. With so many options, participants are sure to find a way to celebrate Heart Health Month, but no matter how you decide to celebrate Heart Health Month this year, be sure to love your heart every step of the way.


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A Different


Story By Wil Crews Photos Contributed By Ray Colley


or those local to Auburn and the Lee County area, Chewacla State Park is a special piece of land. Labeled as the last foothill of the Appalachians, Chewacla transports its visitors from the grassy Plains of Auburn to a vast, rocky and natural landscape that epitomizes “the great outdoors.” With miles of trail to explore, lake views, creeks and historic features, outdoorsy men and women can experience this unique state park in any way they choose. But one of the best and most distinct ways is it to bike it. “One of the great things about Chewacla, really two great things, but one is proximity,” said the Director of the Auburn High School Mountain Bike Team Brian Prowell. “It’s right in Auburn, so it’s easy to get to. But then it also has trails for really all levels of riders — it’s got something for everybody.” Whatever your reason for visiting the park, mountain biking is a great way to find the nuance in nature and it’s also one of the most unique ways to get a great workout. “In mountain biking, you’re best not sitting in your seat the whole time,” Prowell said. “Your whole body is moving. You think of cycling as a leg workout but mountain biking is kind of a full-body workout. You need good core strength, some upper body strength. Just getting comfortable with what ‘we call bikebody separation,’ being able to let the bike be in one position and your body balanced in another really helps on trails to keep traction and to be able to go over obstacles like rocks and things. That can be a lot of fun.” Like any sport, mountain biking can take years to master, but it’s really for anyone who knows how to ride a bike. “I think mountain biking is very approachable.”


Prowell said he rode over 5,000 miles last year. A lot of it was at Chewacla. “Even though I ride the same trails, you ride them in different directions,” Prowell said. “You can put different loops together; you can keep it interesting.” There are many things that get people hooked on mountain biking, but Prowell said he loves it for two reasons. “One, I don’t have to be worried about being run over by a car or someone messing with their cell phone while driving that’s not paying attention,” Prowell said. “But at the same time, mountain biking, at least to go fast, takes a lot of focus. So it’s like you know you might be worried about work or school or whatever, but when you’re flying down a trail you need to let all of that go. “You just focus on where you’re going. It’s not like planned thinking. As you get more experienced, your body is reacting. It knows what to do, and it kind of sees what is coming and just reacts to that. You get in a state where you’re concentrating and you’re just flowing along. That to me is just a great deal of fun.” Another avid mountain biker, cycling coach and Auburn

resident Bill Perry, said he loves the sport for similar reasons. “It’s all great: the people, the endless opportunities to travel and see great places as well as the healthy lifestyle,” Perry said. Mountain biking has a unique way of helping you literally run — or ride — away from your earthly troubles, but you just might find something unexpected in it too — a welcoming community. “Mountain bikers for the most part are very friendly people,” Prowell said. “Friendlier than a lot of the people in the road-cycling world. The other times I’m riding slower it’s just a social ride in talking to people and that’s also fun in a different way. But being out in nature, just being focused on all that without any other cares is really awesome.” The Auburn area has seen a mountain-biking boom over the last decade. “2011 is when the current trail system began to be built,” Prowell said. “The Lake Wilmore trails were built in 2010, and that really started a mountain biking movement in Auburn and then went on to start Chewacla.”


Health and Wellness

Chewacla is the site of CAMP-SORBA’s main-trail system. It’s a system that features over 30 miles of singletrack. The park provides these first-class mountain “tracks” thanks in part to its great partnership with Central Alabama Mountain Peddlers (CAMP). CAMP is an official IMBA (International Mountain Bicycling Association) chapter that is centered in the Auburn/Opelika area. The park has two faces — the lower and upper Chewacla system — both great for mountain biking. The lower features oldschool, hand-built trails that range from beginner to advanced. The upper system is home to flow trails, a free-ride area and some extended technical rock sections. Furthermore, the upper system features elevation gains and losses with several wooden features to keep even the most experienced riders on their toes. Chewacla’s mountain biking trails range from 0.15 to 8 miles. According to camp-sorba. org, there are 20 total mountain biking trails at Chewacla. Many of the trails sub-categorize into alternate paths so there are plenty of options for both beginners and experts. Take the “For Pete’s Sake Trail,” for example. It’s Chewacla’s longest trail, at eight miles. As the rider runs along former farmland and weaves through stands of pines and hardwoods, the trail features steep slopes, technical climbs, narrow bridges, loose rocks and short climbs. Furthermore, it has five alternate “off’s” that make sure returning riders always have something new to look forward to. “The best part of mountain biking at Chewacla, for me, is the fact that I have been a founding CAMP-SORBA board member so I have been watching the trails, the sport and the enthusiasm grow from its beginnings,” Perry said. So, if you want to improve your quality of life, find a new community to be a part of or just switch up the way you experience the great outdoors, mountain biking may be for you. “You can ride one mile and put up your hammock or ride 25 miles and make it a great workout — or anything in between,” Prowell said.



Health and Wellness

Getting Active And Looking for ways to get active and involved in your community? Auburn’s Parks and Recreation department offers several sports and leagues for adults of all ages.



Perhaps you’ve never heard of pickleball. Perhaps you’re an avid player. Whatever your skill level, the city of Auburn offers free pickleball.

The city of Auburn has an adult pick-up soccer league for ages 18 and up that plays on weekends from February through March.

The game can be played on the Samford Avenue tennis courts which have been marked for pickleball. There are also courts at Frank Brown Recreation Center.

Registration for soccer began on Jan. 5 and games are played on the weekends.

Grab a friend, or three, and play as singles or teams.

For questions, email Houston Manning ( or visit the city website (


Having Fun

Tennis Ever wanted to learn how to play tennis? The Auburn Parks and Rec Department is offering a tennis clinic from March to May, three days a week in the mornings for beginning, intermediate and advanced players. A once-a-week practice has a $35 fee; the twice-aweek clinic has a $50 fee and the three-a-week clinic has a $70 fee. There is an evening beginners class that will be held on Thursdays.


If your skills are a little more advanced, consider the twice-a-week evening clinic which will hone tennis skills. For a once-a-week course, the class is only $35. To practice twice a week, the fee will be $50.

The city of Auburn has a men’s softball league available. A $450 fee is required to register a team for the spring. Registration opened Feb. 1 and will close on March 12. Bats are provided by the Auburn Softball Complex and each team will play 12 to 15 games.

Finally, there is an Adult 3.0+ clinic for adults with match experience playing tennis. The clinic is only held on Tuesdays and will cost $35.

For more information, call the Auburn Softball Complex (334-501-2976) or email Robby Carter (

Thanks to COVID-19, there are only eight participants allowed per clinic. To register, contact Pam Owen (


Health and Wellness



Dance is another great way to get moving and exercise. Carmen and Marnie Mattei offer dance classes by appointment from March through May. The two teach progressive two steps, the waltz, the westcoast swing, the east-coast swing, the cha-cha, the night club 2 step, the triple 2 step, the rhythm 2 step and line dances.

Auburn offers golf lessons for both children and adults at Indian Pines Golf Course. Fred Holton, PGA general manager, and Jerry Bavaro, PGA head golf professional, provide the lessons for $75 an hour for adults. For a half-hour session, lessons are $45.

To register, contact Marnie Mattei (

Clubs and bags are not provided and due to COVID-19 there is only one golfer allowed per golf cart.

The city of Auburn also offers Zumba. Zumba with Allison is held on Tuesdays and Thursdays from March to May for hour-long classes. There is a registration fee and to participate, just drop in for $5. Or, save money and pay for 10 classes at $40. Zumba All-Starz is also held on Monday, Wednesday and Friday from March to May for drop-in at $5 or for $45 a month.

To register, call 334-821-0880.

There is something...




Karate is not just for children. The parks and recreation department offers yoshukai karate for teens and adults twice a week for 30-minute sessions. Due to COVID-19, the classes are limited to four participants.

Everyone played kickball as a child. Now, you can carry on your kickball dreams into adulthood. Auburn’s kickball league is co-ed and registration began on Feb. 1 and will end on March 12 in time for the kick-off (pun intended) on March 17.

To register, contact Jim Robertson (334703-2402). The classes begin with the basics of the sport, including strikes, blocks and kicks. Students move into self-defense and weapon use as well as more advanced strikes, blocks and kicks

There is a $225 entry fee to register a team in the 12 to 15 game season. There must be 10 players and at least four must be female players. For more information, send questions to Robby Carter ( or the Auburn Softball Complex 334-501-2976.

for everyone!


Health and Wellness

Maybe you’ve heard the phrase “eat the rainbow.” This doesn’t just apply to skittles. Eating the colors of the rainbow is important to make sure you’re getting in your greens, your fruits and your veggies. We’ve put together a small collection of healthy recipes that won’t take too much time to make, will help you eat more fruits and veggies and that you’ll most likely find just as delicious as they are healthy.



a la d s a r e a g re a t w ay to g et m o re th a n o n e fr u it o r v e g g ie in t o a m e a l. I k n o w , you m ay have an a u to m a tic a v e r s io n to s a la d s , b u t w h e n m a d e w ith th e r ig h t in g r e d ie n ts — y o u m a y fi n d t h a t a s a l a d is s o m e th in g y o u ca n lo o k fo r w a r d to . P lu s , m a k in g a s a la d c a n b e p r e t t y s im p le .

K a le , Qu in o a a n d Ma n d a r in S a la d :

D ir e ct io n s: - P r e p a r e t h e q u in o a a cco r d in g t o t h e d ir e ct io n s o n t h e b a g o r b ox . D o n o t p r e p a r e it a ll a s yo u w ill n o t w a n t m u ch o n yo u r sa la d . - Wh ile t h e q u in o a co o k s, w a sh a n d cu t yo u r k a le . I u se m y h a n d s t o t e a r t h e k a le in t o b it e -size d p ie ce s. - Wa sh a n d cu t t h e Ma n d a r in o r a n g e s. - R in se t h e ch ick p e a s in w a t e r. - Co m b in e in g r e d ie n t s in a b o w l. - I d o n o t u se sa la d d r e ssin g s o n m y sa la d s, b u t o p t in st e a d t o d r izzle o live o il o ve r t h e t o p.

Sp in a ch , Ap p le , Fo n t in a S a la d :

D ir e ct io n s: - Th is is a sim p le sa la d t o m a k e , so it w o n ’t t a k e yo u lo n g . - Wa sh t h e sp in a ch a n d p la ce a su it a b le a m o u n t f o r a se r v in g in t o a b o w l. - Wa sh a n d slice yo u r a p p le in t o b it e -size d p ie ce s. - Usin g yo u r fi n g e r s, t e a r t h e ch e e se in t o sm a lle r, b it e -size d p ie ce s. Mix t o g e t h e r a n d d r izzle w it h o live o il.

I n g r e d ie n t s: - 1 b u n ch o f k a le - 1 m a n d a r in o r a n g e s - 1 t a b le sp o o n q u in o a - 1 ca n o f lo w -so d iu m ch ick p e a s - Olive Oil.

Alt h o u g h sim p le , t h is is m y f a vo r it e sa la d . Ap p le a n d ch e e se p a ir ve r y w e ll t o g e t h e r a n d I fi n d t h a t a f t e r I d r izzle t h is sa la d w it h o live o il, I ’m scr a p in g t h e b o w l f o r m o r e . I n g r e d ie n t s: - 1 b a g o f sp in a ch - 1 m e d iu m g a la a p p le - Fo n t in a Ch e e se (Av a ila b le a t ce r t a in st o r e s m o r e t h a n o t h e r s. I fi n d m in e in t h e d e li se ct io n a t P u b lix . - Olive Oil.


– Hannah

Health and Wellness



1 1/2 CUPS NUTS OF YOUR CHOICE 1 CUP OF CERTIFIED GF ROLLED OATS 1/2 CUP BLANCHED ALMOND FLOUR 1/4 CUP HONEY 1/4 CUP EXTRA VIRGIN OLIVE OIL 1/4 TSP SALT (OPTIONAL) CINNAMON OR VANILLA (OPTIONAL) Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Mix all the ingredients together in a large bowl until everything is coated with oil and honey. Spread evenly onto a large baking pan that is lined with parchment paper. Bake for 20 minutes and gently stir, return to oven for another 15 minutes. Remove from oven as it is lightly browned. It will crisp as it cools. If desired, dried fruit such as dried bananas or cranberries can be added after the granola has cooled. DAIRY-FREE YOGURT INGREDIENTS

• • • • • INSTRUCTIONS Blend the milks , gelatin and probiotics together and add to a sterilized pint-size jar. Place a lid on top of the jar but do not screw down tight – just enough to hold it in place Add 1 cup of water to the Instant Pot and then place the stainless steel steam rack inside. Carefully place the jar on the rack and lock the Instant Pot


lid in place. Make sure the vent mechanism is set to seal. Press the “yogurt” button, and adjust the time to 8 to 10 hours. When the Instant Pot is done, use the quick release and vent the pressure and remove the jar. Stir the yogurt and give it a taste to see if it is tart enough for your liking. The yogurt can be processed for another one to two hours if you prefer it to be more tart tasting.


Otherwise, sweeten to taste using your preferred sweetener. Refrigerate for at least eight hours – giving it a quick stir or a shake occasionally to prevent it from separating while setting up. I like to triple this recipe and make three jars at the same time in my eight-quart Instant Pot. ~ Michelle

Roasted Vegetables “Does the sound of a squash make you gag? Do you turn your nose up at green veggies? Do you smother carrots in ranch to avoid the taste? Worry no more, you can oven-roast your veggies for more flavor and a healthy addition to your meals.”


he beauty of this recipe is you can make it your own. Choose to use the vegetables you like to eat: mushrooms, broccoli, halved brussells sprouts and potatoes all

Veggie Options: - thin baby carrots - sweet onion - butternut squash - zucchini - cauliflower - squash - red, yellow or green bell pepper Other Ingredients: - olive oil - seasoning salt - pepper - garlic powder

work well. Add any spices you prefer. We like to add a sprinkle of cajun seasoning. You can also make a large amount and have them available to eat for several days. Directions: - preheat oven to 425 degrees - line a large sheet pan with aluminum foil for easy clean up - cut zucchini, squash, cauliflower, onions and peppers into wedges. - sprinkle with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil or spray with olive oil spray. - Sprinkle with salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste. - place in preheated oven uncovered for 20 minutes. Stir well. If you like your vegetables crisp, you may want to remove after 20 to 30 minutes. If you prefer them softer, cook longer.


Health and Wellness

Illustrations By Yates Clanton



moothies are an incredibly easy, healthy and delicious start to the day as breakfast, as a snack or as a pre- or post-workout drink. If you have a blender, you can make a smoothie. The best part is that smoothies can be adjusted

to your preferences. If you avoid classic dairy options, make the yogurt on page 40 and substitute milk for your favorite non-dairy milk alternative. Switch out any of the fruits for other options as most fruits go together well automatically.

Strawberry Oatmeal Smoothie:

Orange Vanilla Smoothie:

Ingredients: - A handful of frozen Strawberries - 1/2 cup of rolled oats - 1/2 cup of 2% milk - 1 cup of Two Good Vanilla Yogurt or any vanilla greek yogurt. Directions: - Scoop the yogurt, strawberries, oats and milk into the blender and blend.

Ingredients: - One orange - 1/2 cup of 2% milk - 1 cup of Two Good Vanilla Yogurt - Vanilla Extract Directions: - Scoop the yogurt, sliced orange, and milk into the blender and blend. - After it blends, taste the smoothie to see if you want the vanilla extract. I normally add a couple of drops and then taste it to see if I want more.

I wing my smoothies by my preference of the day. Some days I prefer a smoothie thicker, almost like a slushie or milkshake. Other days, I want it to be heavier on the liquids and feel more like a juice. You should also play with these ingredients to your preferences. These ingredients are set for a single-serve smoothie. - That’s it. Pretty simple, right? - If you want your smoothie a little sweeter, consider adding a drop or two of vanilla extract. ~ Hannah


Health and Wellness

Trail Magic Story By Hannah Lester Photos Contributed By Jessica Mills



Health and Wellness


an you imagine strapping on 25-pound pack, lacing up a pair of hiking boots and heading into the woods for a six-month trip — all without ever having gone backpacking before? That’s what Jessica Mills did for her first backpacking experience; she fulfilled a childhood dream. “When I was a little girl — I was probably around five years old — I would go vacation a lot up in the North Carolina area with my family,” Mills said. “And we were standing at the Newfound Gap area one day … it’s up in the Smoky Mountains and it’s on the border of North Carolina and Tennessee. I remember being super excited that I could stand in two states at one time; it blew my mind. “But then there was this sign across the parking lot, and I could read but I had never seen the word Appalachian. So I asked my mom, ‘What did that say?’ And she said, ‘That says Appalachian Trail.’ And I said, ‘Well what’s that?’ And she said, ‘Well it’s a path where crazy people walk from Georgia to Maine.’” The thought transfixed Mills, and at five years old, she tried to convince her mom to walk the Appalachian with her that day. “That’s just something I really wanted to do from that moment on,” she said. “And she told me, ‘Well someday you can do that.’” Mills kept the dream in the back of her head for years but wasn’t able to make it happen until a few years after she graduated from Auburn University. “One day, I just woke up and I was 28 years old and I felt like I had done everything that society says you should do to be successful and happy,” she said. “You know that’s what we tell our young adults, like this is the path. So I took that path and it’s just not for everybody. Because I woke up and I’m like, ‘Man, is this all?’" She started thinking back to her childhood goal of hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT) and wondering if maybe she should quit her full-time job in Colorado to pursue that dream. Contemplating the idea, Mills happened to run into a man at a restaurant who was a backpacker. All the tables in the place were full, and he sat with Mills and her coworkers. He shared his story of hiking the entire AT the year


Jessica Mills with her grandparents at the Tennessee State Line at five years old.

Jessica Mills returned years later to complete the AT.

before, and Mills took it as a sign. Three months later, in November, she moved back to her hometown of Opelika and prepared to hike the Appalachian Trail. “By March, I was on the AT, and I had never been on an overnight backpacking trip,” she said. “The Appalachian Trial takes approximately six months to complete. It’s around 2,200 miles and most people go from Georgia up to Maine, and so that’s what I did.” For those unfamiliar, when backpacking, you need to pack everything you will use into the one pack on your back. This would include a place to sleep, either a tent or hammock; food; cooking supplies; clothes and anything else you might need. Mills, having never been backpacking before, had to learn everything on the go. “The first night I was like, ‘What in the hell have I gotten myself into?’” she said. She did try to prepare by watching videos and reading blogs about what the experience would be like. While on the trail, Mills decided she should start sharing her own experiences too — in the form of a YouTube account. Mills said she’d been toying with the idea of a blog, but a friend suggested vlogging the trail instead. The idea, apparently, was a good one. The backpacker’s YouTube channel, Homemade Wanderlust, has 328,000 subscribers now. There were all kinds of new experiences to be shared: hitchhiking into town from the trail, learning that she preferred a tent to a hammock, filtering water from a

stream. The trail takes six months to complete, so you can’t carry everything you’ll need all at once. Every few days, backpackers have the opportunity to make their way to the nearest town and stock up on supplies. This was also Mills’ chance to upload the recent footage she’d taken. “I have somebody who edits the videos for me so what I do is when I get to a town … I recharge everything up, but I have battery banks that I carry with me … and then once I get to a town, I connect to Wi-Fi, or just use my LTE, and I upload the video clips to Dropbox and then he takes them from there and edits them into a video.” The YouTube channel became popular, and it was able to sustain Mills’ backpacking lifestyle. “It’s become more interesting to me to try to help people have that experience sitting at home, and whether that’s just to encourage them to get out and do it themselves, or I don’t know. It’s kind of like other people create art, paintings or music, and my thing is just capturing these experiences and sharing them with people that maybe would never see them otherwise.” The experiences: Although Mills started the trail alone, there were plenty of friends along the way. “I kind of felt like people were going to judge me, like ‘This girl is an idiot. She has no idea what she’s doing.’ But it was actually not like that; people were very helpful.” Mills had a taste of what backpackers call “trail magic.”


Health and Wellness

“There are people who will do what’s called, ‘trail magic,’ and they’ll show up where the trail crosses a road, or a random dirt road in the woods or whatever and they’ll cook. They’ll make hamburgers and so you walk up and there’s a stranger that’s like, ‘Hey, you want a hamburger?’” During trips into town for supplies, Mills discovered that often strangers will open their homes to backpackers for a night, for a place to sleep or a hot meal. Sometimes backpackers will hike a section of the trail together, so they end up seeing each other a lot, becoming friends. Mills met all kinds of people too, people who helped her appreciate things and grow as a person, she said. “When you’re out there in the woods and you’re sitting across a campfire from somebody who’s got a different religion from you or different politics, you don’t care about that,” Mills said. “And even if you do talk about it, it’s much different than the world that we kind of live in, this synthetic world. It’s not social media; it’s real.” On the trail, the focus is the basic necessities, Mills said. The backpackers worry about what they will eat, what they will drink and where they will sleep, not about the things most people tend to stress about in their daily lives. “When I walk into a store and it’s raining, I don’t care about an umbrella, I’m just glad I don’t have to sleep in it,” she said. That first trip led to many more, and you could now call Mills a full-time backpacker. “I was kind of going on the trail to get away and think about life, but I didn’t really know that I was already kind of starting the next chapter,” she said. After the Appalachian, Mills took a little time off before starting on her next trail, the Pacific Crest Trail and after that, the Continental Divide Trail, completing the Triple Crown of Hiking. She’s also had some international hiking experience; Mills and her sister completed the El Camino de Santiago in Spain. This experience was a little different. The two stayed in hostels at night rather than in tents. Mills was supposed to hike a trail, the Te Araroa, in New Zealand this year, but the worldwide pandemic put a stop to those plans.

Instead, she’s been working on completing the Pinhoti Trail. Mills backpacking memories are experiences she could not have had anywhere else. “I’ve been bluff charged by a bear,” she said. “I’ve also stared at a mountain lion for a minute and a half. We had like a whole stare down.” Once, while on the trail, Mills said that she and a friend were talking to a group of day hikers, a dad and his two children. One of the children asked Mills if she wanted a Cheeto. “I was like, ‘no sweetie, it’s okay, that’s your Cheeto,’” Mills said she told the girl. “She offered me a Cheeto, even though I really did want it. The food in my pack was getting pretty low and it was still another day until we got to town. So I wanted the Cheeto.” While Mills and her friend talked with the family, the girl happened to drop one of her Cheetos. “I looked at my friend. I noticed my friend see the Cheeto hit the ground. And I saw the Cheeto hit the ground. And it was this mutual understanding that as soon as they left, it was going to be a race for the Cheeto, an Olympic-style battle over the Cheeto. So, this man’s talking, and I cannot even remember what he was talking about because all I was focusing on was the Cheeto. Anyway, he was about to leave, and he’s like, ‘Alright guys, well let’s go ahead and get out of here,’ and he starts packing up their stuff and he starts walking away. And then he stops, and kind of stiffens up and he turns back around and comes over and picks up the Cheeto and says, ‘Leave no trace.’ And we just both died inside.” Mills can recall the story now with a laugh, but it is a prime example of life on the trail. Anyone who wants to watch more of her trail experiences or see scenes from the different treks can follow along via Mills’ YouTube channel (www. or her Instagram ( homemadewanderlust/?hl=en). It all started years ago with seeing a sign for the Appalachian Trail. Years later, she did it, the full 2,200 miles. “Only 20% of the people who start out on that trek actually finish, so for sure, accomplishing that is something that I think builds a lot of confidence in somebody.”



Health and Wellness

Sports For All


Story By Hannah Lester Photos By Robert Noles And Hannah Lester

ee County’s Special Olympics program was created to ensure that individuals with cognitive disabilities have a chance to participate in athletic events. “There’s opportunities usually for everybody and it’s a chance to gain physical skills, gain handeye coordination, learn about a new sport, gain social skills, make new friends, there’s all sorts of opportunities and benefits that Special Olympics can provide,” said Elizabeth Kaufman, the Lee County Special Olympics director.

There is very little that can stop a Special Olympics athlete from participating. Lee County Special Olympics has teams for a lot of sports, like track and field, swimming or bowling. Kaufman joined the Lee County Special Olympics program three and a half years ago, and since that time the program has added both tennis and bocce ball. Special Olympics has concessions for those who could not participate in the sports in the same way that others would. For instance, in bowling, a ramp can be used to help roll the ball for athletes in a wheelchair.


“We have track and field that includes wheelchair, walking and running events so there really is something for every ability level and everybody,” Kaufman said. “And I think that’s really important to remember, that no matter what your ability level is, there is something you can do.” In addition to practices, the teams participate in three levels of competitions. Level one involves scrimmages, which are held against other local teams, Kaufman said. Level two is local competitions, Kaufman said. These competitions qualify teams for state competitions, which are held annually. Finally, Level three involves the teams competing at a national level, if they qualify in a state competition. Right now, only golf and bocce ball are being offered for athletes, due to the pandemic. Both can be played outside with social distancing. Bocce Ball: Mary Doiron’s son is 19.5 years old and was born with Down syndrome. Since he was a young child, he’s been an athlete in Special Olympics. “It’s a way for my son to play a sport that he, because of the nature of God’s gift to him, that he’s not able to do,” Doiron said. “He can’t do Pop Warner football, he just can’t. And he can’t do JV basketball or whatever. This gives him an outlet to play a sport, to be competitive and be like his cousins and his friends.” Doiron is involved too, as a coach for one of Lee County’s newest sports: bocce ball. Bocce is played within a frame and begun by throwing a ball called a Pallino and balls called bocce balls. The goal is to toss the bocce balls closest to the Pallino. Kaufman asked if any athletes would want to play bocce and if any parents would be interested in coaching, and Doiron volunteered to take on the job. So did Jayne Haney and her husband, Patrick. The catch: neither Doiron nor Haney had ever played bocce before. But both learned and now love the sport.

Dorsey Barron plays in many of the Special Olympics sports offered in Lee County.


Health and Wellness

Pictured: Robert Crouch and Abbey Crowe

“If you want to go to a sports event where you just see like really great sportsmanship and people that just really want to play a sport and just really want everyone to do well, like any Special Olympics sport,” Haney said. Doiron said that there are challenges to coaching Special Olympics, such as teaching strategy, but that ultimately the goal is the same. “At the core, our kids are kids just like any other kid,” she said. “What makes them different is so minimal compared to what makes them the same,” she said. Doiron described bocce practice as a chance for everyone to just have fun and forget about their responsibilities. “It’s a very easy sport to play, it’s a very easy sport to learn and it’s exercise, it’s time outside, fresh air, it’s a change of pace … it’s just pure recreation,” she said. “And sometimes we get so focused on what we’ve got to do today and what’s got to be accomplished that we forget to have fun.” Golf:

Pictured: Tracy B.

The golf team is unified, which means that all athletes are paired with a volunteer, friend or family member to play the game with. Steve Graham has been coaching golf for three and a half years, but he’s also a player; he partners with his son. “I approached Elizabeth about three years ago and said, ‘Hey, we’ve only got two teams (meaning an athlete and the unified partner). Some of the other counties have seven or eight or nine teams. I’d like to see if we can get more in Lee County.’ And she said, ‘Well, would you like to coach it?’ And I said ‘Sure.’” Now the county has eight plus teams of players and their partners. Robert Crouch and his unified partner, Abbey Crowe, began playing as a team in June. “I’ve been involved with Special Olympics for years,” he said. “It’s a great program. It’s helped me in a number of ways.” Crouch’s father ran a driving range in Montgomery and taught his son how to play golf. This is Crouch’s first season as a golfer in Lee County. “You don’t need to know a lot about golf to have fun


out there,” Crowe said. “Trust me, I would know. And two, you might find something that you actually really enjoy.” The golfers practice at Moore’s Mill Country Club, which Graham said has been a huge benefit for the team. “[Moore’s Mill has] absolutely been wonderful,” he said. “I’m a member out there and they have given us access to the driving range for all the kids to practice and work on Sunday afternoons.” Baxter Bradfield has been playing Special Olympics sports since he was a toddler, his father ’s dad is Brad Bradfield said. This is their second year to play golf in the Special Olympics program in Lee County.

“It gives him something to focus on every week,” Brad said. “He lives a very active life anyway. Prior to the quarantine, he was working two jobs, he goes to a day program.” Baxter said his favorite part of playing the game is being able to see his friends. “I would encourage [athletes] to get involved because I think people sometimes have maybe not tried Special Olympics before and they aren’t sure what their abilities will enable them to do,” Kaufman said. “I think it’s really fun to encourage people to get involved and to watch that excitement grow as they maybe surprise themselves with what their abilities are and how those abilities can be developed and grown.”

Pictured: Baxter B.

Pictured: Trenton “Isaiah” C.

"You don’t need to know a lot about golf to have fun out there. Trust me, I would know. And two, you might find something that you actually really enjoy.”


Health and Wellness

Life As A Respiratory Therapist Story By Natalie Salvatore Photos Contributed By John Atkinson


ne compassionate healthcare professional at the East Alabama Medical Center understands what it means to persevere during trying times. This January, Tracy Hamby is celebrating her 17th anniversary as a registered respiratory therapist with EAMC, all while the world is still fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. The coronavirus has drastically altered medical centers everywhere, and EAMC is no different. However, this hospital has not stopped providing safe, empathetic and top-notch care for their patients. Hamby has first-hand experience working through this health crisis. Whether she is treating a patient with COVID-19 or

with other conditions, Hamby’s job consists of many important duties. As an RRT, her work includes managing the ventilator support systems, administering breathing treatments for patients with asthma, giving diagnostic testing, assisting in emergency situations and operating the many machines and devices available to help patients breathe and feel better. Hamby decided she wanted to enter this field when her son was born and exposed to RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus. This infection can be detrimental to babies, and her son caught it when he was just two weeks old. She was living alone with her newborn in San Diego at


the time, where he stayed in the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). Luckily, he turned around and recovered. “After we moved back home from San Diego, I decided I wanted to become a therapist because I was very intrigued by the ventilators and all the machines that we use to help people,” Hamby said. She completed both online schooling and on-the-job training for different pathways in this profession as she worked toward her current position. Hamby said her job before COVID-19 is nothing like it is now. Before the pandemic, she had more downtime, despite their busy schedules. Therapists could see patients and have time to complete their charting, all while taking care of patients’ needs and any emergencies that arose. Now, they have no downtime, as they are constantly on the go and assessing the increasing number of issues and emergencies. With more patients in the ICU, it is taking more staff members to care for everyone. Assessing which patients need ventilators or other types of breathing assistance takes a lot of their time. “Some days, you’re looking at somebody, and you’re doing everything you can, but you can’t really help them breathe,” Hamby said. “That’s a big difference since the pandemic hit.”

The seventh floor at EAMC houses patients who require high-velocity oxygen systems. Monitoring these patients is also where Hamby spends a lot of her time now. Keeping a close eye on them is vital because if the machines are not functioning correctly, the patients could stop breathing and die. Along with the heightened workload and stress of dealing with a new virus, Hamby said this pandemic has also changed many of the little day-to-day things that the staff has become accustomed to. She washes her hands a lot more, makes sure to wear her PPE and immediately removes her work shoes and showers after her shifts, especially if she worked in the ICU. Not only has this pandemic caused a physical strain on Hamby, it has also taken a mental and spiritual toll on her. With a pandemic comes more possibility for fatalities. “It’s not every day, but some days I deal with three or four people dying, and it’s been the hardest thing,” she said. “I go home and I’m very quiet. I read my Bible and pray a lot, and that’s how I deal with it.” Throughout these difficult times, Hamby and her coworkers have had to lean on each other more. The staff has grown closer together over the last several months. “Everybody has drawn together to help cover all the


Health and Wellness

shifts because with all this going on, we have been short- available, Hamby decided to get the vaccine. However, she felt concerned about the side effects she could staffed. It’s just trying to hold it together, that’s what’s experience and thought there was not enough information been hard,” she said. Interacting face-to-face with patients and their families available about the vaccination beforehand. What is scary about this is what also keeps disease, Hamby said, is the Hamby going. She unknown. COVID-19 can said she tries to make affect people differently patients smile and and causes a range in lighten the situation severity of symptoms. for them. She also tries Ultimately, Hamby to alleviate any fears said she did decide to their families may have receive the shot. The by answering their questions. complications from COVID-19 would likely Hamby did not be worse, she said, than foresee all of this complications from the happening when she vaccine. entered the field; She hopes that, even however, she still enjoys though no one knows what her job, she said. Pictured: Hamby and Ray Thompson is to come, this will all end “Seeing your patients that soon. do get better and touching somebody’s life, that’s what The Auburn-Opelika community can feel confident, is rewarding to me,” she said. “It’s been very tough this however, that their health will be in great hands under her year, but I wouldn’t change it for anything.” care. With the COVID-19 vaccine recently becoming

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Health and Wellness

“For a group of people who get in the water and don’t really talk while you’re swimming, to have such a close bond … they’re very welcoming.” —62—

Early Morning Swim Story By Hannah Lester Photos By Robert Noles


Health and Wellness

The Early Morning Swimmers got together at Mama Mocha’s.


o one seems to remember exactly when they started, but there is a group of individuals who swim together bright and early each morning at Auburn University called the Early Morning

Swimmers. This group races the sun to the Auburn University Aquatics Center and is at the pool by 5 a.m. And they’ve been doing this for over 40 years. The swimmers are from all walks of life, those who are retired to those who are new parents with young children. Terry Rodriguez has been swimming with the group for at least 35 years, though she knows the group was well underway when she joined. “They had already been [together], most of them, for at least 10 or 15 years,” she said. Rodriguez was a self-taught swimmer at five years old. When she attended Auburn University, swim lessons were mandatory for all students. “You had to take swimming; they wanted everyone to know

how to swim,” she said. So, following her time at Auburn, swimming was already an ingrained habit. She was a regular swimmer at Samford Pool during the summers but started wondering if she could brave the cold, come winter weather. Now, she’s at the pool on Auburn’s campus five days a week, all year round. The group takes their swimming seriously, though no one is made to feel uncomfortable for their skill level. “After I’d been coming three days a week for a while, Sandra or Gail said, ‘You know Terry, you could be coming every day,’” she said. In fact, expect a wakeup call if you aren’t at the pool by 5 a.m. or you miss a day because you decided to sleep in. “It’s good because you can get all your exercise in first thing in the morning,” said one of the group members, Gail Hoffman. One group member, Lorraine Wolf, said it’s easier to swim with a group and that she’s been an Early Morning Swimmer


for 18 years. “They’re interesting people and fun to be with,” she said. “And they motivate you. You get motivated to come if you know you’re going to have friends there.” Jim Helms said that he joined the group in 2012 at the invitation of another member. When he arrived on his first day, all the lanes were full, however. “I was sitting back and waiting patiently and it’s my nature to be introverted,” he said. “But they welcomed me in and allowed me to swim with them … So it’s a loving, caring group of people.” Of course, there isn’t an official membership or procedure to join the group. Hoffman doesn’t recall when she joined the group. “I don’t know, because I was always swimming,” she said. Hoffman was at the pool each morning and so was this group, so eventually, she became a member. “They’re a friendly group,” Wolf said. “If you become a regular, they just sort of adopt you.” Hoffman said she enjoys swimming because it’s a relaxing way to get moving. Rodriguez, however, uses the time to multi-task. She may be in the middle of a backstroke, but she’s also likely singing to herself. Every Tuesday Rodriguez sings jazz at Eighth and Rail. She uses her time in the water to practice her song selections. “Swimming laps is fairly tedious and practicing while swimming is entertaining and a good use of my time,” she

said. “Singing is good for the heart, the mind and the soul.” Catch her in the water singing “All of Me,” “East of the Sun” or “It’s Magic.” Terry joined by invitation from another member. Hoffman and Wolf joined because they were swimming at the same time as the group anyway. Helms didn’t even know the pool was open to non-university students before a co-worker, who was an Early Morning Swimmer, told him so. Some members have even brought their spouses around to the idea. That’s what happened for Elizabeth Schumacher and her husband, Jim. They have been swimming for 32 and 30 years, respectively. Schumacher was a volunteer at Wrights Mill Elementary. A fellow volunteer told her about the Early Morning Swimmers, and she gave it a go. It took a little time to get her husband on board, however. “He finally said, 'I’m waking up every morning, I might as well get up and go to the pool with you,'” she said. The group has had its fair share of memories and fun over the years. Schumacher recalled how one of the Auburn lifeguards used to hang out on a trampoline beside the pool and play guitar while the members swam. “And then he’d fall asleep,” she laughed. “And we’d just be swimming away, and he’d be taking a nap.” Although, yes, the group’s purpose is swimming and exercise, after over 40 years of swimming together, the group


Health and Wellness

is made up of close friends. “For a group of people who get in the water and don’t really talk while you’re swimming, to have such a close bond … they’re very welcome,” Helms said. They’re welcoming to all ages and all walks of life. “We’ve had young people in the group,” said another group member, Sandra Lewis. “Really the only way to be a part of the group is to keep coming … it’s really fun to have diversity of ages.” Danielle Hayes is one of those members with young children. She has to get a workout in before her children are up and at ‘em.

Harry. He is three now and knows when I wake him up in the morning with wet hair, it is because I just got back from swimming. It’s a low impact but full-body workout you can do until you are 90 and at any fitness level. I love my swimming.” So, to join the group, just show up, Lewis said. The members meet every morning at the James E. Martin Aquatics Center (664 Biggio Dr.), around 5 a.m., do some stretching together and then hop in the pool. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has taken its toll on the group. The university has imposed restrictions that only allow one swimmer per lane, which greatly reduces the number of swimmers the group can have each morning.

“I showed up to swim there at 5:45 a.m. for the first time because I was a mom and worked while my little girl was in preschool in the morning,” she said. “I was greeted by the nicest and most helpful people.” Hayes said she continued swimming even when pregnant with her second. “I swam the morning of the night I went into labor with him at 39 weeks,” she said. “A member of their group, Charlie, always saved his lane for me while I was pregnant because he didn’t want an inexperienced swimmer to jump in on top of me. “The group even gifted me with a tiny swimsuit for

So, if you’ve donned a suit and are heading over one chilly morning, just know that normally there would be three times the members you see, Schumacher said. “They are people that I would never know,” Lewis said. “I wouldn’t know them. They don’t go to my church, they’re not in my neighborhood, they’re not in my department but they’re people that you just adore.” The Early Morning Swimmers get together outside of the pool, too, to celebrate birthdays, retirements and holidays. “It’s just been a long, long friendship and it’s really great,” Rodriguez said. “And most of the people are still there that I started with.”


Anna L. King, Attorney at Law

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KAGEFIT Story and Photos By Hannah Lester

Pictured: Shane Mills and three of his younger students.


f you’ve watched MMA on TV and thought to yourself, “Wow, I wish I could do that,” then there’s good news. You can. KageFit is a mixed-martial-art school in Auburn that offers Brazilian Ju-Jitsu, boxing and Muay Thai. Shane Mills opened KageFit eight years ago after learning more about, and competing in, MMA. Mills is a life-long local. He attended Opelika High School and graduated from Lee-Scott Academy. He found Ju-Jitsu in his late twenties and took off from there. “I found Ju-Jitsu out of necessity because I wanted to compete in MMA,” he said. “I wanted to step into the cage and fight a couple of times, at the

time, just as a bucket-list [item].” After a few years of fighting and intense training, Mills decided to step back and become an MMA coach. “After a few years of that, I decided this is what I want to do,” he said. “Because I had early success coaching guys. I was like, well, I can do this. So, we just decided to open this place up.” KageFit is truly a family business. Mills owns the business and teaches classes, his mom works the front desk and his daughter trained with him for years. Not only is KageFit run as a family, but the classes are geared for families too. KageFit has classes for both adults and children.


Health and Wellness

“I have a large group of kids that’ll be doing Ju-Jitsu on the front mat and their parents will be doing fitness class or a boxing class in the back simultaneously,” he said.

gym where you’re lifting weights and then you’re stopping for 30 or 40 seconds and lifting more weights and stopping for a couple minutes or you’re just on a treadmill running endlessly going nowhere, you come in here and our functional strength workouts, they’re high-intensity, but everyone can do them.” The KageFit team participated in the Georgia Winter Classic in December, where the youth team placed 13 out of 75 and the adult team placed 1 out of 75. The scores placed KageFit in second place overall, Mills said.

The Sports: “[Ju-Jitsu] is a ground-based form of submission fighting which is probably, in my opinion, and in numerous others in our profession’s opinion, the best form of self-defense on the market right now,” Mill said. Mills said that Ju-Jitsu is a great sport for both children and women who want to learn self-defense. “The basic principle of Ju-Jitsu is to defend KageFit for children: yourself against somebody who is much larger than Mills said he has watched as MMA has become you, using only technique a mainstream sport and and leverage,” he said. more and more people in Muay Thai and boxing “That’s one of my favorite things Lee County have shown are the classes focused interest. to watch is to watch people progress, more on striking and Some of his younger kicking, but don’t worry, students practice at whether or not it’s in Ju Jitsu, Muay KageFit full time and because if you attend a class, no one will be Thai or boxing. How they come in do not play other sports. striking you, Mills said. Other students use the with absolutely no experience and “You’re working on the skills Mills teaches to bag or you’re working know nothing about what we do and apply to activities like on what we call mitts wrestling, and some train then within a year, they’re a fullyand it’s a great stressat KageFit during the reliever,” he said. off-season for football or functional boxer.” Don’t think you need basketball. to know a lot to attend Mills tries to teach his a class either; the instructors at KageFit will show students life skills, in addition to physical skills. you everything you need to know. Mills said that his younger students, those in “We start you out with what we call our core middle school and high school can learn the skills fundamentals,” Mills said. “Say you’re doing the they need to defend themselves from bullies, not boxing class, we teach you how to stand, we teach just physically but mentally and verbally. you where to hold your hands, we teach you how “Once kids realize that they can physically defend to step in the correct steps and have the correct themselves, it’s so much easier for them just to walk movement; then, from there, you slowly start to away from the verbal altercation, the name-calling progress as far as, from not knowing anything to all and that’s like water off a duck’s back to them of a sudden you’re able to look like the same boxers because it doesn’t affect them,” Mills said. that you see on TV moving around. There is a lot to learn in competition, too. “… That’s one of my favorite things to watch is “You have to learn how to process losing, which to watch people progress, whether or not it’s in JuI think is an important life skill,” he said. “I’m Jitsu, Muay Thai or boxing. How they come in with not big on participation trophies. We even have it absolutely no experience and know nothing about written on the wall there, ‘In Ju-Jitsu there’s no what we do and then within a year, they’re a fullylosing, only winning and learning. So, if you win, functional boxer.” or if you lose, there’s something valuable to learn One of the best benefits, Mills said, is stress relief from that.” and the ability to unwind. Mills said that over the eight years KageFit has “When you come in here, it’s not like a normal been open, he’s had parents come to him and say


that the skills he taught their children carried over into other areas of their life. “To me, the most important thing for kids is not only winning but learning and becoming better people.” KageFit is for younger children too. James Gray Fenn is only three years old and has been training since July. “We wanted to toughen him up a little bit,” said his mom, Mallory McCain. James Gray’s father, James Fenn, said that they’d heard how good Mills was with children, too. Mills tries to make the classes fun for children. James Gray said his favorite part of the classes was when Mills set up an obstacle course. McCain said that since they homeschool pre-school James Gray, KageFit gives him an opportunity to socialize. But both parents said that the classes have built confidence in their son. “His confidence has grown so much in six months, it’s unreal,” James said. Adult Students: When Mills trains his adult students, there is a bigger focus on physical skills, rather than life skills. “A lot of adults are already set in their ways so they’re already going to feel the way they feel about certain situations, it’s not as much life preaching as it is more of having them understand a competition mindset, and a training aspect, and how to prepare their body, and how to take care of their body, how to eat properly, how to rest properly, how to train properly without injuring themselves,” Mills said. Mills has a mix of amateur and professional fighters in his classes and hopes to send students to


Health and Wellness

professional fights in the near future. Tommy Hadaway has been training at KageFit for four years. He said that years before he’d trained in karate but had gotten out of shape. “I came here to try a fitness class,” Hadaway said. “I liked it a lot, it was really impressive, I can’t say enough about it.” A year later, he joined more classes, like Ju-Jitsu and Muay Thai. “It’s addictive,” Hadaway said. Hadaway said that he’s become comfortable with the group that trains in the morning and they push him to be as good as they are. As far as KageFit goes, Mills has big plans. He said he’d love to expand and attract more students. The dream is to become world-renowned, he said. “This is what I thoroughly enjoy doing,” Mills said. “It is a passion of mine. It brings me so much happiness every day.”

PUBLIC HOUSE FAVORITES SHEPHERD’S PIE - Seasoned ground beef. Peas. Carrots. Guinness gravy. Champ potatoes. Mozzarella. - 12 BANGERS & MASH* - Two Guinness Brats. Champ potatoes. Peppers. Onions. Guinness gravy. 12 GUINNESS STEW - Guinness gravy. Beef tenderloin. Carrots. Potatoes. - 10 CORNED BEEF HASH* - Traditional hash. Potatoes. Corned beef. Peppers. Onions. Fried egg. - 10 SPECKLED HEN MAC & CHEESE - Large Bowl of Old Speckled Hen English Ale infused house-made macaroni & cheese - 10 FISH & CHIPS* - Beer battered fish and fries. Lee County coleslaw. - 12 PORK SCHNITZEL* - Fried pork cutlets. Brandied mushroom cream sauce. Sauerkraut. Champ potatoes - 11 CHICKEN & CHIPS - Classic Ameri-Pub hand battered chicken tenders. Fries. Lee County coleslaw. - 11 SHRIMP & GRITS* - Guinness BBQ basted Gulf shrimp. Pancetta-garlic cream sauce. Creamy Carolina stone ground grits. - 16


833 S. Railroad Avenue, Opelika

Because We Care

Everywhere you look, you see AuburnBank employees volunteering and serving to make our community better and to help it grow. That’s because AuburnBank cares. Since 1907, AuburnBank has cared about and invested in this community which is why we have such a strong presence in local charitable organizations like Habitat for Humanity, United Way and the Food Bank of East Alabama, to name a few. We’re a local bank with deep roots. We care deeply about our community, so just imagine how much we care about our customers. AuburnBank. Your Partner. Your Neighbor. Your Friend. BANK OFFICES:

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The Fiberglass Shop “Since 1973�

Serving Lee County since 2006

KageFit, in Opelika, Alabama, is your Premiere Family Fitness Academy! KageFit offers martial arts classes to get you and your family in shape and looking good. KageFit also offers boxing, Muay Thai, and Brazilian Ju-Jitsu to go along with the KageFit fitness program. Now is the time to join us for fitness.

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You won’t be crowded and fighting for space in our 6000 square foot facility. Enjoy the separation between the kids and adults.

3613 Pepperell Parkway, Opelika 334-363-2727


Changing with the trends Story By Will Fairless Photos By Robert Noles and Contributed By The Opelika SportsPlex


facility, two racquetball courts, an indoor aquatics center and the W. James Samford Soccer Complex, all covered under one membership fee. “I really feel like we offer so much under one roof that no matter who you are, what your family looks like, from seniors and all the way down, there’s something for every single person to be able to do here,” said Laura Leigh Chesser, public relations coordinator with the Parks and Recreation Department. “And I think that’s pretty unique and special.” A lot of the SportsPlex’s

he Opelika SportsPlex and Aquatics Center offers something for everyone, regardless of age and fitness or recreation goal. The SportsPlex offers its members access to the Cal James Sr. Weight Room, an indoor cycling studio, the splash park, the Charter Foundation Adult Activity Center, an indoor walking track, the EAMC Cardiovascular Area, an outdoor children’s playground, group fitness rooms, an outdoor walking trail, the Tumble Tree Disc Golf Course, a gymnasium, the 12-court covered pickleball


Health and Wellness

Pictured: Tiffany Chandler facilities are made to accommodate the fitness goals of its older members. For example, the indoor aquatics facility features a zero-entry pool so that people unable to use stairs to get in and out of the pool can still participate in the aquatic workouts that are perfect for that population. Additionally, the EAMC Cardiovascular Area does not just have treadmills and ellipticals, but machines to achieve a cardio workout without the same stresses. The NuStep is a machine that eliminates the requirement for full rotation of the hip joint, allowing its user to, while seated, repeatedly perform a movement that looks like marching in place. “If all we had was a treadmill and an elliptical, they’d be out of luck,” said Alden Mezick, fitness director for the SportsPlex. “So we kind of tailored it to help really as many populations as we could.” While the machines and facilities for older members are made to reduce the impact of exercise on those members’ bodies, the amenities geared toward a younger population are designed to reduce the impact of exercise on the facilities themselves. Mezick said that the SportsPlex has added soft medicine balls to its weight room, which can be thrown at the floor without doing or sustaining any damage, and Olympic-style

mats and pads to protect the floor from power cleans and deadlifts. “We’ve certainly changed with fitness trends,” Chesser said. “When I first started here — fitness has evolved since then. Ten years ago … you didn’t see a lot of stuff about HIIT [High-Intensity Interval Training] then.” The SportsPlex has changed a lot over its years. The most recent large addition is the pickleball facility, which features 12 covered and fence-separated courts that are open to the public 24/7 (Read more on page 80). The playground and disc golf course were both built within the last decade, and all of the amenities are constantly being updated. “A big part of what I do is I just try to revamp everything that we currently have,” Mezick said. “I want to make sure it’s as nice and as clean and as organized, and something that people can go there and actually look forward to their workout just because it’s such a nice facility.” If Chesser had her druthers, she said, she would add a second outdoor pool. “Right now, we have a lot of competition for pool space,” she said. “There’s a lot of people vying for one space, and [another outdoor pool is] something I would just love.” The SportsPlex has changed and will continue to change, Continues on Page 78


Pictured: David Thomas


Health and Wellness

but its mission will always be to support the community. And it does that by providing more than just a space to work out. Whether you spend your time throwing a Frisbee, lifting weights or swinging paddles, you can find a community of people who will do it with you at the SportsPlex. “You have all of these different groups that have all been able to connect and build friendships in their own micro communities within this place,” Mezick said. “… They go out and eat lunch [after classes], and now these are people who otherwise might have come to the gym for a month and then left and never come back, gotten unmotivated. But they found their community and now it’s something they do and it’s improving their lives.”

A Mother's Rest is a network of non-profit, respite retreat inns created exclusively to serve parents, spouses, and caregivers of loved ones with disabilities and other life challenges. Lawton Place Manor is one of our AMR Signature Respite Inns located in Mt. Airy, Georgia and is open as a non-profit respite inn exclusively for parents & caregivers who have loved ones with disabilities and/or chronic illness. A Mother's Rest relies entirely on donations to support the part-time staffing and maintenance of the property, so retreats can be affordable (even free!) to caregivers. —78— •


There’s something for everybody, at a price for anybody. Cal James Sr. Weight Room • Charter Foundation Adult Activity Center • EAMC Cardiovascular Area Group Fitness Room • Gymnasium with Large Stage • Indoor Aquatics Center • Indoor Cycling Studio Indoor Walking Track • Outdoor Amphitheater • Outdoor Children’s Playground • Outdoor Walking Trail Personal Training • Pickleball Facility with 12 Covered, Individually Fenced Courts • Splash Park Steam Rooms • Three Meeting Rooms with AV Equipment • Tot Watch • Tumble Tree Disc Golf Course Two Racquetball Courts • W James Samford Soccer Complex • Youth Game Room 10 01 S P O R T S P L E X P K W Y

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W W W. O PHealth E L I K A S Pand O R T Wellness SPLEX.COM


Opelika’s Growing Sport Story By Will Fairless Photos By Robert Noles and Contributed by the Auburn-Opelika Pickleball Club



ickleball is quickly gaining recognition in the U.S. and overseas. For those who are unfamiliar with the game, pickleball is not something you find next to gherkins or kosher dill in the grocery store. It’s a paddle sport that draws comparisons to badminton, tennis and ping pong. Pickleball was invented in the 1960s as a children’s backyard game. Now, it is played by former tennis players who had to quit because of the sport’s physical toll and current tennis players who are bound to be frustrated by their inability to overpower one of those retirees in a game that rewards coordination and creativity more than strength and speed. It is played on a court that looks like a scaled-down tennis court; it has the same dimensions as a badminton court, 20’ by 44’. Players use solid paddles (of a size and shape not unlike some charcuterie boards) to deliver a plastic ball (think practice baseball) back and forth like in tennis or ping pong. The sport is particularly attractive to older people, although it is gaining traction with other age demographics, due to a few of its unique rules. John Parks has been taking care of the Opelika SportsPlex’s pickleball facility for some time now and was just placed on the Parks and Recreation Department’s payroll to do so. “I see it as a senior sport for these reasons: the serve is underhand,” he said. “The ball [on the serve] has to bounce. The return has to bounce. This line right here is the no-volley zone, ‘the kitchen.’ In tennis, you don’t have that; it takes away the attack.” He added that the requirement to say the score before each point gives players time tobreathe, and given pickleball’s scoring and scoring-reporting systems, that time is often plenty. Pickleball is a social sport, a characteristic in part due to the close proximity of those on the court during

play. The proximity and breaks in play encourage conversation, often peppered with apologies to one’s partner. “To me, I think it — I wouldn’t say it saved my life, but it’s made me stay active,” said John Bucko, a cartoonist and pickleball enthusiast. “It’s got social aspects that are really good, so you meet friends that are healthy friends.” The SportsPlex’s pickleball facility has 12 covered and individually fenced-off courts, making it one of the best spots for pickleball in the country. It’s open to all players at all times at no cost (although balls and paddles are not provided). Jim Young, vice president of the Auburn-Opelika pickleball club and its tournament director, said that the courts draw interest from all over the country. “We got a call from Oregon wanting to bring a tournament in here,” he said. “This is one of the preeminent pickleball spots in the United States.” A map at the facility’s entrance bears that out, sporting pins presumably placed by people from over 30 states. By Parks’ count, there have been 10,000 people through the courts in the last year. Pickleball provides a great way to exercise and socialize, but it also benefits many in the community who’ve never even heard of the sport. AuburnOpelika Tourism estimates that the economic impact of the last tournament at the SportsPlex courts was nearly $100,000. This figure includes local taxes and business sales from 289 total players. Sixty percent of those players traveled from more than 80 miles away, accounting for approximately 224 room nights at hotels and motels in the area. “My ultimate goal, before I get too old, is to put in 12 more courts, whether they’re covered or not,” Young said. “Get the Southeast Regional tournament in here and the economic impact is going to be three, four hundred thousand dollars.”

“I see it as a senior sport

for these reasons: the serve is underhand. The ball [on

the serve] has to bounce. The return has to bounce. This

line right here is the no-volley zone, ‘the kitchen.’ In tennis, you don’t have that; it takes away the attack.”


Health and Wellness

Aspire Integrative Health Clinic believes that family medicine should be personalized based on an individuals wellness goals.

SERVICES OFFERED •Primary Care •Well Child Exams •Annual Physicals •Sports and Camp Physicals •Full Laboratory Testing •Preventive Health Care •Pre-operative Clearance •Mental Health •Osteopathic Manual Therapy •COVID-19 TESTING •DOT Physical Accepting new patients We accept Medicaid and Medicare

Dr. Viengxay Malavong, D.O. 2202 Gateway Drive Suite A. Opelika, Alabama 36801 Office (334)203-1723

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Jackie H. Moon, CPA Erin K. Arrington, CPA H. David Ennis, SR., CPA Patti C. Davis, CPA 614 2nd Ave, Opelika, AL 36801


The Unexpectedly, Challenging Workout Story By Hannah Lester Photos Contributed By Ashley Caldwell


shley Caldwell took a chance, a risk and tried something new, and it completely changed her life. Back in 2014, Caldwell was a general manager working in retail, looking for a way to mix things up. She started selling

jewelry online, working out of her home and selling in shows. This meant she spent a lot of time in the house, however, and was not very active. “I was at home, all day, every day, with nobody and I was just going bonkers,” she said.


So, she gave Pure Barre workouts a try. “I had the biggest misconception about it for the longest time,” she said. “I really thought that it was rooted in ballet and dance and you couldn’t get a real workout from it.” Her first class was in Birmingham in 2012 or 2013, she said, and by 2014, she was teaching the classes herself. “One of my friends drug me to a class and I honestly got bit by a bug and here I am now.” Another reason she wanted to try Pure Barre was that the at-home workouts she was doing were not yielding any progress. Caldwell found Pure Barre to be the challenge she needed. Pure Barre combines elements of a lot of workouts: cardio, pilates, intervals, resistance bands, weights and more. “It is a high-intensity but low-impact workout that targets just about every muscle in your body,” she said. “… It’s just a really cool workout that challenges you mentally and physically.” Pure Barre combines elements of a lot of workouts: cardio, pilates, intervals, resistance bands, weights and more. Of course, things weren’t peachy right at the start. Caldwell said she didn’t enjoy the first class because she wasn’t good at it. However, she let go of those insecurities and signed up for a two-month package. It wasn’t long before she was approached by the owners of Pure Barre, who asked her if she’d like to take some training courses. She jumped at the opportunity and has taken all the training courses she can. Caldwell learned that the Pure Barre owners were looking to sell and she approached them to ask about taking it over.

“When I knew that that was an opportunity, I felt like that was a door that was opened for me and so I kept walking through those doors,” she said. From never having tried Pure Barre, to owner of the Auburn studio, Caldwell changed her own life. Of course, now, she’s changing not only her own life but others. The classes are for everyone. “It’s a workout that just about anybody can do,” Caldwell said. “It’s completely customizable and modifiable.” One of the Auburn class members, Elizabeth Rodgers was looking for a way to continue exercising safely, since she’s now reached her 60s. “It really works for me; it’s such a variety of classes that I can do cardio,” Rodgers said. “We have a new class called reform, it’s a lot of pilates.” Rodgers said the classes do not only benefit her physically, but mentally. “I’m older, and I’ve got to concentrate and I’ve got to think about what I’m doing,” she said. She’s noticed changes since she started classes. The ability to hold a pose even just a few seconds longer, for instance, means Rodgers is building strength in her muscles. A pandemic can’t stop this studio — classes are offered by a live stream in addition to in person. The Pure Barre studio is located at 2415 Moores Mill Road, Suite 240, in Auburn. To schedule a class, visit the studio’s website (www.purebarre. com/location/auburn-al), facebook page (www., instagram ( or give them a call at 334-887-0007.


Health and Wellness

Pictured: Dr. Rusty Herring

A “piece of the healthcare puzzle” Story By Abigail Woods Photos Contributed By Cornerstone Family Chiropractic


local family business rooted in the highest quality care, Cornerstone Family Chiropractic was established in 2010 by Dr. Russell Herring and his wife Kathryn Herring, who opened the business with a passion for outreach to the Auburn community. The two hosted the inaugural back-to-school bash, which allowed them to connect both businesses and families in the

area. All proceeds from the event went to The Big House Foundation, a local charity that has become the office charity. There are four full-time doctors in the office: Herring, Dr. Joe Townsend, Dr. Stephanee Lewis and Dr. David Ravdin, all of whom specialize in pediatric, maternal and adult care. Herring graduated from Life University in Atlanta a little over 10 years ago. It was shortly after graduation that he opened



Pictured: David Ravdin HealthDr.and Wellness

the doors open. These are unprecedented times, and health is at risk, Wicks said. “The health and wellbeing of one’s nervous system is especially important,” she said. The office is currently seeing more people right now than ever before. “You can get a lot of things replaced in the body, but spine replacement is not possible, so we need to take care of the one we Pictured from left to right: David Ravdin, Logon Pastor, Rusty Herring, Stephanee Lewis, Joe Townsend. have,” she said. The rooms and tables the doors to Cornerstone Family Chiropractic. are wiped down from top to bottom. Everything is cleaned “The most rewarding part of starting Cornerstone is seeing thoroughly as the office is held to a high standard of sanitation. the lives impacted by the care they have received in our Alongside the wall in the office lobby, a section of papers office,” Herring said. “When someone's health improves, their labeled testimonials can be found. There are over 30 of these life improves and that is our why. To make a positive change health transformation testimonials all listed by symptom. in as many lives as possible.” These symptoms include everything from headaches and Rachel Wicks, the office operations manager, described backaches to anxiety and depression, earaches in children and how Herring came into chiropractic care. She explained that ADHD. while he was in school he became very sick with symptoms Though Wicks explains there is not one specific common of weight loss, energy and appetite. He was passed off to a symptom that the office treats, “we see people improve in just specialist, who explained that he may have cancer. about any area that you could possibly name.” Herring was seen and tested by a cancer specialist, but A young teacher recently came into the office who was all tests came back negative. After all of these doctor visits, experiencing seizures and migraines and was on 16 different Herring was still sick, so he turned to a chiropractor in medications, Wicks said. She had been experiencing back Atlanta. pain and because of the medications, the woman was told she The chiropractor reminded the future doctor of how would never have children. important it is to take care of your nervous system because it After receiving a few weeks of treatment, she informed controls and coordinates life throughout the entire body. Herring that she was no longer passing out or having seizures, “He started getting adjusted very regularly and over the course of weeks saw his symptoms begin to disappear,” Wicks Wicks said. Over the course of several months, the office watched as this woman slowly started to be taken off of her said. medications. Nearly 10 years later, Herring has been in complete health “Because they [her doctors] were able to take her off of the and knows that “it was nothing short of the body’s miraculous seizure medication, she for the first time in her life had the ability to heal itself through chiropractic care,” Wicks said. possibility of being able to get pregnant, which she did and Chiropractic care ran in Herring’s family. Both his dad and gave birth to her first baby,” Wicks said. uncle are chiropractors. With a passion for healing and love The woman is no longer on any of the medications. for others at heart, Herring launched his business, which is “Millions of people utilize chiropractic as a natural now one of the largest chiropractic offices and the largest approach in their pursuit of health,” Herring said. “I feel the pediatric office in the state. role of Cornerstone will continue being an integral piece of All businesses have been forced to make a shift in their the healthcare puzzle for families as we all strive to stay as operations due to the pandemic. Wicks explains that in a time like this, the office recognizes how important it is that it keeps healthy as possible.”



1750 Opelika Road, Auburn


A Fresh Take on TexMex South of the Border North of the Tracks in Downtown Opelika

870 N. Railroad Avenue We're Open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday


Pictured: Dorsey B.

“Once Bravehearts, Always Bravehearts” Story By Emery Lay Photos Contributed By Angie Burque


Pictured: Cari A.

Pictured: Sherrell C.


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Pictured: Sherrell C.



ngie Burque entered into an entirely new world “We are very proud that as long as someone isn’t a danger to with the birth of her son. Like many children themselves or someone else, whatever their challenges are, we in our world today, he has been diagnosed have been able to navigate that,” Burque said. with a moderate to severe cognitive and BraveHearts seeks to be a place where the disabled can feel communication disability. at ease and know that everyone else is starting where they Burque lovingly cared for her child but felt that something are. The volunteers are to “be the center of a safe, positive was still missing in his life. As her son experienced selfmeaningful relationship.” isolated classrooms at school, and well-meaning but stunned BraveHearts attendees do not need to worry about the bystanders, Burque saw the need for her son to solidify his manner in which they are best able to express themselves. place in society. For most people with disabilities, much of Meanwhile, Burque also teaches a class for Auburn students junior high and high school can be experienced apart from called Social Work Practice Methods I. This is the entrée for outside help. They are able to participate in band, sports and undergrads for learning more about “how to engage and create classes without too much trouble. a meaningful connection in order to effect change,” she said. “Even though they have a challenge, the opportunities for Without real situations in which to practice these principles, them to navigate those things still are there,” Burque said. Burque believes her students will never truly develop the skills Yet, although a broad range of disabilities exists, this group they need to work with challenged populations. of young adults remains somewhat invisible. Burque said this “The true test of everything comes from being with real could be because most people do not know how to approach or people and having a real purpose,” Burque said. deal with their challenges. Additionally, Burque “In the world of said that oftentimes when “In the world of people with disabilities, people people with disabilities, are met with a there is a graduated there is a graduated continuum of where challenge, particularly continuum of where challenges with people people fall. I intentionally wanted to people fall,” Burque said. who are different than “I intentionally wanted to them, they automatically target those children … who have a target those children … move in the other direction. who have a cognitive or BraveHearts caters to both cognitive or communication challenge communication challenge sides of the coin. that makes their ability to “It was created with that makes their ability to be understood be understood and accepted a very intentional dual and accepted much more complicated. much more complicated. purpose,” Burque said. Those are the folks that I Her hope is that wanted to have something Those are the folks that I wanted to have BraveHearts will benefit that they could call their something that they could call their own.” Auburn students who own.” volunteer just as much as This was the start of those who are a part of the Expressions of a BraveHeart Fine-Arts Program. Burque used program. BraveHearts is intended to better equip students who her knowledge as a social work professor to design a finewill either professionally or personally come into contact with arts program for pre-teens and young adults with moderate to individuals experiencing disabilities throughout their lifetime, severe disabilities. The program, for ages 11 to 21, began in Burque said. 2010 and presents its attendees with the choice of three fine To date, more than 300 volunteers have passed through the arts classes to choose from: art, music or dance. program. Expressions of a BraveHearts seeks to not only be Pre-COVID, the group met at the Opelika Sportsplex from a safe place for those with disabilities but manages to educate 5:30 to 7 p.m. on six Monday nights of each semester. Each those who are disengaged with that portion of society, Burque student who attends is matched with two Auburn student said. In the same breath, it allows students to mingle with one volunteers. Burque said that students who attend once are 80% another, creating connections across professions. likely to return. “I truly believe that in order to really enhance their quality “Once people find us, they keep coming back.” of life and make the community more comfortable interacting, The staff at BraveHearts often see parents who are relieved engaging and including this population, individuals have to be to find a place where they are not told that their child needs able to have a safe place to build relationships,” Burque said. more than a facility can give them. BraveHearts has partnered with a variety of medical


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facilities, including the Auburn University Student Nurses Association. However, they are always on the lookout for more partners. “We are very reliant on interns and volunteers for the program to happen,” Burque said. “We are always seeking assistance and people to donate and help us fund the programs.” To donate, visit and select “BraveHearts Program” when donating. BraveHearts is also available to be your donation of choice at your local Kroger. To volunteer, simply reach out to Burque at burquad@auburn. edu, where you can customize an online Canvas training. Each volunteer is expected to show up to the six meetings Braveheart holds per semester, once a week on Monday nights. “Volunteering can be as small or as large with Bravehearts as someone would like to be,” Burque said. “We like to have at least five or six interns and a collection of practicums and volunteers.” Interning, unlike most volunteer work, typically takes place in a second facet of the program: BraveHearts Center for Place and Purpose. The BraveHearts Center for Place and Purpose began in 2005. The program was invented upon the request of parents who wanted their children to continue to return to BraveHearts after graduating the program. Burque had begun planning the program long before parents were asking for it, however. She had been consistently mulling over the idea of her son having nowhere to go after he finished school. “There was not something that would meet his needs or the needs of young persons like him at that time,” she said. For many of these young adults, a job is not in their future, though it could be with the proper guidance and training. While many peopole

have a school, college or job to set up a routine and have a place to look forward to, many people with disabilities lack those opportunities. “So, wanting a way to really benefit and enhance the quality of life for those folks as they graduate from high school — and at the same time wanting to expand on how to help Auburn students feel more comfortable with being uncomfortable — BraveHearts Center for Place and Purpose (BCPP) was born,” Burque said. She said she recognized that people first need a place to feel safe in order to garner a routine and see themselves as a functioning member of society. “They want to feel like they are doing the work that they need to do in life,” she said. “We need them to do that work.” Oftentimes, society either undermines the ability of those with cognitive challenges or lump all disabilities into one big pot. BCPP works hard to fight against that with a maximum capacity of 12 young adults. The limit is placed in order to deepen in the intentionality with every member of the group,

Pictured: Cameron “Camp” M.


each of whom is called an Inclusion Ambassador. BCPP meets at First Presbyterian Church of Auburn during both the Fall & Spring semesters, on Tuesday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. BCPP has partnered with a variety of medical facilities, including the Auburn University Student Nurses Association. However, they are always on the lookout for more partners. “We are very reliant on interns and volunteers for the program to happen,” Burque said. “We are always seeking assistance and people to donate and help us fund the programs.” Additionally, three retired women from the church volunteer, contributing dance classes, art classes and all the love they can give. Danilea Werner and Julie Wells work with Burque, and she said their intent with both programs was to create a model for what other cities can do. The program uses a three-pronged approach to care for its participants. First, it is strengths-based. Its employees, interns and volunteers are focused on reinforcing the strengths that they can already recognize in each individual. Second, it is health-and-wellness focused. Upon arrival, every student is provided with a Fitbit of their own. These are put to good use on the group’s mile-long walks, as well as their biweekly kinesiology exercise labs. Finally, the program is community inclusion focused. This means that BCPP works hard to educate the community at large. They find that the best way to do this is through the participants themselves. One example of a community event is the annual photo exhibit. For the month of October, the Auburn Public Library displays an array of photos taken from the BCPP students. Each photo is selected from pictures taken on their daily walks, where each individual has been given a camera. The month of October is also supplemented by a canned food drive. Additionally, the program hosts a yearly Warm Hearts Blanket Drive. “Every community has a lot of subgroups,” Burque said. “A way to make a community more inclusive is to find a way to connect those

different parts. So, we use the blanket drive.” Typically, in February, the drive asks for local businesses to gather as many blankets as they can. When the time comes, BCPP students retrieve the blankets and give them out to those in need. “One of our hopes and challenges right now is that we will be able to sustain this Place and Purpose and then have another Place and Purpose somewhere else,” Burque said. There is one phrase that weaves itself through both programs and echoes in each of its members: “Once BraveHearts, Always BraveHearts.”

“I truly believe that in order to really enhance their quality of life and make the community more comfortable interacting, engaging and including this population, individuals have to be able to have a safe place to build relationships,”


Health and Wellness


Aspire Health — A Childhood Dream Story By Morgan Bryce and Hannah Lester Photos By Robert Noles


r. Viengxay Malavong wasn’t going to let anything stop him from pursuing his dream of changing lives with medicine. Now, he runs Aspire Integrative Health in Opelika. Born in Laos, Malavong’s family emigrated to the United States as refugees shortly after the conclusion of the Vietnam War, eventually settling in Mobile. Inspired by reading the stories of Dr. Jonas Salk’s invention of the polio vaccine and the accomplishments of other famous physicians and scientists, Malavong said he knew he wanted to

pursue a career in the medical field when he was just five years old. “[His parents] never had the heart to tell me that we were poor and couldn’t send me to college,” he said. “But they didn’t discourage me from pursuing my dream.” Malavong transferred from Theodore High School to Alma Bryant when he was in high school, which prompted him to join student organizations and become a member of the city’s Leadership Mobile Program. After his graduation, Malavong pursued a degree in biology


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from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. He graduated in 2006 and from 2006 to 2010, Malavong was in medical school, practicing and studying remotely through the A.T. Still University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine in Mesa, Arizona. “Knowing what I wanted to be throughout my training, I tried to fill myself with knowledge on everything I could to make me a well-rounded family doctor,” he said. “I did a lot of psych work, which I enjoyed, working with people who may have schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression or addiction issues.” Malavong entered into the residency phase of his medical training after graduation. In 2015, he finished and accepted a position with Auburn Urgent Care, where he worked until 2019. “For people looking for a family doctor, with me, you’re going to get someone who is going to be here for the long haul,” he said. “The key with me is that I’m a family doctor who will listen and help people and their families meet their needs and reach their goals.” Now, Malvaong is dually-board certified in family and osteopathic medicine and has four years of medical experience. In addition to running Aspire, he works several days a week at the local Stopwatch Urgent Care locations. Finding the root of a person’s medical problems, “boils down to the mind, body and spirit,” he said, with a basis for problems in those respective spheres that can be traced back to food. “I think a lot of it is micronutrients that are or are not present in the food we eat,” he said. “The type of foods we usually eat have calories, not the vitamins and micronutrients we need to process and produce the neurotransmitters we need to simply function,” Malavong said. Malavong explained is similar in practice but different in form to chiropractic medicine. “Like chiropractics, our focus is restoring the body back to function,” he said. “A lot of the techniques we use are more counter-strain or

muscle energy, which tend to be a little more gentle, especially for the population that might be a little more frail.” Through a personalized approach with each patient, Malavong said he is willing to work with anyone, regardless of their physical condition or weight, and guide them toward a higher level of health and overall wellness. “We like to look at the patient, not just at their medications,” said Angela White, a primary-care provider at Aspire. “ We like to kind of see where their family dynamics are, where they are emotionally, with their diet, outside factors that are influencing their health. We really are holistic.” White said the clinic also offers prayer and focuses on the spiritual aspect of health. “We approach them in their own beliefs and faiths, but those who are open to prayer, we offer that to them,” Malavong said. For more information, call 334-203-1723, like and follow the clinic’s social media pages or visit www. aspireintegrativehealthclinic. com. The clinic is located at 2202 Gateway Drive, Suite A.


Our family serving your family Bill Trant, Coley Trant, Gene Ward, Allison Owens, Ginger Gray-Busby, Paul Kemp, David Phillips, Roger Hughes, Lee Smith, Linda Stewart, John McCollum, Bobby McBurney


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