Flex and flexibility
By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer
By Catherine E. Toth
Years of playing football finally took a toll on KITV anchor Shawn Ching.
His knees had weakened, his shoulder hurt, his body ached.
And the slowing metabolism that inevitably comes with age didn't help, either.
So Ching decided to change his workout routine.
Since he couldn't do high-impact cardio — running, in particular — because of his knees, he started walking up hills and swimming in the ocean.
Then about three years ago, Ching decided to take up martial arts to balance his regimen.
The problem: he couldn't sit cross-legged for long stretches of time during meditation.
"After all those years of football and power-lifting, my flexibility was gone," said Ching, 36. "I couldn't sit in the same position without pain. It was excruciating."
To improve his flexibility, he signed up — reluctantly — for a Pilates class at the Honolulu Club.
"I thought it was going to be glorified aerobics," Ching said, laughing. "I had no idea what it was."
Pilates is an exercise method that focuses on improving flexibility, strengthening muscles and improving posture using a series of controlled movements.
Its reputation for strengthening the body's core areas while improving flexibility has made Pilates popular among many, from professional athletes to stay-at-home moms. Some 9.5 million people participated in Pilates in 2003, the latest year for which figures are available, up from 2.4 million in 2001, according to the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Association.
"Pilates has so many applications for everyone," said Lynette Matsushima, a certified Pilates instructor at the Honolulu Club. "It's a system of total body conditioning that prepares people for functional fitness ... It improves postural problems, strengthens and stabilizes the core, helps prevent injuries as you get older and heightens body awareness."
Ching's first session was tough — but ultimately rewarding, he said.
"It was one of the hardest things I had ever done," Ching admitted. And after it was over: "I felt like I got a massage from the inside out. I had never felt that way before. It was just a really refreshing feeling."
THE CARB YEARS
After a year of weekly two-hour sessions, Ching's posture had improved and his balance was better. Most important, he was finally able to sit on the floor without suffering.
"Before, I felt like my body didn't distribute (weight) properly," Ching said. "But now I feel more grounded."
As part of a blended family with five boys, Ching grew up playing basketball and baseball in the city's Police Activities League. (Both his parents were police officers.)
In his sophomore year at Roosevelt High School, Ching started playing football. Back then he was around 170 pounds.
By the time he was a senior, he had bulked up to 230 pounds by lifting weights and eating everything in sight.
"Back then we weren't carb conscious," Ching said. "We thought we were doing ourselves a favor by cutting out the mac salad and replacing it with two scoops of rice."
The summer before enrolling at the University of Hawai'i-Manoa, Ching got a summer job as a mover. With all that intense physical labor, Ching dropped to 215 — not heavy enough to play as an offensive lineman. So he had to put on weight. He started power-lifting and taking amino acid and liver pills.
And he continued feasting on carbs and proteins. "I remember eating a lot of ice cream," he said, laughing.
By his junior year at UH, Ching weighed 260 pounds. He felt strong and healthy.
But during the first game of his senior season on the road at the University of Wyoming, Ching blew out the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee. It's a too-common injury to the ligament that stabilizes the knee bones, often caused by a twist or fall.
After further damaging his ACL at a game the following week, he would play just two more games that season, unable to do anything intensely physical.
By the end of his senior year, with aching knees, Ching weighed 305 pounds, the most he'd ever been.
"Being that heavy was not fun," Ching said. "Sure, I could lift a considerable amount of weight in the gym, but try buying clothes — back then there were not as many options for plus-size guys. Plus, not being able to play and help the team was hard to take, especially as a senior."
Soon Ching started working in sports radio, doing the color commentary for UH football games on 1420 AM.
In 1993, when Ching finished his master's degree in political science from UH, he was offered a job providing commentary alongside Jim Leahey on KHNL.
Though Ching had no intention of pursuing a career in broadcast journalism — he had always wanted to be a lawyer — he found himself quickly immersed in the profession.
"I've always thought that the best job was the one that never felt the same," Ching said. "And (in this career) you never know what's going to happen. It's like 10 jobs rolled into one."
In 1995, he was asked to audition for sports director at KITV.
Having never auditioned before, Ching didn't think he'd get the job. He had no TV editing or writing experience.
But on Jan. 2, 1995, he was hired — during a week that featured eight bowl games.
"I felt like the world was crashing on my head," Ching said. "I was so stressed out."
Though he stayed consistent with his workouts — he was still lifting weights but now regulated his carb intake — Ching fell victim to the classic diet saboteur: the workplace.
The constant deadline pressure, coupled with never having enough time, led him to unhealthy eating habits. Like eating six 99-cent Whoppers in one sitting.
"Being in a newsroom is detrimental to your health," Ching joked. "You could put out hay and people would still eat it."
Going to law school at UH in 2000 didn't help, either.
"I regressed in law school," said Ching, who graduated and passed the state bar exam in 2003. "I ate lot of pizza and plate lunches."
He's recommitted to consistent low-impact workouts, incorporating swimming, walking and Pilates into his regimen.
Today, he's at a comfortable 245 pounds, though he'd like to be 240.
But with a full-time anchor job and working part time as a lawyer, he's lucky to have any free time to exercise.
"Do something every day," Ching said. "I'm not always able to, but that's the goal."
Reach Catherine E. Toth at firstname.lastname@example.org.