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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 9, 2006

Flex and flexibility

By Catherine E. Toth
Advertiser Staff Writer

Shawn Ching uses the reformer, a Pilates apparatus, for a control balance exercise under the instruction of Lynette Matsushima at the Honolulu Club.

ANDREW SHIMABUKU | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Shawn Ching

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Shawn Ching

Age: 36

Profession: Broadcaster, attorney

Lives in: Honolulu

Height: 6-feet-1

Weight: 245 pounds

Fitness goal: To increase flexibility, sit in half-lotus position someday, and improve and maintain health

Stays in shape by: Pilates, weight training, walking, swimming in the ocean

Interesting fact: Ching held the leg press record for the University of Hawaii-Manoa football team with a 2,125-pound max leg press. He weighed 305 pounds while a senior at UH.

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Pilates instructor Lynette Matsushima assists Shawn Ching with a side stretch.

ANDREW SHIMABUKU | The Honolulu Advertiser

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Here are the Top 10 songs on Shawn Ching’s iPod Shuffle:

• "Two Step" by the Dave Matthews Band

• "Welcome to the Terrordome" by Public Enemy

• "Touch the Sky" by Kanye West

• "Upside Down" by Jack Johnson

• "Broken" by Jack Johnson

• "Down With the Sickness" by Disturbed

• "The Way I Am" by Eminem

• "Numbers" by G. Love & Special Sauce

• "The Bounce" by Jay-Z

• "Don’t Stop Believin’ " by Journey

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HEADING FOR THE HILLS

Workout habits: KITV’s Shawn Ching walks hills two to four times a week for about 45 minutes. He swims in the ocean two to four times a week for an hour, alternating between freestyle and breast stroke. He hits the gym three to four times a week, mostly lifting weights and strengthening his core area. And he does Pilates at least once a week for two hours.

When and why he started working out: As a kid growing up in the Punchbowl area, Ching played baseball and basketball with Honolulu’s Police Activities League. (Both his parents were police officers.) But it wasn’t until he decided to play football as a sophomore at Roosevelt High School that Ching started getting serious about working out. He joined the Nu'uanu YMCA with a friend to train during the summers. During football season, he lifted weights at the school gym.

Good foods/bad foods: On his healthy plate, Ching has choy sum, tofu, lean chicken, brown rice, lentils, salad and spinach. But he does have a weakness for ice cream, cake, deep-fried foods, potato chips, doughnuts and pastries. "I still have cheat days," Ching said, smiling. "But sometimes they’re cheat weeks!"

Biggest motivator: "Myself," Ching said. "And my iPod Shuffle seems to help a lot, too."

Next challenge: "Tomorrow," Ching said. "But I will think about that tomorrow."

Advice for those in the same boat: "It’s not so much your workout schedule or necessarily what you do, although that’s important," Ching said. "More importantly, I think, it is that whatever you do, you do it consistently."

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THE BENEFITS OF PILATES

KITV’s Shawn Ching is among a growing number of men who are supplementing their workouts with Pilates.

"I think men are drawn to Pilates because they have this vague notion it will help them with back issues," said Lynette Matsushima, a certified Pilates instructor at the Honolulu Club, whose clientele is one-fourth men — and rising. "But they stick with it because it truly makes them feel better."

Here are some reasons why anyone — male or female — should try Pilates (always check with your physician before starting a new exercise program):

• Helps your spine: Joseph Pilates, who originated the exercise program, once said, "You’re as young as your spine is flexible." Pilates focuses on the core postural muscles that help keep the body balanced. These muscles — tiny as they are — are essential in providing support for the spine. Strengthening these muscles and aligning the spine can help alleviate and prevent back pain.

• Unlocks neck and shoulders: This is particularly useful for anyone who hunches over a computer keyboard all day. "Pilates is not about doing exotic moves and poses," Matsushima said. "It’s really about what people can take from what they do in a Pilates session and apply to their real lives to help prevent injury, age more gracefully and feel more comfortable."

• It’s low-impact: Pilates can be customized for any skill or fitness level, Matsushima said. And anyone — seniors, rehab patients, elite athletes, teens — can supplement their workout with Pilates. "People think you have to work out ’til you sweat and vomit, and it’s not about that," Matsushima said. "It’s about quality of work, not quantity. It’s about precision and targeting muscle groups that will benefit them most."

• Promotes better balance: This is important for athletes, to improve their balance and coordination, and aging folks who can be susceptible to injury from falls. Pilates can also, Matsushima said, help "rebalance" those people who use one side of their body more often: golfers, tennis players, even mothers who tend to carry babies on one side more often than the other. "If you let it go on, it can eventually lead to difficulties," Matsushima said.

• Heightens body awareness: Because Pilates takes so much mental focus, you become more aware of how your body works. "It’s about carrying the principles you learn into your life, 24-7," Matsushima said.

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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."

DEADLINES, WAISTLINES

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.

His philosophy?

"Do something every day," Ching said. "I'm not always able to, but that's the goal."

Reach Catherine E. Toth at ctoth@honoluluadvertiser.com.