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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, May 20, 2010

A former smoker's healthy habits

By Paula Rath
Advertiser Staff Writer

Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser

Stand-up paddling has recently become Kaua'i resident Ann Hettinger's favorite sport. She's training for July's Moloka'i Channel race.

Andre Z. photos

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• Start exercising. Start small go to a gym, walk with a friend.

• Be consistent. Start doing something every day.

• "Let yourself come out of that cocoon and let yourself fly. You won't know what you can do until you do."


To learn more about Hettinger's journey to fitness, as well as her training for the Moloka'i-to-O'ahu race, go to www.32milesfromnow.com or visit the "32milesfromnow" page on Facebook.

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"Quitting smoking was the catalyst to turning my whole life around."

Ann Hettinger

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Hawaii news photo - The Honolulu Advertiser
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Ann Hettinger started smoking at the age of 17.

By 35, she was chain smoking two packs a day. That is, until her daughter Jennifer, then 12, said, "Mom, you know if you don't quit smoking, you're gonna die," and made her mother's tobacco addiction the subject of her fifth-grade science project.

"That was a huge turning point in my life," Hettinger said. "I quit cold turkey, and she began keeping a journal about me, like, 'Mom's really crabby today.' There were a few times when I smoked behind the house and she busted me."

Quitting smoking was a huge catalyst for Hettinger, who described herself then as a couch potato. "I worked in the corporate world and I was mom to two girls. I cleaned house and worked in the yard but didn't do any other physical activities," she said.

After quitting smoking she joined a gym and began lifting weights and running.

A Colorado resident at the time, running around a track inside was often her only option.

"I remember the first time I made a mile. I felt like I had just won the Olympic gold," Hettinger said. "I remember that feeling to this day and hold the thought."

She soon discovered she loved running. A running coach helped her start racing, and exercise became a big part of her life.

"I got into health and fitness and my eating habits completely changed," she said. "I went from Hamburger Helper to fresh veggies and fruits. I began really paying attention to what I put in my body."

As Hettinger grew healthy and fit, her example also changed the way her daughters ate.

"It was an evolution for the whole family," she said. "You also get mentally and emotionally more fit and more confident in your life."

Now, at age 52 and living on Kaua'i's north shore, Hettinger is running about 50 to 60 miles a week. And that's just the beginning. For core work, she does about 300 pushups a day. For strength, she lifts weights three times a week for about 1 1/4 hours each session. She also swims three times a week. She joined Hanalei Canoe Club and paddles one to three times weekly.

Hettinger recently became a stand-up paddler, and it has become her favorite sport. In fact, she is currently training for the July Moloka'i-to-O'ahu race. "I like those challenges because you learn who you are and what you're capable of," Hettinger said. "It's a dangerous channel so I don't take it lightly." To gain a better understanding of the ocean, the currents and the waves, she paddles about four hours a day. "You have to have that time on your legs. You need to know mentally that you are ready to go," she said.

Hettinger recently started a business called Soul and Sport Ventures that targets women visiting Kaua'i from the Mainland, to introduce them to becoming active and physical. She uses her own experience to motivate others.

Given the number of hours Hettinger puts into her training, she has found it's critical to fuel her body properly.

"I eat everything that is very clean. No processed foods. I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables," she said. "I make a smoothie every morning with blueberries, bananas, yogurt and protein. A lot of peanut butter and toast, cereals with skim milk and lots of eggs."

Hettinger eats plenty of salmon and chicken, as well as red meat at least once a week for the iron. She thrives on low-fat cheeses, avocados and nuts. "Good, pure, wholesome foods, high in proteins and good fats, because with the amount of exercise I do, I have to have that," she explained.

"My downfall is dark chocolate. When it (the craving) hits me, I have a chocolate bar in the fridge and I break off a piece," she said. A piece? What discipline!