Fit and Loving it


First in a three-part series

Fit and loving it

Shawn Herbig began working out and eating right to improve the quality of his life

By Robyn Davis Sekula


January 11, 2008

For most of his adult life, Shawn Herbig didn't pay much attention to his weight.

An extra pound or two each year didn't make much difference, he thought, until he hit 36. Then he decided he wanted his life and his body to be drastically different by the time he turned 40.

Herbig, president and owner of IQS Research, a market research firm in Louisville, knew that short-term diets don't work. At 187 pounds and 5 feet, 11 inches tall, he wanted to change his entire lifestyle. But he wasn't sure where to go.

Herbig signed a new client, Louisville Youth Training Center Inc., that finally convinced him to get off his couch and into a workout routine. As the person who ran the statistics for the fitness and weight-loss clinic for children, "I saw the statistics," Herbig said. "I could see that the program worked."

Getting started

Herbig joined Heuser Clinic Adult Fitness, an adult counterpart to the Youth Training Center. His first workout was Sept. 11, 2006.

He started by working out, doing a variety of exercises designed specifically for him by the Heuser Clinic staff. He worked out three nights a week. Heuser Clinic staff estimated he was about 25 pounds overweight.

During the 12-week program, Herbig worked out three nights a week on cardio equipment at the facility and attended nutritional counseling.

For the first two weeks, he decided not to change his eating habits right away. He continued to make the same choices he had been making, but he wrote down everything he ate and read labels to keep track of how many calories he consumed.

As a busy executive, he resorted to fast food too often, he decided. The Heuser Clinic educated him about food and helped him decide how many calories he should eat in a day.

"The thing that went away was the fast-food burgers," Herbig said. "Everybody knows that's unhealthy. That's no surprise. What did surprise me was how often I would resort to that."

Herbig changed his diet to low-fat, high-protein choices -- plenty of vegetables and some carbohydrates, but not too many.

McDonald's Double Cheeseburgers once were a favorite. He still goes to McDonald's, but now he gets a grilled chicken sandwich or fruit and yogurt parfait.

He still loves Reese's peanut butter cups, but he knows now that a large one has 80 calories. So if he eats that, another 80 calories has to be eliminated from his diet, which consists of 1,500 to 1,800 calories per day, plus about 100 calories for each mile he runs.

Herbig still drinks Diet Coke, but he has increased the amount of water he drinks after a run and in the evening.

He now weighs 150.

Taking up running

Herbig started running about three months after starting the Heuser program.

Herbig and his wife, Kathy Herbig, were walking one day on a fitness trail, and Shawn Herbig told his wife he was going to try to run the trail instead of walking it.

"Running was a love I never knew I had," Herbig said.

He began by running 10 to 15 miles each week, and then he decided to run the Kentucky Derby Festival mini-marathon this past spring.

His goal was to run the 13.1 miles in two hours or less, and he clocked just under that at 1 hour, 59 minutes and 38 seconds. Happy with that time, he set his goal for the next mini-marathon, in Indianapolis in October, for 1 hour, 45 minutes.

His time for the race was 1 hour, 44 minutes and 58 seconds, a pace of about eight minutes per mile.

Being a statistician at heart, Herbig keeps detailed records of his running on his Treo.

After a run, he records the shoes he was wearing, the weather at the time of the run, the time and location, distance run, heart rate, duration of the run, and weight on that particular day.

He keeps track of the shoes he was wearing so he knows when to buy a new pair, as running shoes should be replaced every 300 miles, Herbig said. His database can give him a summary of the week and the year.

Herbig said keeping the statistics helps him meet goals, and goals are everything to his running program.

"I found that at the beginning of the summer, I had done the mini-marathon, and I didn't have any goals. And I was running 20 miles a week, but my times weren't that great," he said. "It was like I was bored. I have to have a goal to meet."

Meal time changes

Herbig's daily routine now is to get up about 5:30 a.m., run, return home, get ready for work and eat breakfast at his desk as he checks e-mail and begins his day.

He switches between three breakfasts: low-fat peanut butter on whole wheat bread, sometimes with jelly and low-fat yogurt; yogurt and low-fat granola and fruit; or a fresh bagel with low-fat peanut butter.

He drinks decaffeinated coffee with nonfat creamer. For lunch, he eats sandwiches from Subway or Quizno's and skips mayonnaise and cheese. The sandwiches are usually turkey on wheat bread.

At home, Herbig is the main cook. He modified the family meals, which mostly went along fine with the family, according to wife Kathy Herbig. But she did ask him to put bread, baked potatoes and other carbohydrates back into the family meals on occasion, as others in the family missed those.

A typical family meal, Shawn Herbig said, is a quesadilla made with fat-free cheese for him and with regular cheese for Kathy Herbig and her son who still lives at home, Michael. Grilled chicken and peppers are included.

Herbig snacks, too, mostly on pretzels with mustard, nutrition bars, broth soups or sometimes turkey or vegetables.

Changing the family tree

What's probably most surprising about Shawn Herbig's story, said Kathy Herbig, a tax manager at Crowe Chizek and Co., is that this is all entirely new for him.

He never played sports and wasn't athletic, she said. But goal-oriented running makes sense for his personality.

He's "always setting goals toward whatever else he wants to accomplish," Kathy Herbig said. "That's how he has made it his passion. For every race or every event that he runs, it's not just going out and running. That's how he is about everything in life. He's a very focused individual, a very goal-oriented person."

Kathy Herbig has enjoyed how much her husband's choices have affected the rest of the family.

His healthy food choices have prompted everyone else to eat better and have exposed the family to more variety, Kathy Herbig said. Her sons, too, now sometimes run with their stepfather, and they've watched the healthier choices he's making.

"It's created an awareness of the choices we need to make every day," Kathy Herbig said. "In that sense, it's created some healthier choices for us. One day, maybe we'll all get there with him."


About the Heuser Clinic

Dr. Louis Heuser and his wife, Peggy Heuser, started the Louisville Youth Training Center Inc. in April 2000 and the Heuser Clinic Adult Fitness in 2002. Both programs are located at 2040 Metal Lane. Louis Heuser is executive director and CEO; Peggy Heuser is chief operating officer.

The Youth Training Center was a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving the fitness of school-age children through nutrition and exercise. The Heusers started Heuser Clinic Adult Fitness, a for-profit health, nutrition and fitness center, to help the children's center survive economically, Peggy Heuser explained.

The Heusers were inspired to start both organizations because of their time working in medicine. Louis Heuser was a surgeon, while Peggy Heuser worked with him as a nurse. Both saw an epidemic of obesity in their practice, and they wanted to help educate the public and prevent obesity as much as possible.

The Youth Training Center operates the Tap into Fitness program in Jefferson County Public Schools. The program focuses on nutrition, exercise and consumerism in elementary schools.

For the adult program, participants are required to pass a physical exam with a doctor to clear them for the program, and then height, weight, body fat percentage, muscle strength, muscle endurance, muscle flexibility and cardio endurance are measured and recorded. Goals are set for the 12-week program.

"Most men can lose one or two pounds per week," Peggy Heuser said. "We are very interested in building lean muscle mass. We would rather you lose inches and not be so concerned about pounds of weight loss."

The program costs $1,000 for individuals, or $550 per person for corporations enrolling six or more people. Beyond the 12 weeks, the program's monthly costs are $100 for corporations (six or more people) and $135 for individuals.


Shawn Herbig

Job: President and owner of IQS Research, a market research and analysis firm that Herbig founded in 1999; nine employees

Wife: Kathy Herbig, a certified public accountant

Stepsons: Shawn Stober, 18, and Michael Stober, 16

Hometown: Louisville

Residence: Pewee Valley

Exercise story: In the summer of 2006 Herbig decided to start exercising after he began working with a fitness and wellness clinic as a client. He could see that the programs the clinic offered worked. After completing the clinic's three-month intensive program, he started running, and in 2007, he completed two half-marathons.

Other changes: Switched to a low-fat, high-protein diet

Runs: 30 to 35 miles a week

Goal: To run a full marathon in 2008