By Steven Penn
Keith Groppel, senior staff physical therapist at Hendricks Regional Health (HRH) in Plainfield, has put in a lot of miles toward becoming a healthier person.
Groppel said he turned to running after a busy lifestyle made it harder for him to be healthy.
“In 2009, I accepted a position here at Hendricks Regional Health in Plainfield,” he said. “Whereas in the past, I was driving from Greenwood to Hancock County and before that I was driving from Bloomington to Hancock County. Being in the car for so long and doing 10 hour days, it got to be I would basically get up, eat on the road, go to work for 10 hours, come home, eat something, and go to bed. So I didn’t have any time to exercise. My weight started to increase from my 190 pounds when I got married, to 220 pounds at the end of 2008.”
It was then that his physician told him it was time to get his weight — and subsequently rising blood pressure — under control by either using diet and exercise or medication. Groppel said his training as a physical therapist led him to choose diet and exercising, but it proved too difficult and he had to begin taking two medications for high blood pressure.
However, he continued to look for a way to get healthier.
“In 2008 ... my director, Shane Sommers, invited the clinic to run the (Indianapolis) mini-marathon (coming up) in 2009,” he said. “I accepted that challenge and in January of 2009 Hendricks Regional Health had a mini-marathon training session that he and I joined.
We both decided to run it together and make a little wager — a side wager, I guess, of who would be fastest (for a dinner at) Ruth’s Chris Steak House. After the second time, he realized I was faster so he quickly took away that wager.”
Groppel said that while training the weight began to fall off, and it was then that he got hooked on running.
“We trained and I lost about 10 to 15 pounds during that running,” he said. “I realized if all I have to do is run to lose weight, I’ll just do that, so that year I ran three half-marathons, decreased my weight to
(roughly) 195 pounds at the end of 2009, and I found that I was getting faster, so (I decided to run more).”
In the following years, his love of running led him to marathons in exotic locations, some of which were very long races.
“In 2010 I ran a lot more,” Groppel said. “I ran my first full-marathon in Jacksonville with Shane, which was the National Breast Cancer
Marathon, and I ran multiple half-marathons. I thought that it was so much fun, so I decided to see if I could push it a little bit farther. I ran my first ultra-marathon, which was January of 2011, and that was out in the Mojave Desert around Lake Mead. It was a 50-miler and I came in first in my age group, which shocked the heck out of me.”
He clarified that an ultra-marathon is any race over 26.2 miles.
“The next year, which was 2012, I decided to go ahead and try another ultra-marathon,” Groppel said. “That’s when I did the Park to Park Ultra-Marathon, and I won that one (out of six competitors). It was 56.4 miles and it was 92 degrees that day.”
He said he’s now set his eyes on the Boston Marathon.
“This year my overall goal was to try to qualify for the Boston Marathon,” Groppel said. “I’ve always, most recently, been two to three minutes too slow. I thought after the ultra-marathon I was going to take a little break, and run for fun ... My goal for next year is to qualify for Boston, probably in November, since I’ll be a year older and I can slow down by five minutes and qualify. But I’m debating on doing a 100-miler, which is down in Florida ... called Keys 100 and (it’s from) Key Largo to Key West.”
He added that he’s still negotiating with his wife to do the 100-mile marathon because of the amount of training he would have to do.
Groppel said he’s going to keep running to stay in shape, as he continues to drop weight.
“I found I was losing weight as I kept (training),” he said. “I went from 195 pounds to my current weight is right around 170 to 180. I do that by running and watching what I take in. Whereas before, I just ate and didn’t do anything. So now I try to keep it at about a 2,000-calorie diet and increase it as needed for runs.”
He said he wants to lose even more weight in an effort to cut his times down, but he’s not sure if his wife will agree with that.
“Hopefully, I’ll lose another 10 pounds over the next year, because they say that if you lose five pounds, you actually improve your mini, your half-marathon, time by two minutes,” Groppel said. “So I figured I could cut four minutes off my marathon time if I dropped 10 pounds. My wife doesn’t want me to lose any more weight, but I feel healthier and I’m off medication.”
He said he runs between 30 to 50 miles a week by running three days a week.
Groppel said as a physical trainer who is into running, doctors will often send runner patients to him because he can connect with them.
“I can relate with them, plus my knowledge of running injuries has gone significantly higher,” he said. “(I know) what shoes to wear, what stretches to do, and what exercises to do in order to improve certain biomechanical issues that the patient may have. We do running evaluations (and) we’ll set up a video camera and we’ll assess their running pattern.”
He said for him, his motivation is to stay healthy and lose weight, but he also wants to fill a cabinet in his office with medals from all of the marathons he runs. As of now, he has 25 medals from various marathons.
Groppel said his advice to people who want to get healthy is to get active in any way possible.
“Attempt to move in some fashion, whether it be running, jogging, or biking — it doesn’t have to be walking, just move,” he said. “If it hurts to walk, get into a pool and walk in there. If you can jog but it hurts to jog, do a walk/jog kind of pattern.”
He added that it’s also important to listen to what your body is trying to tell you.
“Listen to your body, so if you start to have aches and pains not to necessarily push through them,” Groppel said. “Your body is aching for a reason. (You) should listen to it. But I guess the overall goal is to potentially improve their overall health. Maybe not take it to the extremes of ultra-marathons, but in this day and age we tend to sit down a lot, work on computers, watch television, and drive everywhere. We don’t exercise anymore. Just become active.”