Every morning, Kelly Shuler has her shoes laced up, ready to begin her workout long before the sun makes its first appearance.
Shuler is a dedicated race walker, a sport that has taken her all around the country. She has completed more than 160 half and full marathons in 41 different states.
“It’s been fun because I’ve met a lot of people who are outside of the medical field,” Shuler said. “I’ve got good friends all over the country because of it.”
Ironically, Shuler, D.O., a family medicine specialist at Utica Park Clinic in Sapulpa, began her interest as a race walker following a conversation with one of her patients. Shuler mentioned to a patient their health condition would benefit from weight loss. She never forgot his response.
“He sat there for a minute and thought about it and thought I was being hypocritical,” Shuler said. “He was right.”
Looking to improve her own health, Shuler opted for the Oklahoma Heart Institute Health Management Resources (HMR) program. The program focuses on a structured diet, physical activity and behavioral lifestyle-change coaching. Offered through the Weight Loss & Wellness Center at Oklahoma Heart Institute, HMR was ranked No. 1 Best Fast Weight Loss Diet by U.S. News & World Report from 2016-2021.
“It’s a great program we have available for patients,” Shuler said. “They just don’t know about it.”
The physical activity of the program is what brought about Shuler’s idea for race walking. One of her first competitions was a 5K color run in Kansas City in 2016. Then the goal-driven Shuler increased her race-walking regiment. Soon she was walking 10-15 miles during weekends and went from competing in 5Ks to half-marathons.
Thanks to the HMR program and her dedication to exercise, Shuler lost 75 pounds in a nine-month period.
“That felt fantastic,” she said. “I just wanted to reach my goals as quickly as I could.”
Another one of Shuler’s motivations for race walking has been to improve her health while still enjoying some of her favorite foods.
“With the HMR program, I learned I could maintain my weight with just the diet,” she said. “But I would have to give up some of the foods I really loved forever. Staying physically active allows me a to cheat a bit on my eating.”
In spring 2022, Shuler plans to travel to Hawaii – one of the nine states she has yet to compete in as a race walker – for a half-marathon. Eventually, her goal is to walk in all 50 states.
“It’s been great because I’ve gotten to go to places,” Shuler said. “I get to see parts of cities that you wouldn’t normally see and places you wouldn’t be able to go.”
Shuler’s experience as a race walker has given her a lifetime of memorable experiences and enabled her to offer a first-hand story of encouragement to her patients.
“Now when I talk to patients about being physically active, I share about how I’ve gotten started with small steps,” Shuler said. “If I can do this, I know they can.”