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Former High School Athlete finds Fitness Redemption in RECenters

To look at Greg Fuge now, you see a cheerful, young man who is the picture of health in the prime of his life. He says it's an image he's still getting used to, because it wasn't that long ago that he got a worrisome report from his doctor, and he knew something had to change. Fuge was just 23 years old and nearly 100 lbs. overweight. "I was at the height of my inactivity in life," he said. "I ate a lot of fast food, didn't get a lot of exercise and my blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol were way too high. For someone in his 20s, that's ridiculous."

Fuge took the doctor's report as a wake-up call and started to develop his strategy for shaping up. It had been a while since the former Falls Church High School triathlete had done anything physical, so he decided to start slowly and enlist the help of a fitness specialist at Providence RECenter. "I started by working with a personal trainer, Sean Smith, to expand the knowledge of what I can do with weights and other equipment in the fitness room, and I got set up on the Fitlinxx computer system so I could track my progress," he said.

He also received encouragement from other patrons at the RECenter, where Fuge works as a manager on duty (MOD), and he drew inspiration from members three and four times his age who make fitness a priority. "I'd be working at the front desk and I'd see these 75-year-old men come in and they were in amazing shape," he said. "They were daily reminders that I needed to take care of myself in fitness and nutrition so I can be active like them when I'm their age."

Today, the 28-year-old George Mason University student watches what he eats and works out five days per week. He's 100 lbs. lighter than he was when he got that eye-opening report from his doctor five years ago, and he has learned the value of slow, steady progress. "Crash diets don't work," he said. "Gradual changes are the ones that seem to last the longest."

To stay motivated, Fuge says he tracks everything from his workouts to his meals via spreadsheets and a free phone app called My Fitness Pal. "I learned about the app from someone in the fitness room," he said. He also plans and prepares most of his meals at home, and he sets attainable weekly fitness goals. "It's the little victories that keep you motivated as you reflect on them and see the progress over time," he said. Now, Fuge is among those inspiring others to victory at Providence RECenter. "It's never too late to get started and invest in your own muscular and cardiovascular infrastructure," he said. Fuge sees it as a lifetime investment that will pay big dividends for years to come.

Build on your personal fitness goals at Fairfax County RECenters where you'll find a variety of exercise options ranging from swimming and exercise classes to personal training and fitness rooms. To learn more, call or visit a RECenter near you.

Learn the secrets of dancers in the Park Authority's hottest new fitness toning class, Barre Workout. This class incorporates ballet exercises, barres and light weights to help you tone and define your muscles for a total-body workout.

"It's a lot of fun, and the instructor does a good job of doing a fullbody workout," said student Joan Ray during a class at Spring Hill RECenter. "Even if you think you're not good at ballet, that doesn't matter. All you really need is long, lean movements and a desire to be fit."

Student Laura Twining agrees. "I didn't really know what it was going to be like," she said. "I found it challenging, considering I exercise a lot, and I found that it helps tone muscles that I don't ordinarily use a lot."

The class incorporates a wide variety of low-impact exercises to increase stamina, flexibility and strength. Low-impact aerobic exercises and light weights are usually performed first, followed by ballet movements at the barre that require balance and stimulate core muscles, such as pliés. The class concludes with stretching to promote long, lean muscles.

Fall Harvest
Experience farm harvest days at Frying Pan Farm Park in Herndon. See the cider press in action, meet the farm animals and see traditional farm demonstrations this October. Jump on a wagon for a hay ride, or enjoy the fall carnival. Details are in the Equestrian and Farm section.

Pumpkin Fest
The Pumpkins in the Park festival at Lake Fairfax Park in Reston is sure to please every member of the family. Pick up a pumpkin and enjoy class demonstrations, carousel rides, a puppet show and other family activities. See the Events section for more information.

Halloween Happenings
You'll find plenty of Halloween fun at park sites across Fairfax County. Come in costume to Halloween Fest at Green Spring Gardens to learn about nature's weird and wonderful creatures, and engage in ghoulish games, creepy crafts, and sinister snacks in this fright fest of fun. Details are in the Gardening section.

Campfires and Critters
Test your courage and challenge your fears and phobias at the All Hallows Eve House of Reptiles and Night Ride at Ellanor C. Lawrence Park in Chantilly, or mark your calendar to come to the campfire in multiple parks throughout the fall. Details are in the Nature and Science section.

Tricks and Turkey
Golfers are sure to experience thrills and chills as they encounter unexpected obstacles in their quest for victory in the annual Superintendent's Revenge Tournament at Twin Lakes Golf Course in Clifton. Others will be in the hunt to win Thanksgiving dinner and dessert in the annual Turkey Cup Tournament at Greendale Golf Course in Alexandria.

Indian Culture
Virginia's first families – the Indians – had a place at the first Thanksgiving table. Discover their interesting history and tribal culture at the Virginia Indian Festival at Riverbend Park in September. Details are in the History section.

It's easy to see why creativity comes easy for children enrolled in Art Above and Beyond class. Their teacher, Christina Mark, is a veteran preschool and elementary educator who knows how to connect with kids with a variety of weekly projects. "We use mixed mediums, and every week we do something different," Mark said. "One week we might do a wood sculpture and the next week might be a canvas painting, for example." Sometimes the budding artists get to use a modeling compound or clay to make a threedimensional work of art. "We're learning how to make frogs out of clay," said 5-year-old Laila Howell enthusiastically during one class as she painted her frog in shimmering silver. "Sometimes we make beautiful colors by mixing colors."

While creativity is the primary focus of this class at Wakefield Park, there's more to Art Above and Beyond than meets the eye. "The children learn how to follow directions and practice social skills, and I love to see the looks on their faces when they make discoveries," Mark said. "Most of them underestimate themselves at first, and when they see a finished product, they're so proud of themselves." Some children in a spring class were so proud of their frogs; they decided to give them away to a very special recipient. "I'm going to give mine to my mother for Mother's Day," said 5-year-old Eliana Elias, who opted to paint her frog a brilliant pink. Her classmate, 6-year-old Nicholas Pang, had a similar plan for his silver, blue and orange frog. "I'm going to go into my mother's room at nighttime and surprise her with it," he said with eager anticipation.

There's no telling what the children will get to create from week to week in Art Above and Beyond class. Howell says one thing is for sure. "We are having a lot of fun!"

It's Sunday afternoon at Pinecrest Golf Course in Alexandria, and players have abandoned the usual golf tee time for what some might consider kickoff time in the newest sport sweeping the nation – footgolf – a combination of soccer and golf. "It's really fun," said 13-year old Andre Lamarque in a game with his friends Sebastian Boos and Harrison DiPetto. "We really like soccer and golf, and this is a new sport for us."

Footgolf is especially popular with soccer enthusiasts like Steven Novotny and Jeff Homens, who grew up playing club soccer together near Baltimore. Now 26 and employed in the D.C. area, the childhood friends are excited about the prospect of playing footgolf at Pinecrest, the only footgolf course in Fairfax County. "It's inside the beltway, which is nice, and the game is super fun," Novotny said. Homens agreed. "It's an excellent way to work on your [soccer] skills in a relaxed manner," he said. "I played [footgolf] once in Milwaukee, and this course is a lot nicer."

Footgolf rules are similar to regular golf rules from the tee box to the greens, bunkers, hazards and holes of play. The difference is you don't need any special skills to play footgolf. "If you can kick a ball, you can play footgolf," said Pinecrest manager Sarah Oberther. "Players can either bring their own soccer ball or rent one at the clubhouse."

In footgolf, groups of up to four players take their turns kicking their ball toward each hole and walk the course or ride in a golf cart. While the soccer ball doesn't travel as far in the air as a golf ball, it rolls much farther in the fairways. Holes are 21 inches around and about 14 inches deep, and they are placed away from the traditional golf holes. The goal is to get your soccer ball to land in each footgolf hole with the fewest number of kicks. Scorecards display par scores for each hole as in regulation golf and can be used to determine the winner.

Footgolf is played throughout the world in many different forms, and as a sport in the United States, it is governed by The American FootGolf League (AFGL). In just four years since the AFGL was founded, 418 courses nationwide have launched footgolf programs, and Pinecrest Golf Course is one of only three in Va. certified by the AFGL. Though the game is just getting started at Pinecrest, enthusiasts like Novotny expect it to catch on like wildfire. "This is such a great activity for former soccer players, and this area is so soccer heavy, this course is going to blow up with events once the word gets out," he said.

An 18-hole round of footgolf is just $12 per person (walking) if you bring your own ball or $15 if you rent a ball at the clubhouse. Footgolf tee times are available at Pinecrest on Saturday and Sunday afternoons starting at 1:30 p.m., and power carts are available for an additional charge. To reserve a footgolf tee time or for more information, call (703) 941-1061.

Civic Sportsmanship Keeps Park Clean

Nearly one year after Sully Highlands Park opened in Herndon, the state-ofthe- art athletic complex looks as pristine as it did on opening day. "It's a source of community pride," said Ralph Wills whose sweat equity in this complex dates back to the tail end of his 40-year career with the Fairfax County Park Authority Operations Division. Now, his service continues as a park volunteer and a member of the Chantilly Youth Association (CYA), which is spearheading the trash-free zone initiative at this park. "All of our parks are great facilities, and we need to take care of them," he said. "Stewardship is everyone's responsibility."

Sully Highlands Park was established through a partnership between the Park Authority, the athletic community and local developers. Keeping the park clean through the trash-free zone initiative not only saves taxpayers the cost of paying crews to clean up the park after a full weekend of use, it keeps away scavenging animals and birds. "The birds have strewn trash all over," Wills recalled from his former park experiences, "and the Park Authority doesn't have the manpower." That's why on any given weekend, you'll find Wills and CYA executive director Mark Abbott marshaling Sully Highlands Park, reminding visitors of the trash-free initiative and asking them to take home any trash they brought into the park, such as food wrappers and drink cans. "We're pretty confident that by asking people to do it, they'll do it." Abbott said. "We get very little pushback." In fact, parents like Shenley Williams see it as a good lesson in civic sportsmanship for their children after their games end. "I think it's nice, and it's easy enough for us to do," she said. "It keeps the fields really clean, and it keeps the animals and birds away. Hopefully we can keep it up for years to come."

The pilot trash-free zone initiative at Sully Highlands Park will be evaluated for its effectiveness after one year. Wills hopes it turns out to be a winning strategy for keeping other parks clean throughout Fairfax County. "It's time and effort, but it works," he said.

Get ready for more opportunities to peer into the night skies, see craters and mountains on the moon, the belts of Jupiter, rings of Saturn, far away galaxies, and more at Turner Farm in Great Falls. The Analemma Society and the Fairfax County Park Authority are teaming up to build a new rolltop observatory, including four telescopes on mounts. The new observatory is expected to be completed in early 2016 and will allow viewing in a wider range of conditions and in a more protected environment.

Currently year round, the general public is invited to join the Analemma Society and Northern Virginia Astronomy Club on clear Friday nights at Turner Farm to see an array of celestial wonders and learn about science through astronomy. On sunny Saturdays and Sundays, Turner Farm visitors can see a beautiful sundial. Programming and sundial viewing is free to participants thanks to the dedication of knowledgeable volunteers.

Find out more about available programming, including closures due to weather and events, online at www.analemma.org. Teachers and scout groups should contact the Analemma Society in advance to ensure enough telescopes are available on Friday nights.

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