Meet Two Health Heroes: Len and Susan Lodish

Len and Susan Lodish

Len and Susan Lodish

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Names: Len and Susan Lodish

What they do: Fundraisers and cyclists for ALS Association for Greater Philadelphia

Who or what motivates you to be healthy?
We read Ken Cooper’s Aerobics in the late 60s. His data and logic supporting getting your heart rate up for 30 minutes, three to five times per week, was very compelling. Both of us began to be much more active; we jogged together and bicycled instead of taking a car. After a few months we noticed our heart rates were down 10 to 15 percent, an indication that our hearts were more efficient and could perform the same work with fewer beats. Dr. Ken Cooper has not gotten the credit he deserved. His book, which coined the term aerobics and proved the value of regular aerobic exercise, has contributed immensely to the health of the U.S.

We have lived together for over 40 years with Susan’s sister, Gloria, and her husband, Bob, in a big, old, nine-bedroom house, where we raised six boys and one “adopted” girl. We took all the kids on extended bike trips in the U.S. and Europe every summer. Now that the kids are grown and have their own kids, we are proud to see that the kids and grandkids are biking all over as well. We are going to celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary next year with a bike trip for all of the kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews, and grandnieces and grandnephews. We feel it is important to be role models for our families and our students. It is no accident that the recent Wharton Magazine article about Len’s career featured a picture of Len with his bike.

Describe a health or fitness related turning point in your life.
When Len’s cousin, Dr. Jules Lodish, was diagnosed with ALS in 1995, we became even more motivated to be healthy enough to be able to live every day to its fullest. Len had been dreaming of bicycling across the U.S. ever since he was a kid and his Mom wouldn’t let him go on long bike rides. Susan decided that she didn’t want him to go without her, so we got a tandem and rode across the U.S. on the tandem during Len’s sabbatical in 1996. We felt guilty just doing the ride, so we decided to ask our friends to sponsor us on a per mile basis and donate the proceeds to ALS in honor of Jules. We sent our sponsors a couple of postcards from the road during the trip. Because Ellyn Phillips, who ran the Philadelphia ALS Association, was inspirational, she convinced us to continue doing rides each summer, which our friends could sponsor. It has now been 19 years, and we have ridden our tandem bike all over the world every summer for two weeks, with hundreds of loyal, generous sponsors who now get emailed notes and pictures from our adventures on the road. We have raised nearly $1.5 million with these bike rides for patient care and for research to find a cure for this horrible disease.

What “policy” would you institute to make Greater Philadelphia a healthier region?
Philadelphia is now the one of the 10 largest U.S. cities that has the highest percentage of citizens who bicycle. There is much more to be done. We need more bike lanes that are separated from auto traffic. Many people are still afraid to cycle on the Philly streets—even in the bike lanes. Every large office building should be required to have a secure place for locking bicycles and showers for the cyclists. Take a small area from the imposing lobbies and make it into shower facilities.

Our young people are getting even more sedentary. Len joined the Neighborhood Bike Works board of directors to help them on their mission to get more inner city youth to use bicycles safely and productively. NBW is helping youth to become more responsible, healthier citizens, using bicycles by helping them to build and repair bikes, ride them safely, and learn how to explore the Delaware Valley safely on bikes.

What’s the most important part of your health or fitness regimen?
We still do not use our car if we can bicycle instead. Len has been commuting on his bicycle to the Wharton School (a 12.5 mile roundtrip) for over 47 years. We also do regular exercise. Len does calisthenics and push-ups, sit ups, and curls and Susan does spinning, aerobics, and Pilates classes regularly.

What is your number one piece of health-related advice?
Every couple that bicycles should make the few-hour effort to learn to ride a tandem. It is one of the few athletic activities that people of different athletic abilities can do and still accomplish the same goals. It also engenders trust between the two riders and encourages constant communication. It is no secret that most tandem couples have long, enduring relationships. Trust and open communication are important for enduring relationships, like our 49-year marriage.

Tandems are also a blast! Because they have a low center of gravity, if you blow out your tire, even at high speed, the bike just slows down and stops. We have had a blowout at 35 mph and had no problems stopping, so we will let it go on long hills. Twice we have had our tandem up to 56 mph! Extremely exhilarating!

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