Philly’s 10 Most Inspiring Health and Fitness Moments of 2015


inspiring stories

We can’t help it: We’re suckers for a good story — especially when said story makes us sniffle, cry and go “Awwwww.” This year, we had a lot of those moments, thanks to stories of local folks overcoming incredible health obstacles to fitness heroes who inspired us to get off the couch to meet our own goals.

If you’re in need of some quick motivation, you’ve come to the right place. Here, our 10 most aww-worthy stories of the year. Get your Kleenex ready. 


Kinzey Lynch Is Blind — But That Doesn’t Keep Him From Running Marathons

Lynch and Philly Achilles guide Charlie Tomlinson on the Schuylkill River Trail / Photograph by Adam Jones

Lynch and Philly Achilles guide Charlie Tomlinson on the Schuylkill River Trail / Photograph by Adam Jones

If you’d told me when I was a little kid that I’d be doing marathons, I wouldn’t have believed you. I was born with microphthalmia, which limits my vision to light, shadows and colors. Read more »


How to Laugh at Your Worst Days

Shane Burcaw | Photo by Jeremy Cohen

Shane Burcaw | Photo by Jeremy Cohen

Shane Burcaw, 22, suffers from a debilitating disease, Spinal Muscular Atrophy (it’s related to Muscular Dystrophy). Despite his illness, or maybe, because of it, the Moravian grad is internet-famous: he’s written a book, founded a nonprofit called Laughing At My Nightmare (LAMN), and is currently jet setting around the country on speaking engagements. His idea? Laughter as prescription, in all your worst circumstances and on all your worst days. Read more »


This Is City Hall’s Best Kept Secret

Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown leading her Noonwalk group

Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown leading her Noonwalk group

The light step of sneakers on tile corridors echoes over people sitting in the sixth floor corridor at City Hall as they wait to report for jury duty.

“If you walk a little faster you’ll get your heart rate up,” Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown says to the group of women behind her as she hefts a ten-pound weight in the air.

Blondell Reynolds Brown is currently serving her fourth term on Philadelphia City Council. She’s the only woman to serve as an At-Large Philadelphia Councilmember since 2000, the only woman serving in City Council Leadership, and the Majority Whip.

Oh, and, she also pioneered and leads a free midday walking group at City Hall twice a week. Read more »


I Was the Last Official Finisher of the Philadelphia Marathon

Steve Clark at the finish line with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter | Photo courtesy Philadelphia Marathon/Island Photography

Steve Clark at the finish line with Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter | Photo courtesy Philadelphia Marathon/Island Photography

I’ve always wanted to accomplish something on the scale of a Greek hero. Problem is, I don’t exactly have the body, skill set, or mental toughness of a Greek hero.

My twin brother does possess those qualifications. And there’s always been this contrast between us: In Little League, he batted second, and I batted 13th — on our dad’s team. In high school, he competed in varsity basketball; I competed in varsity Model United Nations.

But he’s always been generous with his physical gifts. I often think that when we were sperm, there’s no way I possibly could have come anywhere near matching his speed to the ovary. He must’ve communicated something like, “Look. Just latch on to one of my buff flagella and let me take us both to victory.”

When we turned 31 last June, I knew that my time to achieve something great with this uncoordinated body of mine was running out. Suddenly, I had a crazy thought. “I’m going to run the Philadelphia Marathon,” I decided. “All I have to do is keep going for 26 miles, and I’ll finally have my moment.” Read more »


It Took Me Two Years to Get Pregnant

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My path to pregnancy was a bit bumpy, and that pre-preggo bumpiness made me a tad gun-shy to talk about the pregnancy itself in any sort of detail, to friends and family in real life and here to you on the blog.

But now that I’m on the other side of it, I realize that keeping it to myself, burying my feelings, and putting on a brave face was a mistake. A huge one, actually. Because what I’ve learned in talking to other moms is that bumpiness kind of comes with the territory — that the “perfect” pregnancy is much rarer than movies, books and, yes, even mom blogs let on.

So I’m ready to talk about it now. Read more »


PHOTOS: 8-Year-Old Double Hand-Transplant Patient at CHOP Released from Hospital

Photo via Penn Medicine/Facebook

Photo via Penn Medicine/Facebook

In July, the world fell in love with Zion Harvey, the eight-year-old Baltimore native who received a double hand transplant in early July at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. The surgery, the first-ever hand transplant performed on a child, was a joint effort of physicians at CHOP and the University of Pennsylvania. It was deemed a resounding success. Read more »


This Is the Guy Who Ran the Philadelphia Marathon in Head-to-Toe Fireman’s Gear

fireman 2

Steve Bender is not crazy. Well, maybe he’s a little crazy, but it’s the kind of crazy you can’t help but admire and hope rubs off on you just a little bit. He’s the guy who ran the Philadelphia Marathon yesterday in 50 pounds of fireman’s gear — helmet and air tank included. Read more »


Deneen Young’s Incredible 139-Pound Weight-Loss Journey

Deneen Young, before and after.

Deneen Young, before and after.

When I was at my heaviest — 264 pounds — my uncle gave me tough love in a conversation. He said, “Why are you killing yourself, and what are you going to do about it? We all love you and want you here on this Earth for a very long time. Don’t you want to live long enough to see your grandchildren?” The answer was yes. So I decided to make a change. Read more »


Watch This, Taylor Swift: CHOP’s Absolutely Perfect “Shake It Off” Spoof

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I dare you not to smile (or cry a little bit) when you see this just-released video from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, in which patients and staffers lip sync, dance and flash mob it up to Taylor Swift’s “Shake It Off.” Read more »


5 Philly Fitness Pros on the Moment They Decided to Care About Their Health

City Fit Girls co-founder Kiera Smalls: “A turning point for me was during college. My mother passed away during my freshmen year due to health reasons and I did not want that to happen to me.” Read more »

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