Good friends and great exercise

Busy jewelry artist varies her routines in good company

Health & Fitness

December 28, 2003|By Stephanie Shapiro | Stephanie Shapiro,Sun Staff

For Mary DeMarco, staying fit is, by definition, a social event.

"Work out with your friends," she says. "It goes by faster, and it's like therapy."

Whether she's in a spinning class at the Lynne Brick gym at Belvedere Square or running along the trails of Robert E. Lee Park in North Baltimore, DeMarco is usually with at least one of a core group of five friends. As they work out, the women encourage one another as they discuss everything from "politics to pantyhose," as friend Mary Carole Curran puts it.

As they often do after a Brick workout, the two women are drinking hazelnut-flavored coffee at Greg's Bagels and still talking, of course.

For DeMarco, a 43-year-old jewelry artist, businesswoman and mother of three, the five-day-a-week routine is an efficient way to exercise and socialize.

When she began a fitness regimen before she turned 40, DeMarco was motivated by vanity, she says. "I just wanted to get in shape." She had looked in the mirror and wasn't pleased. "Whoa," DeMarco said to herself. "I changed."

She was a high-energy person, but a busy life had taken its toll on her weight.

As she shuttled kids, designed jewelry for her La Contessa line, supervised the city studio where it is made, and ran La Terra, the Hampden gift shop she owns with husband Buddy Wolfe, DeMarco was daunted by the logistical challenge of finding time to exercise.

But she began to run, sometimes from her Towson home to the Hampden studio. She joined Meadowbrook gym and worked out with a trainer.

DeMarco invited friends to join her, and before too long, they were going on long runs. DeMarco trained for and ran a half marathon and switched to the Brick gym.

Several years later, the group -- which includes Katie O'Malley, the wife of Baltimore's mayor -- is still going strong.

To avoid injuries and boredom, they alternate running along Robert E. Lee Park's trails and other non-paved routes with gym workouts. They also do a track workout once a week. DeMarco is the self-appointed "drill sergeant," who holds the group to their appointed routines, including a weekly 6 a.m. weight-training or spinning class.

The friends are all working mothers in their early 40s with plenty of responsibilities who realized they needed to stay active "after babies and for sanity reasons," DeMarco says. O'Malley is a Baltimore District Court judge and Curran, her sister, is a photographer. Kim Prey is a nurse and Mary Beth Brown works with her husband in his construction company.

DeMarco and her girlfriends talk as they exercise. Anything confidential is "left on the trail," she says. When she's not chatting, she's enjoying the natural surroundings and pondering jewelry design ideas.

Today, DeMarco, who is 5 feet 4 inches, weighs about 135. "I never weigh myself. It's about the way I feel mentally and the clothes -- how they fit," she says.

While she weighed less in her 20s, DeMarco still wears a size 6 or 8 -- as she did 20 years ago.

Exercise has benefits beyond fitness, DeMarco discovered. Her runs and exercise sessions leave her "level-headed and with a clear mind."

DeMarco wears "good running shoes" and "lots of layers" in cold weather. She doesn't go out for fancy gym gear, although she loves a frog bra ordered from Title 9. Other than that, "I wear big, baggy shirts and big, ugly shorts," DeMarco says.

As far as nutrition is concerned, DeMarco alternates between low-carb and low-fat meals. Above all, she believes in moderation. "I have to have carbs in my diet," she says.

DeMarco also approaches exercise with a sense of moderation. "It doesn't take over my life," she says. When I don't do it, I'm just not as nice. That's my medication."

Over their coffee, DeMarco and Curran concur on their luck to be in good health and have the luxury of working out often. It's not a selfish thing, they also agree. It's critical for all aspects of their lives.

Training Tips

Mary De Marco offers advice for sticking with a fitness program:

* Mix up your regimen, so you don't get bored. A variety of exercise is also good for your muscles.

* Work out with friends; it goes by faster and the talk is like therapy.

* Exercise at least five days a week.

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