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Vanaski: Golden chance to get fit

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By Nafari Vanaski
Wednesday, Jan. 29, 2014, 11:18 p.m.

Yeah, this one's going to be an uphill battle.

Allegheny County Executive Rich Fitzgerald announced an initiative last week aimed at improving the health habits of county residents. Live Well Allegheny seeks to trim the number of overweight residents, who account for 62 percent of the adult population, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The plan is to organize community walks, make available information about healthy lifestyle choices and promote healthy eating habits.

Ah — or yoi — there's the rub. That part's gonna be tough, and I only say that because I never heard of a sandwich or a salad being topped with French fries until I moved here. Primanti's is a signature Pittsburgh food destination, especially for Yinzers who have guests from out of town, followed closely by DeLuca's.

Bacon is basically a food group here, and not an additional food group. It's booted fruits and vegetables out of many diets. Unless they're deep-fried. (That's really the only way to eat zucchini.)

And that's just the locally influenced fare. Did you know that some fast-food restaurants sell bacon cheeseburgers with pretzel buns now, and that they cost less than the salads that don't have French fries on them? They serve hot dogs in pretzel buns, too, because someone took it upon himself to find a way to make hot dogs an even worse food choice than usual.

Clearly then, improving the diet is going to be tough for us. But other than all of that, Pittsburgh is actually the perfect place for a fitness initiative. Think about it. This place is like a real-life Nordic track. Want a flat area to run? There's Downtown and the river banks. Want to try some hills? Well, that's everywhere else.

It might seem like a bad idea to promote an active lifestyle when it's so cold outside that you get throat freeze when you inhale, but then again, the Winter Olympics are right around the corner, and it could be a real inspiration for all of us.

Why, maybe we could start training to take part in the Games ourselves — or even to pioneer some events.

There's no more perfect place to start training for Pothole Curling. I know what you're thinking: You can't improve on the original. It's already captivating and exciting beyond words, requiring titanic effort on the part of the “athlete-drivers.” But you only think that because you've never seen someone try to keep their stone rolling past city potholes without falling into them.

In really snowy and cold weather, right there in that three-day period between substantial snowfall and when the city's side streets are finally cleared, the hillier neighborhoods are perfect for training. It's the right terrain to train for skeleton or bobsledding, but instead you can use a Pittsburgh original: a parking chair.

Those people who bemoan the lack of a proper transportation system are failing to see the opportunity and the challenge involved in getting from point A to B without regular bus service and with no sidewalk to use on too many streets. It's a learned skill to walk on icy, snowy roads and give no ground to passing cars. Add some skis, and Pittsburgh becomes one of the most challenging cross-country skiing courses on the planet.

So even with our dietary challenges, maybe city residents can still get fit. If Jamaica can field a bobsled team, anything can happen.

Nafari Vanaski is a staff writer for Total Trib Media.

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