Using the Clinical Approach : Health: Fred Hosillos’ fitness program stress fun on the run.


As a health educator at the Vallejo Drive Adventist Church in Glendale, Fred Hosillos is in charge of several activities--most of which are identifiable from the T-shirts he wears.

Walking Clinic, Bicycle Clinic, Backpacking Clinic are emblazoned on the shirts Hosillos presents to members of the exercise groups he has founded since arriving in Glendale from the Philippines in 1984.

The aforementioned programs are offshoots of the successful Adventist Marathon Clinic, which will begin its seventh year in March.


Open to people of all ages and religions, the Marathon Clinic is designed to improve health and self-esteem, especially in those that have only run away from exercise before.

“A fitness program does not have to be intimidating,” Hosillos said. “You don’t have to be a track star to accomplish athletic goals in life.”

Hosillos, 49, has helped turn hundreds of couch potatoes into avid exercisers since he began a running program in 1982 in his hometown of Iloilo City in the Philippines. Invited by the Southern California Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to import his program to Glendale in 1984, Hosillos has since helped launch marathon clinics in the South Bay and the San Fernando and San Gabriel valleys. In March, the program will expand to Westchester to service West Los Angeles.

Alumni include a 71-year old woman who completed a 15-kilometer race in 1984, but the majority of participants are between 20 and 50 years of age. Some join to lose weight or as a way to start exercising regularly. Others have been referred by doctors to help channel stress.

The running program itself was originally developed by John O. Wagner--a Honolulu cardiologist who devised it 16 years ago as a cardiac rehabilitation program.

The 12-week clinic, which costs $30, includes a once-a-week Sunday meeting at Glendale High or Verdugo Park, where a discussion of health-related topics precedes a group run.

Each clinic is broken into beginner, intermediate and advanced groups. Beginners start by jogging 30 minutes three times a week at a 15-minute-a-mile pace.

Participants must have medical clearance and, in some cases, undergo treadmill tests before they begin. But Hosillos says anyone who follows the program sensibly will be able to traverse nine miles by the end of the first four months. Participants who want to go longer distances stay on for 36 weeks.

Rather than focusing on competition, Hosillos stresses the social aspects of exercise. If you can’t hold a conversation while you’re running, you’re going too fast. The emphasis is on finishing, not winning.

For the past six years, the group has concluded the program with a pilgrimage to Hawaii to participate in the Honolulu Marathon. Last month, 26 participants from the clinic walked, ran or did a combination of both to finish the 26.2-mile course.

“Calling it a marathon clinic is a misnomer and probably scares a lot of people away even though many people do, in fact, do the marathon,” clinic participant Dan Engel of Glendale said. “The goal is to impact your life style and introduce a certain aspect of healthy activity into it.”

That’s all Engel, 36, was looking to achieve when he joined in 1987.

“I was definitely a couch potato-type person,” he said. “I was somewhat overweight and definitely sedentary.”

When he began, Engel’s goal was to finish a 10-kilometer race by the end of 12 weeks. It took him just a month to achieve that, so he shot for a half-marathon.

He conquered that distance in 12 weeks and decided to stay on for the marathon, which he also completed.

Since then, Engel has run five more marathons, including two in Los Angeles and another in Portland, Ore. He covered the course there in a personal-best four hours, eight minutes.

“It’s an easy program that does not compel a person to look at performance or put himself in with a bunch of jocks,” Engel said of the Marathon Clinic. “You’re just in with a bunch of sedentary folks like yourself.

“There’s a certain camaraderie that exists in the group and it’s the thing that made it very workable. There’s no pressure.”

Hosillos’ plans for the clinic include a trip to the Singapore Marathon in 1991 and to the Montreal Marathon in 1992.

Despite a 40% to 70% dropout rate--typical, Hosillos said, of all exercise programs--the Marathon Clinic continues to grow. Last year, Hosillos started a program in Seattle and he has been approached to do the same in Canada.

However, the formula for success remains the same wherever runners venture.

“If they stick with it and take our advice about what to eat and drink and how to space their program with periods of relaxation there is no doubt they will achieve their goal,” Hosillos said. “We don’t care whether they walk it or run it, they will attain their stated goal.”