- Associated Press - Sunday, October 23, 2016

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) - Rick Millen thinks of life in three acts. Act 1 is youth, which is a lot of fun and the time when you go to school and get educated.

“It’s great, but everyone has to grow up,” said Millen, who got his undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland and studied at the University of Georgia to become a doctor of veterinary medicine.

Next comes Act 2, when you start earning a living, raising a family if you so choose, and paying off a mortgage. For Millen, he spent those 35 years of life working as a veterinarian, much of it alongside his wife, fellow veterinarian Kristen King. They raised two daughters here in Huntington, where they’ve lived since 1986, and practiced at Stonecrest Animal Medical Center, which they operated and just recently sold to new owners.

King continues to practice there (which is great because her clients adore her, Millen said), but he has decided to start Act 3 of his life. He calls this the stage of giving back. For him, retirement will not be spent idly. Instead, he’s pursuing his lifelong interest in physical fitness and has begun work as a personal trainer at the YMCA.

It’s not entirely out of the blue. Back in 1972, Millen earned his undergraduate degree in physical education.

“I was going to coach, but then I went down a different path,” he said. He kept up his interest in fitness throughout his life, having run 40 marathons, including the Boston Marathon 13 times. His favorite, however, was the 2007 Georgia Marathon, which he ran with his daughter Emily.

“When I get into something, I take it very seriously,” Millen said. “I’m fascinated with the science of exercise physiology and how that science can be applied to the real world.”

His preparation to become a personal trainer goes back to 2011-14, when he took master’s level courses at Marshall University, mostly with Dr. Terry Shepherd but also with Dr. Suzanne Koontz. He admires both of them greatly.

“Dr. Shepherd is a world class physiologist as well as being a teacher,” Millen said. “He has set up an exercise physiology lab that the Huntington community can participate in. The exercise science program at Marshall is first rate. (Koontz) tests NFL prospects at the combine in Indianapolis.”

Now certified by the American College of Sports Medicine, Millen enjoys working with clients in his peer group at the Y, though he’s open to working with clients of all ages.

“My clients are fascinating people,” he said. “One is a 72-year-old woman who simply wants to become healthier.

“She’s sticking with it and has made great strides, physically and mentally,” Millen said.

Another client is biographer and Marshall professor Jean Edward Smith, who wants to maintain his excellent health, Millen said.

“He’s in remarkably good condition and has done resistance training throughout his life,” said Millen, who knows that when you get into good shape, you never want to go backward.

For seniors, the cardiovascular exercise, balance and flexibility are all important, but the most important form of exercise is resistance training, Millen said.

“Baby boomers are who I relate to the most, mentally and physically,” said Millen, adding that he enjoys working with younger people as well, and one of his greatest inspirations is motivational speaker Bert Jacobs, co-founder of the “Life is Good” company. He saw him speak in Orlando.

As for choosing to work at the Y, the reason was simple. The Y means a lot to Millen. He and his wife have been members since 1986, and it helped them raise two successful daughters. Emily, 29, has earned a master’s degree in public health and works in Los Angeles, and Kelley is now 26 and working toward a doctorate in physical therapy at Elon University in North Carolina.

Millen said they got involved in the Y’s HYCAT swim team program during elementary school and spent eight to 10 years with the same group of kids and the same exceptional coach, Jamie Elk. Because of the work ethic and discipline Elk instilled in the team, Millen had very little disciplining to do at home, he said. And many of those swimmers grew up to earn advanced degrees and work impressive jobs, Millen said.

Aside from its facilities, the value of the YMCA can be found in its excellent programs and teachers, Millen said.

“I get paid by the Y, but I would almost do this for free because I enjoy doing it.”


Information from: The Herald-Dispatch, https://www.herald-dispatch.com

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