Bill Heizer's advice on staying active:

March 05, 2008 12:00 am
Bill Heizer strikes a yoga pose during class at the YMCA fitness center. His usual yoga class meets Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 5:15 a.m. at Sam-O Swim Center. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).
Bill Heizer strikes a yoga pose during class at the YMCA fitness center. His usual yoga class meets Tuesday and Thursday mornings at 5:15 a.m. at Sam-O Swim Center. (Baker City Herald/S. John Collins).


Baker City Herald

Bill Heizer may hit the gym every week, but he'd rather bask in the silence of his mountains than the music blasted at decibels designed to keep motivation running high.

Up here, at the base of the Elkhorns, Heizer secures his boots to snowshoes and trudges down his driveway a few yards until veering off into the trees.

This is where he finds silence.

"I hike up here by myself all the time. I like that," he says. "Nice and quiet. No cars, no people."

Heizer, 77, doesn't ever stay still for long.

"I have to have something to do. I don't want to just sit around," he says.

He starts early, too, sometimes rising at 3 o'clock on winter mornings to plow his country lane and make it to his yoga class at 5:15 a.m.

"I get up at 3 or 3:30 quite frequently," he says.

Even on the days when no snow blocks his path — such as the summer — Heizer still rises at 4 a.m. for his commute of 12 miles to yoga at Sam-O Swim Center.

He's attended this yoga class since it started in February 2004, and even has his own mat — an orange one, with tiger stripes.

He'd never before tried this exercise characterized by deep breathing and poses that promote stretching and flexibility.

"I tried it and I just seemed to go, go, go and got into it," he says.

He is, quite frequently, one of the only males in the class.

"I'm not as flexible as women — not near as flexible," he says with a smile.

(Yoga, by the way, is not competitive and the instructor, Janie Radinovich-Brose-Mahaffey, always encourages her students to "listen to your body.")

Heizer also rides a furious bike twice a week in spinning class at the YMCA gym. During the class, riders simulate outdoor conditions, such as climbing hills, by increasing the tension. A level 5, for instance, is easier to pedal than a level 8.

(Heizer admits that some days, when he's feeling really good, he'll click his bike up an extra level — the instructor says "five" and he goes to level 6 instead.)

These two indoor classes help his fitness level, he says.

"I just don't get as tired as I used to," he says.

But hike along with him on a snowshoe trek and he doesn't seem to tire at all.

Then again, the silence and beauty of snow-covered trees and streams offer a different type of motivation.

"It's fun. If I like it, I do it," Heizer says.

Heizer grew up in Baker City, and graduated from Baker High in 1948. He received a bachelor's degree from Eastern Oregon State College (now a university), and then finished his dental school education in 1958 in Portland.

He came home to open his practice.

"When I came to town, all the dentists were on the second floor on Main Street," he says.

Heizer's office is ground level, on Second Street. He still sees patients a few days a week.

The other hours in his day include, in large part, exercise.

But that's not new. Though he never played sports, Heizer always did something physical through middle school, high school and into adulthood.

"I was always doing something like that," he says.

And staying in shape supported his other pastime — hunting.

"I can remember Dad giving me a .22 when we lived on East Street," Heizer says. He'd then walk up into the sagebrush hills "shooting squirrels."

In later years his hunting targets were a bit bigger, especially when he hopped on a plane bound for Africa.

"I've got four of the big five," he says.

Those big five African quarry are lion, elephant, buffalo, leopard and rhinoceros. The rhino is the only one Heizer hasn't bagged.

"It's quite an experience, all this," he says, flipping through photo albums of his African hunts.

His roster of trophies is impressive, but the photos he brought back feature almost as many shots of live wild animals and scenery as poses with his prizes.

"Those African animals, it's entirely different," he says.

Riding in a vehicle is the best way to hunt on the continent because the animals avoid two-legged creatures.

"If you want to see anything, get in a car and drive," he says.

He tells these hunting stories in a calm way, and smiles when the tales cause goosebumps for the listener.

"That buffalo? They don't go down. They run into the bush.

"Then you go after it? Ha. They come after you.

"That makes the adrenaline roll, I'll tell you."

He appreciates the power of those animals, especially the elephants, which leave their marks by pulling up trees.

"They just reach around, pull it up, throw it on the ground," he says.

And he hopes, someday, to again visit Africa.

"I'd sure like to go back again," he says. "It's beautiful over there."