It’s time to trim up

Annual Fitness Challenge kicks off the New Year

Sharon Rodhe of the LPJ Lean Machine team in the 2017 Tribune Chronicle / Mercy Health Fitness Challenge tracks her form in a mirror while lifting weights at the Q-Club Health and Aquatic Center in Howland.

WARREN — Thanksgiving turkey. Christmas ham. Hannukah brisket. Kwanzaa creole. New Year’s pork and sauerkraut. Peking duck. Kebabs. Kofta. Dumplings. Sugar cookies. Pumpkin Pie. Apple Nut Cake. Fudge. Pudding.

No wonder buttons are bursting and scales are exploding. Everywhere you go, it’s beginning to look a lot like the post-holidays butterball blimpiness.

Seek feasting relief with the 17th annual Tribune Chronicle / Mercy Health Fitness Challenge. Plus, you get to cross a few New Year’s resolutions off your list — eat better, exercise more, lose weight and do something good for others.

“The annual Fitness Challenge is a good way for people in our communities to begin the new year with a focus on their own wellbeing,” Dr. James Kravec, chief clinical officer of Mercy Health-Youngstown, said.

“Healthy habits are the foundation for good health and quality of life. We know that diet and weight are factors in some of the most common health conditions, including diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, high triglycerides and sleep apnea,” Kravec said.

After their win last year, Jim Parry, captain of Now U C Us, said, “I think we all feel a ton better. Two of our guys are diabetic on the team. The health benefits as far as they’re diabetes is concerned has been tremendous.”

One of them figured it was enough to get him off the medication entirely.

Ted Snyder, general manager of the Tribune Chronicle, said, “Again this year, we are working with Mercy Health to present the 17th annual Fitness Challenge. The team support and camaraderie, along with the competitive element, often serve as the motivation for players to start eating healthy and exercising regularly.

“The benefits from such a lifestyle change continue long after the Fitness Challenge has ended. And the local charities that the teams are playing for receive much needed donations,” Snyder said. “It truly is a win for everyone involved.”

Here’s how the Challenge works: For eight weeks, five-person teams from across the community will shed the tonnage. The teams that drop the heftiest percentages of their starting weights gain the bulkiest shares of the prize money for the local charities of their choice. Last year, the 125 players on the 25 Fitness Challenge teams from around Trumbull County lost 2,232 pounds of excess baggage and fattened the coffers of area service organizations by $8,205.

Now U C Us — which shed 16.9 percent of its team starting weight — gained $1,155 to donate to its designated charity, Cornerstone of Hope, a grief support group for parents who have lost children.

Teams of five have until Jan. 12 to register for the 2018 Fitness Challenge. The first weekly weigh-in pounds the scales Jan. 18 and the competition ends March 15.

Each week, the Tribune Chronicle will publish team standings, spotlights on the service organizations, and health and fitness tips from the professionals at Mercy Health-Youngstown.

“Mercy Health is proud to continue to support The Tribune Chronicle’s annual Fitness Challenge,” Kathy Cook, president of Mercy Health-St. Joseph Warren Hospital, said.

“As Trumbull County’s leading health care provider, our mission is to improve the health status of our communities. Initiatives like the Fitness Challenge have the potential to do just that. We’re looking forward to contributing to the journeys of those participating in the challenge by providing the tips, tools and inspiration that will help them pursue healthier lifestyles and achieve meaningful health goals.”

One of the players planning to give it another go this year is Rudy Pekarovic Jr., who captained last year’s second place team, Believers Heavyweights.

“I swore I would not be back. Famous last line,” Pekarovic said. “I just had one heart stint installed and am getting two more on the 8th,” Pekarovic said. “I can’t wait to get started (on the Fitness Challenge) so I can get Dr. (Barry) Effron, a terrific cardioligist at University Hospitals off of my back.”

Over the years, teams have kept the competition light-hearted and even send good-natured gifts to one another — of doughnuts, pizza and pastries.

“The best tip is to prevent Mocha House from sabotaging your team members,” Mike Rossi of the top 10 team Four and Half Full-Grown Men said.

Still, team accountability and competition make getting back on track easier and more fun, he said.

“Newcomers should join in order to compete and, at at minimum, feel better about themselves,” Rossi said. “Hopefully, Four and Half Full-Grown Men will not be returning this year, but the jury remains out.”

Some familiar faces — and bellies — will be return, including third place finishers Jared’s Gang.

“When does it start? We are all fat again,” team captain Brian McConnell said.

That would be Jan. 18. Get ready, get set, lose!