The ninth annual Fitness Challenge is set to kick off in January and you know what that means - that's right, guilt-free grazing through the Christmas fudge, New Year's cookies and holiday feasts.
Tribune Chronicle-St. Joseph / St. Elizabeth Health Centers Fitness Challenge is our annual weight loss competition in which we invite community members to trim down their bodies in order to fatten up the budgets of local charities and service organizations.
Decreasing your odds of diabetes, heart struggles, joint stress and other obesity-related ailments while juking up the energy isn't a bad deal for you, either.
This time, the scales of corpulence start spinning in January, with the first weigh-in scheduled for Jan. 14.
"A number of Challengers suggested we start earlier this year," Sue Shafer, Tribune Chronicle community events coordinator, said. "They wanted to start working off their holiday weight gain right away, and finish before Easter."
The contest runs for 10 weeks of healthy eating and exercise, with the final weigh-in set for March 25. The team that loses the greatest percentage of its starting weight gains the chunkiest share of the prize money for the charity of its choice.
Success is measured by the percentage of weight lost, not total pounds. That levels the playing field so that the biggest of the big boys won't have an unfair advantage over little, ol' you as you try to erase that extra 10 pounds in time for the less-forgiving contours of spring wear.
Each five-member team's $250 entry fee is guaranteed to be turned over to its designated charity, plus the top 10 teams earn more, up to $1,500, for their favorite groups.
Plus, there's a weekly $10 incentive for the team with the best single-week performance each week that will be added to that team's final total. So even if your team turns out to be the kind of group that just can't push away from the breakfast buffet, with even one good week, it still can turn a bit of a profit to help your organization.
The Fitness Challenge began in 2002 after Trumbull County probation officer and pastor Vince Peterson felt the strain of lifting too much weight - his own. He and friends challenged each other to get trimmer, tossing $50 into a pot that the winner could claim.
He took the idea to the Tribune Chronicle to begin a Valley-wide challenge for the same reasons: A group effort spurs success in reaching goals by offering competition, accountability to each other, monetary incentive - and the chance to tempt each other unmercifully with chocolate pastries.
Guy C. Coviello, Tribune Chronicle managing editor, said his trips to the new Wellness Center in Niles convinced him that Valley residents recognize a need for healthy living.
"I was at The Well in Niles early one morning and had trouble finding a parking space. It was really cool to see so many people inside walking, running, lifting or just sharing fellowship. When people have a convenient opportunity, the health bug is really catchy.
"That is what happened with the Fitness Challenge. We offered a convenient opportunity and it became infectious," he said.
So stop reading already and call four of your tubby friends. It's time to sign up for the ninth annual Fitness Challenge. Entries are due Jan. 5.