One week to go.
The last lap bell is ringing on the ninth annual Tribune Chronicle-St. Elizabeth / St. Joseph Centers Fitness Challenge community weight-loss competition for charity.
That means plenty of players are in the midst of one grueling week of cardio gasping, grunting weights and choking down raw vegetables. If you get near them, please, for your own safety, don't wave any doughnuts.
Members of team Buddy Love flex their muscles after a workout at Q-Club Fitness and Health in Howland. From front to back are Simmons, Kim Reeves and Peterson. Not shown are teammates Jen Morgenstern and Sam Bluedorn. To see or purchase copies of this photo and others, visit cu.tribtoday.com.
Should the Calorie Counters can hang on for one more week, they will become the first team to lead the competition from Week 1 all the way to Week 10.
Well, ''hang on'' sounds a little understated for a team that's already broken the Fitness Challenge record with a full seven days of workouts to go.
The old record was 15.3 percent of starting weight lost, set just last year by The Y Guys.
So far, the Calorie Counters have counted off nearly 16.6 percent of their starting weight.
''For nine weeks, we have remained at No. 1, and that's where we will finish,'' said team captain Bob Perlik, who himself has dropped 63 pounds - 23 percent of his starting weight. ''We wanted to not only win, but break records as well, and at the pace we're going, we will do just that.
''We love competition and welcome all challengers, but it appears to be too little too late,'' Perlik said. ''I don't intend to sound arrogant, but I know my team and I know myself, and there is no way we are going to lose it in the last week.''
Second-place team Never Say Never now is at 15.5 percent, also surpassing the old record. The Nevers are the same guys who won it all in 2007, champs with a then-record 14.2 percent of starting weight lost.
''This could be a good week,'' team member Pete Mollica said. ''They're all motivated.''
In fact, they're looking for the win.
''I think we will,'' Mollica said. ''I really do. We're real competitive and athletic, and this the only sport we have left.
''They're not just going to skate by,'' Mollica said of the Counters.
The real race could be for third place.
Still pushing hard are Four Tubbies and a Chubby Hubby, now in third at about 12.1 percent; Gone in a Flash, 11.7 percent; and Kings of Carz, 11.4 percent.
Sue Somich, team captain of the Tubbies, said, ''We have one more trick up our sleeve. We changed things up a bit and plan to finish strong - and we're banking on our competitors succumbing to a little too much green beer, and corned beef and cabbage last week.
''I'd like to bet many challengers are getting weary of this 'marathon,' if you will, and are eyeing that last weigh-in with great anticipation,'' Somich said. ''Some of us, myself included, have yet to finish the race, and will continue our efforts in the weeks and months following the challenge, to strive for and exhibit the skills necessary to reach our goals and fitness levels.
''Regardless of the outcome next Thursday, we want to congratulate and wish all the teams good luck,'' she said. ''It's been a great ride!''
We started this Fitness Challenge at a combined 81,121 pounds.
Through nine weeks, we have lost 5,167 pounds, or 6.37 percent, of our starting weight.
For the 375 players, that's an average loss of nearly 13.8 pounds per person.
Since many teams are pledging to hit the weights and ellipticals extra hard in a final week blast, it's time to hear once again from our official exercise guru, Stephanie Kopey, doctor of physical medicine and rehabilitation, at St. Joseph Health Center.
In previous weeks, she told us how to set up a sensible exercise program. This week, she tells us what to do in case of exercise injury.
''When an injury occurs, the most important step to take is to seek the care of a physician,'' Kopey said. ''Even if the physician merely evaluates that no serious injuries have occurred and provides reassurance it is time well spent. The focus after an acute injury is pain control, rest, ice, compression and elevation, otherwise known as PRICE therapy.
''Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications and Tylenol may be of use during acute injury,'' she said.
''You may need to take some time off from training or find another activity to use for cross-training purposes while you are healing. For example, you could use an upper extremity ergometer - bike - to keep your cardiovascular training going while you are recuperating from an ankle sprain,'' Kopey said.
''Some injuries are more serious and may not heal with these conservative treatments. If the injury lasts longer than expected, you should return to your physician to see if further work up or treatment are indicated.
''A rehabilitation physician referral may be indicated as they have special expertise in evaluating and treating injuries to the musculo-skeletal system and can work with you on sport specific tasks to get you back into your training program,'' she said.
Where did teams come up with those names? This week, Lena Dietrich explains PsyCare's Four Phat Females and a Fella.
''We come up with our team name the same way each year,'' Dietrich said. ''I have everyone on the team come up with some names, then I send out a e-mail of what everyone has sent me and then we make a vote on it. Most vote wins.''
The PsyCare part, of course, is because they are one of the teams based out of PsyCare Behavioral Healthcare and Counseling, with clinics around the Mahoning Valley.
As for the other part, well, the spelling may be unorthodox, but they can count - the team numbers four women and one man.
GROUPS WE'D LIKE TO
TAKE TO DINNER
Each Fitness Challenge designated a service organization or charity for which it is playing. The first place team donates $1,500 to its charity; second, $1,000; third, $600; fourth, $400; fifth to seventh, $350; and eighth to 10th, $300. Plus the team with the best one-week performance each week earns another $10 for its charity.
This week, we focus on the Beatitude House, the cause chosen by Less Padding by Satolli.
''The Beatitude House is run by my cousin, Sister Patricia McNicholas,'' team captain Marly Kosinksi said. ''OK, so she is like my third or fourth cousin. But she is an Ursuline nun and I graduated from Ursuline High School.
''And my mother was a McNicholas before she married my dad, so I am half Irish and half Polish. All those potatoes, stuffed cabbages and kielbasa helped contribute to my weight gain over the years.''
The Beatitude House, 238 Tod Lane, Youngstown, says in its mission statement that the center, ''sponsored by the Ursuline Sisters, is committed to disadvantaged women and children in the Mahoning Valley. By creating homes, providing educational opportunities and fostering healthy families, we provide them with the opportunity to transform their lives.''
The single best one-week performance this week was turned in by Never Say Never, with a 1.71 percent one-week loss to earn Team of the Week honors.
The Calorie Counters appeared to have the better week, but one of the team members missed the weigh-in the week before. That means her weigh-in represented two weeks, not a one-week loss.
SMACKING OF THE LIPS
After reading last week of the special incentives Covelli Enterprises is offering the 10 Fitness Challenge teams based out of Covelli-owned business, Vince Peterson of Buddy Love is bucking to become the 11th Covelli team.
''I must say that I am completely appalled that Mr. Covelli is not supporting my team. I, too, should be considered one of his employees. I am at O'Charley's (restaurant) eating as much as they are working. And I clean my own plate.''
It got worse when Vince had time to think about it: ''I should now be announced a member of the Covelli Team due to the fact that me and my son (Villanova football player) Vinnie have eaten there often and should be considered stock owners. This would only be fair.''
There was no word about what the rest of team Buddy Love thought about their leader's leanings toward defection. Nor was there any word on what Sam Covelli, president of Covelli Enterprises, thought about acquiring a new business partner.