The scales have groaned their last. The final numbers - a good deal smaller than before - are whirring through overtaxed tabulators.
The 2011 Tribune Chronicle / St. Joseph / St. Elizabeth Health Centers Fitness Challenge community weight loss competition to benefit charity is in the books.
And the winner is...
Sorry, gang, we cannot reveal that yet. First, let us tell you about one more of the:
GROUPS WE'D LIKE TO TAKE TO DINNER
Each of the 61 Fitness Challenge teams designated a nonprofit service organization for which it is playing. Each team will donate at least 90 percent of its $250 entry fee to its charity of choice, with the top 10 teams earning more, up to $1,350 for first place.
Many teams chose their charities from the heart and over the last three months have been sharing their stories. This week, it's the Wii Get Fit team's turn.
''Wii Get Fit, composed of Champion Local School teachers, is losing weight in honor of the charity 4 Paws for Ability,'' team captain Jami Plott said. ''This charity is as local as we can get because our student, Natalie Morgan, is working to raise money to get a service dog through the program."
Natalie, 14, has cerebral palsy and spastic quadriplegia, meaning all four limbs are involved.
''All of her muscles have minds of their own, as she puts it,'' Plott said.
''A mobility service dog from 4 Paws for Ability will be a tremendous help in everyday life for this sweet, young woman,'' Plott said of the student who she says always has a smile.
''Natalie is so excited about taking her dog to the hospital with her to go to therapy, and to have a constant companion with her in school or at home,'' Plott said. ''Her mobility assistance dog will help her be more independent. Her family is volunteering to raise $13,000 to pay for the special training of this service dog.''
Wii Get Fit plans to donate its earnings from the Challenge to this cause for their student.
''She has been mainstreamed in a few classes and is attending Champion Middle School,'' Plott said. ''She loves school, playing in the gym and the performing arts. She played soccer for a few years and also did horseback riding. In the summer, she does Soap Box Derby. She loves to go fast down the hill.''
Plott listed some of the obstacles Natalie already has overcome.
''She had a heart murmur that she has grown out of and an eye problem that made her cry a lot while she was a baby. She also had heel cord, hamstring and abductor surgery before entering kindergarten.
''She started early intervention at nine months for her different therapies - occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech - for global and developmental delays.
''Recently, she had surgery and had a baclofen pump inserted. This means she can move better and it helps her mother get her dressed and ready for school in the morning.''
''Natalie is attending therapy every week and she is getting stronger so that she can take a few steps with her walker. She's a hard, dedicated worker.''
Karen Morgan said of her daughter, ''Natalie and the family would like to thank everyone that was a part of fundraising. We would not have made it without the help of our family and friends, our community, Champion Local Schools, Student Council, numerous local businesses and churches. Along the way we met wonderful people that were very supportive.
''We will be traveling in the fall to pick up our mobility dog. We hope to keep everyone updated,'' she said. ''Thank you again.''
Here are a few morsels to chew on while waiting for the final standings. These are tentative numbers that are being verified.
l The 2011 Fitness Challenge competitors started out at a combined heft of 64,126.75 pounds. Ten weeks later, the 305 competitors came within ounces apiece of dropping below 30 tons. The final tally - 60,012.5 pounds.
l The total loss of 4,114.25 pounds - why yes, that does make the Mahoning Valley more than 2 tons lighter - calculates to an average weight loss of nearly 13.5 pounds each.
l Phew! All 61 teams lost weight over the 10 weeks. Don't laugh. There actually has been a Fitness Challenge team or three over the last 10 years that checked in heavier at the end than at the beginning.
l The most pounds lost by a single team was 181.75 pounds. The fewest was 1.25 pounds. But remember, the final standings are based on percentage of starting weight lost, not total pounds.
l A total 13 teams lost a combined 100 or more pounds, including the top 12 teams percentagewise.
TIPS AND TASTY TIDBITS
One of the points of the Fitness Challenge is to jump-start healthier habits. If better food choices, exercise and healthy living get tossed aside like laundry draped over the silent treadmill, then the last 10 weeks are doing little good.
So, for those who will continue exercise, here are some final thoughts from Ryan Foertch, the manager of the Humility of Mary Health Partners Competitive Edge Sports Medicine.
Foertch's earlier advice was to start easily and work up to more time and intensity. As people continue to do that, how can they prevent injuries that would threaten to put them on the shelf?
"Proper warm-up and stretching after exercise can reduce the risk of injury," Foertch said. "Proper warm-up exercises (for example) would be walking, jumping jacks, skipping, high-knee walking, lunges, side lunges, toe walking, heel walking, marching, etc."
Gentle stretching after exercise is just as important in keep muscles from cramping and doing otherwise nasty things from a sudden cool-down.
"If you have an injury, please seek your physician or a certified athletic trainer for further evaluation," he said.
Is there anything else an exercise novice should know about training?
"Have fun!" Foertch said.
Where do they come up with those clever and strange team names? This week, Anna Loney, captain of Size Matters, explains theirs:
''Size Matters' goal is to beat this recurring yo-yo syndrome,'' Loney said. ''The team name, Size Matters, speaks for itself. Upon reflection - via mirror and mind - it was not difficult to conjure up the team name.
''Though all of our team participated in 2010, and may have gained a few pounds back, we are motivated to correct the errors of our past and move forward.''
AND THE WINNER IS...
Oh, come now. If you're still looking for the name of the 2011 Fitness Challenge champion in this installment, you must be a newbie to the game.
The winner, runners-up and the full but slimmer final figures will be announced Sunday in the Tribune Chronicle. This gives our bean counters a chance to double-check the statistics. It will give us time to rustle up some team photos, too. In the meantime, let's review what the last 10 weeks were about.
''We know that many people need motivation to begin eating healthy,'' Sue Shafer, Tribune Chronicle community events coordinator, said. ''We all need to be more conscious of our health and eating habits.''
To enter the 10th annual Fitness Challenge, each team paid a $250 entry fee to go with sponsor money. The team losing the greatest percentage of its starting weight will donate at least $1,350 to its charity of choice; second place, $900; third, $540; fourth, $360; fifth to seventh, $315 each; eighth to tenth, $270 each; all others, $225.
Also, the team with the best one-week showing earns a bonus $10 for its charity that week, which put another $100 in play over the course of the competition.
Tina Creighton, spokeswoman for co-sponsor Humility of Mary Health Partners, said, ''The fitness challenge is a fantastic opportunity to impact positive change on several levels - the hard work of the teams to improve their lives helps the charities of their choice improve the lives of many others. It's a win-win or maybe lose / winwin.''
Who will win big? All will be revealed on Sunday.