Seven weeks and nearly 3,000 pounds are gone.
Teams are sweating it out - literally - in the final workouts as they jockey for final positions in the 12th annual Tribune Chronicle-St. Elizabeth / St. Joseph Health Centers Fitness Challenge community weight-loss competition to benefit charity.
All teams turn over at least $225 to their designated charity, but the top teams are in the money spots, earning $270 for 10th place, up to $1,350 for first place for their service organizations.
Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple
Kathy Reckner of Niles, left, a Strong Bones / Strong People participant, works out with fitness instructor Lana Eddy-Campfield at St. Joe’s at the Mall. The strength training program targets people with osteoporosis, at risk for osteoporosis and those with low bone density, and aims to increase bone density, flexibility, balance and weight maintenance. It is open to adults 18 and older by calling 330-652-7542.
Mission SlimPossible, playing for the Warren Family Mission, finally cracked the Top 10 this week. The team sat in 28th place out of 51 teams after the first week and slowly built momentum ever since.
"We're all just working out a lot," SlimPossible captain Karen DeFrancesco said. "I know everyone increased their exercises. Most of us are able to get together and commiserate, trying to eat healthy together.
"Easter was tough. The kids were home from college, and they expected us to cook things they liked," DeFrancesco said.
The final weigh-in won't be the end of the healthier lifestyle, she said.
"Our mistake in the past was to stop dieting as soon as the Fitness Challenge was over, and then go backward," she said. "All of us are going to keep trying."
She's said she's hoping for a final surge into fifth place, which is where the same quintet finished three years ago when they called themselves Four Tubbies and a Chubby Hubby.
So far, SlimPossible has lost 7.3 percent of its starting weight. In fifth place are the 4.5 Full Grown Men at 8.7 percent, just ahead of the Fatagins, at 8.3 percent, just a single percentage point ahead of SlimPossible.
But look out below. Fighting Fat hovers in 15th place at 6.3 percent, just a percentage point off SlimPossible's Top 10 spot.
A whole lot of shakin' could be going on in the standings over the final week.
---- Main Course
Let's face it, short of disaster or miracles, the top three spots are decided.
In It to Win It continues its domination with 15.9 percent of its starting weight lost.
The Wellness Warriors remain in second at 13.9 percent of starting weight lost.
In third are Just Weight at 11.6 percent, well ahead of fourth-place Lonesome Doves at 9.3 percent.
Basically, the top three teams could order pizzas and ice cream bars, and take the week off.
"I just challenged my team to lose 37 pounds this week to break the record at 19 percent," In It team member Tony Cella said.
The Fitness Challenge record of 18.9 percent was set in 2010 by a team called Never Say Never. Team members included Cella, Jeff Tate, Joe Matig and Pete Mollica - all members of In It to Win It, with Challenge rookie Bob Ward.
The catch is that the 2010 Fitness Challenge lasted 10 weeks. This year, it's eight.
Cella said the record sounds out of reach - each guy would have to lose a little more than seven pounds - but not out of the question.
"My guys are just crazy," he said. "Pete's at the same weight now that he was when he graduated from high school. I think he's proud of his six-pack abs. I play hardball in an over-50 league. I'm at the weight I like to play ball in.
"Bob's burning 2,100 calories in one workout, Pete goes to the gym and does Insanity, Jeff and I are doing two to three workouts a day, and Joe's doing 1 1/2 to two hours all cardio and a low-calorie diet.
"I couldn't be more proud of my teammates. We're all pushing each other and we're committed.
"We say every time we're not coming back, but it seems like every three years we gain the weight and come back."
This win would be the third Fitness Challenge championship for the same core of guys who also won in 2007.
Team captain Jeff Tate said the championship should be assured, but the old record probably is safe.
"He's got his hopes up high," Tate said. "I'm hoping to lose another four or five pounds. That's good enough for me."
Scott MacMillan, captain of the Wellness Warriors, said, "We busted our butts this week."
And they're not coasting now.
"Last year, we got caught from behind," he said. "We're going to try for Team of the Week one more time. It's our goal this week."
Stephanie Iacozili, captain of Just Weight, also said loafing is out of the question.
"We have our goals set. We are trying to meet our goals," she said.
She declined to specify the goals, but said they don't end when the Fitness Challenge does.
"We're going to do our best to move up, but the journey does not stop after eight weeks," Iacozili said.
Team of the Week honors - and a bonus $10 - go to the team with the best seven-day performance. Any team can win it, but so far, only three teams have claimed it. The same three showed up again this week.
In It to Win It scored its fourth Team of the Week win with a 1.83 percent one-week effort. Last week's winner, the Wellness Warriors, nearly pulled off its third weekly title with a 1.77 percent effort.
"It must have been that Twinkie I found," MacMillan said.
Just Weight, which has the other Team of the Week win, finished in third with a 1.31 percent single-week effort.
---- Tips and Tasty Tidbits
Report after medical report shows that exercise is a good thing. But there's a risk of injury, especially when hammering it hard like some competitors have done over the last seven weeks.
So what do you do when you get hurt?
"Always use common sense," Fitness Challenge physician Dr. Yun Xia said. "If you worry about the injury, it's better to seek medical care. Such cases include but are not limited to the injuries that cause severe pain, swelling, loss of sensation, joint deformity or instability, or you can't put any weight on that area.
"If there is no need to see a doctor, you can follow the RICE method:
R: rest to give your body time to heal
I: put ice on the injury to reduce swelling and pain
C: apply an elastic compression bandage to ease swelling
E: elevate an injured body part to reduce swelling and pain.
"If not contraindicated, you may take over-the-counter medications such as Advil or Motrin to ease pain and inflammation. Ask your doctor if you are not sure.
"If the injury has not improved in a week or even gets worse, consult your doctor. Most exercise-induced injuries will recover in less than four to five weeks," Xia said.
"You can still stay active during your healing process, as long as you do not strain the injured body part," she said.
---- Groups We'd Like to Take to Dinner
Each week, we highlight one of the many charities and service organizations for which teams are playing. For the first time in 12 years, the Hope Foundation of the Mahoning Valley is on the list. It was chosen by the Fatties on Franklin Street.
"What impressed me is that this organization raises money for children and families in need, and that the money stays all in the Valley," Fatties captain Dana Sulonen said. "Also, the foundation is completely volunteer-based, so every penny goes to the kids. I thought it was something to get behind."
Founded in 2007, the foundation says it provides grants and services to support local charities that share the goal of improving the lives of chronically or terminally ill children.
"With money raised from donations and various special events staged throughout the year, the foundation is able to provide grants of up to $1,000," the organization website states.
"This is the first time the Hope Foundation has been a part of the Fitness Challenge," founder and executive director Tony Spano said. "We are extremely honored and humbled to be chosen."
---- Fat Facts
A few figures to consider in the final week:
Through seven weeks, Fitness Challenges combined for a total loss of 2,920 pounds, an average of 11.5 pounds for each of the 255 players on the 51 teams.
This week, the weigh-in that included Easter, 14 teams gained weight and three showed no change. But the other 34 lost weight.
Five teams have lost a combined total of 100 or more pounds, In It to Win It, 189.25 pounds; the Wellness Warriors, 149.5; Just Weight, 123.75; Lonesome Doves, 106; and 4.5 Full Grown Men, 105.5.
Five teams recorded losses of 10 or more pounds this week, In It to Win It, 18.75 pounds; the Wellness Warriors, 16.75; 4.5 Full Grown Men, 13.25; and Just Weight, and Mission SlimPossible, both 12.5 pounds.
---- Smacking of the Lips
A couple weeks back, Nick Liakaris of the Mocha House team Four Offensive Lineman and One Hypocrite suggested that In It to Win It might have worn "cement socks for the initial weigh-in" to help achieve their stunning results, and offered them a great deal on cheesecake.
This week, Cella countered, "There has been a lot of talk about cement shoes being used at weigh-in. It's called commitment and dedication. Nick, you can offer us a trunk load of cheesecake, and we won't eat it."
Or at least not until next week.