More than 5,500 miles away, some of the greatest athletes in the world dance on skates, glide across the snow on slender pieces of plastic and speed down steep tracks with nothing but a small sled separating them from a cold, hard blanket of ice.
These are feats of great courage and imminent danger.
Still, the battle for gold medals and worldwide recognition is merely quaint when compared to the fierce competition enveloping rivals across the Valley.
Kim Stamm works out on Thursday at the Ralph A. Infante Wellness Center in Niles. Stamm, a member of the team Wellness Warriors, is taking part in the 2014 Tribune Chronicle St. Joseph / St. Elizabeth Medical Center Fitness Challenge.
Tribune Chronicle / Ashley Newman
Tension is building as teams trudge into the fifth week of the 2014 Tribune Chronicle / St. Joseph-St. Elizabeth Health Center Fitness Challenge, bringing with them an unquenchable hunger to take their place on the shoulders of winners past.
Or, is that just an unquenchable hunger that comes with going four weeks without their favorite late-night snack?
Either way, these people are hungry. Isn't that really the most important thing, here?
Through four weeks of the survival of the fittest, Just Weight finds itself in a familiar position.
For the third consecutive week, this fantastic fivesome stands atop the leaderboard, losing 9.82 percent of their initial poundage.
Meanwhile, for the second consecutive week, 4.5 Full Grown Men remains in second place.
However, after having lost the most weight the past two weeks, these fitness gurus end the fourth week with same weight they had last week, putting them at 9.40 percent weight lost.
Taking the Full Grown Men's spot as the highest risers, Kingz of Carz made a dramatic jump from fifth position to third by losing a league-high 1.65 percent this week.
With team captain Tino Merlo leading the way, the Kingz have been steadily trending upward since the second week of the challenge.
After the first week's weigh-in, the Kingz stood in a relatively pedestrian 15th place. They jumped six spots after the second week, before jumping into the top five last week and the top three today.
No more flying under the radar, Kingz. The fitness challenge world has taken notice.
Rounding out the five best teams through four weeks are Fatagins (-8.62 percent) and Wellness Warriors (-8.25 percent).
The only other team exceeding over 8 percent initial weight lost is Mocha House / Warren Strong (-8.16 percent), who has been slowly descending out of the top grouping since sitting in the top spot after one week.
The Fitness Challenge works like this:
Teams are comprised of five individuals who select their favorite service organization for which they are participating.
After an initial weigh-in to gauge starting points, the team who loses the highest percentage of weight over the 10-week competition wins at least $1,400 for their chosen charity.
Runner-up receives $900; third, $550; fourth, $400; fifth to seventh, $325 each; eighth to 10th, $275 each; all others, $225.
Additionally, the team that loses the highest percentage of weight each week will receive a $10 bonus award. This week, that team is Mocha House / Warren Strong.
After the initial weigh-in, which occurred Jan. 16, 10 weekly weigh-ins will be held at various locations around Trumbull County.
The final weight check will be held March 27, and the contest winners announced April 6.
This week, we spotlight veteran belt-line pinchers the Wellness Warriors.
Based out of the Ralph A. Infante Wellness Center in Niles, the Warriors have often finished the 10-week competition near the top of the board.
Team captain Scott MacMillan leads the way for this quintet and, according to teammates, he is cracking the whip with his eyes on the top prize this year.
"It's a little brutal," Kim Stamm laughed. "Our captain is very encouraging and he keeps on us. He wants to win this year. We're donating to a great cause."
All proceeds from the winnings of Wellness Warriors will go to Niles Relay For Life. For Stamm, this charity hits close to home.
"I'm a cancer survivor, so it's near and dear to me," she explained. "I always do the Relays in Niles and Warren."
With the Warriors currently in fifth place and 1.57 percent behind leader Just Weight, this group has its work cut out for it.
But, Stamm wants to remind those currently having success that the tortoise often beats the hare.
"We're coming for them," Stamm said. "We're serious. We have a great team, and I think we have a chance this year. Don't count us out."
The Wellness Warriors are focusing on cardio work, including biking and running, along with light weight work.
"I don't want to look like Hulk Hogan or anything," Stamm laughed. "Just light weights, but mostly cardio stuff."
The Warriors are also implementing a low carbohydrate, high protein diet.
"We get together and discuss our diets," Stamm said. "(MacMillan) wants to win this year, definitely. He's on our diets."
Pass the salt ...
In last week's Fitness Challenge update, 4.5 Full Grown Men put on a display of great confidence by working out for a photoshoot dressed neatly in shirts and ties.
Now in second place, the Full Grown Men believe they're destiny to have their names etched in the long and glorious history of challenge champs.
This did not sit well with Wellness Warrior Debbie Ryan, who had a message for Full Grown Men captain Mike Rossi.
"Mike needs to get that suit off and get serious, because we're coming for them," Ryan said.
There is ground to be made up, but Rossi would be wise to heed Ryan's warning, considering the Warriors' past finishes.
Stay tuned as these two teams position themselves for a tight finish.
Things just got very interesting...
The doctor is in
This week's spotlight team Wellness Warriors revealed some of their dietary secrets, but it is important to remember that some trendy food choices may drop the pounds in the short-term, but have a negative impact in the longterm.
This week's expert, Dr. Kristin Astrom, a senior Family Medicine Resident at St. Joseph Health Center and the St. Joseph Community Care Clinic, wants to shed light on issues with some popular diets.
"It is important to realize that 'fad' diets are not always the great things that they are made out to be," Astrom explained. "Most fad diets are made popular by one or two famous people doing something extreme that worked for them and really does not work for the population in general."
According to Astrom, it is important for each individual person to deduce what foods and diets work for you and which do not.
Diets are not a "one size fits all" solution to weight loss or a healthier lifestyle.
"Everybody is different and may react differently to extreme changes in your eating habits," Astrom said. "If fad diets worked as well as they claim, they wouldn't be fads."
Over the coming weeks, Astrom and other Humility of Mary Health Partner professionals will help us in our journey to smarter eating, healthy weight loss and the right kind of exercise.
Fun with numbers
So far in the four weeks of the competition that have been completed, individuals have lost an average of just more than 10 pounds.
Meanwhile, we have reached the point in the competition where teams will start to actually put weight back on. That happened this week with eight squads.
As the week five standings approach, everyone is looking for an edge. Tune in next week as we approach the home stretch.