Having rounded the far turn, down the stretch they come.
With just two weeks left in the 12th annual Tribune Chronicle / St. Elizabeth-St. Joseph Health Center Fitness Challenge, the leader at the halfway point has now put on the jets, rushing ahead of the field.
Do they have enough to withstand a late push? Is there a dark horse biding time, waiting for the right moment to make a last second dash to the tape?
Sam Shepard, a member of Kingz of Carz, works out with dumbbells at St. Joe’s at the Mall Friday afternoon as part of his daily workout. The leaders in the 12th annual Tribune Chronicle / St. Elizabeth-St. Joseph Health Center Fitness Challenge through eight weeks, the Kingz have lost 15.15 percent of their initial weigh-in poundage.
Tribune Chronicle photos / Ashley Newman
These questions and many more will be answered in the next 14 days, but if the current leaders are to be overtaken, now is the time to make a move.
In the eighth week of the Fitness Challenge, the Kingz of Carz made their boldest statement yet.
For the second time in four weeks, the Toyota of Warren quintet earned the highest percentage of weight lost in the week, dropping another 1.51 percent of their initial weigh-in tally.
The Kingz now sit at 15.15 percent of weight lost.
Already in first place coming into the week, their leading margin expanded to a healthy 1.5 percent over the next closest team, Just Weight.
This marks the fourth consecutive week Just Weight has occupied the second spot on the leader board. After losing 0.7 percent this week, the fivesome out of the YMCA of Trumbull County has an overall score of 13.66 percent lost.
In third position, another familiar name held court.
The Wellness Warriors had another strong week, knocking off 1.15 percent in week eight and 13.02 percent overall.
Rounding out the top five, Fatagins (12.39 percent) and Weight No More (11.92 percent) remain within striking distance.
Weight No More has come on strong lately, dropping 3.18 percent in the last two weeks.
It's good to be King(z).
After a relatively benign start to the competition - the Kingz stood in 15th position following the first weigh-in - this waist-watching, car-wielding group of "losers" (the good kind) surged up the board.
Their quiet confidence and unassuming nature masks a competitive spirit with one goal on the docket ... claiming the crown.
"We've done really well," team member Sam Shepard said. "Hopefully, we can keep it going."
While Tino Merlo is the team's captain and leader, some say Bob Marzullo is their secret weapon. This fitness guru shared a little dietary advice.
"I'm going to tell you my secret," Marzullo said. "I drink green tea every morning and also cinnamon. That helps slow down your metabolism."
For some reason, the gooey cinnamon buns I've been indulging in from time to time haven't had a similar impact.
Oh well, I guess that persistence will eventually pay off.
Regardless, whatever they've been doing, it continues to produce splendid results.
Pass the Salt ...
Several weeks ago, Merlo told his competitors in the 2014 Fitness Challenge that they would continue keeping it close for a couple weeks before putting it away at the end.
At the time, it seemed like your run-of-the-mill smack talk. Now, Merlo is looking less like a joker and more a fortune teller.
When asked who they fear most coming down the stretch, Shepard scratched his head and, again, displayed the quiet confidence of a weight loss assassin.
"Bring 'em all on," Shepard said.
This is getting interesting.
The Doctor Is In
The Kingz of Carz have seemingly thrived by setting group-oriented goals and sharing a common purpose.
According to Lana Eddy-Campfield, exercise physiologist at St. Joe's at the Mall, research has shown people are much more likely to stick with and improve upon a healthy lifestyle when they do it in a group or team atmosphere.
"It's called team energy or team synergy," Eddy-Campfield said. "That's one of the ways I see the Fitness Challenge as a great opportunity for people to start living a healthier lifestyle. It's about the team."
This phenomena is apparent in the weekly aerobics classes Eddy-Campfield leads on the site.
"It started out small, and the last two Mondays we were up to 55 people," Eddy-Campfield said. "People are having so much fun together, they just fall into the program without thinking as much."
Another great way to both measure improvement and get into a high intensity mindset while exercising, she said, is to use the right kind of music.
"Music with high beats per minute pushes you as opposed to just sitting on a treadmill at home watching television," Eddy-Campfield said.
Like the group synergy, she has seen this in action with her own classes.
"We're constantly measuring and quantifying our classes to see where the improvements are," Eddy-Campfield said. "We start (aerobics) slow with something a little calm as we warm up and then as we pick up the energy, the music is set at higher beats per minute.
"It's measured work."
Often, she claims people do not realize they are moving faster, because the changes in the music is subtle.
"I tell people, you probably haven't realized this, but we started out going to music that used to seem fast at 135 beats per minute, to music at 143 beats per minute and you're not even really noticing that because you're having so much fun," she said.
Over the final two weeks, Eddy-Campfield will sound off on other exercise-related facts and tips.
A Fitness Challenge sponsor, Humility of Mary Health Partner professionals will continue helping us in our journey to a healthier lifestyle.
Fun With Numbers
As we continue to track the tonnage lost through the first 56 days of the Fitness Challenge, an astounding amount of weight has been shed thus far.
As of the end of the eighth week, competitors can boast an overall loss of 3,302 pounds. That's over 1.5 tons!
Take a bow, Fitness Challenge participants.
Now, with two weeks remaining, let's see if the two-ton mark can be reached or surpassed. I'll have my calculator ready.