Your challenge: Fitness in 2013

WARREN – Hey there, Hefty. Do your bathroom scales whimper when you rumble in?

Do you use your belly as a TV tray while watching the game?

Does your backside resemble two hogs wrestling in a gunny sack?

Oh, and could your favorite charity use a little plumping up around the bottom line while you’re trimming down the lines around your bottom?

Have we got the challenge for you!

The 12th annual Tribune Chronicle-St. Elizabeth / St. Joseph Health Centers Fitness Challenge begins pounding the scales on Feb. 14.

Five-member teams from across the Mahoning Valley will spend two months exercising and eating a healthier diet to benefit their favorite nonprofit service organizations. And to work off the Valentine’s Day chocolate.

The teams losing the greatest percentage of their starting weights gain the greatest percentage of the prize money for their do-good groups.

”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.

”And we are helping out our favorite charities raise much-needed donations,” she said.

In the Fitness Challenge, we will tease, taunt and tug each other on toward better health, with weekly competition updates, tips for nutrition and exercise, and a bit of smacking of the lips. Yep, we let teams call each other out and issue side challenges.

It’s all part of a light-hearted approach that attempts to spin a little fun along with the accountability of competition to jump-start our journeys toward better health.

Register by Feb. 5 using the entry form that will published in the newspaper over the next two weeks.

Recipe for success

While the Fitness Challenge has its repeat offenders, coming back to work off the same poundage they lost the previous year, quite a few others use the contest as intended – as a springboard to build lasting healthier habits.

In past years, competitors have even reported beating high blood pressure, diabetes and other issues associated with being just plain too big.

”I am a success story,” Lisa Blair of the 2012 team MDC Calorie Counters said last week. ”I lost 22 pounds over the 10 weeks – I started at 146 – and have kept it off. I am in my 40s and am the healthiest I’ve been since high school.

”In August, I ran the Panerathon two-miler and placed first for my age group – my first medal ever!” Blair said.

At Niles McKinley High School, Blair played tennis and softball. After that, life happened. The Howland woman married, had children and held down a job at Trumbull Industries, a customer service cabinet specialist.

Last year, Blair wanted to do something about it.

”My New Year’s resolution was to take better care of myself. As a mom, I worried about the kids being happy and healthy and put myself last.”

She joined the 2012 Fitness Challenge with a group of co-workers, playing to benefit the Warren Family Mission.

”I lost weight using low-fat food, zumba, roller skating, running and group support.

”After your program ended, I joined our company wellness committee. I have organized two weight loss challenges for our employees. Many were able to meet the BMI (body mass index) goals for our health insurance requirements, thanks to their weight loss.”

In the Panerathon, ”I thought I came in second place for my age but due to a (timing) chip mix-up between husband and wife, I actually placed first. My time was 15:50. They called my name as everyone was leaving, and I ran up front to receive my first place medal. I was very excited.

”My goal this year is to run a few 5Ks and the 10K at the 2013 Panerathon,” she said.

We’re not going to guarantee any medals if you join the Fitness Challenge, but just be aware that you run that risk.

In the (cook)books

The Fitness Challenge debuted in 2002 when Trumbull County probation officer and pastor Vince Peterson and friends each tossed 50 bucks into a pot and said the guy who could lose the most won the cash. That gave them competition, accountability to each other, an incentive – and fun harassing each other.

”I thought something like this would be great if it could be done on a larger scale,” Peterson said. He brought his idea to the Tribune Chronicle with the added twist of giving back to the community, and it’s been here ever since.

Tina Creighton of co-sponsor Humility of Mary Health Partners has 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 improves the lives of many others. It’s a win-win or maybe lose / win-win.”

Last year, 330 players over 66 teams lost a combined 4,559 pounds over 10 weeks, an average of 13.8 pounds a player, or 6.6 percent of their starting weight lost.

Believers’ Bulge Busters, playing for Bella Women’s Center, nudged out Just Weigh, playing for the YMCA, 18.13 percent to 18.07 percent. The difference came down to 12 ounces.

The Fitness Challenge came close to dropping out this year. While we endorse no particular diet or workout plan, we insist that it must be healthy.

Lately, it appears that some players slipped into dangerous habits to lose unhealthy amounts of weight too quickly, which is a perfect setup for both bad health and inevitable thickening of yo-yo dieting.

But phone messages and emails began pouring asking for the Challenge. So it’s back, but with an eight-week format instead of 10 weeks, and a caveat from Publisher Charles Jarvis: ”All participants are encouraged to use only safe weight loss practices.”

It is for your health, after all.

Oh, it’s also illegal to lose weight by mid-competition surgery, having a baby and alien spacecraft shrink rays.


New this year, the YMCA of Trumbull County, 210 High St. N.W., Warren, plans to add an incentive as one of the official weigh-in sites.

”Basically, what we would like to do is offer a free day-pass – to be used at any time during the competition – to participants every time they come for their official weigh-in. They will receive one day-pass per official weigh-in,” JaLisa Elkins, membership coordinator, said.

”The Trumbull County YMCA wants to play a part in helping members of our community achieve the positive outcomes that can come from diet and exercise,” Elkins said.

”Improving one’s physical well being can have a positive impact on a variety of other aspects of life ranging from mental well being, to one’s social life, to even productivity at work. We offer a variety of avenues for individuals to reach these and other goals.”