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Clock is ticking and scales are moving

Exercise physiologist Lana Eddy-Campfield leads a cardio class in the concourse outside St. Joe's at the Mall at Eastwood Mall in Niles. (Tribune Chronicle / R. Michael Semple)

Click this link to see the charts for this week’s team standings: Tribune_Chronicle_02-26-2019_B8

Tick, tick, tick … Thud. Sproing!

Those are the sounds of the 2019 Tribune Chronicle / Mercy Health Fitness Challenge. The clock is ticking down the final three weeks of the weight-loss competition to benefit charity. Contestants are pounding the scales. But now they’re so much lighter that they bounce off like they hit a trampoline.

OK, maybe we’re not that lightweight yet. But we’re getting there.

After five weeks of eating healthy foods and exercising vigorously, the 120 players on the 24 Fitness Challenge teams are a combined 1,535 pounds lighter. That’s an average weight loss of almost 13 pounds and 5.6 percent of starting weight lost per person.

For a few folks, it’s been a little rough.

“The only way we can go is up, but we are moving like molasses in February,” said Rudy Pekarovic, captain of the Fructose Fighters, stuck in last place in the Dynamos division. His veteran team has had better Februarys.

“I’m not crying, believe me, but we have three members with physical restrictions. Physical activity is vital for weight loss,” Pekarovic said.

Even so, the five players on his team have shed 56 1/2 pounds and 4.7 percent of their starting weight. In other words, they’re still dropping the pounds and putting in the work.

“Do something that you like to do. That’s key,” Pekarovic said.

GO-GETTERS GOODIES

In Week 2, the Big Dogs became the lead dogs. Now in Week 5, Mission Slimpossible has reclaimed the top spot.

“I congratulate them. They did a good job this week,” Big Dogs captain Glenn McClellan said.

With three weeks to go, the top five in the Go-Getters division are Mission Slimpossible, 9.2 percent of starting weight lost; Big Dogs, 9.1 percent; Blubber Busters, 6 percent; Arianna’s Hope, 5.39 percent; and LPJ Lean Machine, 5.36 percent.

McClellan said, “Hopefully, our team can push and get better results. I told them we’ll go home, lick our wounds and push back.

“I think we’re going to shock the body a little bit and do some other exercises. You can get stagnant doing the same thing over and over, so maybe we’ll change some things up.”

DISH ON THE DYNAMOS

Just Weight not only held onto its lead in the juggling act that’s been the Dynamos division, but the team also is widening the gap.

The top three teams in the veterans’ division after five weeks are Just Weight, 11.6 percent of starting weight lost; Thinning the Herd, 9.13 percent; and The Slimsons, 9.08 percent.

“We are working hard and watching our diets,” Just Weight captain Jim Miller said. As for the final run, Miller said, “I don’t know of a finishing gear. We are doing the same thing — working hard and eating right.”

Just Weight is the defending Fitness Challenge champion. Thinning the Herd is made up of players who also have championships in their history. Herd captain Jim Parry recalled the year that a seemingly unbeatable Just Weight was overtaken by mere ounces in the final weigh-in.

“I was on the team that nipped them in the last week before and it will happen again,” Parry predicted. “Last time, they gave us bulletin board material by telling people we knew that there was no way they could lose. We all know how that one ended.”

Miller isn’t biting on the smack talk, nor is he feeding any bulletin boards.

“We can only control our results,” Miller said. “This is a tough eight weeks but we are dedicated and it is for a great cause. Congratulations and best of luck to all the teams. We are all winners in the end.”

DESSERT

The team with best single-week performance each week earns a bonus $10 for their designated charities. This week, it’s Just Weight for the Dynamos at 2.55 percent and Because We Can 2 for the Go-Getters at 1.09 percent.

It’s the third week in a row and fourth out of five weeks that Just Weight scored a Team of the Week bonus.

It was the first time for Because We Can 2, making it the fourth team to take the honor for the Go-Getters. The other three teams are Big Dogs, Blubber Busters and Mission Slimpossible, with the Dogs the only repeat winner.

SOMETHING TO

CHEW ON

While the Fitness Challenge is a light-hearted competition designed to provide camaraderie in an odious task — changing bad habits — the benefits are serious.

Glen “Big Dog” McClellan said he had already lost more than 100 pounds before this year’s Fitness Challenge, and said it’s saved his life.

“Three or four years ago, we got into a weight challenge at work and (now teammates) Stacy Jerina and Marie Vickers were trying to get me into it,” he said. “At the last second, I said ‘I’ll do it.’ I ended up losing quite a bit of weight.”

One morning, he noticed a swelling in his neck. A workout buddy said it probably was a muscle pull. When the swelling didn’t go away, he had it checked out.

“I found out it was cancer,” McClellan said. “I was in Stage 3.

“If it wasn’t for the two ladies talking me into the weight challenge, I wouldn’t have known that. I was so heavy that I never would have found the swelling. I always will be indebted to Stacy and Marie for that.”

McClellan said he has a few more pounds to go, but besides catching his cancer in time, he’s off most of his medications for other issues, including diabetes.

But he almost gave up in the first month of the journey.

“I was really struggling and ready to give up,” he said about his hard workouts at the gym. “A lady named Karen who I’d never met before said, ‘You’re looking good. I can tell you’ve lost a lot of weight since you’ve been here.'”

Then others at his gym made comments. The power of a few words of encouragement lit a fire that has kept him going, he said. Now he tries to be a cheerleader for whoever needs it, because good health is important.

GROUPS WE’D LOVE TO TAKE TO DINNER

The Blubber Busters are working on their physical health so that others have a better chance to improve their mental health.

Each Fitness Challenge team chooses a nonprofit organization for which it hopes to donate its winnings. The Blubber Busters, based out of the office of Austintown optometrist Dr. Jeffrey Patterson, are playing for NAMI Mahoning Valley, a grassroots community organization dedicated to support, education and advocacy for individuals with mental illness and their families.

NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

“I work at Belmont Pines Hospital, so I deeply understand the importance of mental health being addressed with the proper support, love and concern that NAMI Mahoning Valley is giving to Trumbull and Mahoning counties,” Busters player Margie Rassega said. “Therefore, we wanted to give back for the outstanding work that Hope Haney, executive director of NAMI Mahoning Valley, is doing.”

FAT FACTS

At 11.6 percent of their starting weight lost, Just Weight is the first Fitness Challenge team this year to drop into double digits.

Four other teams already mentioned above have shed more than 9 percent of their starting weight — Just Weight, Thinning the Herd, The Slimsons and Big Dogs.

So far, five teams have topped 100 pounds lost — the Big Dogs, 116.25 pounds; Just Weight, 110.25 pounds; Thinning the Herd, 106.5 pounds; Mission Slimpossible, 105 pounds; and The Slimsons, 104.5 pounds.

There are no teams in the 90-pound range, but two others have lost more than 80 — Lowry Family Dental, 88 pounds; and One Last Time, 84 pounds.

bcole@tribtoday.com

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