With New Year’s resolution making and breaking already under way and another round of the show launching Monday, the post-holiday season is the time when people are the most motivated to make changes in exercise and diet.
Now, thanks to the Columbia Association, the somewhat overweight and the obese alike can forgo the vicarious satisfaction of watching others get healthy by getting themselves started on the road to physical fitness in a competition dubbed “The Biggest Winner.”
While the eight-week contest is in its third year, it will be expanded for the first time to incorporate all three of CA’s fitness centers at the same time, with a goal of ramping up everyone’s competitive nature, said Sam Yurko, director of personal training.
The sites are Columbia Athletic Club in Harper’s Choice, Supreme Sports Club in Owen Brown and Columbia Gym in Clarksville. Registration begins Monday, Jan. 3, at each fitness center, and the competition kicks off Jan. 22.
You don’t need to be extremely overweight to be eligible for the local contest. You also don’t have to be a CA member.
Each contestant will be assigned to one of 16 trainers by club and time slot preference and will train with three other teammates, Yurko said. Individual weight loss measured as a percentage of body weight will determine the sole winner.
While a loss of a couple of pounds a week is commonly accepted as average, “some people are going to blow that number away, and some people won’t lose that much,” Yurko said.
“Everyone’s a winner, just like on the show, if they accomplish what they set out to do,” he said. “It’s all about making lifestyle changes.”
Monica Herber, who was crowned a winner in December 2009 at Supreme Sports Club for losing 29.5 pounds in eight weeks, is a testament to the jump-start that such a program can provide.
Herber, camp director at Columbia Arts Center, signed up in October 2009 with her boss, Liz Henzey, and edged past her by losing a half-pound more.
In the year since that session ended, Herber has lost another 20 pounds and hits the gym four or five times a week, doing weight training, cardio exercises and tae bo, which combines cardio with boxing movements. Henzey has lost another 7 pounds.
“I know that Liz’s encouragement and support is a large part of my success and my co-workers’ success with our weight reduction,” said Herber. “It is a major asset to have a work place that is on board with wellness and physical fitness.”
She said that two co-workers have lost 45 pounds each and a fourth colleague has lost 14 pounds, bringing the arts center’s employees’ combined weight loss to 190 pounds.
“You’re working on your body composition [when you compete], and you’re aware of muscle mass versus body fat,” Herber said of the experience.
“And you’re also very aware of the calories in food and accountable for watching that during the program,” she said with a laugh.
Since food and exercise go hand-in-hand in a successful weight loss program, an optional pre- and post-test used by “The Biggest Loser” will also be made available to competitors for the first time, Yurko said.
Called the “Bod Pod Challenge” after the egg-shaped body analysis chamber called the Bod Pod, information on calories burned and lean mass change will be combined for one discounted package price with a 30-minute nutritional consultation by Diet To Go, he said.
The person with the best percentage of body composition change will win this separate challenge, he said.
The mobile metabolic and body composition tracking system has previously been available only to medical facilities and professional sports teams, according to company literature that Yurko distributes. And the entire analysis, in which the subject sits in the Bod Pod chamber, takes less than five minutes, he said.
With this testing option and two hourlong group sessions with their trainers each of the eight weeks, contestants will take away ideas for life, he said. Competitors will be expected to augment training sessions with “homework” they complete on their own.
John Foelber, who heads personal training development at Supreme Sports, pointed out that each trainer has his or her own style of training, making for “a unique experience for each team.”
“We’re all extremely good at what we do, but we do it differently,” he said. Some of the elements that most contestants will work on include core training, squatting exercises and TRX suspension training, which is new to CA’s gyms.
One of the announced teams will focus on aquatics exercises, Yurko said.
Quizzes may be added to the physical challenges this time to drill home the concepts needed to maintain or continue weight loss once the eight weeks end, Yurko said. As for the winner’s prize, he’s keeping that under wraps for now.
While he hopes competition will be fierce, Yurko acknowledges that “The Biggest Winner” won’t make competitors feel as if they’re “going into the military” like the trainers do on TV.
“I was a little skeptical early on about Jillian [Michaels] and the way she breaks those contestants down,” he said of the melodramatic aspects of the TV show. “But she does get results.”
And results are what everyone wants, after all.
“People who decide to enter this competition have to settle in and say, “I really need this program,’” said Yurko. “Once they kick-start their lifestyle, they usually keep the activity going.”
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