Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

February 23, 2010

Shape-Up contestants learn about accountability

By Erin Shultz

At the end of Saturday’s Community Shape-Up workout, more than 45 participants lined Club Fitness 24’s speed track in plank position — hovering their bodies several inches above the ground, balancing on their forearms and toes.

Their mission — hold the position as long as possible. Last one standing wins bragging rights as well as a stronger midsection.

One by one, their abdominal muscles gave out and challengers sank to the ground, but as Amy Clifford and a handful of competitors fought to be the last one hovering, a curious thing happened.

Her eliminated teammates got back up in the hover position and finished with her, encouraging her and cheering her on to a victory — a tie with Jack Reed.

CF24 owner Chad Coy says that kind of teamwork and encouragement are exactly what will get the challengers through the remaining five weeks of Community Shape-Up — but also will keep them focused and accountable in the weeks after the contest.

“You’ve got to surround yourself with people who are going to support you and make you successful,” Coy said. The nearly 90 contestants were broken into teams primarily so they can encourage and motivate each other.

And we’ve heard many stories of support so far in this contest.

Kristin Candelaria and Amber Barney’s father sends the two daily e-mails encouraging them and giving them ideas on how to burn a few extra calories. (“If someone is walking into the gym, offer to carry their gym bag for them. It will add to your workout, and they won’t even know you’re doing you a favor instead of them. Sneaky!”)

Rachael Szymchak’s husband, Paul, has pitched in around the house, running interference with the kids when Rachael is too tired or sore, or making dinner for her. She says he even measures and weighs things out. She says she’s pretty sure he likes the changes he’s seeing in her, too. (“I catch him checking me out far more frequently now,” she wrote in an e-mail Monday. “I love it!”)

Lisa DeLeon’s husband, Gene, had a clever idea to help encourage her through the grueling workouts and keep her focused.

“He gave me a necklace that he knew would not fit me and the charm on it states ‘commitment,’” she said. “And then each week we notice that the chain is getting smaller.”

She said he has more charms he plans to give her that read: live, achieve, hope, kindness and faith.

Coy says one of the most frustrating things is working with a client whose family refuses to help and support — or worse yet, doesn’t realize how much their actions can be detrimental.

And I speak from experience — Coy is right.

In 2006, during the first week of our first Fitness Challenge, I stood in my kitchen, weighing out my turkey breast and counting cups of vegetables for my evening salad. And just as I was about to add the 2 tablespoons of fat-free dressing, my boyfriend walked in.

With piping hot Rally’s french fries.

My entire apartment filled with the delicious aroma of french fries, and I stood there, tired, sore, hungry and angry. And I cried.

(“What?” he said. “I’m not making you eat them.”)

It sounds silly, but that was one of the cruelest moments I’ve ever experienced, before or since. This year’s contest has seen its share of antagonism, too.

One group of Shape-Up contestants says their co-workers have brought in cakes, doughnuts and buffalo wings and announced they were free to anyone who wanted them. Others say their husbands have been less-than-thrilled about the nutritional changes at their homes.

But Coy said experiences like that are all part of this challenge too. If your spouse or friends or co-workers aren’t supportive, he said, you have to learn to deal with it. Find the desire within yourself to keep going or simply spend less time with those people, he said.

“Honey, you want to eat pizza and be fat?” Coy said. “Fine. I choose not to.”

Or, he said, you find ways to make better selections. One slice of pizza and a trip to the salad bar is much better than cramming half a pie in your mouth, he said.

“If you’re thrown into a cage with a tiger, you better learn how to live with it or you’re gonna get eaten,” he said.

• Erin Shultz is the Kokomo Tribune Life & Style editor. She may be reached at 765-454-8587 or erin.shultz@kokomotribune.com.