By Erin Shultz
More than a dozen contestants circled the large-group training room on Tuesday afternoon, as the first training session of the Kokomo Tribune and Club Fitness 24 Community Shape-Up kicked off. Some lunged in the corner, others are pushed sleds up and down the track, others are whipping heavy ropes up and down, cracking them like whips.
“Yeeee-haw,” yelled Club Fitness owner Chad Coy, over the thumping bass of music coming from the stereo. “Crack those whips faster!”
The session may have looked less like traditional exercise and more like medieval torture, but every station in the room has a purpose: build muscle and burn fat — quickly.
The contestants breathed heavily as the final buzzer sounded, which signaled the end of the round. They gratefully sipped on some well-deserved water as they gathered around Coy, who had been administering the session along with personal trainer Carlos Diaz.
“You know what?” Coy bellowed from the top of a set of steep black stairs in the corner. “We’re going to do all that again.”
“You mean ... today?!” cried one contestant from the crowd.
Nervous laughter followed as the group trudged back to their starting positions, ready to begin again.
The sessions are Club Fitness 24’s special brand of anaerobic interval training — 14 stations where competitors do 30 seconds of work followed by 30 seconds of rest before moving on to the next station.
Sound simple? Believe me, it’s not.
It’s a mix of weight lifting and functional strength movements paired with moves to get the heart pounding, strengthen the muscles and burn pure fat.
One time through the circuit and you’ll be sweating, two times through and your heart is pounding out of your chest, and by the third time through, you’re counting the seconds until the end of each interval.
For eight weeks, Shape-Up Competitors will be completing at least two of these sessions per week — plus an optional hour-long cardio/weight boot camp on Saturdays — in addition to three to four hours of cardiovascular exercise on their own.
The 89 competitors are split into training teams that are looking to lose the most body fat in hopes of walking away with free memberships to Club Fitness and a huge prize package from local businesses.
All competitors have the ability to stay in the contest — and we hope they do. They can, however, eliminate themselves if they do not maintain a passing grade on the online nutrition program, EasyClubFit, or do not log enough exercise hours in the gym each week.
“The Community Shape-Up group is a sample of where we are as a country in regards to how we have not taken care of our health,” said CF24 owner Kim Coy. “We are so pleased to be able to help each of these people individually become healthier so that they can help their friends and family become healthier. We hope to see a very positive impact in the community with this group. They are the hardest working people I have ever met, and I am very impressed with all of them.”
Some of this year’s competitors know about how tough contests like this can be. Cynthia Yazdani and Heather Mehring have both competed in the Kokomo Tribune and Club Fitness 24’s Fitness Challenge before, so they know what they are up against over the next eight weeks.
Several mother-daughter and husband-wife teams make up this year’s lengthy competitor list, and the early morning teams even have eight competitors from the same employer working out side by side.
The first week was a challenge for some and the biggest problem seemed to be muscle soreness. And I’ve been there. The first few weeks of a new workout routine are hard, and as the contestants ambled into the training room on Thursday — two days after their first workouts — they seemed a little stiff.
But that stiffness quickly passed as the groups got into the second training session, where the trainers and I were pleased to see that their form, control and speed had improved already. In fact, I’m fairly sure some of them were even smiling and having fun by the end of the session.
Mehring, who came in fifth in last year’s contest, said the large group workouts this year are just as powerful as smaller sessions and said she’s enjoying the team spirit from all the competitors — especially at the massive sessions on Saturdays, which are open to every member of the contest.
“It’s just as intense, but it’s different because there are so many people,” she said. “[On Saturday] everyone was cheering each other on. It was just a heck of a good time.”
Check back next week to see if Mehring and the other Shape-Up Competitors are still smiling as the contest kicks up into high gear for Week 2.