By Erin Shultz
Tribune lifestyle editor
— Eight weeks ago, I walked into the first Community Shape-Up training session and I saw a group that could barely make it through 30 seconds of jumping jacks without looking a little queasy. I was nervous for the 89 participants who signed up for the Kokomo Tribune and Club Fitness 24’s annual weight-loss contest, to say the least.
On Saturday, the competitors, who shed a whopping 1,144 pounds during the challenge and toughed it out through countless lunges, squats, sprints on the track and encounters with the Prowler, proved me very wrong as they ended this year’s contest.
“This was the best one yet,” said CF24 owner Chad Coy. “I never in a million years thought it would be this awesome.”
In the end, Rick Johnson blew all the men out of the water, shedding an astounding 54 pounds – or 20.64 percent of his starting body weight — and walked away the male winner of this year’s Community Shape-Up. Rachael Szymchack bested the rest of the ladies, with 29.2 pounds, or 13.21 percent of her starting body weight.
“Rick? That dude is a machine,” Coy said, wide-eyed, after Johnson weighed in for the final time.
But the closest race was our team division, which saw our 1 p.m. green team narrowly defeated by our 5:30 a.m. gray team by a margin of .01 percent. The race came down to a single pound, but the gray team — which lost 9.5 percent of its total starting body weight – squeaked by the green team, which lost 9.49 percent.
Coy said for him, the best part was seeing how many people have been affected by the contest. He said entire families of Shape-Up contestants are making healthier choices. Shape-Up participants’ kids are learning about what one serving of animal crackers looks like, he said.
“Not only do these people get it, but the people around them see that it can be done,” he said.
A lot of the success of this year’s participants, he said, came down to the group dynamic of the teams and the large-group personal training.
“These girls are calling each other, these girls are texting each other, these girls are meeting for extra cardio workouts,” he said.
In addition, the anaerobic interval training that the teams did in their large-group sessions simply burn fat faster, he said.
Now, the challenge will be to continue on with everything the contestants have been taught and consistently apply it.
“This is nothing more than a jumpstart to start their journey,” he said. “Eight weeks is not a destination.”
And Coy said the gym isn’t finished changing the fitness level of Kokomo either. He said the gym hopes to do another contest of some kind in the summer.
“Keep your eyes peeled,” he said.
• Erin Shultz is the Kokomo Tribune Life & Style editor. She may be reached at 765-454-8587 or firstname.lastname@example.org.