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baltimoresun.com

CA fitness competition is a 'losing' proposition

By Luke Lavoie, llavoie@tribune.com

10:34 AM EST, January 2, 2013

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When it comes to weight loss, losing is winning. Just ask Kings Contrivance resident Liz Henzey, who in 2012 won the Columbia Association's Biggest Winner fitness contest, inspired by NBC's fitness reality television show "The Biggest Loser," by dropping 25 pounds in eight weeks.

"I'm an avid watcher of the show, so when I saw the advertisements for it, I thought it was so neat," Henzey said.

Henzey, 51, said the competitive element of the fitness contest — teams of four are led by a CA fitness trainer to see who can lose the most weight in an eight-week stretch — appealed to her.

"I love the fact that you are working on a team, and are accountable to other people," said Henzey, whose team also won the team competition. "You are all in it for the same reasons, to push each other and get healthy."

CA Director of Personal Training Sam Yurko said the program has increased from 25 participants at one CA fitness club in 2009 to 73 using all three fitness clubs last year.

Registration for the 2013 session ends Saturday, Jan. 5, when the contest is scheduled to start. As of last week, Yurko said there were only 20 participants signed up, but he expects a big rush after New Year's Day.

Yurko said the overall goal of the program is to allow its participants to "make better choices" by giving them the tools to create healthier lifestyles.

Last year, the participants lost a total of 580 pounds.

"It's a great program that points people in the right direction," Yurko said.

Each team meets with their personal trainer twice a week for one hour during the eight weeks. Every other week, teams participate in fitness challenges, where the winning team take home prizes that include gift cards, gift baskets and coupons for CA services.

During the four weeks in which no challenges are scheduled, participants are invited to attend informational seminars conducted by chiropractors, physical therapists and nutritionists.

Although the team-based weight loss program is a competition, it's designed so that every participant benefits.

"We want to educate people on how to be healthier and lead healthier lives," Yurko said. "They are going to learn all kinds of things from their trainer and the seminars. ... It offers them things they can keep doing after they leave the program."

For Henzey, the program did exactly that.

After being crowned the 2012 Biggest Winner, Henzey and her teammates continued to work out together throughout the summer, and Henzey herself went on to drop another 20 pounds, compete in two 5Ks and her first triathlon.

"It spurred me onward," Henzey said. "It's a constant battle, but now I know my weak points and I have the tools that this program taught me to keep going."

Bod Pod

While Henzey and her teammates were the contest's biggest winners, there was one more participant who was also recognized for their outstanding achievement last year.

Harper's Choice resident Eileen Skidmore, 61, was the winner of the competition's Bod Pod Challenge, a separate contest within the Biggest Winner that calculates the winner based on changes in body composition as opposed to weight loss.

"People who have gone through the Bod Pod Challenge are always happy they did it," Yurko said. "Everybody is focused on the scale, but just because you may not have lost as much weight doesn't mean your body hasn't changed and you aren't healthier for it."

Skidmore said the extra $99 to participate in the Bod Pod Challenge, which offers participants a 30-minute consultation with a nutritionist, was well worth it.

"I thought if I'm going to do this, I'm going to do it all the way," Skidmore said. "It's not about just working out and going to the gym, it's about your entire lifestyle. It's not like a diet which is just a quick fix, it's about making changes to your entire lifestyle."

Yurko said contest participants are not required to participate in the Bod Pod Challenge, but said it is encouraged because it presents a more total representation of their body.

The cost of the program is $349 per person for Package Plan Plus members, $369 for Package Plan members and individual facility members, $499 for CA Resident Non-Members and $519 for the general public. The fee includes two months of Package Plan Plus membership for those who do not already have it.