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Lose big to win

Charlie and Debbie Brown competed in Red Wing Family YMCA’s first Biggest Loser Challenge and will be returning to compete this year. The eight-week program is designed to motivate people to get fit and practice healthy habits. (Photo by Nicholas Churchill)

Last year’s holiday season challenge at Red Wing Family YMCA was such a hit that competitors couldn’t wait for another chance to lose.

Returning for a second time, the Biggest Loser Challenge is an eight-week program that aims to get people exercising and eating right in 2014.

“People absolutely loved it,” said Missy Shilts, a YMCA personal trainer who will be running the challenge this year. In its inaugural run, the program surpassed expectations with more than a hundred area residents signing up to compete.

Shilts said the focus of the Biggest Loser Challenge will be on promoting healthy habits, but a few tweaks to the rules and scoring system this year should make it fairer and more fun for everyone involved.

Starting Monday Jan. 13, teams of four will compete in weekly challenges and attend educational sessions to help meet exercise and nutrition goals.

Participants will perform two weigh-ins at the YMCA’s Wellness Center — one at the start of the challenge and one at the end. Each percentage point of bodyweight lost at the end of the eight weeks will net individuals one point to their final score.

“Doing it that way, it will make a smaller person with less weight be able to compete with larger people,” Shilts said.

But the program is about more than just weight loss, she added. Points also will be awarded for regularly completing 30-minute workouts, drinking water and participating in weekly challenges put on by personal trainers.

“Those challenges will vary,” Shilts said, including stretching five days a week, trying a new recipe or taking part in new exercise classes.

Points earned will be tallied by YMCA staff and posted to a board for participants to track progress, Shilts said. And, just like last year, there will be weekly emails with updates on team standings and messages of encouragement.

The competition culminates with a weeklong, four-event “Y-athon” that will include several previous challenges combined, Shilts said.

Along with the revamped points system, this year’s challenge will reduce team sizes by two, which Shilts said will make it easier for members to motivate each other. Bonus points will be awarded for teams with 100 percent participation.

Also new this year is the option for individuals to compete solo.

There will be a $100 prize for the top individual score and T-shirts for the winning team, Shilts said. Certain weekly goals and challenges will provide additional prize opportunities.

Something for everyone

The name of the challenge is all about losing weight, but Shilts said it will be helpful for people looking to maintain their weight or simply need some motivation.

“Because it’s only eight weeks, most people aren’t going to lose a ton of weight,” she said, adding that the weekly challenges are more designed to promote healthy behaviors like staying hydrated and eating fruits and vegetables.

The timing of the challenge is deliberate as well, Shilts said. Beginning the challenge at the start of the year gives new members who signed up as part of their New Year’s resolution an opportunity to get involved with the YMCA.

“(The Biggest Loser Challenge) will help them get to know people and gives some incentive,” Shilts said. “It’s just a fun way to get started.”

Registration is $20 for YMCA members and $99 for non-members. Signing up for the challenge grants full access to the YMCA Jan. 13 through March 3. To compete, register before Jan. 13 at the membership desk.

Michael Brun

Michael Brun joined RiverTown Multimedia at the Red Wing Republican Eagle in March 2013, covering county government, health and local events.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-River Falls journalism program.

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