ADDISON – Erin Chapa, fitness and aquatics supervisor for the Addison Park District, admits it’s not easy working at a fitness club as an overweight woman.
So she created the Club Fitness Community Weight Loss Challenge to help herself, as well as the community, shed unwanted pounds.
“I was a little greedy [when I came up with the idea],” Chapa said. “I started it to have group support and accountability.”
The challenge, which began Jan. 8, is an eight-week program open to the community, as well as Club Fitness members. This is the second year of the program, and there are 80 participants, which is the maximum number, Chapa said.
Last year, 60 people participated, and the group lost about 500 pounds. Chapa lost 10 pounds in last year’s program and hopes to lose more this year, she said.
There was one important change to this year’s program. Club Fitness hosted the Challenge before the holidays last year, and it lasted for 12 weeks. Chapa said the goal was to help people lose or maintain their weight through the holiday season. But this year, they moved it to after the holidays to help people get started on their New Year’s resolutions, she said.
“It’s a great way to get started on a healthy lifestyle. We get them in a routine they can maintain by themselves,” Chapa said. “They get comfortable with the fitness center. We’re setting people up for a lifestyle change, not just a quick fix. If you lose the weight quickly, you can just gain it back. So we give them building blocks.”
Each participant is put on a team with three others, and they meet every Thursday night with their assigned Club Fitness trainer. The group works out together, and the trainer provides them with exercises they can do on their own during the week.
Chapa said there is no required diet, but the trainers offer nutrition advice. Each participant is encouraged to keep a food journal, she said.
“It makes them more accountable,” Chapa said. “People don’t want to write down that they ate a whole pizza by themselves.”
Frank DiTuri, lead personal trainer at Club Fitness, said the program covers specific topics, such as portion sizes or differences between cardiovascular and resistance training, at each meeting. Many participants have a lot of misconceptions, and they hope to “set the record straight,” he said.
“It makes people aware of what they need to do to feel better, lose weight and get in shape,” DiTuri said. “A lot of folks are intimidated at first, but they feel more comfortable in this setting.”
Addison resident Christine Stamison, 55, lost 17 pounds in last year’s challenge. She said she’s gained a few of those pounds back and joined this year to lose even more weight. She said she likes the program because the trainers give her exercises she can do anywhere.
“I needed a kick-start to lose weight,” Stamison said. “But at the end of the day, it’s up to you. You have to go to the gym, put the right food in your mouth. It’s personal responsibility. They give you advice and training, but you have to put it into effect.”
Stamison added another benefit of the program is getting to know other community members, and she has made several new friends.
“It’s my favorite program,” Chapa said. “Everyone is so accepting. The bonds that are formed, how happy it makes people. Everyone feels successful no matter how much or how little they lost; they know they did something.”