By TRAVIS MORSE
MT. VERNON — — YMCA of Jefferson County has partnered with Rend Lake College to sponsor the 2014 Lose to Win Challenge, which kicks off Jan. 11.
The annual weight loss contest, in its eighth year, is offered by the Y as a way to encourage healthier lifestyles among members and non-members alike, said Matt Greene, the Y's program director. This is the second year RLC has been a partner.
“Whether it's here or whether it's at home, whatever their doing, that's the ultimate goal is to at least get them a healthy lifestyle, at least (get) those habits established,” Greene said.
All challenge participants must register as a four-person team at a cost of $100 per team. That works out to $25 per individual member. The registration deadline is Jan. 4.
Team members are then weighed at the start of the contest to determine the total weight of the team and of each individual member, Greene said.
The competition itself runs for nearly two months, from Jan. 11 to March 8.
During that time, participants are given free access to the local YMCA gym facilities, the Rend Lake College Fitness Center & Aquatic Center on the RLC campus, and the RLC Marketplace Fitness Center on Potomac Boulevard in Mt. Vernon.
“What they're trying to do is lose the most combined percentage weight loss as a team,” Greene said.
At the end of the two months, the teams are weighed again. Then cash prizes are awarded to the first, second and third place teams with the highest percentage weight loss, as well as to the individual with the most weight loss.
The prizes are $600 for the first place team, $400 for the second place team, $200 for the third place team, and $500 for the individual winner, said Larry Cornett, executive director of the local Y. The team with the best name also wins $100.
“So we do have one big winner for the individual award, but everything else is based on team,” Cornett said.
Cornett also pointed out that the Y's free Child Watch program is available to challenge participants during the competition. This is a program providing child care for parents who use the Y.
“It eliminates one excuse,” Cornett said of Child Watch. “There's a million excuses and usually those come in front of exercise.”
Organizers hold the Lose to Win Challenge after the New Year's holiday because it is a time when many people make resolutions to lose weight, Greene said.
Membership at the Y typically increases in the January, February and March time period, he said.
Greene recommended newcomers to fitness find something they enjoy doing and make that part of an exercise routine. They should also incorporate physical activity into their daily lives, he said.
“Look for ways of just being active, whether it's parking a little bit further away from the store, walking those few extra steps, maybe not taking the elevator, taking the stairs,” Greene said. “Trying to find something that will challenge you and make you grow, not only physically, but as a person, too.”
Some regular users of the Y also offered advice Friday to those looking to get serious about exercising.
Emily Davis of Mt. Vernon said the best thing to do is find an activity that makes you feel good as that will give you “more self-confidence.”
Brian Skortz of Mt. Vernon, who lifts weights often at the Y, said fitness first-timers should remember to take it slow and not try too much at one time.
“Don't jump into everything all at once because you're setting yourself up to lose that way,” Skortz said. “Just baby steps. Do one thing at a time and just work your way into it. Because if you do too much at once, it might be overwhelming and you have more of a chance to quit.”
Lose to Win participants must be at least 18 years of age. For more information on the program, contact the Y at 242-7500.