NEPA Fitness Challenge a strong success

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First Posted: 7/1/2013

“I want to look good in a bathing suit.”

“I want my jeans from years ago to fit again.”

“I want to be stronger/leaner.”

How many times have you made such a statement to yourself? The words are certainly a lot easier than the actions, but what happens if you put your foot down and decide once and for all that you’re going to get on the path to a fit and healthier you and stick with it?

We’ve got four people who took that road for 16 weeks and lived to tell the tale, coming out of it much healthier and happier than when they began, losing a total of over 60 pounds and 50 inches between them.

The NEPA Fitness Challenge was a competition where two teams of two whipped themselves into shape with the help of World Class Boxing in Kingston, owned by Sean and Cheryl Diggs, and a diet plan set forth by Full Force Nutrition, operated by Barrett Swirble and Rebecca Klopp.

World Class Boxing offers classes in a variety of programs, from Muy Thai Kickboxing to Brazliian Jujitsu and youth martial arts. The establishment has also trained over 20 fighting champions.

Challenge participants John Popko and Erica Calvert of Team Red and Melissa Kivler and Hayley Baseski of Team Blue were put right on the fast track to becoming fit.

“I did everything with them that I would do to get a fighter in shape in 16 weeks,” Sean said. “It was a mix of strength training, cardio, boxing, martial arts. We made it so it was easy for them to manage, five days a week, about an hour a day.”

Though breaking into a healthier eating regime was difficult for all the participants, Sean said the Full Force way was also something that was easily manageable.

“It’s really just about making healthier choices. Higher protein, low to moderate carbohydrate intake, and fruits and vegetables. It was very flexible, so if there was something they didn’t like on the list of food they were given that they could eat, Barrett would modify it.”

“They put a lot of effort into all of it,” Sean said. “Here are people coming from a background that they never really monitored what they ate and all of a sudden, this; it’s culture shock. But we tried to show them that it’s not as hard as people think it is. You just need to make a conscious choice to do it.”

So, what’s the trick to nailing down healthy way of living for the long haul?

“Discipline and accountability,” Sean said. “People see a great workout on TV, so they buy it, try it, nothing happens, they quit it. They go to the gym, their body starts to get sore, they stop going. That’s what makes us different here. When you have somebody standing over the top of you telling you what to do, you’re going to do it.”

Though the NEPA Fitness Challenge may have been labeled as a competition to start, it’s clear that there’s no single winner – everyone wins when it comes to the game of pushing through and excelling at a healthier lifestyle.

TEAM RED

THE WEEKENDER: What was the most difficult part of the whole experience?

JOHN POPKO: Definitely the diet. There is so much good food out there that is just really bad for you. Prepping the food for the week took a while and I basically just stuck with chicken breast, whole wheat pasta, and green vegetables. Eating correctly was definitely key in getting results. Even after the first or second week, I just felt better. I didn’t feel bogged down and sluggish anymore.

W: What did you enjoy the most?

JP: I enjoyed seeing the results at the end. Seeing the side-by-side shots of myself in the before and after pictures really made me smile. It was a lot of hard work and discipline, but it was definitely worth it. I never thought I was overweight until I saw these photos.

W: What surprised you the most, whether it be something about yourself or something about the workout/nutrition plan?

JP: I was surprised at how much eating healthy really helped with the results. Like most of us, when I was younger, I’d eat anything I wanted to and I would never gain a pound. Unfortunately I’m 30 now and need to start paying attention to what I’m putting in my body.

W: Would you recommend this approach to getting fit to others?

JP: Absolutely. Sean and Cheryl are great coaches and they have great class instructors as well. No day was the same, which really helped keep it fun. And I never thought of boxing as a way to get fit, but the results show that it definitely works. I don’t think I ever sweat as much as I did during these workouts in my life!

W: Do you plan on sticking with the workout/eating regime?

JP: I definitely plan on continuing to work out. I might not stay on as much of a strict diet as I did during this challenge, but I’ll watch what eat. I was eating fast food five times a week. I won’t ever do that again.

THE WEEKENDER: What was the most difficult part of the whole experience?

ERICE CALVERT: Breaking away from all of my bad habits. I fell into a rut of just grabbing takeout on my way home from work, rather than cooking a healthy, balanced meal. It’s not just about working out five days a week. You have to live a healthy lifestyle to truly see results.

W: What did you enjoy the most?

EC: I loved the workouts. They were brutal, but they aren’t supposed to be easy. The workouts constantly changed and kept me engaged throughout the entire challenge. There is nothing like going 12 rounds on a heavy bag after a long day at work.

W: What surprised you the most, whether it be something about yourself or something about the workout/nutrition plan?

EC: I still can’t believe that I lost close to 18 inches! When I started the challenge, I was in the worst shape of my life, but I never considered myself overweight. I now realize how much weight that I had to lose. My clothes fit better; I’m down three pant sizes. It was a full body transformation.

W: Would you recommend this approach to getting fit to others?

EC: Absolutely! Before I began this challenge, I made every excuse of why I couldn’t work out. Sean and Cheryl are true motivators. They won’t let you give up. They encourage you every step of the way and they push you to reach beyond your limits. In the past, I hated taking classes at a gym. This is a completely different atmosphere. From day one, you feel like you are amongst family and friends. We are all there for the same reason.

W: Do you plan on sticking with the workout/eating regime?

EC: Without a doubt. This is a lifestyle change. The NEPA Fitness Challenge is over, but I’m just getting started.

TEAM BLUE

WEEKENDER: What was the most difficult part of the whole experience?

MELISSA KIVLER: The diet, absolutely just changing the way you eat, how much you eat, and when you eat. Breakfast is important, healthy snacks are important, and just eating the right things. When you’re busy, working two jobs, taking care of kids, the drive-through is easy, but I learned it’s just as easy to prepare your food on a Sunday for the rest of the week.

W: What did you enjoy the most?

MK: People seeing the transformation that I made. Just them recognizing it gives you confidence and the motivation to keep going and try harder. You love how your clothes fit you; it’s like you have a whole new wardrobe! You do hold on to things and say, “I’ll fit into this again some day,” and then you do.

W: What surprised you the most, whether it be something about yourself or something about the workout/nutrition plan?

MK: I surprised myself as far as the ability that I had to do the things that we did. I think a lot of people hear the word “boxing” and they think people are hitting each other, but that’s not what it is. It’s just training that boxers do to prepare themselves. I was surprised in a lot of the things I was able to do as far as the strength training.

W: Would you recommend this approach to getting fit to others?

MK: I’ll tell you this. I have been going to the gym on my own for years and never got any results. This is kind of like having a personal trainer and not paying the price for one. I’m 38 and I’ve never been in better shape in my life.

W: Do you plan on sticking with the workout/eating regime?

MK: Absolutely; I still go. I’m preparing for some fitness bikini shows in October. I have a whole new view on life, my body has never worked better, and I’m like a crazy person now; if I don’t go to the gym, I’m disgusted.

WEEKENDER: What was the most difficult part of the whole experience?

HAYLEY BASESKI: Being a mother. Having two kids who are full-time students who play after school sports and go to CCD, trying to work five days a week, and fit this in with it.

W: What did you enjoy the most?

HB: So many things. I made some really great friends; I was going to the morning classes and met really great girls. Of course, dropping a couple pants sizes is a plus. For me, it was a life change that I can never be thankful for enough. Physically, mentally, emotionally, it just changed who I am.

W: What surprised you the most, whether it be something about yourself or something about the workout/nutrition plan?

HB: I surprised myself in getting up every day and trying to squeeze it in before work because I’m not a morning person. I also surprised myself physically. I was a runner before this whole thing and thought I was doing what everybody else should be doing and the best I can do, but there was so much more that I could do. I can actually do pull-ups – I never thought I’d say that at 35 years old.

W: Would you recommend this approach to getting fit to others and why?

HB: Absolutely, because it works. I was somebody that went to the gym three days a week, I was somebody that was running, and my body did not change in three or four years straight of doing that. With this, I immediately saw results. In 16 weeks, I could put a bathing suit on and feel comfortable with myself. I couldn’t do that over a three year period.

W: Do you plan on sticking with the workout/eating regime?

HB: Absolutely; I’m continuing with it. I canceled my gym membership after three weeks of doing it. My husband is actually starting the program too!