The Fitness Challenge feels easier and more joyful when teams of friends or co-workers go head to head for personal pride.
In other words, misery loves company.
The scales have measured out eight weeks of the community weight loss competition to benefit local charities. Sixty-six five-member teams continue striving for better eating habits, more exercise and a healthier habits.
Rochelle Dykes, left, and teammate JoEllen Weaver of the Trumbull County Deputies 137 Fitness Challenge team strike a pose at Fitness One in Niles. The team is one of three based out of the Trumbull County Courthouse.
The harassment and temptation's been flying for two months between the three teams based out of the Trumbull County Courthouse, where sheriff's deputies, court clerks, a probation officer or two and other denizens of the hallowed halls of justice are trying to provoke each other's bad habits.
''We're all in the same building. Whoever wins, the other two have to buy a dinner,'' Deputy Rochelle ''Roach'' Dykes, captain of the Trumbull County Deputies 137 team said.
Dykes cites as a particular pest a probation officer by the name of Vince Peterson.
"He's buying me all kinds of stuff, cupcakes, chocolate-covered Oreos One of my teammates sent him cheesecake, and then we're going to ship a pizza to his house.
''The only bad part is he's beating us right now," Dykes said.
Peterson and his All In team moved up three places to 15th this week with 7.7 percent of their starting weight lost. Weight No More, captained by Kim Reeves, moved up one notch to 18th place at 7.2 percent.
And Deputies 137 - um, they slipped a bit from 21st to 23rd place at 6.5 percent. That does make it a bit problematic for smack talk and the odds of their eating a victory dinner.
Peterson said, ''I hear the fat lady singing. Oh my goodness, make Rochelle stop. Not only can she not beat me, but she has a terrible voice.
''As always, I will be the courthouse winner and will be in the top 15. Next year, she might want to enlist the help of 'The Biggest Loser' show or 'The I'm Not a Celebrity but I Need Help Beating Vince Celebrity Fit Club.'''
Yeah, it's been like that. For two months, it's been like that.
Dykes - a rather slender woman - noted that this is the 11th year of the Tribune Chronicle / St. Joseph-St. Elizabeth Health Centers Fitness Challenge, and not only is Peterson credited with creating the Challenge, he's been in it every single year.
''And he still looks the same,'' Dykes said. ''His team is nothing but butts and guts. Us lady deputies are sick of cleaning up after Vince Peterson and his team's food wrappers all through the courthouse.''
Yeah, it's been like that. For two months, it's been like that.
It's wonderful to have good friends at your side in a quest for fitness. Simply wonderful. And maybe later, you can have a nice root canal or tax audit.
Once again, defending champs Believers' Bulge Busters finish the week atop the heap. No team ever has led the Fitness Challenge from Week 1 all the way the slimming end.
''We have it. We own it,'' team captain Janice Buckler proclaimed. ''We all had a good week. And we're excited that we're drawing near the end because we're all wanting to eat.''
The Busters now have lost 14.6 percent of their starting weight.
Just Weight stormed their way into second place at 12.4 percent with a Team of the Week performance, dropping the Wellness to Warriors to third at 12.3 percent. Refuel moved up from fourth to fifth at 11.1 percent, and the Mocha House Health Solutions slid from third into fifth at 10.9 percent.
Stephanie Iacozili, captain of Just Weight, says there's still time for her team to pull off the win.
''We're staying focused and dedicated these two weeks,'' Iacozili said.
''We're working with a trainer at the Y who's giving us a regimented program designed of moderate aerobics activity, nutrition, and resistance training exercises that burn fat and maintain lean muscle,'' she said.
Just like the courthouse teams noted above, Just Weight is one of three teams based out of the Warren YMCA. The others are 4.5 Full-Grown Men, in eighth place, and the YMCA Game Changers, in 11th and just a cookie or two out of 10th place, 9.62 to 9.60 percent.
''Our goal is to get all the Y teams in the top 10,'' Iacozili said.
As previously stated, Just Weight won Team of the Week honors for the best single-week performance, and the bonus $10 for its designated charity, the YMCA. They lost 20 pounds over the seven days for a touch over 2 percent for the week.
They also shared Team of the Week honors in Week 5.
Tips and tasty tidbits
This week, Ryan Foertch, manager of the Humility of Mary Health Partners Competitive Edge Sports Medicine, begins a series on exercise. If you're not off the couch yet, here's how to get started safely:
"Consult your physician if you have any medical concerns or needs prior to starting an exercise program," Foertch said.
Other than that, "I would start by just getting out there and doing something. Most individuals that begin exercise programs are not used to doing a lot of physical activity, and just getting up and moving is the key.
"I would shoot for two to three days per week to start, and then progress to three to five days once you get a little more comfortable and increase your fitness level.
"I would start by doing two to three days of cross-training exercises. This would be working on strength as well as cardiovascular training on the same days," Foertch said.
"As far as reps and sets with strength training, start with doing one set of 10, keeping in mind that the 10th rep should be harder than the first even though it is the same weight.
"Once you can achieve one set of 10, try for two sets of 10, and then three, but if you get to three sets of 10 and it is easy, it is time to increase the weight.
"Once your fitness level increases, you can break strength and cardio into their own days and workouts, but initially combine them for best results," Foertch said. "At the beginner stage, you should shoot for 30 minutes of exercise."
The target heart rate to achieve while working out is 60 to 70 percent of 220 minus the person's age beats a minute.
Next week, the intermediate plan.
This week, the Fitness Challenge passed the "two tons of fun" mark. The 330 competitors combined for a grand total of 4,044 pounds lost over eight weeks.
That's an average of about 12.25 pounds a person, and an average of just more than 1.5 pounds a person a week.
In Week 8, the 66 teams combined for a seven-day loss of 218.25 pounds. That's an average of just more than half a pound a person. Yep, it's tougher as it goes along, and some people give up early. Not you, of course.
Groups we'd like to take to dinner
Each team selects a nonprofit service organization for which it plays. Each team is guaranteed to donate at least $225 to his charity of choice, with the top 10 teams giving more, up to $1,350 for the first place team.
Two teams this year are playing for Bella Women's Center, 1192 North Road N.E., Warren -Believers' Bulge Busters and the Northwood Top-Reducers, both top 10 teams.
Bella Women's Center lists itself as ''a professional medical office with staff dedicated to serving women facing unplanned pregnancies. The not-for-profit organization's purpose is to provide women with a safe, professional environment to receive the information needed to make well-informed decisions.''
When she found out that Bella was twice-selected this year, Tia Ciferno, the center's director, said, "We followed the teams all last year and were so thrilled that our team came in first place. It was exciting for the whole staff, and we are looking forward to the healthy competition now between two teams who are both losing weight to support the important work we're doing here for women."
A few weeks back, she led members of both teams on a tour of the center's medical facilities.
''Following the presentation, the friendly competitors exchanged greetings - but did not divulge any specific weight loss secrets one to another,'' she said.
Bulge Busters captain Janice Buckler said, "We are 100 percent behind making young ladies aware of what's happening, to get the support they need and to have the medical attention that's top-notch."