Competitors in the sixth annual Biggest Winner contest have crossed the finish line and are seeing positive results from their hard work. So what’s next for the six-member Observer-Reporter team?

It’s one thing to lose weight but another to keep it off. After working out with a certified personal trainer four mornings a week for the past seven weeks, how will the contestants maintain their results and new healthy lifestyle? (Results of the contest were still being tallied and will be shared with readers next Sunday.)

Kendra Boni, fitness manager at the Washington Health System Wilfred R. Cameron Wellness Center, said the answer depends on whether the participants want to lose more weight. If so, they can continue working out as they have been for the duration of the contest.

“Working out four days per week at a moderate intensity along with an additional day of lower-intensity training is what we consider to be the best and most achievable plan that weight-loss clients can follow,” she said. “During the program, participants have been learning how to manage everyday stresses and foods to include and exclude from their diets as well as how to create an exercise plan that will never get boring. We are confident that at the conclusion of the Biggest Winner program, participants will have the skills necessary to continue to progress on their own.”

Once the contestants – or anyone, for that matter – achieve weight-loss and fitness goals, the hard work does not end.

So how does a person transition from weight loss to maintenance?

Boni said one key is to not fall into a rut with your workout routine. You may walk or take an exercise class several times a week, but she advises changing up routines now and then.

“Especially when people are working out on their own, most people will hit a plateau where they aren’t noticing strength and flexibility gains at the pace they were initially, as well as a decrease in weight loss or sometimes an altogether halt in weight loss,” Boni said. “It is important to continue to change up your exercise routine every six to eight weeks to ensure that your body is always forced to adapt to new stressors.”

That could mean adding intensity to cardio sessions or adding duration to cardio or strength-training sessions. Increase the weight used in exercises you’re already doing or add something altogether different, such as a Zumba or spinning class. In addition to changing exercise routines regularly, Boni recommends meeting with a dietitian to evaluate your body’s demands for nutrients and daily calories.

Throughout the contest, the staff of the wellness center has coached the Biggest Winner contestants in the four pillars: exercise, nutrition, mindset and recovery. Boni stressed that it’s important to remember all of these even after you lose the weight. “Recovery is a component that is the most commonly dismissed in a person’s workout routine,” she said. “Adding a yoga class each week, foam rolling at the end of exercise sessions and regular meditation are all examples of recovery techniques that should be in everyone’s routine.”

Keeping on the right track with nutrition and exercise require the proper mindset when entering the maintenance phase. Low- calorie diets combined with high-intensity workout sessions may help people lose weight in the short term, but it’s not a pace that most can maintain long-term.

“Losing a pound per week means that you’re working really hard, and a week such as that should be the pace you keep for as long as necessary to reach your goal,” Boni said. “Making short-term goals and celebrating those successes are how people can truly change their habits for long-term success. Also knowing how to avoid situations that lead to poor decisions and gaining the support needed from friends and family are the most valuable components to long-term weight-loss success.”

Boni offered three tips to ensure success.

• Continue to evaluate goals. Short-term goals and long-term goals are set at the beginning of any program, but re-evaluation along the way is a vital component to continuing progress. “If you notice that you haven’t been making it to the gym as often as you were or that you are consistently eating more calories than you know you should, that would be a good time to check back in with a fitness or nutrition professional to gain the accountability that you may need,” Boni said.

• Don’t get discouraged if you have a bad day. Many people tend to get discouraged if they miss a workout or eat something that they shouldn’t. They think the whole day is ruined and continue to make bad choices. Boni said, “It is so important to realize that life happens, and we all give into temptation sometimes.”

• Find new motivation. Boni said if you’re having trouble finding motivation, try buying yourself a new piece of workout clothing or shoes or try a new type of exercise. “Something as simple as that can get you excited to get back to the gym.”