It seems we’ve only blinked and January is already gone.

Have your New Year’s diet and exercise resolutions gone, too? Halfway through the sixth annual Washington Health System Wilfred R. Cameron Wellness Center Biggest Winner competition, contestants are sticking to their resolutions and to their commitment.

The Observer-Reporter Biggest Winner team members already are noticing a difference in their weight, strength, energy and physique. Four days a week, they rise before dawn to show up at the wellness center for their 6:30 a.m. workout with trainer Shane Bombara. Team member Christopher Dorsey dropped off the team, and O-R marketing director Carole DeAngelo has stepped in to fill the spot and help cheer on the group. While she is working out with the team, her weight loss will not be calculated with the group.

ep-1702097752“The thing that I’m seeing the most from them is that they’re all starting to make lifestyle changes,” Bombara said. “Mentally, they’re starting to make big changes in their diet, which is exciting. A few of the members will say if this food item is presented to them, they no longer have the craving and the desire to eat it. It’s very exciting and rewarding to hear about that and know they’re starting to make those changes with their daily life and their nutrition.”

Frank Crockard has shed the most pounds of the O-R team members at the halfway point.

“It’s going great,” Crockard said. “I feel great. I’ve lost a lot of weight. My mindset is so much clearer. It’s amazing.”

Crockard said the program is more than what he expected because of the focus on mindset and support with nutritional education. As for the exercise, Crockard is glad he didn’t give up on the first day.

“Day one, I went home and took a hot shower and laid on the couch. I didn’t know if I was coming back for day two,” he said with a laugh. “Every day, it doesn’t get easier, but you get stronger. So it makes it easier for you to do the exercises.”

Teammate Nicki Phillips said the workouts are getting progressively harder as the weeks roll by.

“It’s getting a little bit tougher, but that’s to be expected,” she said. “Personally, I know I’m getting stronger. We’re halfway through, so we can’t keep doing the beginning stuff the whole time. It’s more challenging.”

She’s starting to see positive changes in her body as well. “I mostly notice my clothes are fitting a little bit better, and I’m noticing more muscles in my arms and shoulders.”

Some of the team members say the hardest part of the contest so far isn’t the dieting or even working up a sweat.

“It’s just getting into the routine, getting up and getting here at 6:30, getting the full hour in and then going to work,” Phillips said. “I’m normally not a morning workout person, so it’s mostly just adjusting.”

Amber Valancius said once she became adjusted, she felt terrific.

“It’s easier to wake up that early in the morning than I thought it was going to be,” she said.

Feeling her body growing stronger every day keeps her motivated even through sore muscles.

“I have a 1-year-old, and lifting him now, I’m really throwing him around and not having to switch arms as much,” she said. “Coming home and your knees are weak from squats, but you still have the rest of your day to handle with stairs and the baby and laundry and you’re like, ‘Man, this is killing me!’”

But knowing her team is depending on her to show up has helped her to be accountable.

ep-170209775“I know if I miss a day, they’re gonna ask, ‘Where were you, and why couldn’t you be here?’ If I’m not here, I’m hurting the team.”

As far as performance is concerned, Bombara has observed that all of the team members are not as winded as they were at the start.

“They can go farther; they’re lifting more weight,” he said. “So, it’s exciting that they’re getting stronger in general, and that’s what this is all about. They’re making the physical changes, but they’re also making the mental changes, as well.”

That doesn’t mean he will go easy on them during the second half of the competition. If anything, he plans to challenge them even more.

“Every week I try to use progressive overload to make sure they keep seeing those goals and they continue to progress,” he said. “So each week it’s going to get a little harder. Day one, you can’t give them burpees and explosive movements and things like that. They’re not capable or ready to handle that. So each week I kind of build them up and show them the fundamentals, and they progressively get stronger.”