When last Monday rolled around, Frank Crockard realized something was missing from his new daily routine.

“It was an odd feeling not heading to gym,” the Monongahela resident said.

Observer-Reporter teammates.

ep-170309791“I didn’t set any goals going into it,” Crockard said. “I just said to myself, ‘If I work as hard as I can and eat healthy, the results will follow.’ I never missed a single day. Even when I felt under the weather, I showed up and gave it my all.”

That dedication to four weekly morning workouts and a healthy diet helped Crockard lose nearly 25 pounds between Jan. 9 and Feb. 24, earning him the top spot on the O-R team and a one-year membership to the wellness center.

Crockard wondered what he had gotten himself into at first. “But after getting through the first week, I was looking forward to the workouts,” he said. “The feeling I got afterward was amazing and the energy carried me throughout my day.”

Not only did Crockard move the scale, he also improved his performance time on the one-mile walk/run and doubled the number of push-ups and sit-ups he could do. Though the competition is finished, Crockard said he’s not done yet.

“I am very happy with the results, but this is just the beginning of my journey.” He plans to use the nutrition and exercise advice team members received to continue healthy eating habits and effective workouts on his own, noting, “I got up this morning and went through some of the stretches we learned, then climbed on the exercise bike for a 30-minute ride, and it felt great!”

All members of the O-R team met with a registered dietitian before the contest began and had their cholesterol and glucose levels measured along with weight, body fat percentage and total inches. The team winner was determined by comparing who made the most progress between starting and ending numbers along with the fitness test.

The O-R team was led by Shane Bombara, exercise physiologist and personal trainer at Washington Health System Wilfred R. Cameron Wellness Center. He said while weight loss was not substantial for some of the team, the numbers were good.

ep-1703097911“The most impressive and possibly the most important aspects that changed were that everyone’s blood lipids (HDL, LDL, total cholesterol, triglycerides) improved, and girth measurements (abdominal, hip, arm, and waist) all decreased multiple inches,” Bombara said. Their post-fitness test numbers improved significantly, as well.

“I told them for weeks that while the scale might not be moving how they’d like, they’re still making a substantial change in their body at the physiological level.”

Nikki Phillips of Washington lost 1.8 pounds and said her experience was great.

“This competition was just what I needed to get myself back in shape and keep the motivation going,” said Phillips, who plans to keep working out either at the gym or at home and will also continue meal planning and eating better using the nutritional tools she learned. “I am happy with my results,” she said. “While I wish I lost more weight and gained more muscle, I know I have a great start and can continue toward my fitness goals.”

Carla Lander of McDonald lost five pounds and said she enjoyed the competition because it gave her motivation.

“It was tough, and I can’t lie, there were days that my body hurt and I was ready to quit,” Lander said. “Shane was awesome. He taught us not only how to do each exercise and what it accomplished, but also that we could do it no matter how much we whined. I am glad I did it and would be willing to do it again.”

Lander said her goal was to start a new health regimen. “I lost inches and gained strength and confidence,” she said. “I would have loved to have done better ‘scale’ wise, but that, too, will come in time. My biggest accomplishment is that I didn’t quit and I did prove that it’s never too late no matter your age.” Lander said she’s changed her diet, set up a home gym and is walking at least every other day.

Christy Rowing of Mount Lebanon actually wound up gaining 2.4 pounds of muscle by the end of the competition.

“I thought the whole experience was tremendous,” Rowing said. “I enjoyed getting to know my teammates and watching them progress … especially Frank and Carla. They worked so hard and overcame so many obstacles. They embodied the ‘don’t quit’ spirit.”

Rowing considers herself to be a fairly active person but slows during cold weather. “It was a great feeling to know that I was going to be getting a workout in no matter the weather,” she added. “I struggled at the beginning due to a respiratory illness but was able to finish feeling like we really accomplished our goals as a team. Some of us even competed in the AHA Go Red triathlon, which was so fun!”

Rowing plans to move her fitness routine outdoors in spring with running and rowing but will continue with personal training sessions twice a week at the wellness center.

Amber Valancius of Canonsburg lost 7.2 pounds and said she loved being part of the contest.

“It was such a positive experience, and I would do it all over again in a heartbeat,” Valancius said. “I have to admit that before the competition started I was a bit apprehensive about working out with a small group of strangers and with a trainer. However, once I met with the team and with Shane, any reservations I had disappeared.”

Valancius is happy with her results and achieved her goal of learning how to work out. “I wanted to be able to continue with my healthy changes once the program was over – especially the knowledge I gained from having a trainer,” she added. “It’s been almost a week since the competition ended, and so far I’m still going strong. Everything in my house has changed. This competition not only helped me get on the right track, but it’s helped my husband eat healthier, as well.”

Bombara is proud of his team’s devotion and hard work.

“They persevered through very grueling bouts of intense exercise and had the mental, physical and emotional fortitude to show up to our sessions at 6:30 a.m. ready to try anything I would throw at them,” he said. “I know that the members of the O-R team will continue to stay on their successful path of improved health and fitness moving forward.”