Oak Creek - Clad in workout gear and ready to sweat, dozens of community members gave new meaning to the concept of group exercise as they gathered in the gymnasium of East Middle School this past Saturday afternoon.
With high-energy music pumping in the background, seven Oak Creek gyms took turns leading about 60 participants in 15-minute workout routines as part of the "January Thaw" flash fitness event for the Oak Creek Mayor's Fitness and Weight Loss Challenge.
Led by Mayor Steve Scaffidi, the challenge began Nov. 10 and is nearing its end, with the final weigh-in week set for Feb. 10.
Scaffidi, who pledged to lose 20 pounds during the challenge, said that beginning the event just before Thanksgiving and continuing it through the holidays was intentional.
"If you can do it at that time of the year, you can do it at any time of the year," he said. "That's why it's a challenge."
With the help of regular challenge events - all free to participants - such as healthy eating workshops and a Zumbathon fundraiser, along with his regular fitness regimen, Scaffidi so far has lost 14 pounds.
Nearly 700 community members have registered for the challenge to join him along the way.
"We're trying to encourage both our residents and our business partners to all get involved with the same mission: to get people healthy," Scaffidi said. "People really are buying into the whole package of fitness."
Local businesses help the effort
For many of the businesses involved, that mission is aligned with what they do on a daily basis.
"Our theme for our gym is building a fit community, so it fit perfectly for us," said Maggie McNeive, trainer and co-owner, along with Corey Paszkiewicz, at CrossFit Oak Creek.
While a big part of that theme focuses on physical exercise, the mental aspect is just as important in reaching fitness goals, McNeive noted.
"Change has to come also from inside," she said. "That part is just as rewarding for me as the physical transformation, when people come in and realize that they really are capable of more than what they ever thought."
For challenge participant Maggie Menard-Mueller, it was after running a block during the Thanksgiving Day Community Turkey Trek challenge that she was inspired to train for her first 5K run, which she successfully completed in December.
As a co-leader of the Oak Creek Taking Off Pounds Sensibly (TOPS) group, Menard-Mueller said she has been on her fitness journey for about a year. Since joining the mayor's challenge in November, she has lost about 10 pounds.
Others who attended the event also said they already work out on a regular basis, but were eager to have the opportunity to try something outside of their normal fitness routines.
"It was a nice way to get a feel for what the other gyms do, because I've heard of all of them but I didn't necessarily know what they were about," said Sam Douglas, who works out regularly at 9Round in Oak Creek - one of the gyms that participated in the event.
Douglas said she enjoyed the Zumba routine most. Her advice to someone who is interested in making a commitment to being fit is to "find something that you enjoy, because that will really help you stick with it."
In addition to local gyms, community partner Wheaton Franciscan also took part in the event, along with the Oak Creek TOPS group and local representatives from nutrition companies Isagenix and ViSalus, which offered post-workout protein shakes for exercisers.
Following the final weigh-in week, a wrap-up event for the challenge will be held, Scaffidi said, during which prizes will be awarded for the highest percentage of body fat lost in the men's and women's categories. There will also be a team prize, a children's prize and a random prize.
Scaffidi said he plans to continue the challenge again next year during the same time frame, with the intention of getting other mayors and cities on board.
AT A GLANCE
The following local gyms and fitness centers offered routines during the January Thaw event:
Nova Gyms Fitness Center
South Shore YMCA
For more information on the Oak Creek Mayor's Fitness and Weight Loss Challenge, including details on the final event, visit facebook.com/OCMayorsChallenge.
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