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Weight race underway in Vail Valley

Caramie Schnell
cschnell@vaildaily.com
Vail, CO Colorado
A fitness group lifts weights with an instructor at a local health club. Circuit training combines weighted movements like squats, deadlifts and dumbell curls with 5-10 seconds of rest to boost anaerobic fitness.
Special to the Daily |

VAIL VALLEY, Colorado –So there’s no ripped Jillian barking at you to pick up the pace one minute and trying to coax out your deep, dark issues the next, but the Vail Valley’s version of the “The Biggest Loser” at the Allegria Spa has a “Killian” who is training some of the participants.

Kirsten Stuart, one of five trainers taking part in the 40-day competition, isn’t afraid to push her group to the cardio brink.

“She’ll do an exercise and say, ‘oh this is hard.’ We’re waiting for her to say this is too hard for you guys, but then she makes us do it,” said participant Jenny Austin, who is on Stuart’s pink team.



The pink team has 10 members, most of who work at TV8 where Austin is an advertising account manager. There’s four other teams -black, orange, green and purple – taking part in the Park Hyatt club’s first-ever “Biggest Loser”-themed competition.

The event kicked off May 10, when the 50 participants worked out with their groups for the first time. Five circuits were set up at the gym and the trainers demonstrated how to use the equipment. A nutritionist also weighed each person and took their measurements – privately, not in front of the group or a national TV audience.



“In my 20 years of fitness in the Vail Valley, this program has generated the most energy and excitement in a club setting,” wrote Gaye Steinke, the spa’s general manager, in an e-mail. “Maybe we’re just all tired of the snow and anxious to get moving? I don’t know, but it’s been fun.”

Not everyone who signed up for the program watches “The Biggest Loser,” an NBC show where overweight, sometimes extremely obese contestants, compete to lose the most weight. But Austin does, and she knows Stuart does too.

“She has her own great exercises and then she’ll use some of Jillian and Bob’s killer exercises too,” she said. “She’s great – you can tell she really cares about you too, so that makes you work harder.”



And like trainer Jillian Michaels, “Killian” has a few of her own motivational sayings, too.

“She says things like ‘I can’t do it for you, you’re the only one that can do it,'” Austin said. “Or she said last night, ‘Just 30 more seconds, 30 seconds is nothing in the course of a whole day.’ So you’re like ‘OK, you’re right’ and you keep going.”

Motivating factors

For Austin, the team aspect of the workouts has been a big motivator.

“We have this e-mail list with the people on our team and the other day I asked if anyone wanted to come to spin and two people came,” Austin said. “So it’s that kind of support that’s been really great too.”

Weigh-ins take place every 10 days, which is also a motivating factor, said Avon resident Amy Hunter,

“You don’t want to walk in and have more weight on,” Hunter said. “You’re being looked at. Tonight we go in at 5:30 p.m. and do a weigh in and work out with our team. Having that accountability has inspired me.”

Hunter is part of team black, led by Michelle Kenney, the spa’s fitness coordinator. It was Kenney who invited Hunter to take part in the competition, and Kenney that pushes her a little harder every time she sees her working out, suggesting she spend 45 minutes on the elliptical machine, instead of her usual 35.

“So I did 45 minutes. It was hard as hell, but I did it,” she said. “(Michelle) is really good. She calls me up, texts me, to see what I did for the day.”

In addition to trying new workout classes, like mat pilates and spinning class, Hunter has cut her calories. She’s also trying to drink more water each day – something that’s been surprisingly hard for her, she said. She tries to be very mindful of every bite and sip she takes, she said, adding that she “loves bad food,” especially pizza.

“It’s about being aware. I wasn’t aware before,” she said.

Some local restaurants trigger food cravings, “most of them bad,” Hunter said, but so far, she’s been strong.

“So I either say I’m not going to go there, or if I do, I try to make better choices,” she said. “Like the other day we went to ZaccaZa!. I love the deep dish pizza there but I looked over the menu and I ended up getting a grilled eggplant dish and a salad.”

So far, the hard work is paying off.

“I know (the weight) is starting to come off,” she said. “I can tell in how my pants fit.”

Making the time

Obviously the “Biggest Loser” show partly inspired Kenney to create the program, she said, but she also kept hearing the same thing over and over from people when she’d see them this winter: They were working so much they didn’t have the time or energy to work out.

“With the economy, everyone seems to have had to double their efforts to survive, or so they don’t get fired – companies have made cutbacks and everyone has to do extra,” Kenney said. “The people in our program have great work ethics and in fact, they’re working so hard at their jobs, they’re not giving themselves time to exercise, but it’s so important to take care of your health.”

Kenney decided to make it her off-season project to help some of those people get into shape, she said.

“Yes, it’s nice that it’s happening during offseason,” Hunter said. “I’m still busy, but it’s not like I’m slammed. But then again, you have to make it happen. This is a lifestyle change. Like you schedule in a shower or a dinner, you have to make the time.”

High Life Editor Caramie Schnell can be reached at 970-748-2984 or cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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