HARKER HEIGHTS — Pat Cones bought herself a six-week-long birthday present.
“I want to go into my 60th year headed in the right direction,” she said. “I’m dreading everything, but I’m determined to do the best that I can do.”
Cones was one of 76 competitors who registered for Heritage Park Fitness’ Biggest Loser Competition, which began with weigh-ins and “before” photos at 5 p.m. Monday. At its mid-November conclusion, the contest will award a NASCAR driving experience and a spa treatment to separate winners.
HP Fitness owner Michael Sheppard started the Biggest Loser contest in 2009, and his gym has hosted many since. Event organizer Kristen Dunlap said this year’s event drew 18 sponsors.
Shauna Anduze is one of four trainers schooling the contestants, to whom she will show her creative and “very aggressive” training style on Tuesday mornings.
“I want to be encouraging to them and I want them to be able to see that they can set goals and they can reach those goals,” Anduze said. “You don’t have to be at the gym 5 hours a day in order to do that. Most of us only have time for an hour or an hour and a half, and we’re usually running out the door.”
First-day workouts included squat thrusts, planks and partner push-ups.
“Just enough to get their blood pumping a little bit, and to get them a little sweaty, but we’re not trying to kill them tonight,” Anduze said. “That’s not our goal.”
Heights resident Ken Cavey, 50, hopes to drop from 236 to 224 pounds and lose 2 percent body fat, after losing 16 pounds in a prior Biggest Loser competition. He said he wasn’t expecting many curveballs from the competition, which provides a structure for weight loss.
“It’s just an intense effort, so you’ll give an intense run toward the goal,” he said. “I’ve been working out here for about three years. Sometimes, the weeks go into weeks and months and years and before you know it, you’re kind of meandering. So, it’s a real focus for you. You watch your eating a little bit tighter ... because they’re checking your calories, they’re checking your food program a little closer.”
Anduze encouraged contestants to embrace the challenge and see it through, considering that about 20 of 80 registrants prematurely exited the last contest.
Dunlap believes the event bridges the community.
“It’s a way for (the facility) to get the community together, especially around this time of the holidays, and kickstart fitness goals before they get into bad habits with eating all the amazing food that comes around,” Dunlap said.