Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Well, the TV show Biggest Loser is a couple weeks into the new season, and we just started our own Biggest Loser “9” here in the community. It’s a smaller group again but I’m not quite sure why. I’m pretty sure it’s not because everyone’s thin now.

Last fall, we started with 67 people and the winner lost 57 lbs in 12 weeks. This year we’re starting with 23. So we’ve still got room if you want to get involved. You’ll need to get registered before this weekend. The group will meet again next Saturday morning at 10:00am and you’ll want to get there a little early to weigh-in.

About a third of the participants are members of the YMCA, while the rest have memberships. Some have been members for awhile, and some got a short term membership for the 12 week contest. I think one will be working out at a gym at their workplace.

After a quick introduction and overview of what the 12 weeks will be about, we got right into the action. It turns out that it’s exactly a mile from our front door, down Wood St. to High St/5 Points, back up to Court, and back up Court behind the building to our back door.

The goal was to cover the mile as quickly as possible, whether walking, jogging, or a combination of both. Most people can cover a mile in 20 minutes, which would be a very comfortable walking pace. A slow jog would get you there in right around 12 minutes, which would be a 5 mph pace. An average runner would do it in 10 minutes, which is a 6 mph pace.

In this group, only two were able to do the mile in less than that, posting 9:15 and 9:30 times. Two other gals did it in right around 11:30, but the majority needed at least 13:30-13:45 to get it done. Still, that means they were jogging quite a bit, and taking walk breaks when needed, which is just fine.

Finally, there was another group that had to walk the whole thing, as they were new to exercise, but that was O.K. too. It doesn’t really matter how fast they were, because it was a starting point. All that mattered was that they did their best.

In 12 weeks, they’ll be amazed at how much they improve. It’s normal to see 2 to 3 minutes come off their 1 mile time and we’ve seen as much as 6 and 7 minute improvements! To accomplish this, I told them to try to shave 15 seconds off their 1 mile time each week. That’s a very reasonable goal, especially with people just getting started.

After everyone was back, we hit the mat room. Some people call it the “house of pain.” That’s just cold. Anyway, the first thing was to do a minute of pushups. To count, they had to go all the way down until their chest hit the floor, and then all the way back up. If they wanted to do them on their knees, that was fine. All but one did.

A minute doesn’t sound like much, but most people struggle with pushups right out of the gate. After 30 seconds, they’re usually about done, and it’s tough getting more out of them, but they kept trying. In 12 weeks, some will do a third more, and some will even double the number of pushups they can do.

Then it was on to a minute of sit-ups. While we do all kinds of crunches and other abdominal (abs) exercises, for this test, they had to cross their arms in front of them with knees bent and someone holding their feet. Then they had to come up and touch their elbows to their knees. If they didn’t touch they couldn’t count them.

Once in awhile, someone will not be able to do a single sit-up, but everyone got at least a few. In 12 weeks, their numbers will double and perhaps even triple. Taken together, the three tests provide a pretty good measure of starting fitness, and something we can compare to when we do the tests again at the end of Biggest Loser “9.” More importantly, they serve as a good wake-up call that let’s people know where they really are.

As they lose some weight, everything will get easier. They’ll also get stronger and have more confidence. That’ll let them push harder when they’re working out, burning more calories, and losing even more weight, which creates a cycle of success.

At first, they’ll have to kind of fight their own bodies to get things going. Later, their bodies will become allies in the process, working with them to take more weight off.

Another important thing we went over was to not think they were going to get the same results as the TV show. On TV, they live on a ranch, isolated from most temptations, with a kitchen filled with good food choices, a full service gym at their disposal (although our 24 hour gym kind of helps out there), no job, no kids, no distractions, and they often work out 6-8 hours a day.

Here, they have jobs, kids, lots of temptations, junk food at home, and at best, they’re going to work out twice a day, for perhaps 1 ½ hours, total. They won’t get the same results. So they need to get over it.

If they can lose a pound a week, that’s good. Two pounds a week would be great. In fact, the American College of Sports Medicine says for healthy weight loss, you need to lose 1-2 pounds a week. Perfect. Three or more pounds would be fantastic. If they can come to terms with that, they’ll be just fine—and still have great results.

Finally, we talked about what it takes to be successful. Without fail, half the group will quit, for one reason or another. I asked them to spend some time thinking about that. No one wants to stand up and say, “Yes, I’m going to be a quitter.”

Everything thinks they’re going to make it. But when push comes to shove, life starts intruding, and Murphy comes knocking, that’s when you need to be tough. They need to make the decision now, on what they’re going to do when things don’t go their way.

I left them with the instructions to focus on getting moving this week. Walk a mile every morning, or at noon, to get their body working. On Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoons or evenings, they’ll do a strength machine circuit after a quick 10 minute cardio warm-up. They should pick a weight that they can do comfortably 12-15 times. The workouts should take 30-45 minutes, total.

On Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, they’ll focus on doing longer cardio workouts. Each workout should last a minimum of 30 minutes, and 45 minutes would be even better. This way, they’re always doing at least a mile every day in the morning, and alternating between cardio and muscle workouts later in the day.

Next week, we’ll start talking about food. They’ll learn exactly how much they should be eating, which should hold some surprises for them, especially the women. We’ll also step up the workouts, and they’ll have their first training session with me. I’ll tell you all about it next week!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


This week marked the end of Biggest Loser “8.” Our smallest group since BL “1, we started with just 24 participants. To put that in perspective, last fall we had 67 people signed up for BL “4”. Of the 24 that started this time around, 9 made the final weigh-in with another 8 people still involved that had to miss for one reason or another.

Last summer, we didn’t even do a Biggest Loser because of all the different things going on, but I wanted to give people a chance to participate even if they couldn’t make all the weigh-ins. That way they could still get some information and start making progress.

Even though it was a pretty small group this time around, especially at the end, there were some really nice accomplishments. Heather had a serious problem with asthma and I was pretty concerned during her 1st 1 mile walk/run (18:43). In just 12 weeks, she took 2 minutes off her time (16:47).

Even though she only lost 7.6 pounds overall, she learned not only how to exercise, but also that she can do it—which is powerful. Now she can push harder and do more, which bodes well for her next 12 weeks.

The average improvement in the 1 mile walk/run was around 1 ½ minutes, over the 12 weeks. Shawn Bowers, on his 5th Biggest Loser, posted a starting 1 mile run at 9:12, but finished with an amazing 7:15 mile during the post-test!

Everyone improved dramatically in the pushups, often doing 50% more in a minute than they did 12 weeks earlier. Sit-ups improved as well, with most people doing around 30% more than they did on the pre-test.

Quite a few said that they also started understanding how to eat right, and several had given up drinking pop. While everyone had trouble once in awhile, they found they could stick with a sensible diet: more fruits and vegetables, more whole grains, low fat dairy, leaner cuts of meats, more chicken and fish, all in the right amounts for them. They also avoided most of the junk foods, most of the time.

Our winner for Week Twelve was John Crow who lost 3.4% of his body weight and 3.6 pounds. He won a $20 gift card for all his hard work from Terry Elston and State Farm Insurance. John lost the most body fat during the twelve weeks, posting a drop from 29.8% to 21.5%, which represents around 30 pounds lost. Since his weight went down just 8.6 lbs, this means he’s put on an amazing amount of muscle!

For the final results, Vicki Riggen took third place overall. A grammar school principal from Chrisman, Vicki told me the weekly meetings and workouts really helped her learn what to do during the week. This contributed to her losing 7.3% of her body weight and 11.0 lbs over the 12 weeks, despite having a vacation cruise, dental surgery, and knee surgery!

Shawn Bowers, who finished in second place overall, has found out how important it was to “do the work.” In the end it comes down to calories burned, and he found lots of ways to burn them. When work made it hard for him to hit the gym sometimes, he was able to keep up with his running and use hard yard work to help him lost 12.9% of his body weight and a total of 37.9 lbs. He’s now only 15 pounds away from his long term goal of losing 100 lbs.

Tammi Hewitt was our overall winner for Biggest Loser “8” and the first ever female to win the whole thing! She walked several miles every day to lose 16.5% of her body weight and a total of 28.2 lbs. Her goal is to lose another 12 pounds to get to her ideal weight, and she’s already signed up for Biggest Loser “9” which starts this Saturday.

As I mentioned earlier, last fall we had 67 people signed up for BL “4.” I don’t know how many we’ll have this time around, but I’m expecting a pretty nice sized group for Biggest Loser “9.” The first meeting will start at 9:30 am, Saturday 26th, right after the Honeybee 5K.

Everyone will do the initial weigh-in, and then the 1 mile walk/run, minute of pushups, and minute of sit-ups to get an idea of their starting fitness. Then I’ll hand out their BL information, tell them what to do in their first week, and cut them loose at around 10:30 am so they can watch or walk in the parade which starts at 11:00. The following Saturday, we’ll meet at our normal time (10:00) for their first weekly weigh-in and workout.

If you’d like to be part of this community-wide group and participate in Biggest Loser “9” you need to get registered by Friday, September 25th. The cost is $50 and you don’t have to be a member at Tom’s Fitness, although you should probably be a member somewhere.

Half of the participants will be members here, but half are always members elsewhere, like at the YMCA, Curves, the gym in Marshall, or at work. A few even do their workouts at home. That’s O.K. too—you just need to have a place and stuff, so you can get your workouts in.

Why not make this fall your time to watch the weight fall off, and change your life at the same time. By Christmas, you might have to give yourself a nice, new wardrobe! I’ll see you in Biggest Loser “9!”

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Last weekend was “Blues at the Crossroads” in Terre Haute and they scheduled a half-marathon run early Saturday morning as part of the festival. While I’m not a good runner by any means, I like doing a race in the spring and then again in the fall. That gives me a goal, and also helps keep me training. That helps keep me in shape.

After a pretty dismal performance (2:25) in the last one at Sarah Bush Lincoln last spring, I wanted to do better this time. Part of it could be blamed on the extreme wind that day, but the bottom line was I was a lousy runner and needed to train more.

I’d always been a little cautious of running too much, because of all the other workouts I’ve got going on, so I didn’t want to over train. I’d also run into knee problems during the long runs at the end of a training cycle, right before a race.

Still, I’d read about how runners (real ones) often run every day, 5, 6, even 10 miles! That always amazed me and I wondered if I could do it, too. Maybe if I increased my mileage and running days, I could build a better base. That might make me strong enough to avoid the runner’s knee issue, but also take some time off my long runs.

So, in June, I started running 3 miles each day—even on the days I did strength training. Before long, I went a little farther on the running only days, going 4 and 5 miles. Then, I upped it to 4 miles on the strength training days, too.

It wasn’t too long and I was running twice the mileage. I also started feeling a little like Forrest Gump—“I just felt like running.” My neighbor Brad started calling me the ghost who haunted Horace Brocton road.

I finished June with just over 100 miles and I was wondering if I could do 120. Here’s where the obsessive-compulsive part of my personality kicks in. Even though there were some hot days, I passed 120 miles with a little less than a week to go in July. So I pushed hard and ended up with 140 miles—averaging 35 miles a week and feeling like a real runner (some days).

With 6 weeks to go before the Terre Haute half-marathon, I started thinking that maybe I could stretch it to 40 miles a week. That was pretty tough. There were a lot of days I didn’t feel like running, but I wanted to do better in Terre Haute. My theory was an old one: no pain, no gain. Build a better base. Actually be prepared.

Then, occasionally, there would be a run when I just went out there and—ran. It felt great. The whole run was effortless. If I was running 4 miles, I could keep going faster each mile and charge the last one. I’d always considered myself a wanna-be runner, at best a jogger trying to go the distance. But on days like that, I felt like a real runner.

By the end of August, I was pretty tired, and on the last day, hit 160 miles in the 10 mile long run two weeks out from the half-marathon. Even though I was pretty happy to hit the goal, I also knew that I’d probably never run quite that many miles in a month. 40 miles a week is probably just right for some people, but probably a little too much for me.

During a two week taper, where I took a few running days off and decreased the mileage, I felt pretty good. If ever there was a time to do better, this was it. The week before the race, I ran even less, and took two days off everything before the event.

It was nice having the race in Terre Haute, even if we did have to get up pretty early to get over there. As usual, my son Chris was with me, and I’d talked him into taking off and running his own race this time. He ran the last one with me, and I could tell he was like a race horse with a jockey that wouldn’t let him go—especially with my lousy time running into the wind.

We got there in time to park at the ending point and took the bus downtown to where the start would be. I was amazed at how many runners there were. It was a calm, crisp morning, and 291 of us stood around listening to some Blues while we waited for the start.

As they said go, Chris told me “see ya” and took off. I wouldn’t see him again for a couple hours. I felt pretty good, and tried to not get sucked into running faster than I should—it was going to be a long 13.1 miles and I didn’t want to get burned out early.

Within a few minutes, I heard someone saying, “Hi Tom.” I looked over and it was Dan Lynch. We talked a bit and he told me he ran the Indy Mini in about 2 hours. I told him that was fantastic and that I was just hoping to finish in 2:10, which would be averaging ten minute miles. He said he’d be doing that, so I hooked up with him. Right around then, another friend, Ken Hall, blew by us both.

Dan and I ran the next 8 or so miles together, not saying much, but he’ll never know how much he helped me. It was ironic. He was in one of my first Biggest Loser groups two years ago, and then did it again a year ago. The first time, he was there for himself, to get back into a routine. The second time, he was there to help out a friend.

Now, he was not only running a half-marathon, but he was running it faster than I ever dreamed of running. I kept thinking if I just stayed with him, I’d run it faster than ever and get my best finish.

He pulled a little ahead of me at mile 4, when I walked for a moment to eat my runners goo, which is a simple sugar packet that tastes a little bit like thick honey. As I splashed it down with some water and got going, I could still see him just in front of me. Finally, about a mile later, I caught him again.

At mile 8, when I did my next goo, he pulled ahead of me for good. Try as I might, I just couldn’t catch him, although I was always able to see him up in front of me. At mile 10, a group of guys passed me and I overheard one say to the others that it was 1:31. That was a pretty great time for me, and I knew I just needed to hang on for my best finish ever.

So there we were, Dan running up ahead like a little machine. I’m back a little bit, trying to maintain. It was almost as if he was pulling me along. Then the hills came. It’s not very nice putting the hills at the end of a race. That’s when my hips and legs really started getting tired. It’s funny—it’s never about breathing for me. I’ve always got plenty of wind. It’s the muscles that just don’t want to do it anymore. And they didn’t.

But Dan was still running, and so then was I. We got to mile eleven, and then twelve. I had a brief moment where I thought I might be able to catch him in the last mile, but my old familiar right knee started acting up a bit, and I needed to walk a few seconds to give it a brief. Once we turned off the road, into the grassy area for the last quarter mile, it felt a lot better.

Up ahead, I could see the clock. It said 2:04 something, and I knew it was going to be a personal best. I crossed at 2:05:12, and 150th overall (out of 291 runners). As I finished, I realized that thanks to Dan, and all those extra miles, I’d just taken 10 minutes off my best time ever, and a whopping 25 minutes off the fiasco last spring.

Dan was there waiting, having finished over a minute ahead of me at 2:03:43, and 143rd over all. I didn’t have words at the time to thank him (although I’ve got plenty of them now). Chris was there too, having finished in 85th place at 1:49:17. He’s such a stud. Ken Hall congratulated me as well, and told me that he was trying to catch Chris, but couldn’t quite do it, ending in 88th place and 1:49:30. He’s also a stud.

If you want to know what the fastest time was, it was 1:16:44 for the guy who won the race. The fastest gal finished in 1:29:26. You see, there are different levels for everything, and everyone has a goal. Even the guy who won likely looks up to world class runners, who do it in just over an hour. I used to be near the end of the pack, but now I’ve fought my way up to being squarely in the middle.

I figure I’ll never ever be able to match times like those of Ken or my son, but I am thinking that maybe next spring, with enough training miles in, and someone like Dan to follow, maybe I can do it in 2:00. I can’t wait.

The winner for week eleven in Biggest Loser “8” was Cathy Kemper, who lost 1.3 % of her body weight and 2.4 lbs. Cathy received the $20 gift card from Terry Elston and State Farm Insurance for all her hard work. Second place went to Shawn Bowers, who lost about a little less than 1.0% of his body weight and 2.0 lbs.

Join us for Biggest Loser “9” which starts Saturday 26th at 10:00 am. You’ll need to get registered by Friday so we can hit the ground running, so to speak. You’ll get 12 weeks of challenging workouts, and lots of help getting your diet squared away. Last year at this time, we had 68 people in BL “4”, so get signed up now.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


When writing this column, I usually come to my laptop with a pretty good idea of what I want to write about. Sometimes it’s a continuation of a topic from the week before. Sometimes it’s something I’ve been thinking about for awhile.

There are times, though, when I have no idea what to write about. That can be pretty tough, especially with a weekly deadline. Thank God it doesn’t happen too often. But when it does, even the act of writing often brings an idea or two (seems to be working).

It works when writing songs, too. You can’t just lie around waiting for inspiration to strike. You’ve got to go digging for it. Play your instrument. Listening to the sounds and paying attention to what’s going through your mind.

Whether it’s with this column, or in my music, I’ve usually been struck by something someone has said, done, or something that’s happened. Sometimes it’s me, but usually it’s about other people. The best songs and stories are about people and the things they go through. Those are things we can relate to.

In the end, it’s always because something seemed important enough to dwell on for awhile, that I end up writing about it. I can’t let it go. I want to make sense of it.

Once in a while I have to find inspiration for a workout. Usually, I’m pumped and ready to go. I’m lucky that way—I really like to do it. For some people, it’s the absolute last thing they want to do. Tough finding inspiration if you’re that person.

Now there are lots of chores to do around here—cleaning the bathrooms, sweeping and mopping the floors—that I’m not really inspired to do. It’s never ending. It would be nice to use a Steven Covey approach and “think with the end in mind.” Just visualize those sparkling urinals, squeaky clean floors, and happy customers, and I’m all over it, right?

That approach works pretty good when planning and building a business, but it just doesn’t motivate me to stick my hand into a toilet. Nothing really does. You’ve just got to do it. Thank God for plungers. I mean really. You wouldn’t believe what some people will do. And guys are pretty much pigs compared to the gals. I never have to plunge the ladies toilets.

At moments like that, the only way to find inspiration and motivation is to simply just get started. That’s what I do. Just get started. You put it off until you can’t put it off anymore, and then you hold your nose (figuratively speaking) and just get started.

An interesting thing happens. Once you’ve actually started and gotten past all the reasons you didn’t want to do it, it takes on a life of its own. You start feeling good about the fact that you’re actually doing it.

Then you start liking the results. In the bathroom, for example, it is nice seeing the mirrors clean, and the counters shining. The toilets sparkle and the floor looks good. It smells good. There’s a certain pride in a job done well, or even just a job done.

It’s the same thing with a certain workout we do in our groups. Some of the tougher workouts have names, like “Cindy” and “Angie.” I think it’s based on how the hurricanes have names, and how these workouts make you feel like a hurricane just blew through.

This one’s a great CrossFit workout (for more info go to crossfit.com) called “Fran.” Like I mentioned before, I’m usually pretty motivated, but this gives me great pause. It’s 21 thrusters (95# front squat with a shoulder press), 21 pull-ups, 15 thrusters, 15 pull-ups, and then 9 thrusters, 9 pull-ups, non-stop, as fast as you can do it. I’m fine with the pull-ups, but the thrusters just take it out of me. It’s going to be hard, I know it, and pretty much dread it.

It doesn’t matter how good it’s going to be for me, and how it’s going to build power and explosiveness. It doesn’t matter how it prepares you for a fight, so you have the stamina to not only engage the aggressor, but keep going, full bore, until you have control over the situation.

With this one, I have to treat it like I treat the toilets. Just jump in (figuratively speaking). Just get started. Once I start, I’m fine. It’s tough, but I’m O.K. Then later, there’s a real sense of accomplishment, because I did something I knew was going to be hard, but I did it anyway.

Marathoners and those who do triathlons understand this. They know there’s going to be pain, but they thrive on it. They push through it to get the finish. For them, the test is everything. They want to know they’ve been measured, and aren’t found wanting. I think even in our simple workouts, we can find that same feeling. In life even.

I’ll forever be in awe of the soldiers that have served our country under live fire. Watch “Band of Brothers” sometime and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Whether it’s WWII, Kosovo, or nowadays, Afghanistan and Iraq, these people knew what they were getting into and still faced it anyway.

Or the police and firefighters that went up the stairs of the Twin Towers. It’s not the instinctive thing to do—run toward the problem—but they did it. Even if it was their job, it was still heroic. It was so inspiring that I had to write a song about it. I sing it in my head when I’m running, especially when the miles get tough. I know you can’t hear the melody, but maybe someday I’ll get to sing it for you.

“IT TAKES A HERO” ©Tom Dolan 2009

Remember pictures of the airplanes; police and firefighters everywhere
They went runnin’ up the staircase; then we couldn’t find them anywhere
And I know they had their orders, but all the weight was on their shoulders

Sometimes it takes a hero, to do the things that must be done
And the hero keeps on going, when the rest of us would want to run, away
It takes a hero

They were driving down the highway; it’s not as easy as it used to be
Now the desert makes its own rules; instead of bullets, it’s I.E.D.’s
And I know they had their orders, but all the weight was on their shoulders


A hero isn’t always what it seems to be, it could be you, it even could be me
But a hero doesn’t really always want to be, there

He was stumbling up the pathway; the pain of everything was pressing down
Cause he knew a cross was waiting; and the truth was he’d done nothing wrong
But he knew someday we’d need him, so he chose to buy our freedom


First place for Week Ten of Biggest Loser “8” was a tie between Brittany Cline and Tammy Hewitt, who both lost 1.1% of their body weight, and 1.6 lbs. Since Tammy has more weekly wins, Brittany got the $20 gift card from Terry Elston and State Farm Insurance. She’s lost 16.4 lbs in the ten weeks, and Tammy has lost 27.0 lbs. Now that’s inspiring.

Maybe you can find your inspiration by signing up for Biggest Loser “9” before Friday, September 25th. BL “9” starts Saturday, September 26th at 10:00.