When they walk through the doors of community fitness centres they catch smiles and hellos, and their progress is the talk of the staff rooms.
They are the five Times Colonist Health Club Challenge participants and they have earned near-celebrity status at the recreation centres where they work out.
Sadeep Keram, adult health and wellness programmer at G.R. Pearkes Recreation Centre on Tillicum Road in Saanich, said the entire staff of the facility are a cheering section for their assigned challenger, Kevin Dean, a 51-year-old plumber.
"Everyone says 'hello' to him when he walks by," said Keram. "Even in the staff meetings we talk about how well he has progressed."
With this year's Times Colonist Health Club Challenge, event organizers made a deliberate effort to see the five participants complete their programs in and around the community.
The Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence is still the co-ordinator of the Health Club Challenge. With its highly specialized facility at 4371 Interurban Rd., next to Camosun College, the challengers were initially tested, weighed and measured there to provide a baseline in terms of fitness indicators for each one.
The Times Colonist Health Club Challenge is a fitness package worth about $3,000 won by five community members. Besides the baseline measurement of their body composition and metabolism, each participant also gets a oneonone session with a dietitian and some mental/emotional counselling.
Ashleigh Triplett, a 28-year-old Saanich esthetician, was the one challenger to stay at the Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence.
Having Triplett as its participant gives PISE a chance to highlight the programs and facilities offered there: children's camps, specialized athletic training and chances for the public to become members and be fit.
"We have a whole range of options," said Andrea Carey, director of operations and community engagement.
But once the testing was completed, most challengers went back to their own community rec centres where fitness trainers took charge of the day-to-day running of the regime.
Rob Wilson, fitness and wellness co-ordinator with West Shore Parks and Recreation, said it's not just the trainers and staff who are taking an interest.
Other patrons at the Juan de Fuca Rec Centre, 1767 Island Hwy., are also following the progress, online and on bulletin boards, of challenger Tania Bonfield, a 38-year-old IBM business controls manager.
"It's really kind of neat the way everybody is pulling for Tania," said Wilson. "But she is so positive it's been really neat having her."
At Oak Bay Recreation Centre, 1975 Bee St., Jill Williams, a 62year-old granny/nanny and the oldest participant, has earned some celebrity and provided inspiration for others.
Krista Enderud, Oak Bay Rec fitness programmer, said participation in the Times Colonist Health Club Challenge has been a huge hit with everybody - patrons and staff.
People have come forward, motivated by Williams's own efforts toward achieving better fitness, asking about programs and options. And everyone is pulling for Williams to be successful in her program.
The Times Colonist Health Club Challenge "has been a huge success for us; well beyond our expectations," Enderud said.
She also said she is glad to see all the challengers sticking with reasonable fitness plans, well within the realms of their own possibilities. It's not a competition for anyone to lose the most weight.
"Even if they just drop two pounds, if they are fitter and they feel better, then that's a success," Enderud said.
Josh Taylor, adult health and fitness programmer at Crystal Pool and Fitness Centre, 2275 Quadra St., said the centre feels lucky to be working with challenger Dennis Guevin, a 52-year-old former B.C. Lions football player now selling real estate in Victoria.
Taylor said the trainer assigned to Guevin often works with elite athletes, so it's been interesting to work with someone who has a background, albeit now several decades old, in elite sports.
The relationship seems to be working well as Guevin is happy about his progress.
"He always seems to have a smile on his face and you can tell he is really pushing," Taylor said. firstname.lastname@example.org
Anyone interested in learning more about the options for pursuing health and fitness at the community centres participating in the Times Colonist Health Club Challenge can go to their websites.
- G.R. Pearkes Recreation Centre, Saanich: www.saanich.ca/parkrec/ recreation/pearkes
- Pacific Institute for Sport Excellence (PISE): www.piseworld.com
- Juan de Fuca Recreation Centre, West Shore: www.westshorerecreation.ca/ facilities/juan-de-fuca-recreation-centre/
- Crystal Pool and Fitness Centre, Victoria: www.victoria.ca/EN/main/departments/ parks-rec-culture/recreation-culture/
- Oak Bay Recreation Centre: recreation.oakbaybc.org and click on Facilities and Parks and follow links.