Gary Walters' latest Kinship Partners challenge is tough, but it's one anyone can join.
For years, Walters has worked to raise funds and awareness for Kinship, the nonprofit that matches adult mentors with children. He picked projects that created a few doubts he'd complete the task - biking from Louisiana to Brainerd, walking the length of the state, swimming across Mille Lacs Lake.
"This is going to be harder than swimming Mille Lacs," Walters' wife Lisa said, "because this is willpower. But he'll do it."
This time, Walters, 41, plans to lose 100 pounds in about 12 months. And he's challenging others to join him.
Gary Walters hit the treadmill at FitQuest Athletic Club in Baxter with help from Joan Peterson, FitQuest owner and personal trainer. Peterson helped Walters set up a workout routine of cardiovascular work and weightlifting. Brainerd Dispatch/Nels Norquist» Purchase reprints of this photo.
There are three ways to participate in the Kinship Partners Wellness Challenge. Goals are to shrink waistlines, engage all ages in fitness and raise funds for Kinship. Individuals with either weight loss goals or fitness goals (such as running a faster mile) may list their goal on the fitness challenge's Web site. People can put in a nickname, but Walters said putting a name down with a goal is a good motivator.
Individuals help raise funds for Kinship by paying $30 to join the fitness challenge. If they don't meet their goals, there is a $10 penalty.
Other ways to be involved include pledges. People can pledge an "all or nothing" amount so if Walters doesn't lose 100 pounds, they don't have to pay a thing. Or pledges can be made for each pound lost.
"I'd like to be a short, thinner guy and in shape," Walters said, adding he has struggled with his weight all his life. "When it's you against yourself, it's hard."
But, he said, when there is a group of people involved, the success ratio goes up really fast.
"When people are depending on you and people are watching you, that's when the public succeeds," Walters said. "On their own, they're stuck. They need help. The more we get involved with other people, the better off we'll all be."
How to be involved
The wellness challenge centers on getting fit and raising funds for the nonprofit Kinship Partners.
There are three ways to participate:
Set your own fitness goal and register it on the fitness challenge Web site for $30. As an additional motivator, there is a $10 penalty fee for failing to make the goal.
Make a pledge for Gary Walters' fitness challenge in an "all or nothing" pay off, meaning if he doesn't lose 100 pounds in a year's time ending Dec. 20, you pay nothing.
Pledge by the pound for Walters' weight loss goal.
For more information, go online to www.brainerddispatch.com (on far right-hand column below AP video specials links) or www.kinshippartners.org and look for the Wellness Challenge link.
To help people succeed, the Dispatch and Kinship Partners are putting together a weekly wellness tip in the Neighbors section and updates on Walters' progress. Participants will get friendly e-mails to check up on their progress.
Walters, at 5 foot 8 inches, weighed in at Crow Wing County's public health office on Dec. 20. The scale said 290. Twenty-three days later - and through a typical holiday period where weight goes on instead of off - the scale reported 282.
By Dec. 20, 2007, Walters plans to be 100 pounds lighter. It's an aggressive weight-loss goal. But Walters consulted his physician along with experts in nutrition and exercise in order to create what he thinks is a workable plan.
"That's a goal that's hard, but I think he's working on it," said John Redding, FitQuest personal trainer who helped put Walters through his paces to get him working out correctly. "When he sets his mind on something, he can do it."
January is National Mentoring Month. David Downing, Kinship Partners executive director in Brainerd, said the group - which serves Crow Wing and southern Cass counties - has 48 children on the waiting list for mentors.
Girls stay on the list an average of 120 days before finding a mentor. Boys typically wait an entire year. Downing would like to change that statistic. He's promoting a campaign to put "men in mentoring." And Kinship is planning more outdoor physical activities for children in the program, including a kids' fishing tournament in February.
"I think it's crazy as usual," Downing said of Walters' challenge. "This one has long-term health benefits for Gary and others. It has motivated me."
Downing plans to lose 70 pounds with the challenge.
The weight-loss idea was sparked by Heidi Funk, Crow Wing County United Way executive director, and Cheryal Hills, Region Five Development Commission executive director, during the county fair. It surfaced again at Thanksgiving. With the success of "Biggest Loser"-style campaigns, Walters decided to give it a shot. He said that, statistically, children who need mentors are less fit than their counterparts. Getting children to be more active and in shape is part of the yearlong plan.
With two teenage boys of his own, Walters said a motivator to be in shape is to keep up on the basketball court with his sons. If everyone was fit, Walters said overall health-care costs would go down with fewer cases of diabetes, heart disease and hypertension.
Walters said the simple advice he's already gotten is making a difference. Tips include eating five smaller meals during the day instead of a big lunch, a big dinner and a large snack before bedtime. Instead of multiple repetitions in weightlifting, Walters is focusing on lifting more weight fewer times to reach the muscle fatigue goal to burn fat. A lot of the effort is portion control over denial. It's more of a lifestyle change than a diet.
"If even one person does better because of this challenge I think we'll have succeeded, but I think it's going to be more than that - I think it will be a whole lot," Walters said.
RENEE RICHARDSON can be reached at email@example.com or 855-5852.
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