EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 10, 2012

Hampstead gym members join forces, become healthier

By Alex Lippa

---- — HAMPSTEAD — Losing 30 pounds in two months can seem like a daunting task, but when it is turned into a team competition — with a potential huge reward — it becomes much easier.

More than 40 members of The Fort CrossFit participated in the LuRong Paleo Challenge with gyms all around the country in an effort to improve their gym and their health at the same time.

Participants eliminated all grains and dairy from their diets for two months. They also stuck to a strict exercise routine and weekly body measurements. CrossFit exercises focus on strengthening the core. The workouts are short, but are usually demanding activities such as rowing, pull-ups and weightlifting.

The Fort finished sixth out of nearly 500 gyms. That wasn’t enough to win the top prize, but they did win a $400 credit in apparel from Life AsRx, which specializes in CrossFit gear for finishing in the top 10. The grand prize was $50,000 of equipment to improve the winning gym.

“We found that it really affects body composition,” said Kyle Rochefort, one of the owners of The Fort. “People were losing 10, 20, 30 pounds. More importantly, they feel so much better and their performance went through the roof.”

The key was for participants to stick to a mainly protein diet and be honest with themselves and their teammates if they splurged on treats such as chocolate or pizza. Any time a person cheated, points were deducted from the team’s score.

Keeping to the diet was difficult at first, some members said, until it became the norm.

“It was a challenge to cut off all the foods you’re not allowed to eat,” said Audrey Maguire of Danville. “Once you get into it, it’s just part of your life. I don’t even really think about it.”

Maguire, who lost 12 pounds during the two-month contest, said learning how to cook new foods was one of the most difficult aspects of the program. But she was diligent, even while on vacation.

“I went on a cruise and didn’t cheat once,” said Maguire, who kept up with her workouts while she was on vacation.

Her diet has included mostly meat, vegetables and occasionally fruit. Drinking lots of water is key, she said. Maguire said she drinks more than 100 ounces of water each day.

Maguire has continued the diet even after the contest ended last month. But the upcoming weeks may prove to be a challenge.

“Getting through the holidays will be interesting,” Maguire said. “But I’ll get through it.”

In addition to the diet, each person must perform three specific workouts several times a week at the gym. The goal is to get them done as quickly as possible. In one of the workouts, participants must lift their body weight twelve times.

“People who lost weight shaved a ton of time off,” Rochefort said. “They are lifting less and it is quicker for them to do it.”

But for Paul LeCain of Sandown, the contest wasn’t about losing weight.

“Weight loss wasn’t really a goal of mine, it just happened,” LeCain said. “I just wanted a healthy lifestyle. I wanted to keep up with my kids and I saw people in my age group who had health issues which were controllable. My decision was to get healthier and stronger.”

LeCain said the regime was going swimmingly until a sudden change after two weeks.

“I just got this crash feeling after two weeks where I just felt really tired,” LeCain said. “I was missing the sugar and chocolate that I usually eat. Now, I have a lot more energy throughout the day.”

Each member benefitted individually from the contest, but the team aspect brought them together and made going to the gym fun.

“People were really supportive of each other,” Rochefort said. “They called each other asking for recipes and just kept encouraging each other to keep at it.”