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140 aim for fitness and cash through Hernando Health Experience

BROOKSVILLE — Many appeared to be fairly fit, neither obese nor even overweight.

But about 140 people who weighed in last weekend and joined the Hernando Health Experience must have looked in the mirror and grimaced, or taken note that they were short on stamina or, perhaps, muscle tone.

The three-month program, offered for the first time by the Hernando County Parks and Recreation Department, with support from the state Health Department and professional input from Gimme Fitness of Spring Hill, aims to help all comers shape up.

The participants have paid $35 each for the opportunity, which includes exercises and nutritional information in a two-hour video, fitness workouts in county parks, group gatherings to check on progress and one-on-one sessions for those with health concerns.

There will be monetary rewards for those who do best.

From statistics and estimates, Harry Johnson, recreation coordinator for the Parks and Recreation Department, said one in three children and two in three adults in Hernando County are overweight.

"If you use statistics," Johnson said, "absolutely 1,000 people are way overweight."

At registration, which took place at the Hernando County Fairgrounds, each person was weighed and measured. They topped out at 300-plus pounds.

Asked what the calibrated scales revealed, Travis Moorhouse, 34, of Spring Hill would only admit to "heavy" — somewhere around 270 pounds. His goal: 200 pounds.

His job is a sedentary one, at a computer keyboard. "So, no exercise," he explained.

Laura Dunn, a Health Department employee, said her exercise amounts to "here and there."

The 34-year-old, who said she would like to lose 20 to 25 pounds, reported that she had tried other weight-loss programs, but they were "not really effective."

"I need to eat better and exercise," she added.

Jennifer Farrenkopf, 29, of Spring Hill, who appeared svelte enough to be a model, said she had blossomed from 115 pounds last year to 133.

"I eat a lot of junk food in the office," she said.

Farrenkopf and 50-something Jane Waskey, a co-worker at Johnson Insurance Agency in Spring Hill, both joined the effort.

Some registrants were not merely concerned about weight.

Ken Spahalski, 42, said he had suffered a heart attack and is an insulin-dependent diabetic.

"I want to be around when my son graduates (from high school)," he confided. Ken Spahalski Jr. is 10 years old.

The senior Spahalski weighed in at 250 pounds. He would like to knock that down to 180.

Beth Engle, 46, of Brooksville signed on not so much for herself, but to encourage her husband, Dean, a 43-year-old diabetic on dialysis.

"I want to see if there's anything he can do that's not too strenuous. We both need exercise.

"I'd like to lose 10 pounds," she added.

Johnson said the program has a twofold goal: help people pursue healthier lifestyles and discover the amenities of county parks, several of which have trails and fitness equipment. Outings will be scheduled at various parks.

The crux of the program, said Kim Garcia of Gimme Fitness, is not just weight loss, but creating a new lifestyle for participants. The key to that, she said, is commitment and consistency — no time frame necessary.

The Hernando Health Experience program, however, does have a time frame. During the end-of-program April 8 and 9 final exam, each participant will step on the scales and submit to the tape measure. An equation has been devised that counts percentage of weight and girth shed, so a 140-pound person has the same chance as a 200-pounder to win the competition.

The top three winners will be awarded $1,000, $500 and $250, respectively.

And yes, among the participants is Johnson, the recreation coordinator.

At 6-foot-1 and 260 pounds, he acknowledged, "I am definitely considered overweight."

Beth Gray can be reached at

140 aim for fitness and cash through Hernando Health Experience 01/22/11 [Last modified: Saturday, January 22, 2011 12:39pm]
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