Officers lose fat in face-off

By EILEEN ZAFFIRO
Staff Writer

Last update: April 07, 2005

DAYTONA BEACH -- Anyone who's ever tried to lose weight knows what a struggle that can be in today's world of high-calorie foods and high-stress lifestyles that leave little time for exercise.
Add to the weight-loss goal an attempt to lose only fat and gain only muscle, and you have the challenge presented to 80 local firefighters and police officers.

The law enforcement officers from Port Orange and Ormond Beach undertook that challenge in January with hopes of getting healthier and raising money for Halifax Medical Center.

When the 10-week Public Safety Fitness Face-off wrapped up recently, $1,600 had been raised and just three teams managed to have all members meet the minimal requirement of losing no muscle. Each participant donated $20.

Top honors went to three Port Orange police officers: Bill Proctor, Steve Nagy and Joe Rhodes. The second-place team, which called itself Team Mobile Fat Terminal, included Port Orange firefighters Mike Williams, Chris Taylor, Chris Endicott and Jody McCraney.

Finishing in third place was Team Hungry Hippos, made up of Ormond Beach firefighters Tim Snook, Ed Flud, Bob Manderino and Megan Quartier.

The law enforcement officers will present gifts of $300 to the pediatric unit at Halifax Medical Center and another $300 to Halifax's wellness center, said Port Orange firefighter and paramedic Bryan Smith.

Halifax employees who donated their time twice to do weigh-ins, body fat tests and muscle mass measurements will receive gift certificates for local businesses. The remaining money will go for trophies and cash awards for the top three teams.

The competition was modeled on a national program that includes law enforcement officers devoted to body building, Smith said. When the local competition is held next year, the rules might be loosened a bit and more local fire departments will be invited to participate, he said.

This year, plenty local police officers and firefighters lost weight, but most were on teams that had at least one member who lost muscle and disqualified the whole team. One person lost just .02 percent muscle mass, but that participant and their entire team were knocked out of the competition nonetheless.

About 10 percent of participants were able to lose fat and gain muscle. Two women in the competition, one from Port Orange and the other from Ormond Beach, each packed on another 10 percent of muscle.

"It's very hard to gain muscle mass while losing body weight," Smith said. "We had bottles and bottles of protein powder laying around.

"I lost 10 pounds and I lost 4 percent body fat. But since I lost .18 percent muscle, the whole team was disqualified."

Smith said he's still happy that he cleaned up his diet and added to his "cardio" workouts.

"I feel better, and I don't care about losing that small amount of muscle," he said.

Nobody's feeling bad about the results, and some who hadn't been in the habit of lifting weights have continued with the strength training since the competition ended, he said. Some have dropped more than 20 pounds.

"Most of us just wanted to improve our lifestyle and raise money for charity," he said. "About 80-90 percent of participants focused on dropping weight and eating better. Everyone was healthier when they finished."

The firefighters' and police officers' bosses were behind their employees' efforts.

"This is a fun way for our firefighters to improve their conditioning, help local children and do our jobs better," said Port Orange Fire Chief Thomas Weber.

"Physical fitness is essential to the well being of police officers, both physically and mentally," said Ormond Beach Police Chief Larry Mathieson. "A competition of this type also enhances the awareness of fitness among our officers."


eileen.zaffiro@news-jrnl.com