WEST ORANGE, NJ – What happens when you want to start a health program but simply don’t have the willpower to go it alone?
That’s the question Christine Thorpe, a professor and chairperson of the Health and Human Services Department at Brooklyn’s New York City College of Technology tried to answer with a program called “Spring Pilot.” For six weeks in January and February, teams of women who wanted to get healthier teamed up to support each other and support charities which were important to them.
Six weeks may not sound like a lot of time, but Thorpe says it is plenty of time to start something new and change old habits, with a built in support system.
“It is important to be motivated to succeed,” says Thorpe. “Not only do teams support each other, but I do a check in call every week with each group, and we have a nutritionist they can consult on diet and food decisions.”
There’s also a trainer the women can speak with who can talk with them about how to take care of mind and body, the importance of rest and how to make behavior change happen.
“The women get to open up about things personal to themselves, like ‘I’m struggling with sugar,” or “I really liked this workout I did,’ “ says Thorpe.
For the challenge, Thorpe, who lives in West Orange, got the cooperation of Equinox health clubs in Summit and Paramus, which provided each woman with one free personal training session, and a guest pass for the six weeks they needed for working out.
“I always recommend a personal trainer because you don’t know how your body works… you think you’re centered, but you aren’t sure,” she says. The women can then arrange to have more session with the trainer if they wish, or continue on their own.
Thorpe says the goal of the program is to jump-start motivated women into action. She says one participant told her she headed to the gym at 5:30 a.m. each day, something she never would have done before if she didn’t have the responsibility to her team to think about. There is even a Facebook page where participants were given extra ‘points’ for participation for every post they made, which went toward prizes of free membership months or gift certificates to Equinox.
The other motivation was each team was competing to lose the greatest percentage of body fat and win money for a charity of their choice.
The winning team was the DGNT Mochas with a 3% average team weight loss. In their name, $600 will be donated to Children of Promise, a non-profit organization in Brooklyn which provides support to the children of incarcerated parents. The team also won $250. The money for the donation and the prizes comes from an entry fee charged by Thorpe to put the program together and provide final prizes. Only administrative costs are taken out of the fees, so the program is not-for-profit.
Thorpe says while the team won the contest, all the women who participated won with improved health. She recommends any woman wanting to get healthier to do it with someone else. “Grab a friend or two and do some kind of movement…walk around a reservoir, or in mall, just keep moving,” Thorpe says. “The social component and camaraderie will let you help each other.”
Thorpe says the teams at the gyms couldn’t have been more helpful to her participants. “Equinox was warm and welcoming….they thought the program concept was very exciting and rolled out red carpet for us,” she said. That was especially important for women who many not have seen the inside of a gym for a while. “If you haven’t been to a gym in a long time and felt so welcomed, you want to come back,” she said.
A new program of Spring Pilot is coming in Summer of 2016 for women in Bergen and Essex counties, and possibly may be expanded into New York. Thorpe says she has already received interest from over 30 women to participate again. For more information on the program and how to register a team and participate, go to www.springpilot.com.