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— When is losing winning?

When you're losing weight and winning cash.

Twenty-three people have signed up for "The Biggest Loser" in Pea Ridge.

Pea Ridge High School principal and former coach Rick Neal and Dye Hards gym owner John Dye have joined forces to sponsor the contest at the gym Aug. 8 through Oct. 31. The winner will receive $500 and a year's membership to the gym. Second place is $125 and three-month's gym membership. Third place is $69 and one month free.

"There's a lot of groaning going on this morning," Neal said to the four people working out shortly after 5 a.m. recently. As the four "sat" against the wall with no support, Neal counted out the seconds before they could return to the starting position.

"Ten - four, three, two, one," he said, as the contestants gratefully returned to an erect position.

By the end of the first week, 71 pounds were lost by 19 people.

Participants accrue points for working out, for weighing in, for percentage of body fat lost, for weight lost and for total body fat percentage.

Neal is at the gym from 5 a.m.

to 6:30 a.m. while three groups come through for 30-minute sessions and again in the evenings for several hours. Some participants in the groups have not joined the contest, but have enlisted Neal as their personal trainer.

Neal, a basketball coach for 18 years, recently earned his license as a certified trainer.

"Everyone seems to be enjoying it," Neal said, adding that many are complaining of being sore. "I introduce them to five different routines to hit five core areas. Everybody's sore. They're doing things they've never done before."

Three men are in the program. One of them lost 15 pounds the first week. Others lost from 2 to 5 pounds the first week.

"It's not unusual for males to lose more initially," Neal said, noting that men's weight loss tapers off.

Reasons for joining the program vary, but most say they want to get in shape and lose weight.

"'Cause I'm fat," one lady said when asked why she joined. Preferring not to have her name published, she shared that over several years of pregnancies and nursing children she continued to gain weight, although she had not gained much during the pregnancies. She said members of her family are large and there is a history of early death because of health-related issues associated with weight.

"He's very knowledgeable.

He'll push you," she said, adding that she was a member of the gym and had worked out with no guidance and no results. "He'll kick your tail. It's hard !"

News, Pages 1, 9 on 08/19/2009

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