When I signed up for F4 in 2011, I never realized how much it would alter my life. I lost weight that I wanted to take off for over five years, made lifetime friends and my family has continued to benefit from our healthier living. These are things you would expect from an eight-week intensive diet and exercise program. Something surprising happened though, a passion that was lost for a very long time resurfaced, and it completely took over my life. My family might say I became a bit obsessed, and I was, but it was awesome.
– Jodi Dee, 2011 Team and Individual Champion
Advice from the Champions…
An Open Letter to prospective Fantastic Four contestants…
The following is an Open Letter to prospective Fantastic Four Participants from the 2011 Winners – The Coral Battalion: Annemarie Pollard, Jodi Dee, Pam Vlasak & Valerie Basile
Take a minute right now and have an honest look at yourself in the mirror. Really look deep down and realize you do not want this to continue. You want to be a better YOU! Your health and happiness are much more important than overeating and/or eating all the wrong things. Crappy food might look good, but in reality it does not taste the same after a while. You need something to get you back on track and the Fantastic Four Fit for Summer Challenge (F4) is it!
When I joined Fitness Incentive (FI) 24 years ago, I had low self-esteem and very little confidence that I could be successful at a gym. Once I joined and got involved in a fitness routine, I discovered how to make it a priority and it became my biggest stress reliever. I started looking forward to coming, made a lot of friends and eventually FI became an extended family. I am so thankful.
Joining the F4 contest last year was the next step in boosting the confidence I was building at FI and is one of the best things I did for myself. I learned how to eat better and fly right!
Yes, it’s hard work and takes a lot of dedication, but it’s only for 8 weeks. You can do anything for 8 weeks and you will reap many rewards beyond the contest. I can’t lie; F4 was like basic training in the US Army. As I continued, some people looked at me strangely and blurted outright that they would never even attempt such a painful endeavor. Don’t listen to those people – your family and real friends will be so proud of you.
One of the benefits I most enjoyed from F4 was getting rid of all my frumpy clothes. I now open up my closet and know everything in it will look terrific on me. No more bulges, no more flab. What a tremendous feeling! Knowing you worked your butt off and accomplished what you set out to do just makes you feel so sexy and alive again.
My physical transformation over the years at FI and especially with this contest has been amazing. I have come to understand how to work out intensely and intelligently and eat healthier most meals. I feel like a new person- as if I’m in my twenties again.
When we won the contest, I was sky high. I felt like superwoman! Now I know there is almost nothing I cannot do if I apply myself. My F4 Coral Battalion (CB) teammates may look so different in appearance and vary in age, height etc yet we share similar values and ideas. Most of all, our unique strengths have contributed to our winning team spirit and great friendship. I have known them for about one year but being with my CB is now like second nature and an essential part of my “most improved” lifestyle.
After you complete your 8 weeks of F4, you won’t regret looking your finest in the mirror and smiling, shimmying and enjoying Cor’s delicious and nourishing food at the F4 Awards Party. Most of all, you’ll have a blast going into your closet and throwing/giving away a heap of “falling off of me” gear and slipping back into your hot stuff!
– Pam Vlasak
So you’re thinking about doing the contest- I’m thrilled! Totally do it- even if you keep hearing that it’s a sadistic and weak form of torture. We will all attest that it was one of the greatest experiences of our lives, not only because we were the first all-female team to win it (although we won’t lie, that didn’t hurt) but because it changed all four of our lives in such tremendous ways. We got in phenomenal shape (most, some? of which we have kept…), we made life-long friendships, and we all still work out together almost a year later.
Whether you are joining the contest because you want to walk out of the Hibernian Lodge with a four-foot check, or you just want a springboard to get in better shape for summer, here are a few pointers on how to get the most out of your experience.
1) Find a team with similar goals. We cannot stress how important it is that everyone on your team is on the same page with everything from how strictly you will follow the diet to how much extra time you want to spend at the gym for those 8 weeks. These people do not need to start out as your best friends- some of us had never met before- but we were all ready to give it 110% in order to get the job done. If you are signing up individually, talk to your trainer, and be honest about what you want so they can put you on the right team.
2) Listen to your Trainer. No, you are not going to like the diet they give you to follow (yes, it will seem like you are eating dirt and rocks). No, you are not going to think you can do what they are asking you to do (yes, you are going to hurt in places you didn’t even know had muscles) but as Fitness Incentive’s fearless leader Corinne Brown would say… “GET OVER IT!”
3) Balance your workout schedule. You want to make sure you get a mix of strength training, high and low cardio, yoga and Pilates throughout the contest. It’s not enough to hit yoga up for the last two weeks and expect your flexibility to go through the roof.
4) Give it your best shot (alone and with your team). At the end of your 8 week journey, you want to feel like you gave it all you could- not agonize at the F4 party over whether your one weekend of springtime barbecues cost you the prize. The only difference between try and triumph is that little UMPH.
– Valerie Basile
When I signed up for F4 last year, I never realized how much it would alter my life. I lost weight that I wanted to take off for over five years, made lifetime friends and my family has continued to benefit from our healthier living. These are things you would expect from an eight-week intensive diet and exercise program. Something surprising happened though, a passion that was lost for a very long time resurfaced, and it completely took over my life. My family might say I became a bit obsessed, and I was, but it was awesome.
Following Marianela’s (MVM) program was very cut and dry- you just suck it up, do it and stop whining. It taught me so much about me, that I can do something for myself, that I can put myself first. I was soaring with confidence and seeing the results only made me stronger.
Now that it has almost been a year since the end of the contest, I have taken the lessons I learned during those eight weeks and applied them to my new, everyday life. The challenge has prepared me to make the right decisions when eating out or shopping in the grocery store. I have been through tremendous amounts of stress and grief in the last four months and I can tell you with absolute certainty that the contest taught me that I CAN do anything. So, I pick myself up and I still go to the gym frequently because it makes me feel so much better.
I still train with my Coral Battalion friends and with MVM. I’m continuing to build on my success from the contest thanks to what I learned about what I have inside me – resilience.
– Jodi Dee
During the later stages of the contest, our Coral Battalion decided we wanted to stick together and continue to group train with Marianela (MVM) after F4. None of us wanted to give up the fabulous friendships and comradery we had been so lucky to discover. Also, the support and sneering looks a teammate gives you for missing a workout helps us plow forward and be the best Coral Battalion we can be.
MVM gave us a very brief amount of time to ride the wave of joy as the first all female team to win the Most Improved in the Fantastic Four contest. During our first post win MVM workout, we were put right back into our places, feet solidly slammed into the ground and felt as if we had never worked out before in our lives. Man, that lady is tough!
While we train together, we have quite a few laughs, weep silent and sometimes not so silent tears while participating in the physical challenges laid out for us during the session and always, always encourage one another.
The financial commitment to the contest and training afterwards may seem like a lot at first. We recommend that you buddy up with someone else or a group to keep the cost of training down as well as trying the numerous classes the Personal Trainers at FI offer. Along with 1x a week small group training with our plate wielding commander, we attend her free 3D Fit class on Saturdays at 7:25 a.m. in the yoga studio (a 30 minute weightlifting, core-shaking and wind-sucking express train) and are currently doing S^3 small group training (TRX Suspension, Bosu Stability + Kettle Bell Strength) with MVM as well. They are workouts like no other!
If you’re on the fence about the Fantastic Four contest, just GO FOR IT. You won’t be sorry. We aren’t!
– Annemarie Pollard
PS: If you would like any additional pointers, The Coral Battalion can be found in the cafe on Mondays and Wednesdays around 11 am finally being able to enjoy a little creamer in their coffee. (But shhhhh, don’t tell Marianela!)
About the Authors…
Valerie Basile, Jodi Dee, Annemarie Pollard, Pam Vlasak, the self-proclaimed “Choral Battalion”, were the winners of the Most Improved Team in the 2011 Fantastic Four Challenge. In addition, Jodi Dee was the individual Most Improved winner that year. They took home a check for $5400! They remain workout partners to this day.