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Miami-Dade Members 'Get Fit'

In a joint effort to challenge all Miami Dade Fire and Rescue employees, Miami Dade Fire and Rescue and Miami Dade Local 1403 proposed a "Get Fit" challenge designed to help fire fighters and civilian personnel improve their health and fitness, experience friendly competition with their peers and gain muscle while losing fat.

Lieutenants Denise Paganacci and Brandy Paternoster, fitness coordinators for Local 1403, organized the Get Fit challenge. “We wanted to stress to our members the importance of a healthy lifestyle that will last through retirement,” says Paganacci.

The 12-week contest, which began August 12, 2008, consists of three-person teams. Each team member paid $75 to participate; all entry fees benefit the Children's Cancer Caring Center, a free cancer treatment center.

In addition, Local 1403 raised $9,000 in prize money for the top three winning teams. First place receives a cash prize of $4,500 to be split among the winning team, along with 24 hours of leave per member. Second place wins a cash prize of $3,000 to be split among the team and 12 hours of leave per member. Third place takes home a cash prize of $1,500 to be split among the team and six hours of leave per member. Paternoster says, “We will be giving the Children's Cancer Caring Center a check for close to $20,000.”

Team "Batt 10 Baby Phat"

To promote the program, Paganacci and Paternoster put posters in each of the fire stations. “We emailed all fire personnel -- which included civilian employees -- and promoted the challenge through direct contact during circuit style workouts,” Paganacci says. The two hoped to generate enough interest to register 10 or 20 teams, but the response during the week of weigh-ins for team participants reached 80 teams (240 participants).

Participants were weighed and measured for body fat composition using a 7-point caliper site. From this, each team’s total lean body mass, body fat in pounds, and body fat percentage were determined. The final team scores will be determined by adding total fat pounds lost to total lean body mass gained for the entire team.

All team members took a before picture on their weigh-in date and were given "Get Fit" T-shirts.

Teams were instructed to maintain or increase lean muscle. If a team loses muscle, that team is disqualified from winning or placing.

Team "Geeks On Fire"

Paganacci, who is also an IAFF Peer Fitness Trainer (PFT), notes, “We don't want our members to just crash diet, but to make healthy lifestyle changes to improve their overall health and fitness level.” A support network, including consults with the exercise physiologist (Denise Li), nutritionist (Lily Suazo) and the fitness coordinators, is available to all participants.

The challenge has been a positive experience for many of the participants. Fire Fighter Sharon Israel says, “I am very grateful for the fitness challenge. I am now on a regular gym schedule after being away from regular exercise for quite some time. I believe that we all win if we make some changes in attitudes and behavior. This is a journey, after all.”

Fire Fighter Keith O’Prey has also enjoyed the benefits of the challenge. “This was just what I needed,” he says. “I feel so much better!”  His wife has also lost 10 pounds and his kids are eating healthy. He adds, “Quite honestly, I would have paid $1,500 to feel this good again!”

Teams are scheduled for their final weigh-in in November. Each participant’s lean body mass and body fat percentages will be measured to determine the winning teams. An after team picture will also be taken.

Winners will be announced in December!

This information is for educational purposes only. It does not replace the advice of your physician. If you have any medical concerns or issues, contact your physician.