‘Biggest Loser’ winner teaches the ‘workout from hell’
THE WASHTENAW VOICE
Pete Thomas, right encourages an exhausted Brian Steinberg during a workout at the Health and Fitness Center.
The plan was to meet Pete Thomas, the season two At-Home Winner of TV’s “The Bigger Loser,” in the Washtenaw Community College Health and Fitness Center for an interview. My idea was to bring my gym clothes and do some photos with Thomas to make it look like we had worked out. After our “staged exercise,” the plan was to then have a relaxing sit-down chat in the cafe over coffee.
What I got was a workout from hell!
Thomas, 42, of Superior Township, is an impressive guy. He’s a 6-foot-5-inch with a fit, muscular body. There was a light humorous air about him, but he did not go for excuses. He successfully lost 185 pounds in nine months to win on “The Biggest Loser.” And even more impressive, Thomas has managed to keep it off for six years.
He has been teaching strategies for weight loss for years, including locally through Ann Arbor Recreation and Education programs, so he has heard it all. When he realized that I had brought my gym clothes, it was game on.
There was no getting out of this – I was screwed.
Thomas first brought me over to the stair machine, which looks like a mini escalator. He set it for level eight and I started climbing. Within minutes, I started to feel nauseous. I told him, “I feel sick,” and he told me, “Keep going. If you need to throw up, there is a trash can right there.”
Thomas was working out on a stair machine, too. There were three in the gym lined up in a row. Someone was on the one in the middle, so he and I were on opposite sides. This meant that he could not see it when I lowered my level. But even on the slowest level, this machine created an all uphill workout.
My plan of going easy backfired, however. Thomas saw me working out on a lower level and made me do extra minutes.
Next were push-ups. I tried to sit and rest, but Thomas was on me telling me to get on the ground.
“OK, 15 push-ups,” said Thomas.
THE WASHTENAW VOICE
‘Biggest Loser’ Pete Thomas encourages Brian Steinberg to push his physical limits with a little shove from behind.
I managed to get through them. Then it was up on my feet for lunges.
Thomas and I were lunging side by side and doing them in a kind of slow march. We did about 15 in one direction and turned to lunge back from where we started.
“OK. Now do two laps around the gym,” said Thomas.
“Jogging,” I thought in dismay. But there was no time to think. Off we went for two laps. I still felt sick and all I thought about was how sore my legs would be tomorrow from the lunges.
I was ready to call it quits after the jog, but this was only round one. There were two more rounds of push-ups, lunges and laps in this circuit.
The second round of push-ups did not go as well. I asked Thomas if I could do “girl push-ups” with my knees on the ground.
THE WASHTENAW VOICE
Pete Thomas and Brian Steinberg do lunges together at the Health and Fitness Center. Steinberg might have been praying that it would soon be over.
“Are you a girl?” said Thomas.
“I am today,” I joked while trying to catch my breath. He gave me a pass and let me do the knee push-ups.
By the last lap around the gym I was beat. Thomas was jogging behind me and pushing on my back to make me jog faster.
This was only the warm-up. We got some water, and then it was over to the weights to do a circuit of bench presses and a step work out.
Thomas set up two weight benches and handed me two 20-pound dumbbells for bench presses. We started with 15 reps, then quickly starting stepping up on the bench for step jump-ups.
The bench was tall, about the height of two to three steps. With my overweight, 5-foot-5-inch body that is 70 pounds overweight, each step-up was a challenge and I had to do about 100 for each round of this circuit.
By the last round of steps, I was slowing down. Thomas was doing them three times faster than I.
“Speed up,” he said.
I was done. Finished. Dead.
I rushed to the water cooler for a drink and attempted to linger for an extended break.
Greg Hanby, the manager of the Fitness Center, came by. He told Thomas that it was against the policy of the gym to have outside trainers train members. This meant that our workout was over, thank God.
Curiously, I asked Thomas what part of the circuit we skipped.
“We were going to run stairs and jog around the track,” said Thomas.
I wanted to pass out just thinking about it. We only did 20 minutes.
Thomas said that contestants would have to work out for four hours a day when he was on “The Biggest Loser,” Which explains how he lost all that weight.
Serious about getting fit? Join the ‘Club’
So you want to get more fit, lose a few pounds perhaps (or maybe more than a few) and try a healthier diet?
We’re here to help. The Washtenaw Voice
, in partnership with Student Development and Activities and the Health and Fitness Center, is organizing the WCC Fit Club, a group dedicated to living a healthier life throughout the Winter semester.
All are welcome, though it will help if you’re a member of the Fitness Center. If you’re not, and you’re a student, there’s still time to sign up for PEA 115, the half-credit course that will get you a membership for the semester for $160. The Fitness Center gives all its members complete physical assessments, which will give Fit Club members a baseline for comparison to gauge success at the end of the semester.
Those who commit to an at-home fitness program, like P90X, are welcome too.
The Fit Club will be led by The Voice’s
Food Editor Brian Steinberg, who will document the progress of club members throughout the semester along with a variety of health, fitness and nutritional features.
“Of course, a gym membership does not guarantee weight loss,” Steinberg says. “Neither does making a nice plan to eat more sensibly. When the going gets tough, and I start getting stressed about school, I tend to run for snacks and blow off my exercise program, especially in the winter.
“That is why I am starting WCC Fit Club to help.”
So as you consider your New Year’s resolutions for 2011, give some thought to joining in with others who have similar goals. Meet up with potential workout buddies. And know you’re not alone in a group of people who will support you and cheer your successes. We’ll start getting the group organized when classes resume for the Winter semester on Jan. 10.
Those who are serious about a healthy lifestyle might consider signing up for BIO 142 — Introduction to Nutrition, Exercise and Weight Control, a three-credit-hour course taught at the Fitness Center.
For more information about the Fit Club, contact Steinberg at email@example.com
, or SDA Events Coordinator Rachel Barsch at firstname.lastname@example.org
. To learn more about the Fitness Center, visit: wccfitness.org
Club sports still waiting for new playing fields
After waiting four years to build new athletic fields beside the Health and Fitness Center, Club Sports will have to wait at least another month to play on them.
“We’ve been waiting so long,” said Club Sports Adviser Mike Glass. “We tried to get batting practice in the cages, but they won’t even let us walk on the grass to get to the cages.”
Glass expects the sod to be formed together by June, which will allow baseball, softball, soccer, volleyball and outdoor basketball games to take place on campus.
The baseball and softball teams that play in the Ann Arbor Recreation leagues will begin as usual at Veterans park on the west side of Ann Arbor. Baseball tryouts started on April 21 and will continue April 28-29 at 6:15 p.m. The club went 9-7 last summer and 7-2-1 in the fall.
“Our fall pitching was phenomenal,” Glass said. “The hitting wasn’t there, if we can get in the cages that’ll help so much.”
Both men’s and co-ed softball will be trying out April 26 and May 4, also at Vets Park, at 6 p.m.
Soccer, volleyball and even three-on-three basketball won’t be able to start playing until early June, when contractors are done with the fields.
Golfers will be teeing up at Huron Hills, starting on April 28 and each Wednesday through the season. Afterward, the college will take the top four golfers to a post-season outing.
Tuesdays and Thursdays this summer will feature the cross-country competition. There will be a path marked around the athletic fields for runners.
Sheila Gilles plans to make her return after injuring her knee. She’ll be a player/coach for sand volleyball and soccer, while also participating in co-ed softball.
“There’s no one else I’d rather have up than her,” Glass said. “She can hit the ball with one hand as far as most of the guys can at all.”
For more information, or to join a club sport, e-mail Mike Glass at email@example.com
A life transformed – by Yoga
ANDREW KUHN WASHTENAW VOICE
When she enters, her beautiful presence illuminates the room. And, in a soft voice and kind eyes, instructs by example the discipline that changed her life. Nobody would imagine how different she was before she encountered yoga.
Her name is Rachel Garcia, and she instructs yoga four times a week at The Health and Fitness Center at Washtenaw Community College. She also will graduate from WCC next winter with an associate’s degree in exercise science.
But 15 years ago, her life was the opposite of what it now is.
“Yoga can be very transforming into your body, your mind and also your personality,” said Garcia, 30. “It is a sort of a metaphor for life; you find yourself in these difficult and uncomfortable positions, and it’s about finding grace and peace in those uncomfortable positions. That’s what we do in yoga.”
And she lives by what she preaches. Yoga transformed her life.
“It changed me in so many ways. In my own personal experience, I had a really different way of going out,” Garcia said. “I got married at 15. I had a baby two weeks after I turned 16. I was a really young mom, and I dropped school in ninth grade. I was severely depressed, and it really helped me work through my depression.
“It helped me to grow up and become a much more mindful person, a sensitive person, and also how to deal with those things.”
And that’s just one aspect of it.
ANDREW KUHN WASHTENAW VOICE
Owner of a beautiful smile, a delineated and strong body, Garcia’s amber eyes shine when she explains that after practicing yoga, the most visible change in her life was, along with an increase in strength and flexibility in her body, the same attributes of expansiveness and steadfastness developing in her mind.
“I had the benefit of practicing under the guidance of many celebrated yoga teachers, and each contributed in their own way to my developing a deep appreciation for the therapeutic value of practicing yoga,” she said.
Everything started in southwest Utah, where she lived before.
She learned yoga when she was taking a massage therapy course while working at a spa. They gave her the classes for free, and she made great friends with the instructor.
“I went to India in November of 2005 and came back in May of 2006,” Garcia said. “I stayed six months and traveled mostly in North India, I stayed at an Ashram called Ved Shala in Dev Prayag, Uttar Ranchal, for the second half of my visit. It was there that I meditated and studied under the guidance of a great Yogi. This man was the Guru of my first yoga teacher.”
But the story of how she got to India is intriguing.
“After falling out of touch for about two years, my former teacher found me and told me that her Guru had told her through a translator that the next time she comes to visit Ved Shala, she would bring with her a dark-haired girl with whom she used to practice yoga.” Garcia said. “She had been planning her trip for the winter, and I was working seasonally at the time, and so it was no big deal for me to take the time and get away.”
Garcia was able to finance her trip due to a very strange occurrence that happened about a month before the teacher sought her out. She was visiting her family in Utah, and had bought a bike to use for transportation while she was there.
“The very first time I rode this bike, I was hit by a car from behind by a careless driver going 30 mph,” she said. “My body incurred some damage that I have managed well by way of yoga; to this day I suffer no pain, and often forget that I have the injuries that I do.”
As a result of this accident, she received a large settlement from the insurance companies, and received some of the money just in time to finance her trip to India.
“All of this seemed too serendipitous to ignore, so even though I had no idea what to expect, I was excited to act in accordance with this uncanny chain of events,” she said. “Upon arriving in India, I was more blown away by my sense of ease and feelings of security than the complete sensory overload.”
Garcia’s mother was a single mother. She has two younger brothers, and her daughter is 14 years old. She has been teaching yoga almost two years at the WCC Fitness Center. She moved to Ann Arbor for love, but the relationship didn’t work out. She liked it here so much that she decided to stay and continue pursuing her dreams.
“I would love to play a role in deepening society’s understanding and increasing the utilization of bodywork as real therapy — not just a luxury,” she said. “I look forward to broadening the scope of my therapeutic skills in order to reach more people and help them in more profound and lasting ways.”
Garcia is planning to finish a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology/movement science at Eastern Michigan University or the University of Michigan.
She wants to be a physical therapist, and if she achieves that goal, it will be because yoga ushered the way for her.
Student athletes finally get access, after hours and for a fee, to HFC
Three years after Washtenaw Community College’s Health and Fitness Center was built, the college’s student athletes are finally able to use the facility. Sort of.
Since October, WCC men’s and women’s basketball teams have been practicing twice a week in the Health and Fitness Center, and the volleyball teams are working to finalize a deal for after-hours practicing at the facility.
Why are the teams just now being allowed to practice? Because it’s a members-first facility, explained WCC President Larry Whitworth.
“The college fitness facility is a community fitness facility,” Whitworth said. “The only way that this fitness facility could be built was with bonds paid back by membership dues. The fitness facility is a self-financed project with no taxpayer dollars being applied to this project.”
The facilities bonds are being paid back by members of the fitness center, and only about a third of the facilities members are students at WCC, he said.
The college is also paying to use its own facility. According to a contract between WCC and the HFC, the men’s basketball team is paying nearly $2,000 to use the facility after hours. The volleyball team is close to completing a contract for much less.
The men’s and women’s basketball teams share practice time on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and if the volleyball contract is finalized, it would practice on Mondays and Thursdays.
For the basketball program, the schedule works out perfectly. The women’s team has a light Wednesday practice, with its game days on Thursday, giving more time for the men to practice. Men’s game day is Sunday, giving the women more practice time on Saturdays.
Despite having to wait three years to finalize a deal for Club Sports team to practice, WCC Club Sports is just happy with being able to prepare a little closer to campus.
“We’re excited to be over at the Fitness Center,” said Director of Student Activities Ian Griffin.
A huge benefit of practicing at the Fitness Center is the location. The teams are able to practice locally, instead of all across Ann Arbor.
“We’re pleased to be in a facility right on a bus line,” said Club Sports Athletic Adviser, Mike Glass. “Lots of players don’t have vehicles.”
With the local practice facility and a bus line, players have much easier access to practice. Cutting practice isn’t a problem and the players are familiar with their environment.
“It’s easier to travel to and from practice because it’s closer,” said Jamal Jackson, 20, a forward on the men’s basketball team. “It’s one distinct location.”
Last year, the teams were practicing all around Ann Arbor. Much of the time, the teams were practicing in small elementary school gyms, and players were restricted from practicing certain skills —particularly prohibitive for volleyball players.
“It might help our [game] performance,” Jackson said of the HFC. “It’s a nice facility to practice in.”
Lose weight, save dollars with several nearby options
ROBERT CONRADI WASHTENAW VOICE
Life is expensive, but you don’t have to spend a fortune trying to lead a healthy one.
Or go very far, with three popular gyms within a five-mile radius of Washtenaw Community College: Planet Fitness, Powerhouse and the college’s Health and Fitness Center.
Each has a loyal following of members for various reasons. “I love Planet Fitness because it’s considered the ‘judgmentfree zone,’” said Katie Hurban, 22, a senior at Eastern Michigan University.
At Planet Fitness, there are some very unique rules that members must follow. There is no loud grunting or yelling while weightlifting, no dropping weights, and members are not allowed to wear bandannas or tank tops. These rules were implemented in order to help make members comfortable while they are working out.
A membership starts at $10 amonth, with a $49 start-up fee. It is$20 a month for a black card that allows members to bring a guest with them for free, anytime they want, and also includes free unlimited tanning. There are cardio machines as well as weight-lifting and stretching areas.
Planet Fitness is open 24 hours a day except on the weekends, when it closes at 9 p.m. on Friday and 7 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. Its fl exible hours are convenient for college members, whose schedules can be very crammed.
Powerhouse Gym offers a free three-day trial membership so prospective members can test out the facilities. It offers classes for kickboxing, step, yoga and abs. Powerhouse has a wide variety of cardio machines and each has a flat screen TV attached.
A one-year membership is $39.95 a month, a two-year membership is $29.95 a month and each requires an enrollment fee of $79. A membership is $59 if paying month to month and not signing a contract.
“Overall, if you want to spend the extra cash it’s worth it,” said Tom Warren, a senior at EMU. Other amenities at Powerhouse Gym include tanning beds, personal training and a juice bar. Powerhouse Gym is open from 6 a.m. until 10 p.m., Monday through Friday, and 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. on Sunday.
ROBERT CONRADI WASHTENAW VOICE
WCC’s own Health and Fitness Center offers two different options for students to obtain a membership. One option is to register for PEA 115 through WCC and have a membership for the semester for $160. The class can be taken up to six times and counts for half a credit.
The other option requires a student to be registered for at least three credit hours and costs a reduced rate of $45 a month.
“My favorite part of the gym is the women’s locker room with the sauna, steam room and Jacuzzi,” said WCC student Chelsea Corker, 18, of Saline. The Health and Fitness Center has more than 100 pieces of cardio equipment, an indoor pool, a full-sized volleyball/ basketball court and lockers that are digitally controlled to be able to select a personal code for entry.
“I’ve been to the rec at Eastern Michigan University, and it wasn’t as user-friendly,” said WCC student Joey Brandt, 21, of Canton. “No one ever took the time to show me around.”
Paddle tennis is bouncing at WCC
Paddle tennis hasn’t exactly caught fire through Washtenaw Community College, but it has its followers.
The new $55,000 paddle tennis court built right beside the Health and Fitness Center has caught a few eyes during its first winter in action.
“From November to December, I’d say we had around seven groups play,” said Greg Hanby, HFC executive director. “Just an estimation. We’ve had to turn down a group too, because the playing surface wasn’t good.”
The heating element underneath the court hasn’t been installed yet, so snow and ice tends to build up on the surface, making play impossible.
The HFC has four paddles and several paddle-tennis balls for use to anyone, not just for members or students but for the entire community.
As long as the playing surface is clean, the paddle tennis court is up and running available for use.
Same paddle, different game: Let us explain
MICHAEL WESTHOFF WASHTENAW VOICE
That new court behind the Health and Fitness Center is for platform tennis.
Do not refer to it as paddle tennis.
Apparently, there’s a difference.
Turns out, the people who play platform tennis knew, and they didn’t hesitate to inform us after our Page One story in the Oct. 12 issue about the new $55,000 court.
So in the interest of fairness and clarification, we offer up the differences (and some distinct similarities) of the two games.
The sport, which began in the 1930’s, brings together racquetball and tennis. It is the only outdoor racquet sport meant to be played in the winter. The platform court is raised off the ground with a heating element beneath it to make it playable throughout the year. The court is smaller than regular tennis at 44-feet by 20-feet, about a third the size of tennis court.
The biggest difference that separates the sport is the fencing surrounding the court. A 12-foot wire fence around the court allows players to legally play the ball off the wall. The ball itself has a sponge, flock exterior (to avoid skidding) rubber ball. Serves can be overhand or underhand.
A paddle is used instead of the conventional tennis racquet. It is made of graphite and titanium and instead of having strings in it, it has holes. Paddles run from $75-$150.
The sport, typically played in country clubs, is meant to be played in doubles with the same scoring system as regular tennis.
Mostly played in the West Coast, paddle tennis originated at Albion in 1898. There is no fencing surrounding the court, which is 50-feet by 20-feet. And the net height is 31 inches, three inches lower than platform tennis.
Paddle tennis players use the same paddle. All serves are underhand.
There is a difference between the West and East Coast versions of the sport. The West Coast has a serve box on the court, while the East Coast courts do not.
The ball is a pressured tennis ball. Paddle tennis is meant as a singles or doubles sport, although there are no double lines on the court.
The same tennis scoring applies: best of three sets.
Unlike platform tennis, paddle tennis is a dying sport.
$55,000 for new platform tennis court. Wonder why?
MICHAEL WESTHOFF THE WASHTENAW VOICE
Club Sports has no use for it, the Health and Fitness Center didn’t know it was coming and most students have no clue about the game, yet Washtenaw Community College is investing $55,000 in a heated, lighted platform tennis court.
“This had nothing to do with us,” said Greg Hanby, executive director of the Fitness Center. “It coincided with the soccer fields being put up, and the athletic fields.”
Mike Glass, Club Sports coordinator, couldn’t explain why WCC is spending money on platform tennis. “I don’t have any information,” he said.
Nor Damon Flowers, vice president of Facilities Development/Operations, explain the genesis of the project.
“I don’t know where the idea came from,” Flowers said. “I guess (the president) played it before. . . .”
And President Larry Whitworth apparently enjoyed the game so much, he wants to introduce it to others.
“I’ve played it for years,” Whitworth said. “I expect the students to learn it. It’s for anybody to use. Any student who wants to play it can use it.”
MICHAEL WESTHOFF THE WASHTENAW VOICE
The sport, which originated in Albion in 1898, according to The Atlas of Popular Culture in the Northeastern United States, is sparsely played today except for large pockets in New York City and Los Angeles — and some retirement communities in Arizona, Florida, Hawaii and South Carolina.
Platform tennis is built like a miniature tennis court. The major difference is the 12-foot fencing, eight feet behind baselines and five feet out along the length of the court.
It is also raised off the ground, for a heating structure below it that keeps the playing surface clear year-round.
“It’s a cross between tennis and racquetball,” said Whitworth. “You can play it off the wall like racquetball. It’s a great way to stay in shape.”
The scoring is the same as tennis, love to 15, 30, 40 then game. It can be played singles or doubles matches.
The court is up and nearly ready for play, with eight light structures to allow play at night. The surface is elevated. The fencing around it is up. The only thing left in construction is the heating element to help fend off ice and snow and make it playable all year.
“Getting DTE to get gas service is taking a long time,” Flowers said. “It will be playable in November, but without gas.”
And it’s free.
“There will be a sign-up sheet at the Fitness Center,” said Whitworth. “I expect students on break from classes to go over and play platform tennis.”
Whether or not they do is a matter of concern.
“I don’t want to say $55,000 doesn’t sound like much,” said Ian Griffin, director of Student Activities and Development. “I just hope it gets used. We didn’t have a demand for it. I haven’t heard anyone express excitement from students.”
Some seem willing to give it a try. Mitch Stidham, 19, from South Lyon, has never heard of platform tennis, but he said he’d consider learning it.
“I’d like to see people who know how to play, play it,” he said. “Then I’ll play it with my friends who don’t know how to play either — so I don’t get my butt whipped.”
Others say they have no interest.
“I’ve never heard of it,” said Jean Snyder, 18, from Dexter. “I don’t know what it is, so I probably wouldn’t play it. I would play tennis, but it’s not tennis.”
Indeed, Griffin speculated that interest among students may be higher in a regular tennis court.
“We’ve had requests for tennis teams but haven’t been able to explore it,” Griffin said.
When asked why regular tennis courts weren’t built instead, Flowers speculated that space was the issue.
“I don’t know where we could have put tennis courts though since they’re bigger,” he said. “We’re already tight with space.”
The dimensions of a regular tennis court are 36 feet by 78 feet. Platform tennis dimensions are 30 feet by 60 feet.
New athletic fields to boost WCC Club Sports, next year
CHRIS ASADIAN THE WASHTENAW VOICE
In 2006, Washtenaw Community College built the Health and Fitness Center right on top of what used to be the North Campus Athletic Fields. That eliminated home-game options for North Campus Athletic Fields such as baseball and softball.
But finally WCC athletes are starting to see progress in replacement fields across the road from the main campus.
This summer the college put $342,000 into building the fields. After the entire complex is finished, it will have cost the school close to $1.7 million. Baseball, softball, soccer fields, batting cages and pavilions are being installed adjacent from the Fitness Center. The school is also putting in outdoor basketball courts, and platform tennis courts at northeast entrance of the Fitness Center.
“We should be able to play every day,” said Don Johnson, 25, art major from Kalamazoo who plays baseball. “Before, we would have to fight for fields, and now it’ll be so close it will help us a lot.”
Right now the team has to travel to the other side of Ann Arbor to Veterans Memorial Park. That is only when the park isn’t filled up with all the other teams trying to fight for field time.
“When completed later this fall, the athletic fields will restore and expand athletic opportunities for our students,” said Damon Flowers, vice president of Facilities Development and Operations.
The construction was scheduled to be completed in the fall, but that could be wishful thinking.
“They say they’ll be out of there in October,” Club Sports adviser Mike Glass said. “That’s not gonna happen.
“Soccer won’t be playable until midsummer to early fall of next year,” Glass said. “Baseball and softball fields should be ready to go by next spring.”
The sod put down on the soccer field will be too fragile to make cuts on, Glass explained. It shouldn’t be mature until next year.
The small building will be used as a field house and storage area for the club sports. It will also contain two bathrooms. The annual awards ceremonies will also take place here, as Glass honors athletes and coaches on the past year’s accomplishments.
“We won’t have to send people all over the county to find practice fields,” Glass said.
As of right now, teams are scrambling to find fields for fall tryouts, practices, and games on various different parks and schools in Ann Arbor. Glass has also said that he’s welcome to helping out Ann Arbor recreation, hosting games at the new facilities since the organization helped out the college’s program when WCC didn’t have fields available.
Flowers even talked about the chances of more sports coming in.
“Historically, the college has had little on-site outdoor recreation for students,” said Flowers. “An opportunity to expand the college’s recreational opportunities to include not only baseball, but softball, sand volleyball, basketball, platform tennis and soccer.”
The baseball and softball fields will also have a batting cage and pitching machine to put them ahead of the action. No other field in the Ann Arbor recreation has access to batting cages. It will be a great asset for players to tone their hitting skills.
“To be able to practice everyday will help us so much,” Johnson said.
“It was tough 3 ½ years without fields for our Club Sports,” Glass said.