ST. PETERSBURG, FL — The 7th Annual 911 Fitness Challenge began this month with more than 29 cities nationwide participating. The Challenge is a 12-week weight-loss challenge for approximately 8,000 police and firefighters. At least 10 health clubs (some with multiple sites) and one YMCA are participating. The fitness facilities act as weigh-in sites for participants, and many are offering promotional packages for 12-week and annual memberships as well as help from personal trainers.

Clubs who participate pay $1,500 for one location. Multiple club locations receive discounted rates.

Teams of public safety service people will compete to win one of four regional awards of $5,000. Winners are chosen based on percent of improvement — muscle gained, combined with fat lost, said Jim Sayid, founder and director of the competition and a sergeant with the Miami Police Department. Four hundred and sixty personal trainers at participating fitness facilities measure the body fat of competitors in January and April and send the data to headquarters in Miami where it is computed. The Challenge will end April 10, 2005. Between January and April, the participants follow a 12-week program designed to help them build muscle and lose fat.

Lifestyle Family Fitness is one of the fitness sponsors for the 911 Challenge. Each Challenge contestant in the area will be offered a free three-month membership to Lifestyle Family Fitness to participate in the challenge and to receive guidance from Lifestyle Family Fitness personal trainers. The personal trainers will measure the body composition of contestants before and after the 12-week period to calculate and determine which team achieved the most improvement. They will also take “before photos” and oversee the teams' workouts and progress.

Sayid started the 911 Challenge in 1997 after teaching workshops on police and firefighter personal trainer certification where he saw that lack of motivation was the most significant reason public servants lacked fitness in their daily schedule. Sayid is also a Shriner and has a child with cerebral palsy.

“I created the event so the Shriner hospitals can benefit, so public servants can benefit by starting a fitness routine, so that the winners walk away with big cash and a fitter body, and so that sponsors can benefit from a high volume of new walk-in traffic to their clubs,” Sayid said.