Bryce Jackson was on his soapbox. Again. His wife, Jennifer, listened patiently as Jackson, IDEA Master Personal Fitness Trainer and owner of Real Fitness in Portland, Oregon, expressed concern about what he’s seen in 18 years of working in the fitness industry. “People still want to blame mommy and daddy for their condition and not take responsibility for themselves,” Jackson exclaimed. “They also blame schools, carbs or whatever for their kids being out of shape and in poor health, but never take an honest look at themselves.”

Jackson was frustrated because he sincerely cares about people and wants to help them find new, healthier ways to go through life. Jennifer knew this, and that’s why she said 10 words that turned his soapbox into a starting block: “Why don’t you shut up and do something about it?”

And…They’re Off!

Jackson had just opened his own personal training studio around the same time his wife challenged him to put up or shut up. Her suggestion: Develop a contest for the upcoming New Year that would last 12 weeks and instill in participants how to follow through on a resolution. Jackson could use any money left over to offer a cash prize to the winner and also donate funds to help local children’s fitness causes. Although it wasn’t the primary goal or concern, the contest would also promote Real Fitness.

The Jacksons started fine-tuning the event in October 2004—late in the game by Jackson’s own admission—with a launch date of January 1, 2005. This date was later pushed back to January 31. “Our expectations were fairly small since this was our first involvement with such a venture,” Jackson said. “We decided early on that if we had 10 people sign up and complete the 12 weeks, the contest would be a success. Our real goal was to teach people about proper and realistic nutrition and exercise. We wanted to show them how to model the fitness behavior they wanted to see in their kids, not to rely on or blame anyone else, and to show them how to do this for the rest of their lives. We felt that if we made a lasting impact on just one life, then we would be successful.”

The Real Fitness Work in Progress weight loss contest drew 30 participants—far more than Jackson anticipated. There were many more people who wanted to get involved but decided to wait until next year. Jackson also fielded many phone calls from individuals who just wanted to thank him for creating the contest. For a $99 entry fee, participants received a package that included a baseline fitness assessment, a journal, an individual exercise program and weekly check-ins. The person who lost the most weight (as a percentage of starting weight) would win. “I normally charge more than $400 for what each contestant received,” Jackson says. “We used contestant money to cover material costs, the donation and the grand prize, which was $500.”

Real Results

By the end of the 12-week period, the 30 contestants had collectively lost 295.2 pounds. The winner, Christie Jackson, lost 19.6 pounds. Although she walked away $500 richer, she says it’s the knowledge and empowerment she gained that truly enriched her. “What I have learned will benefit me for the rest of my life.”

Jackson is proud of all the contestants, but he mentions a special team effort as one that inspired him most. “We had a family of three who were all significantly overweight, sedentary and frequently ate fast food (daily, often more than once),” he said. “The mother had been diagnosed with diabetes, and all three had various weight-related issues. They signed up with only 7 weeks left, but collectively lost almost 100 pounds. They are still at it and still changing. They have literally changed their life spans and outlooks on life and each other.”

In addition to rewarding the contest winner, Real Fitness gave a $1,600 check to the North Clackamas Education Foundation. The funds are earmarked for fitness, physical education or athletic activities in local schools. This recipient is close to Jackson’s heart since he has school-age children of his own. “This generation of kids is heavier, more sedentary and more at risk than ever,” he says. “That’s why it is so important to get them ‘addicted’ to movement while they’re young.”

Jackson still carries around his soapbox, but now he has practical, proven advice to impart when he steps up to expound. “Personally and professionally I got to live my life’s mission with people who wouldn’t normally get involved with a gym or a trainer,” he says. “I got to make a difference in peoples’ lives, and by extension, in the lives of people I’ll probably never meet. All that just by teaching them that fitness is fun and easy. It doesn’t have to be about looks or performance, and it couldn’t be more important.”

Jackson is already planning on making the contest an annual affair and may have corporate sponsorship lined up for 2006. He encourages other fitness professionals to also stop talking and do something. “There may be thousands of people within miles of you literally dying because they don’t know how easy getting more fit can be,” he says. “Get involved by teaching the parents and kids together. Teach them to play again and how to make eating better easy, not perfect—there’s no such thing. Give your time and knowledge freely and expansively. Don’t do it for money or recognition. Don’t do it for good press or good connections. Help people because it’s the right thing to do. If you can make a positive difference in just one person’s life, your whole life is worthwhile!”

contest considerations

After reading Bryce Jackson’s success story, you may want to design your own contest. Before you begin, take these words of advice from Jackson:

Plan in Advance. Give yourself at least 3 months to organize, more if you’ve got it. Think about logistics: How much will you charge? What do participants get for their money? How often will they check in, if at all? How will you measure progress? What will you offer for a prize?

Donate Proceeds to a Cause That Is Meaningful to You. It’s easy to speak convincingly about something you’re truly passionate about.

Partner With Local Businesses to Help Defray Costs. Your proceeds recipient will likely have a list of businesses it has partnered with in the past. Try them first, as well as local media outlets. Sometimes a radio station, magazine or newspaper will give you free coverage (instead of money) in return for putting its logo at the top of your sponsor list.

Talk, Talk, Talk. Tell everyone you come in contact with about the contest. You never know who will be interested. Ask a public relations professional to write and distribute a news release.

Give Progress Reports. Once you’ve started, keep in touch with participants. Give them periodic tips, encouragement, check-ins and recognition.

Celebrate Your Success. Throw a finishers’ party for your contestants. Provide awards and acknowledgment for their hard work.

tell us what
you are doing

Are your clients obese, disabled or just starting to exercise after years of sedentary living? We want to hear how you are motivating, challenging and retaining clients on a long-term basis. In 200 words or less, detail the specifics of your program and client[s], along with your name and contact information. If your success story is compelling and unique, we may use it in a future issue or on the Inspire the World to Fitness® section of the website.

E-mail: [email protected]

Mail: Sandy Todd Webster

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San Diego, CA 92121-4339

Fax: (858) 535-8234

Inspire the World to Fitness®

IDEA’s campaign unites our members with those of other organizations in a joint effort to reach out to nonexercisers. Our commitment is to provide you with information and sources so you can act locally.