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It’s Fire Dept. vs. Police Dept. in fitness test

The contenders are set and the scales are ready for the city’sfirst Fitness Challenge.

In the red corner, 11 somewhat slim and trim members of theBrookhaven Fire Department.

And in the blue corner, 10 less than lean and mean fightingmachines of the Brookhaven Police Department.

Over a three-month period, the volunteer combatants will watchtheir weight and pump some iron in a quest to be Fitness Challengevictors. The epic duel will be closely observed by BrookhavenRehabilitation and Wellness Clinic.

“Our goal is to see how each team as a whole improves over thethree-month period,” said Richard Barker, challenge coordinatorwith the clinic.

Barker said each team member will be graded on body fat,cholesterol, blood pressure, resting heart rate, weight, strength,flexibility and cardiovascular fitness. An average of the teammembers’ totals will be taken and judged over the length of thechallenge.

“Those are going to be benchmarks that we’ll go from,” Barkersaid.

Team member testing is expected to be concluded later this weekwith the challenge getting under way the week of Dec. 11. Barkersaid the departments are getting into the challenge.

“They’re kind of trash-talking already,” Barker said.

Indeed, when asked the goal of the challenge, firefighter EricSmith was blunt.

“To beat PD,” he said.

Other firefighters focused on the requirements of their job asreasons for entering the challenge.

“Our jobs call for physical ability, and I want to confirm thatI’m ready for that challenge,” said Firefighter George Faust.

Andrew Graham, at 49 the senior participant in the contest, saidhe wanted to get his weight at a certain level and looked for thechallenge to help him in that regard.

“Plus, it’ll benefit me when I’m fighting fires,” Grahamsaid.

Weight loss, better physical condition and job duties werereasons cited by police participants.

“I plan on losing some weight. I’ve got to,” said BarbaraAllred, department administrative assistant.

Officer Robbie Fields cited the uncertain nature of policework.

“Our job requires us to be physically fit at a moment’s notice,and we have to be ready,” she said.

Officer Willie Harrison said weight loss was also his goal, andphysical improvement was Officer Rob Smith’s goal.

“I want to try to shape up a little bit,” Smith said last weekin preparation for the contest.

In an ironic twist, Smith was recovering Saturday at King’sDaughters Medical Center after having chest pains Friday afternoon.Police officials indicated Smith may have suffered a “mini” heartattack.

For the duration of the challenge, Barker said participants willbe given free access to the clinic’s fitness area. Also, a programwill be set up to help them reach their fitness goals.

“They can do anything on their own, but we’re going to beproviding tests to see where they’re at,” Barker said.

In the mode of “Survivor,” the original fitness challenge ideawas for one team member to be “voted off the island” each week.However, Barker said that was changed so team members could stayinvolved each other’s progress.

“We’re not going to vote anybody off the island because we wantthem to stay involved, encourage each other and see the benefits ofit,” Barker said.

Barker said the winning team will receive a big prize, such asexercise equipment, a television or some other item to bedetermined later. The individual who makes the most progress isalso expected to receive a prize.

“We chose to do this during the holidays, which is the hardestpart of the year to diet, to show people the need to stay healthyall the time,” Barker said.