Mirror, Mirror, who is the fittest (or most improved) of them all?

Kaleem Caire, CEO of the Urban League of Greater Madison, sent me this email message: “I am going to win the most improved!!!” He’s in it to win it, but I know Kaleem faces stiff competition from WPS Bank President John Hecht, because John told me he intends to become a “new man” during the Most Improved Executive challenge – a subcategory of IB’s “Fittest Executive Challenge” competition now underway.

Like Kaleem, I’m participating in the “most improved” category, though I can’t technically “win it” over the five women in the women’s contestant group and the five guys registered to compete in the men’s division. But I can literally win a competition with myself by getting into better shape and better health, and I’ll give you tips along the way, if you share that dream.

Here’s the behind-the-scenes peek at the resources IB is investing in that goal for me and the other contestants.

#1: Assessment at Meriter Wisconsin Heart’s Wellness Institute

Lead exercise physiologist Lisa Sanborn’s first impression of me during my “pre-test” exam last week couldn’t have been very encouraging. I’m a baby about having my finger pricked due to sensitive fingertips, and so she accommodated by sticking the side of my finger. Good job, Lisa; it actually didn’t hurt to type the rest of the day!

From that poke, she determined my cholesterol level readings: borderline high but still in the okay zone. Same for blood glucose readings. (Whew – I was worried about that because my brother died of complications of diabetes.) Blood pressure, normal. The areas in which I was above normal were weight and body mass … and then we moved on to my real mortification: exercise stamina.

During the hour I spent at Meriter, I was invited to “try to do a few pushups.” They were the lady variety, from the knees. I did pretty well getting into form, and then down. The “up” didn’t go so well. Next test was stretching. I rested my feet up against a machine and then was told to lean forward and push a lever as far as it would go with my hands together. In three tries, I think I improved about half an inch, so there is room for “most improved” there, too.

Next came the treadmill cardiac assessment, which electronically measures one’s “discomfort” or heart stress. I managed to stay on the inclined treadmill (trussed in electrodes and wires) as long as directed, without asking for accommodation (yeah!). A doctor will sign off on the final report and it will become part of my medical history, with a retake in August to measure “improvement” – and I’m confident there will have to be improvement.

#2: Pinnacle Health +Fitness with fitness trainer Scott Henderson

IB’s “most improved” fitness challenge contestants are given free 60-day memberships and three training sessions at Pinnacle, because we need it. Fitness director Matt Hanson met with me to try to find out my work address to send me pizzas and doughnuts, because he’s training competitor Angela Heim (CEO of The Employer Group) who, rumor has it, intends to kick my butt in this competition. (Though I can’t technically kick hers to “win,” it won’t stop me from trying to best her just on principle). I gave him the address for the Urban League (you can thank me later, Kaleem).

Scott Henderson is my trainer, a really great pairing. He’s a mild-mannered “now I want you to repeat that 12 times, if you can” kind of person (versus a mean, loud drill sergeant) with eight years of experience at Pinnacle. Before that, he was a trainer at the YWCA. He’s married with a daughter and three dogs, and the doggy info bonded us, since I have four. However, what I most appreciated was his kindness and willingness to start from my baseline without making me feel like a desk potato.

Scott taught me “the plank,” and he let me do pushups against a bar at waist height (much easier, Lisa!). He let me do old lady squats and then had me walking the perimeter of the club while carrying weights. He put me on the treadmill between strength exercises “to rest from those machines” and then back to the machines “to rest from the treadmill.” At the end, I guesstimated he’d exercised me at about a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10, and he suggested a couple Aleve soon for the muscle aches I might develop later in the day. Wise man.

Next station: food and discussion with a nutritionist

I’ll blog about that appointment after it happens, and try to get some tips for you, too.

So far, my tips are to start any body-changing program with a medical workup and physical exercise assessment. If nothing else, learning that your “numbers” are in the normal range for cholesterol and sugars is reassuring. If you can afford it, the value of a personal trainer is now clear to me: Scott explained very well why he wanted me to pull a weighted cord this way or that – the benefits he expected I would reap. That was sufficient motivation to keep me working out this past weekend and into this week, and I’ll meet with him again Friday.

For fitter executives: On your mark!

If your day already starts in the boardroom and ends in the gym, or vice versa, you might just be Dane County’s Fittest Executive. Want to know if that’s true? In Business magazine invites you to compete for the chance to win the first annual Fittest Executive Challenge and earn bragging rights that you can lead your company and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Get set!

Who is the Fittest Executive of us all? IB will select 30 top-level professionals in the Madison area to compete in the first annual Fittest Executive Challenge. Competitors will be introduced in the June issue of IB. At the end of the competition period, health care professionals will evaluate the physical condition of the competitors. The executives who earn the healthiest marks will be honored at the In Business Expo & Conference on October 17, 2012.

Award categories

Five competitors will be selected to participate in each category.

    • Fittest Executive: Male, Age 50 or Older
    • Fittest Executive: Male, Under Age 50
    • Fittest Executive: Female, Age 50 or Older
    • Fittest Executive: Female, Under Age 50


Title: The competition is limited to executives in the following positions: C-level, president, owner, partner, executive director, mayor, city manager, city council, retired executives, or vice president level and above.

All competitors must be available for a pre-determined testing date in August for a wellness evaluation.

Screenings and Evaluations

All competitors will be evaluated by Meriter Wisconsin Heart. The screening will evaluate heart rate, blood pressure, body weight, BMI, body fat percentage, waist circumference, exercise tolerance test with EKG and blood pressure monitoring, flexibility testing, strength testing, total cholesterol, and blood glucose level.


Download the application materials as a PDF and apply by March 23, 2012. We still have space available for a few more candidates. Join the fun and lead us all in the challenge to live well!

More information is available at http://ibmadison.com/fittest. The application period for the “Most Improved” categories has ended. The Most Improved Executives (male and female) will be announced at the In Business Expo & Conference on October 17, 2012. More information on the participants will be available soon.

For additional information, contact

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