Facebook group serves as healthy motivator

mmeehan1@herald-leader.comJuly 27, 2011 

  • Zumba classes

    What is Zumba? It's a Latin-inspired dance-fitness program.

    Where is Zumba? There are hundreds of classes in the Lexington area. Find one at Zumba.com.

    Connie Douthitt and her friends have found several free or inexpensive Zumba classes. Their favorites include.

    ■ 6 p.m. Wed. Kenwick Community Center, 313 Owsley Ave. Free.

    ■ 6 p.m. Thu. William Wells Brown Community Center, 548 E. Sixth St. Free.

    ■ 5:30 p.m. Tue. Gainesway Community Center, 1201 Centre Pkwy. Free.

    ■ 6:30 p.m. Mon. and Fri., 11:30 a.m. Sat. Consolidated Baptist Church, 1625 Russell Cave Rd. $5.

    ■ 7 p.m. Thu. First Baptist Church Bracktown, 3016 Bracktown Rd. $5.

  • Stand up, Lexington

    Men’s Health magazine ­recently named Lexington the least active city in the nation. Today we’re featuring the stories of two active Lexingtonians. Help us prove that Men’s Health — and ­Comedy Central’s ­Stephen ­Colbert, who mocked ­Lexington on his show — were wrong.

    In about 100 words, tell us how you get those ­endorphins pumping. We’ll collect the stories and send them to Men’s Health and Colbert. We might even publish a few in the newspaper and online. And we’ve created Stand Up, a Lexington Facebook page where you can post how you’re being active.

    Send information about your activity with your name and a daytime phone number to: standuplex@herald-leader.com. Fitness 19 will give an annual membership plus one free personal training session to the first 100 respondents.

Debra Turner had finally had enough.

Kimberly Michelle "Chelle" Chapman-Erskine, kept moaning online about how she was afraid to try on size 12 jeans. Although she'd lost weight, years of disappointing shopping trips had left her wary of going into a store dressing room.

"I can't even remember not being a 14," said Chapman-Erskine. "There were so many times I'd leave the dressing room literally in tears."

Turner responded to her in a Facebook message: "Meet me at the mall at 3 p.m.,"

The next day the women ventured out shopping where those size 12 jeans were zipped and buttoned.

"We just started screaming," said Turner of their reaction to the achievement. "I think people thought we were crazy."

There were more jeans tried on, pictures posted to Facebook and a general all around celebration for the duo who got to know each other via an invitation-only, Lexington-based Facebook page dedicated to promoting a healthier lifestyle.

"It was exciting," said Turner, "I was so happy for her. She had really worked hard."

"It was such a huge accomplishment," said Chapman-Erskine, who wore size 18 at her heaviest. "I was so proud of myself at that moment. I didn't have to mess with them or suck anything in. They just fit."

Officially dubbed "Personal Challenges with a Purpose ... Faith, Focus, Fit, Fabulous & Fine" but known around town as the "PC Crew," more than 700 people have joined the group since it started in February.

Chapman-Erskine's triumphant shopping trip is one of hundreds of success stories on the page that started when Charm Wingate found herself unemployed and looking for something positive to do.

"It's such a hurt feeling getting laid off," said Wingate. "I had worked since I was 15."

She didn't want to find herself "sitting home and watching TV and eating and sinking into a depression," she said.

So, she started a Facebook page dedicated to making good lifestyle decisions and she invited some friends to join her. Within a week 500 people had joined and the numbers continue to climb.

Then the online relationships spread out into the real world.

'It's just amazing to me," said Kim Jackson, who teaches Zumba classes around Lexington. The PC Crew discovered her free classes at several Lexington community centers and her attendance swelled. Now it's not unusual to get 70 people out on a weeknight dancing to the Latin-tinged exercise routines.

The PC Crew, which is about 80 percent women, also has organized water aerobics and neighborhood fitness boot camps where people pay for the services with canned goods that are donated to the needy.

"They share recipes, they share health tips, they exercise together, they meet and walk on the walking trails," said Jackson, who ended her own self-imposed ban on Facebook to join.

She credits Wingate with setting a positive, encouraging tone that is infectious. "I've known Charm for years and that name fits her," said Jackson, who changed her own lifestyle a few years ago after turning 40.

"She stays on us. She's a motivator," said Turner, Wingate's older sister. "She'll tell you how it is."

Chapman-Erskine finds there is power in numbers. With the PC Crew there is always somebody who wants to take a walk or a run or a bike ride.

"You have so many people you can rely on," she said. "You know wherever you go there is going to be a friendly face there."

There is not a lot of talk among the group about numbers or scales. The focus is on health and treating your body the way God would want you to.

"People have lost weight and are living healthier lifestyles and it is a blessing," said Wingate, who has lost 25 pounds which alleviated chronic back pain.

Turner, who has diabetes and high blood pressure, said she "goes on and off of the wagon" but continues to find inspiration via the virtual social network.

"Every day people go through things," she said. "This way there is always someone there to be encouraging. There is just a lot of love and support.

Wingate now has a new job, and other members are stepping in on the site to pass along health tips and class schedules.

"It's a real team effort," she said. "It's really good to have positive women in your life. That's what you need in order to be successful," she said.

Plus, she added, "we have a good time.

Reach Mary Meehan at (859) 231-3261 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3261.

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