Murray Mayor Dan Snarr has no illusions about winning the 100-day My Heart Challenge: He's predicting that he won't.
But it's not because he's a slouch. Rather, Snarr says he undertook the challenge, sponsored by Intermountain Healthcare and accepted by 12 public officials, because he was already a fitness fan.
"We have this mentality we deserve the good life. Let me tell you what the good life is: good health. Get off your butt away from the TV," said Snarr, 62.
Snarr says he always has been active, especially in warmer months. In the past month he's exerted himself even more, doing work on a rental property he owns because he enjoys physical labor. But since the challenge began, he drinks more water, eats less sugar and has more chicken and fish. And he invited the other contenders to best him in a feat of strength.
"I challenge every one of those in the race to do 50 pushups," said Snarr, who claims he can.
A dozen city officials in Salt Lake County are competing in the My Heart Challenge. The 12 eight mayors, two councilmen, one city manager and one city attorney are learning how to improve their heart health and fitness levels through changes in eating and exercise habits.
Since undergoing baseline testing on March 29, the officials have been following personal eating and exercise plans and reporting weekly on their progress. At the end of 100 days, they will be tested again. A winner will be determined by a point system that tallies exercise sessions and healthy meals and measures changes in health markers, such as blood pressure and body mass index.
The contest runs until July 7. The competitor with the most points and the one who shows the most improved health will win $1,000 each. The money will go to the winner's city.
Intermountain exercise physiologist Meagan Kline said the participants lost a combined total of 93 pounds and exercised 116 hours in the first month of the competition.
"In general, they're doing well," she said.
But now they're into the hard part.
People get excited when they start a healthy living program and are determined to exercise every day, Kline said. They generally start re-evaluating the importance of the effort and the time it takes from family and work at the month mark.
The contestants have it tougher than the general public because of work-related commitments, according to Kline. Most people know when they'll get off work and can exercise but as public officials, "they have meetings in the day and events at night," she said.
Cottonwood Heights Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore said his eating habits have improved and he has changed his workout as a result of the challenge.
"My worst habit was not eating breakfast or lunch then getting home and start[ing] eating and not stopping until I go to bed," he said. He's incorporated more fresh vegetables and grains into his diet, too.
"I didn't even know what quinoa was before this," he quipped.
Cullimore has lost 5 pounds on top of 25 he lost last year since the challenge began, and he has been trying to build muscle by lifting weights. "If you can get your muscle mass built up, you can burn more calories."
While he's serious about getting fit, he and the other contenders enjoy pulling pranks. "We're having fun with it," he said of the challenge.
In a journal he's keeping about his progress, Cullimore wrote: "My friend, Dan Snarr, is constantly encouraging me to eat chocolate, telling me how good it is for me. He is assisted in his deviousness by one Mayor Russ Wall."
A dozen city officials are participating in the My Heart Challenge, a 100-day contest sponsored by the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute. They are: Bill Applegarth, Riverton mayor; Carlton Christensen, Salt Lake City councilman; Peter Corroon, Salt Lake County mayor; Kelvyn Cullimore Jr., Cottonwood Heights mayor; Craig Hall, Midvale city attorney; Scott Osborne, South Jordan mayor; Darrell Smith, Draper mayor; Dan Snarr, Murray mayor; Ben Southworth, West Jordan city councilman; Russ Wall, Taylorsville mayor; Brett Wood, Herriman city manager; and Cherie Wood, South Salt Lake mayor.
The contest will run until July 7. To follow the competition, visit myheartchallenge.com.