He's 22. And he thought he was on the verge of a heart attack.
The will to live - and to live lighter and better - is why Aaron Shaw entered the Tribune Chronicle-St. Elizabeth / St. Joseph Centers Fitness Challenge weight loss competition for charity.
He's a star for the Weight Busters, a team based out of the Elm Road Panera Bread in Warren.
Shaw family members take a spin on elliptical machines at Kent State University Trumbull Campus in Champion. From left, are son Aaron Shaw of Weight Busters Fitness Challenge team, and dad Rick and mom Donna, both of the Pound Puppies. Aaron has sweated and eaten his way to a 46-pound weight loss over the first eight weeks of the Fitness Challenge, while his parents each have lost about 30 pounds.
''I actually started right after Christmas,'' Aaron said. ''At work, my heart was racing from sweeping the floor. I worried that I was going to have a heart attack.''
He had 265 pounds bunched about his 6-foot-1 frame. By the Jan. 14 initial weigh-in for the Fitness Challenge, Aaron was down to 253. Eight weeks later, he's at 207 pounds and dropping.
''It's good now,'' Aaron said of his heart. ''Everything is easier. And the food cravings aren't like they were after the first few weeks.''
Mom Donna Shaw said, ''It helps when you don't have it in the house to tempt you.''
Aaron's parents, Donna and Rick, also are in the Fitness Challenge, playing for the Pound Puppies out of First Place Bank, where Donna is a senior loan default specialist. The family has been eating home-cooked meals with controlled portions of meat, fruits and vegetables. They eat a high-fiber breakfast and drink water and milk. Skip the pop.
Rick and Donna's younger son, Andrew, is a sophomore at Champion High School. The football team brought in a nutritionist to talk to them about how to eat well.
''He said, 'Mom, we're already doing that,''' Donna said.
She sent brownies to Andrew's coach, Terry Howell. Coach Howell, after all, is a member of the Niles Gym Teachers team.
The family also is working out at Kent State University Trumbull Campus five times a week - six for Rick, a supervisor who lost his job of 36 years when Denman Tire closed this year.
They pump the bikes, step the ellipticals, walk the treadmills and push through the weight-resistance machines.
Donna and Rick have lost about 30 pounds each.
''Aaron was supposed to be on my team this year, but he backed out on me,'' Donna said. ''So I got my husband involved.''
Which makes Rick the replacement player.
''Yeah,'' he said. ''It was a good move, though.''
Aaron's defection is understandable. There's loyalty to one's own employer and co-workers.
Then there are the incentives. Parent company Covelli Enterprises puts some very tasty morsels on the plate.
In all, Warren-based Covelli - which has both Panera and O'Charley's stores - fielded 10 teams. All five members of the top Covelli team will receive two tickets apiece to each show at the Covelli Centre in Youngstown for the rest of the year.
All players will receive $5 for every percent of starting weight lost, and the person with the greatest percentage weight loss will receive an additional week of paid vacation.
Aaron is in the running.
''He has been working so hard,'' Donna said. ''He changed how he is eating and exercises at home every day.''
TIPS AND TASTY TIDBITS
Dr. Stephanie Kopey dropped by in past weeks to offer tips on setting up exercise programs. Find those articles at our Web site, tribtoday.com.
This week, the physical medicine and rehabilitation specialist from St. Joseph talks about how to avoid those nasty strains, sprains or worse:
''Many preventive strategies exist to avoid an injury while working out,'' Kopey said. ''For example, performing stretching exercises of the muscles you expect to use before you begin a work out is important.
''Incorporating a five-minute warmup and cool-down into your exercise can also help you prevent an unwanted injury,'' she said. ''Using well-maintained equipment, including good, supportive shoes and working within your fitness level, are also important.
''Working out with a partner can also provide a safer workout environment for spotting difficult tasks and even just for using the buddy system if you concerned for safety issues,'' Kopey said.
The YWCA Warren is hosting a Nutrition Open House for the last Fitness Challenge weigh-in on March 25. Anyone else who wishes to check it out is welcome, too.
Jennifer Wagner, program manager, said that participants can stop in between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. in the lobby of YW, 375 N. Park Ave., Warren, for a special weigh-in that includes food samples, recipes and product giveaways and advice from health and wellness consultants and nutrition vendors.
And yep, it's free.
Each Fitness Challenge designated a service organization or charity for which it is playing. The first place team donates $1,500 to its charity; second, $1,000; third, $600; fourth, $400; fifth to seventh, $350; and eighth to 10th, $300. Plus the team with the best one-week performance each week earns another $10 for its charity.
The Cullens, another Covelli team, chose the Warren Family Mission.
''We are very thankful for the jobs we have,'' team captain Jessica King said. ''The WFM helps those who are less fortunate. Especially in this economy, it is much needed.
''We know the donations made to this mission help people in our own community, whether it is a need for clothing or food or those in need of turning their lives around seeking help with addiction and recovery. We are happy to help this program,'' King said.
The Warren Family Mission, 361 Elm Road N.E., Warren, according to its mission statement, is ''a Christ-centered mission which provides food, shelter, clothing, spiritual and drug and alcohol rehabilitation help free of charge to participants from Trumbull County and its surrounding area.''
Among its statistics, every month it serves more than 6,000 meals, give out more than 500 boxes of food and provides more than 1,000 nights of shelter and more than 3,000 hours of rehab/recovery, education and work training.
The single best one-week performance this week was turned in by 4.5 Full-Grown Men, with a 1.76 percent one-week loss to earn Team of the Week honors.
Never Say Never, which nearly became the first team to wrest the lead away from the Calorie Counters, recorded a 1.92 percent loss last week. However, one of the team members missed the weigh-in the week before, which means for that guy, it was a two-week total, not a one-week loss.
Where did teams come up with those names? This week, Bill Gadd of Pony Up explains his.
His team is playing to benefit The Camelot Center, a horseback program that focuses on those with disabilities. The motion of the horse and riding strengthens muscles while building confidence, among other benefits, according to the center.
''The Camelot Center is all about therapeutic horseback riding so what better name than Pony Up?'' Gadd said.
SMACKING OF THE LIPS
Usually, we reserve this space for smack talk between teams. Instead, it's time to give a shout-out.
''I wanted to let you know that Matt Vadas from out team, Handful of Nuts, has lost a total of 48 pounds thus far in the Fitness Challenge,'' team captain Debbie Hayes said. ''I'm not sure if this a record for one individual so far this year but feel it deserves some recognition.
''I believe he is following Weight Watchers - and obviously doing very well. He is definitely carrying our team - and we're very proud of him,'' Hayes said.
We'll keep you posted on the best performance for this year. We do recall that in 2006, Mike Krafcik of the champions 4 Men and a Lady went nuts with the workouts and lost 55.5 pounds, good for 20.18 percent of his starting weight.