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8 Weeks to a Healthier You

An interview with Master Instructor Jennifer Ward, author of the Spinning 8-Week Weight Loss Program

The revised Spinning® 8-Week Weight Loss Program just launched on Spinning.com. What’s new in this version?


I’m glad you asked. Several components have been added to provide more specific instruction to participants in both nutrition and exercise areas along with more guidance and ideas for points of discussion for Program Leaders. Nutrition additions include a better description of the harmful health risks of hydrogenated (a.k.a. trans) fats and how to read labels accurately to identify them in a food. Menu makeovers have been added so that participants can understand how to take a standard unhealthy meal and tweak it to so that it can become healthy. On the activity end, the lactate threshold protocol has been updated to be easier to understand and elicit more accurate results with the Spinning program. The program now includes some simple spreadsheets that aid in more accurate determination of heart rate zone, creating an effective heart-rate based training program, so that participants can maximize their fitness results in the time that they are willing to allot to exercise. Plus, the new booklet comes in an easily portable size along with a tape measure so that participants can track success.


How did you first develop the Spinning 8-Week Weight Loss Program?


I used to work full time in a corporate fitness center in Pittsfield, Mass. I was asked to run a weight loss program for fitness center members. I did quite a bit of weight loss program research and found nothing that I liked. Ultimately, I wanted to get participants to focus on meal timing to reduce food cravings and elevate metabolism. I wanted them to understand that successful weight loss is also about building sustainable habits so that results could be maintained. They needed to understand that adding healthful foods to their diet is just as important as reducing calories, fat and sugar. Most of all, I did not want this to be a ‘calorie-counting’ program. I wanted to teach participants how to pay attention to and honor their own body’s sense of hunger and fullness.


My boss at the time ended up purchasing a program called “Walk This Weigh” from Health Enhancement Systems. Participants were supposed to walk every day for 90 days. They were given a list of 50 healthy nutrition habits. Each day they were instructed to choose 2–3 habits as goals. Results were just okay. When you tell people to walk every day and they miss one day, they tend to wait until the following week to start over again. Fifty habits were way too many and with a list that long, it was very easy to choose habits that were already being followed. There were some good results, but overall I knew that there was more potential.


That’s when I came up with the idea of creating a spreadsheet and narrowing the habits down to eight to be followed consistently. Two healthy habits are introduced at a time in the Spinning 8-Week Weight Loss Program to help participants with focus. I knew that Spinning Energy Zones™ training would add the specificity to the exercise component to elicit better results and encouraging 5–6 days/week of exercise would help extinguish the ‘all-or-nothing’ mentality around exercise.


What successes have you seen from participants following the program?


One of my favorite stories came from an instructor that I met during one of my ‘How to Run the Spinning 8-Week Weight Loss Program’ lectures at WSSC Miami in 2007. I asked if anyone had tried the program, and she revealed that she had struggled with her weight for years—not only with not being able to lose weight, but she suffered from eating disorders as well. In fact, everyone in her family had some type of eating disorder or struggle with weight. She tried the Spinning 8-Week Weight Loss Program. It was the first program that made sense to her. She was able to improve her eating without becoming obsessed with food. She lost 30 pounds and kept it off for 2 years and counting. Most importantly, she was at peace with food for the first time in her life.


More recently, I ran this weight loss program at a local work-site in Pittsfield, Mass. The results were phenomenal. The participants were among the most motivated that I ever worked with. The group of 19 finishers lost a total of 171 pounds (average 9 lbs./participant), 172 inches (average 9”/participant) with dramatic improvements in their threshold heart rate. Remember that this was over only 8 weeks!


My full-time job is working with Berkshire Health Systems Wellness at Work program, which consists of a team of nurses, health educators and a dietitian. We provide wellness screenings that include blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure. Through wellness screenings I have seen participants of the 8-Week Weight Loss Program bring their blood pressure to normal after being hypertensive as well as a significant improvement in cholesterol (as much as 50 points in total cholesterol).


The results can be incredible.


What’s the hardest part about starting a weight loss program?


I don’t think starting is necessarily the hardest part. The hardest part is getting people to understand that their state of fitness, weight and health are all transient. Most people operate on the incorrect assumption that the process of losing weight and getting fit is finite. Many think that they just follow a program, reach their goal and then just maintain, but they don’t give specific thought as to how they will maintain. When the method of weight loss is so extreme that they can’t wait to stop, then they are in trouble.


They need to enjoy the process, not be in a hurry to get it over with. Get rid of the ‘all or nothing’ mentality. It is important to be able to have a dessert and then get right back to following the program. It is important to be able to unintentionally miss a day of exercise, but realize all is not lost and just resume with the workout plan the following day. Hopefully, over time, exercise and eating healthy is not just a means to an end. It becomes the desired way of living.


What are some tips for Spinning instructors who are thinking about implementing the 8-Week Weight Loss Program into their classes or facilities?


Start small. The goal is to use the Spinning 8-Week Weight Loss Program as a starting point. As you run it repeatedly, you will find more effective ways to run it based on your specific clients. It is most important that your initial participants are successful and when they are, they will spread the word and your program will grow from that.


How/why did you first decide to combine your Spinning and nutrition knowledge?


I was hired as a Master Instructor in 1998 because of my bike racing experience and nutrition expertise. I presented ‘Eating for Optimal Performance’ at the very first WSSC in Los Angeles in 1999. It made sense that a couple of years later I was asked to create a weight loss program.


Any other words of advice?


There are a lot of things in our life that we have little control over. Fitness and health are NOT among those things. If you are unfit, overweight and unhealthy, you do not have to stay that way. With motivation, knowledge and the right program, you can change all this. It’s a gift.

Jennifer Ward







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