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A non-profit fitness program promises 12 Brooklyn women a healthy New Year

Participants will get a pedometer to measure their walking

Although it’s a fun comparison, Start Your Engine is not a NY1 version of The Biggest Loser. Rather it’s a six-month non-profit health and fitness program for women living in Bed-Stuy. It promotes subtle, sustainable lifestyle changes rather than radical weight loss. Applications are being evaluated now for twelve spots in the pilot program starting just after the New Year.

The creator Anastasia Holmes, a longtime resident of downtown Brooklyn, wanted to share the lessons of her own journey back to health. “A few years ago I saw a photograph of a myself looking 20 pounds heavier than I picture myself!” explains Holmes, “It was the wake up call I needed.”  She’d been working full-time and attending Columbia University’s MPA program at nights and on weekends. After graduation, she hired a nutritionist and a personal trainer. “Only then did I learn how much I didn’t know about food and eating. I also realized that I’d just been going through the motions at the gym; I didn’t actually know anything about exercise.”

Start Your Engine founder Anastasia Holmes

Holmes, who has fifteen years of non-profit experience, knew that most people can’t create their own dream team of personal trainers and nutrition experts. “I want to give women on limited income a one-stop shop approach,” says Holmes, who chose to launch the pilot program in Bed-Stuy, “because it has one of the worse health outcomes in the city.”

Start Your Engine, which is free to participants who must go through a lengthy application process to demonstrate interest and motivation, is different than other affordable exercise programs, explains Holmes. It combines all the elements women need to take care of themselves: nutrition, exercise, and time and stress management are all part of the two-hour weekly meetings. (What does time management have to do with fitness? “Knowing how to cook something healthy doesn’t help you if you don’t know how to find the time to do it,” explains Holmes.) The first hour each week will be spent in the classroom—e.g. cooking, time management, stress reducing techniques, and learning how to shop for groceries—and the second hour will focus on sampling different forms of exercise. Paramount will be creating a weekly program that the participants can follow so that physical activity becomes part of their daily lives.

What makes Start Your Engine exceptional is that Holmes has recruited top city trainers, nutritionists, yoga teachers, and a handful of other guest experts to donate their time. For example, personal trainer and exercise physiologist Sharone Huey of the Sports Center at Chelsea Piers will be on-call throughout the program. Holmes hopes that the pilot program’s success will enable her to raise money so that Start Your Engine can expand to other neighborhoods in need.

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