Dianne Watts and Peter Fassbender joke around during a weigh-in session last month.

Dianne Watts and Peter Fassbender joke around during a weigh-in session last month.

Fitness-loving mayors up for challenge

Healthy Community Challenge begins this weekend across Lower Mainland

The mayors are in. Are you?

Last month, four Metro Vancouver mayors – Surrey’s Dianne Watts, Langley City’s Peter Fassbender, Coquitlam’s Richard Stewart and Abbotsford’s Bruce Banman – signed up for the Healthy Community Challenge, which aims to get Lower Mainland residents to lead healthier lives.

They had their Body Mass Index (BMI) measured and recorded, and now the rest of the community can do the same.

The three-month long challenge – which is free for those who choose to participate – begins this weekend, with an official “weigh in” on Saturday. The challenge begins in earnest Monday.

Those wishing to take part in the challenge may sign up online and head to any number of locations for a BMI measurement Saturday (see list at bottom).

Once registered, participants will have access through the website to a variety of health and fitness resources, and will also be able to track their fitness progress.

Like many who will sign up to take the challenge, the four mayors are participating for a variety of reasons.

Peter Fassbender

For Langley City Mayor Peter Fassbender, it was a visit to the doctor nine years ago that served as a wake-up call, when he was diagnosed with prostate cancer and told he had gallstones and Type 2 diabetes.

The news he was a diabetic didn’t come as a great shock. He’d seen the warning signs but chose to ignore them.

“I wasn’t willing to accept that my lifestyle was causing that,” he said.

While his (ultimately successful) cancer treatment and gallbladder surgery were in the hands of his physicians, Fassbender knew that controlling his diabetes would be his job.

That’s one reason he’s taking part in the 90-day Healthy Community Challenge.

“Our healthcare costs are getting out of control,” he said. “The mindset is, the system will look after us, that we’re not responsible for ourselves.

“I’m responsible for my health.”

Fassbender’s doctor advised eating small meals throughout the day to regulate blood sugar levels. He also urged the mayor to keep stress to a minimum and get plenty of rest.

“Yes, this is exactly the job for that,” Fassbender laughed.

Working an average of 60 to 70 hours per week, he is learning to strike a balance between work and a healthy lifestyle.

For a start, he’ll pack raw veggies to snack on,  walk whenever possible and take the stairs.

He’ll also work out with a personal trainer and offer regular updates on his progress as part of the mayors’ challenge.

Not everyone can afford that kind of personal attention, or even a gym membership – but they don’t have to, Fassbender said.

“Getting fit is not a huge leap,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be an expensive program.

“It can cost as little as the price of an umbrella and a bit of shoe leather.”

Dianne Watts

Surrey Mayor Dianne Watts is similarly enthused – despite still being in recovery from injuries sustained last July when she was thrown from horse.

The fall may have fractured her back, but it failed to break her spirit.

The friendly jabs have already begun.

Watts opened up the war of wit by saying she has an advantage over the pot-bellied mayoral men.

“I don’t have a gut. The boys have belly fat,” she joked.

A box of chocolates from Stewart arrived at her door shortly after, a volley she returned by dispatching an extra-large meat-lover’s pizza.

Fun aside, Watts is taking the fitness challenge seriously for Watts, the challenge begins with watching what she eats.

Already a health-food fanatic, Watts says she’ll “fine-tune it a bit,” which means more fish and less red meat.

As for the workouts, those are going to take a little more forethought and expert advice.

“The program has to be tailor-made for my body,” Watts said.

Any workout she undertakes will be in consultation with her doctor, she says, but she expects to be doing a bit more yoga and walking in order to be gentle to her spine.

Richard Stewart

Coquitlam Mayor Richard Stewart has a very specific goal for the Healthy Community Challenge.

Staying fit is something Stewart usually does anyway, but after being hit by a car while campaigning during the 2011 municipal election, his activity level has gone downhill.

Stewart is hoping the fitness challenge gets him back into an exercise routine that will help rehabilitate his recent injury and manage the chronic pain from an accident nine years ago.

“When you have a bad back you really feel five extra pounds,” Stewart said. “And I know I can be in better shape.”

Finding time for three workouts a week won’t be easy with a busy mayor’s schedule, but Stewart plans to squeeze it in even though he “dreads” the mornings after.

And like most things, Stewart is in the challenge to win it.

“I’m sending Dianne a box of chocolates each week,” he joked.

What does he hope to accomplish at the end of it all? “I’m going to walk the Coquitlam Crunch,” Stewart said.

“A long time ago my goal was to walk… unassisted. I can do that most of the time now but I’ve always had a doubt whether I could do the Coquitlam Crunch.

“I’m going to make it.”

Bruce Banman

As a chiropractor, Abbotsford Mayor Bruce Banman understands the importance of good health. That’s why he leapt at the chance to take part in the Healthy Community Challenge.

“It’s time to get back in shape. I’d like to see my abs again one more time before I die.”

Banman said he wants to be an example to citizens to show that a few lifestyle changes can have a big effect on health and he’s hoping the city will get behind the program.

As for his own health goals, Banman has yet to set any specific targets.

“My resting heart rate ticks along a little bit quicker than I know it should and I’m a little bit heavier than I want to be.”

The first-time Abbotsford mayor tipped the scales at 198 pounds, which he said is already a big improvement from a year ago when he hit the 230-pound mark.

“I did lose 20 pounds while running for office,” he said.

He believes in the positive effects of exercise and said the public has a responsibility to take charge of its own well-being.

“We cannot expect the health care system to do everything for us. Health is something you can make a personal choice about, to do something for yourself.”

As mayor, Banman tends to rush around from one event to another and he has noticed the drain it is putting on him.

“I’d like to get my wind back.”

At 50 years of age, he said he remembers when his legs didn’t hurt when he danced. He wants to stay active to prolong the quality of his life.

“Motion is life. When your not moving anymore, there’s only one place they put you.”

Where to get measured

In Surrey, from 10 a.m. until noon, measurements will be taken at the Cloverdale Recreation Centre (6188 176 St.), Guildford Rec Centre (15105 105 Ave.) and Innovative Fitness (#6- 3238 King George Blvd.).

In Abbotsford, measurements will be recorded from 7:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. at the Abbotsford Recreation Center (2499 McMillian Rd.) or at Innovative Fitness (#103 34609 Delair Rd.).

In Langley, metrics will be taken from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Douglas Recreation Center (20550 Douglas Cres.) or from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Innovative Fitness (#200 19860 Langley Bypass).

In Coquitlam, participants can weigh in, between 10 a.m. until 4 p.m., at Innovative Fitness (#11-400 Capilano Rd.)