Most of us have worked as part of a group focused on a common goal at some point in our lives, whether on a class project, a team sport, a work task or a family vacation. In these situations, you know how important support from the group can be. When it comes to losing weight and adopting healthy behaviors into our lives, this kind of support becomes even more crucial. Research shows that accountability to others and social support are key factors in weight loss and weight maintenance success.
The support of the SparkPeople Community is unlike any other. I’ve been working with our members for the past 11 years and continue to be amazed by the positive interactions between people from all different walks of life and different parts of the world. Members celebrate one another, whether it’s the first pound lost or the hundredth. Members lift each other up when times get tough and motivation is low. Members hold each other accountable to keep tracking and focusing on their goals. No matter what kind of support is needed, it can be found in our community.
One of the unique features of the SparkPeople Community are member-lead challenges, which are run through SparkTeams . Some challenges run for a specific time period, but others are ongoing. What started as a simple idea by a few members to motivate themselves and others has turned into an integral part of the SparkPeople program for thousands of people.
Secrets of Successful SparkTeams
To learn more, we asked leaders from some of our most popular challenges to tell us how their challenges got started, how they are run and what kind of member response they've received.
1. Starting Over: Weekly Mini-Challenge Team
Leader: LABRYANT (Lynn)
How it began: Lynn joined SparkPeople in 2006 and became involved with a 90-day challenge. As the challenge was coming to an end, a few members asked her to form and lead a group to keep the momentum going. During her own journey, Lynn realized that she does better with shorter goals she can see an "end" to, and can feel the accomplishment sooner when a goal is met. The Weekly Challenge Team was created to allow members to complete reasonable goals in a short amount of time and log their progress. What started as a handful of members in 2007 has grown to more than 10,000. Although some of the members come and go, a few of the original members are still with the group and stay active every week.
How it works: There are three types of weekly mini-challenges: intake, exercise and self-esteem. Each month consists of two intake challenges, one exercise challenge and one self-esteem challenge. The goal is not to stress anyone out, but instead repeat behaviors with the goal of creating new habits. All members are asked to log their thoughts about the challenge and their progress throughout the week.
How team members have responded: Lynn says the support among team members is amazing. "Recently, I had my own setback and gained back most of the weight I had lost," says Lynn. "I was devastated and felt that, having failed on a grand scale, I should not be the team leader anymore. I sent a SparkMail to the team, asking if anyone wanted to take over. I was ashamed and didn't feel much like leader material. I was humbled and strengthened by the response that I received. Members who had not been active in a while wrote to me saying they were coming back, members that have been with me for all seven years responded with support and some members who were following the challenges but admitted they'd never posted, wrote to me. I was astonished (though I probably shouldn't have been) at the amount of support I received, almost all of them saying that because of my perceived "failure," I was the perfect person to continue leading the team."
2. 5% Challenge Team
Leaders: KALISWALKER (Lynn), CERIUSLY, JMCADE and HICIM705
How it began: Lynn wanted to be part of a very active, high energy team that had friendly competitions. Initially the focus was on weigh-ins and exercise minutes, but she expanded the focus to overall health and wellness. In 2010 she started 5% challenges, making them into what they are now. This fall is her 29th challenge. It started with 250 members and now the challenges average about 550-600 members, sometimes as many as 750.The current 5% Challenge Community Leadership Team has been in place for several years. A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to manage the record keeping, team formation, training, motivation and more for 550 to 600 members and their leaders.
How it works: There is the 5% Challenge Community (an umbrella team) with four overall challenge leaders and about 550-600 members. Members are then placed into 12 challenge teams, each with five leaders and 45 to 50 members. The challenge runs four times a year. All challenge participants are expected to be active by posting points to the weekly challenges, posting exercise minutes and doing weekly weigh-ins. Each week is a friendly competition between the 12 teams to see which team "lands first at an exciting virtual destination" with exercise minutes adding up to reach each location. At the end of the week, leaders tally up the exercise minutes, points and weigh-ins.
How team members have responded: "There is always so much excitement when we are starting new challenges," says Lynn. "Right now we are doing sign ups and members are choosing their teams. We have loyal returning members and leaders who have continued to do the challenges, staying active on SparkPeople for years. There are many amazing friendships that have formed, virtually and in real life. I have met many SparkFriends in person. They are all very dear friends."
MARYANNSQUEST has been a member of the 5% Challenge for years and helps with team leadership. "We each give encouragement and also have fun traveling around the world. This year has been very special. My team leaders are awesome--we SparkMail, call and some of us live close enough to meet together. There are three members of my team that go to Zumba class together and have a blast."
3. Biggest Loser Team
Leaders: LOSINGLINNDY (Linn), BE-THE-CHANGE (Debbie), -WRKNG2ABTTRME- (Nancy), AMY_1217
How it began: Biggest Loser was started in the spring of 2008 and took its name from the TV show. The competition is set up between challenge teams identified by color names rather than between individuals. The concept is to help members develop healthy exercise and nutrition habits and lose weight with the support of like-minded members.
How it works: There are currently 10 teams and each team has a minimum of 24 members. Challenges are run seasonally with ten weeks per challenge. There are a few weeks off between challenges, though most teams continue on and do between-challenge activities. A week or two before the official start, they begin pre-challenges, both within the individual teams as well as one on the all-teams page where members compete as one big team. This gives everyone a chance to get to know members from the other teams and expand their support groups. Each week the team works together on the inter-team challenges and exercise (cardio and strength training) minutes. They also weigh in weekly. All teams tally their weekly member totals and report them to the all-teams thread, where the leader produces a weekly ranking of each team and how they did in comparison to other teams. It becomes a challenge for each team to try to be number one in weight loss or cardio minutes or to win the inter-team challenge that week with the most participants.
How team members have responded: Each team is different. Some are there for emotional support and encouragement, while others are very competitive with exercise minutes and challenges. Members can move from one team to another between challenges and leaders help people find a safe "home" team that works for them. Linn says the results of each challenge are inspiring. "In this summer's challenge, our teams collectively logged 642,899 cardio minutes, 156,015 strength training minutes and lost a total of 1,112 pounds!"
DIFROMWYOMING has been participating in the Biggest Loser challenge for the past seven years. "Our teams and their leaders have become family that we depend on for encouragement and support. I wouldn't have remained as active on SparkPeople all these years if it were not for this challenge and the relationships I've formed here. Some of us have even gone out of our way to meet in person, so we've taken our online friendships into our lives."
4. 1 Day Challenge Team
How it began: The team was started in 2006, and Kellie took over in 2013. It was the first SparkTeam she had ever joined and it inspired her to fully utilize SparkPeople to reach her goals.
How it works: Kellie creates the challenges every day except on Fridays. She calls that day "Free Form Friday" where team members make their own challenge or can repeat a previous day's challenge. Kellie creates a variety of cardio, strength and nutrition challenges using links to SparkPeople articles and demonstrations that the team can quickly click on. She tries to keep in mind the varied health and fitness levels of the members by posting alternate challenges most days. Wednesdays are "Wednesday Wellness" challenges where she will emphasize stretching, taking a "me" day or boosting self-esteem. She likes to look up wacky holidays and come up with a challenge incorporating that unique holiday.
How team members have responded: Kellie has received on-going and specific time-period challenges available to join. Click on a SparkTeam, read the description and click "Join This Team" at the top of the team page to get started. If you're unsure, contact the team leader for more information. Leaders are more than happy to explain how the team works so you can decide if it's a good fit. Finding a group of people working toward your common goals will help ensure success as you adopt and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Have you tried any member-lead SparkTeam challenges? If so, how did it help you work toward your goals?
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