No Longer Fitness Challenged

Al McFarlane and Sharonne Hayes, M.D., welcome Insight 2 Fitness Challenge participants
Al McFarlane and Sharonne Hayes, M.D., welcome Insight 2 Fitness Challenge participants to the Sports Medicine Center at Mayo Clinic Square in Minneapolis.

Al McFarlane would like to one day say he's not half the man he used to be. McFarlane, of Minneapolis, who once weighed more than 300 pounds, decided he needed to take better care of himself, so he set a goal, made a plan and set about getting there. When he started to see some success – he's lost more than 50 pounds, changed his diet and improved his fitness – he wanted to share it with others. So he hatched a plan, working with his fitness trainer, Tyrone Minor, to create the Insight 2 Health Fitness Challenge, or I2H, as the cool fitness buffs call it.

McFarlane and Minor formed a powerful partnership. As owner of Insight News, the largest African American-oriented publication in Minnesota, McFarlane brought a community connection and a medium for his message. As owner of The F.I.T. Lab in St. Paul, Minnesota, Minor brought the know-how, and a passion for fitness and healthy lifestyles. (Not to mention the brawn.) And together, they brought challenge members, as well as family and friends, the media, and even a local state senator, Bobby Joe Champion, to Mayo Clinic Square on Saturday, March 21, for a workout, pep talk and education session with some Mayo experts.

"This isn't sweat, it's tears," McFarlane told us as he took a brief break from the workout to share his pride in the program participants. The idea is for those participants to see success and "become a model for the community," he says. "I'm concerned as a publisher and as a communicator about the persistence of health disparities in the black community. Part of it is systemic. But part of it is our knowledge of what we need to be doing," he says. "One solution is that we all need to get busy and do something personally, privately. And if we do that individually, the collective benefit is humongous."

Tyrone Minor leads challenge participants in exercises at Mayo Clinic Square.
Tyrone Minor leads challenge participants in exercises at Mayo Clinic Square.

Being able to bring challenge participants to Mayo Clinic Square, hear from Mayo experts, and workout with equipment that the Minnesota Lynx, Timberwolves, Wild and Twins players use was a highlight, according to Minor. "I think when a world-class organization like the Mayo Clinic involves the local community, it will hopefully cause them to redefine health and the importance of health," he says. "Ultimately, I want to ignite change in the metro community. I want to change the mindset on what it means to be healthy … You start with the individual, and then each person reaches out and brings someone else in. That's what this Insight Challenge has been about."

In addition to hosting the day's events, Mayo provided health screenings, and Drs. Sharonne Hayes and Tammi Howard offered perspectives on health and nutrition. Mayo is also conducting research to help participants measure their progress, and help Minor and his team fine-tune the program. That community partnership angle is key, according to Dr. Hayes. "We realized there were a lot of opportunities for community partnerships," she says, noting, "This is a way to welcome some people who otherwise might never see Mayo into our house."

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