For their New Year's resolutions, two longtime Juneau friends and mothers are challenging each other to live healthier and get fit - into their wedding dresses that is. And they, along with a women's fitness center, are challenging Juneau to do the same.
"Liz and I love a good challenge," Genevieve McLaughlin, 34, said of herself and friend Liz Lapierre's, 31, wedding dress challenge. "Let's just say we do not know how to quit. We both believe in good health and needed a good shove in that direction."
Curves owner Charlene Schrader refers to it as the "Get Together" challenge, which she will sponsor by giving out monthly incentive prizes and tracking women's weight-loss success for the next six months or so, culminating with a grand prize in the summer.
"Genevieve and Liz want to fit into their wedding dress, but some girls may want to get off medications, lose 5 to 10 pounds, have another dress they want to get into or just get fit," Schrader said. "That's our goal, to get Juneau fit. Once the girls are fit, the world becomes a better place."
McLaughlin and Lapierre are both grateful to Schrader for bringing the challenge to the community.
"Charlene's willingness to sponsor this challenge and to support the community in being fit and fabulous is truly inspirational," McLaughlin said.
GIRLFRIENDS WORKING OUT
McLaughlin, a former home childcare provider and current "domestic diva," and Lapierre, a customer service specialist for the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education, have been friends for about a decade.
"We ended up giving birth to our daughters a few hours apart, and our husbands met in the hospital elevator," McLaughlin said. "The four of us reunited at an Alaskan Brewery Co. family function and realized all our connections."
Since then, the pair also participated in the Susan G. Koman 3-Day walk together. They will be walking again next August in Chicago for McLaughlin's sixth, and Lapierre's second, time in the national 60-mile walk and fundraiser for breast cancer.
"During our 60-mile journey, we had each other to keep motivated, to lean on, to laugh, cry and talk with," McLaughlin said. "With the friendship of another, we can accomplish so much more than we can alone. Face it, it's just better with a buddy."
That buddy system seems to have worked well for these friends. Their wedding dress challenge idea stemmed from a 5:30 a.m. workout together at Curves.
"Liz and I discovered the quick, fun 30-minute workout at Curves, and we want to share that with others in our community," McLaughlin said. "Working out releases natural endorphins, our happy hormones, and ultimately this helps relieve stress from our lives. It makes us stronger - stronger together. We are women, and we need each other."
Both women hope their challenge will inspire women to make the changes they want, no matter what those may be.
A 15-year Juneau resident, McLaughlin has been married to her husband, Sean, for 12 years. They have two daughters, Anya, 10, and Sophia, 8.
"I am four dress sizes and 25 pounds from my goal," she said.
Lapierre, a Juneau resident for 28 years, married her husband, Damien, 14 years ago, and they have two children, Tiana, 10, and Isiah, 5. She said she would like to lose about four to six sizes.
"For me personally, I want to get back into my wedding dress size because of the way it made me feel," Lapierre said. "I felt healthy, strong and able to achieve anything. I was able to walk into a clothing store and not have to worry about if something looked good or not."
McLaughlin also said she felt like a princess in her wedding dress, which is part of the reason for their challenge.
"Everyone has that special memory when we can remember the day, the smells, who we were with and what we were wearing," she said. "Most of us women have a dress still hanging in the back of the closet, and when we happen to catch a glimpse of it we remember that day, that feeling. I want to give that day back to the women of Juneau."
Since the friends started working out at Curves two months ago, Lapierre has lost 10 pounds and 24 inches.
"There have been many mornings that I would have skipped, had I not had Genevieve," she said. "Knowing that she will be outside to pick me up or that I have to pick her up, makes it impossible to skip a workout. I feel responsible for her goal just as much as she does for mine."
Although she says her friend is "totally kicking her butt" in pounds and inches lost, McLaughlin says she feels stronger.
"My body feels tighter, and my energy level is sky rocketing," she said. "I am an all-around happier camper simply from taking time to focus on myself through working out and making better food choices.
"So, Juneau, are you ready for the challenge? Meet Liz and I. We promise to help motivate, encourage and support you."
Contact Neighbors editor Kim Andree at firstname.lastname@example.org.