Eight years ago, the Fitness Challenge began.

Originally, it pitted a group of competitors against each other in a battle to see who could lose the most weight in 13 weeks.

In the past seven years, local residents have combined to lose more than 2,000 pounds and claim substantial improvements in their overall health.

Over the years, the Challenge has continued to evolve, and one word can be used to describe the 2018 Fitness Challenge: intense.

Rather than seeing only bits and pieces of a larger group, this year’s Fitness Challenge will be intensely focused on the journey of just two local challengers as they look to improve their health through diet and exercise.

For the next 13-weeks, readers will have an up close glimpse into the struggles and successes of our two challengers. Read more about our two challengers, Jeff Carrel and Jessica Lyons, on this page.

Leading the challengers on their journey this year is Bryan Seibel, owner of Anytime Fitness in Beatrice, who is also a certified trainer. This will be the sixth year Seibel has helped with the Fitness Challenge.

He’ll provide both challengers with a diet plan, three personal training sessions each week and a workout routine for their off days. Most importantly, he’ll be a key member of their support system, guiding them on the ups and downs that are sure to come as they make significant changes to their lifestyles.

Readers can follow the contestants’ progress each Saturday in the Daily Sun or online at www.beatricedailysun.com, where each challenger will write a weekly blog and the Daily Sun will track weight loss and post pictures of the challengers as they progress through their journey to fitness.