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Chocolate can derail even the stiffest of challenges

It seems you can't go anywhere these days without encountering chocolate - chocolate eggs, chocolate chicks, chocolate Easter bunnies and even chocolate golf balls!...

It seems you can't go anywhere these days without encountering chocolate - chocolate eggs, chocolate chicks, chocolate Easter bunnies and even chocolate golf balls!

The Valentine's chocolate rush had barely subsided when the Easter furor began, and it seemed as though the stores have been sporting chocolate almost nonstop since then.

Though I am not normally a chocoholic, or anything even close to it, there's something about the smell of chocolate that makes any dieter lose sight of reason and go stark, raving mad!

The reason for my dilemma was the fact that I, along with several of my coworkers, am currently engaged in something known as the Lake Superior Challenge - a company-wide, 14-week-long, grueling fitness challenge that tracks the number of minutes you exercise each week, the number of pounds you lose (if indeed you do!) and how faithfully you fulfill each particular week's fitness challenge, all of which are then tanslated into "miles." The first person to reach 1,300 "miles" - the distance around Lake Superior - is the winner, or whoever comes closest to it by the end of the 14 weeks.

It all sounded kind of exciting and wildly competitive at the start, but by Week 4, we all began to realize the error of our ways.

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"I've just got to have some Cheetos today," moaned Pine Journal Editor Lisa Baumann earlier this week. "Boy, does that sound good," said another of our snack-starved employees. "Whenever I eat Cheetos, I can never stop at eating half of them - I have to eat the whole bowl!" confessed another wistfully. "I just eat them right out of the bag..." offered yet another.

To be sure, however, we've pretty much lived up to the spirit of the Challenge. In ones and twos, we slip out of the office for a few minutes each day to go for walks, or disappear into the back room to do a few jumping jacks, or sneak out of work a few minutes early so we can go to the gym before dinner.

While none of us has lost any significant amount of weight to date, we've all made an impressive run at the exercise part of the competition, and our four two-person teams are holding our heads high in the company standings.

For those of us who prefer to get our exercise outdoors, however, the weather has presented somewhat of a challenge. I've tried traipsing through the woods on snowshoes on many a winter weekend or wending my way through complete darkness, with only a flashlight to light my way, as I get my 30 minutes of walk time in after arriving home late from work.

I've put on many a mile on the walking track at the Cloquet Area Recreation Center, and I've even been tempted to invest in a pedometer to see how many miles I log walking back and forth to the water cooler every day!

Last Tuesday dawned heavy with wet snow, however, and I wondered just how I was going to get in the mandatory 30 minutes of workout time before the end of the very busy work day. And then, inspiration struck. I decided since I had a few household items to pick up on my lunch break, I'd get my walking exercise at the store!

I parked in the farthest corner of the vast parking lot and trekked the entire expanse of pavement on foot. I grabbed a cart as I went in, picking up the few items I needed and then planning to briskly walk the entire circumferance of the store several times until I got my full 30-minute workout in.

It was then I discovered the chocolate. The tantalizing aroma of chocolate Easter candy permeated my yogurt-induced stupor and made my mouth start to water. I strode out at a brisker pace, determined to put as much distance between me and temptation as I could.

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And though my intentions were honorable, my workout slowed nearly to a crawl when I discovered the cart I was pushing had a bad wheel. The faster I went, the more the wheel would wobble and chatter. "Woo-ka, woo-ka, woo-ka!" it went. And then every few steps, it would lock up completely and then drag, making a terrible wailing sound, "Screeeee!"

Furtively, I gazed around to see if anyone was staring at me. Satisfied that no one had noticed, I gave the cart a couple of healthy jerks and proceeded to move cautiously forward, hoping to keep moving before my heart rate started to drop....

"Woo-ka, woo-ka, woo-ka, SCREEEE!"

That did it. I stopped the cart in its tracks, took a deep, calming breath - and dashed over the deli to pick up an order of chicken wings!

Pine Journal columnist Wendy Johnson can be contacted at: wjohnson@pinejournal.com .

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