They are both leaders of successful local nonprofit organizations. They both served as leaders in the Long-Term Recovery Organization after the tragic storms of April 27, 2011. They both met, dated and married girls named Heather, making the married couples Matt and Heather, and Matt and Heather.
In fact, to make the similarities even more dramatic, the Heathers were even roommates at Lee University at one point.
Most recently, both of their families were blessed with children ... born only three days apart, Baby Ryerson born on June 7, Baby Carlson on June 10.
“The funny thing is, we never talk about the similarities,” Carlson says.
“Although we did joke about giving the kids the same name, just to complicate the issue,” Ryerson joked.
Six months ago, the Matts, as they are often referred to, found similarity that neither was particularly proud of — they were both woefully out of shape. After a year of storm recovery and with children on the way, they recognized that their health and fitness levels had dropped to an all-time low.
It was about this time that they heard about a contest at the Cleveland Family YMCA called “the Ultimate New Year’s Resolution.” This is a competition that mirrored the television show “The Biggest Loser,” inspiring contestants to lose weight and get healthy.
“I think we both recognized that this was something we both needed,” Ryerson admitted.
The contest selected 10 participants who outlined why they needed the assistance of the YMCA to get back in shape. The program provided a 10-week membership to the facility, a YMCA certified trainer, a weekly support group and the motivation of prizes to weekly winners.
“The spirit of competition and being so public about our progress proved to be a real motivator,” Carlson said.
Ryerson added, "But we both commented that while it was set up as a competition, the Y really created a spirit of camaraderie and support.”
One of the fitness lessons taught by the experts at the Y was to create fitness and life goals. Both Carlson and Ryerson, being driven leaders, operate well under a goal-oriented structure and therefore felt inspiration through this recommendation.
“We both set goals for weight loss and I think it's fair to say we both experienced success,” Ryerson said. In 10 weeks, the Matts lost more than a combined 70 pounds.
“The reality is, we couldn't have done this without the support, facilities, and motivation of our YMCA,” Carlson stated.
“The Y has the tools and the expertise to help the most out of shape, non-athletic person get back into the best shape of his or her life . . . we are living proof,” Ryerson added.
In fact, the Matts decided that the Ultimate New Years Resolution couldn't be the last goal. They were so inspired by the YMCA, they set a personal goal of running a triathlon. Both competed in a Memorial Day Sprint Triathlon and will now take on their biggest challenge on July 8 in an Olympic Distance Triathlon in Chattanooga.
“This is a one-mile swim, a 25-mile bike, and a six-mile run -- about three hours of intense exercise,” Carlson stated.
“We both have our goals for this race, but ultimately, we just want to finish,” Ryerson added. “And we both know, this dream could not be a reality without the team at our Y.”