With less than four weeks to go until the final weigh-in, the Push Fitness trainers are using all the knowledge they've gained about their Fittest Loser contestants to motivate them through to the end. For some it's a nickname like "The Champ" or "Special K". For others it's accomplishing specific goals like reducing or eliminating dependence on medication. Whatever it takes to drive each of their competitors, at the heart of it for every trainer is the desire to teach the Fittest Losers as much as they can about living life fit and healthy for years to come.
Wade Merrill/ Michael White
"Week after week Mike has gotten stronger in every area of fitness," says Wade Merrill of his Fittest Loser contestant Michael White. "When he first started, his body was very deconditioned and doing 10 reps of any standing exercise would take the breath right out of him.
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"Once I gained an understanding of his endurance, muscular strength and his will to be pushed, it was very simple planning out his workouts and progressions each week."
Even though he's only been training for eight weeks, according to Merrill, White trains harder than some people he's known who have been working out for years.
"His will to progress and continue to see change is really strong," Merrill says. "Keeping him focused and motivated up to this point has been pretty simple. He sees the weeks chipping away, and he's ready for the big finish."
Steve Amsden/ Brian Corrigan
Apparently yelling can be effective. At least that's what works for Push Fitness trainer Steve Amsden when it comes to getting the most out of Brian Corrigan.
"It seems like Brian is most motivated by loud, encouraging phrases," Amsden says. "I pretty much treat him like a soldier during our workouts. I yell and he'll push himself to exhaustion.
"Training Brian around his back injury has been a challenge to push him without causing more harm," according to Amsden. "We used the exercises and muscles that we could and avoided the things that were questionable. Since the injury, his back has healed rapidly and we are able to train at a higher intensity using a broader and more diverse program.
"Brian is a self-motivated man who just needs someone pushing him a little farther than he would push himself. I tell him all the time, 'You are a warrior.'"
Mark Trapp/ Matt Kramer
Matt Kramer has a conspiracy theory. And he's pretty sure it's his wife and his trainer who are doing the conspiring.
"He thinks she and I have formed an alliance against him," says Kramer's trainer, Mark Trapp.
"His wife has been his rock throughout the contest. He jokes about how his wife gets his butt out of bed in the morning when he feels like sleeping in."
The importance of a support system in a challenging undertaking like the Fittest Loser competition can't be emphasized enough.
"The last thing Matt would need," Trapp says, "is his spouse fighting him on it the whole time."
Along with his wife, Kramer definitely has his trainer in his corner as well.
"My nickname for him is 'Champ.' Matt is such a great man and it's been a total pleasure working with him. We are determined to win this thing," Trapp says. "I have no doubt we'll fight to the finish.
"Matt had three goals when he entered the contest. He's already reached one by getting off his blood pressure and cholesterol meds. The other two? Lose 100 pounds and to win this thing."
Michelle Amsden/Katie Przyszlak
"In the beginning Katie's workouts were a lot about learning the basics with form and body weight," says Katie Przyszlak's trainer Michelle Amsden. "Now her workouts have gotten much more intense ... a lot more work with a lot less rest! I keep Katie moving the entire time from one exercise to the next.
Between switching up her exercise routine and limiting her diet, Amsden's goal is to keep Przyszlak's body guessing.
"Katie's diet has been extremely limited," says Amsden. "We've taken things out of her diet and limited certain foods. Heading into the final weeks of competition, Katie will still be eating five to six meals a day, but we're limiting sodium, dairy and fruits."
Joshua Steckler/Tom Hampson
Tom Hampson hasn't let limitations like arthritis and fluctuating blood pressure stop him from competing, says his trainer Joshua Steckler.
"We keep ballistic movements such as jumping and running to a minimum to limit more wear and tear on his joints," Steckler says. "Since his doctor has taken him off his blood pressure meds, we have to be careful with up and down movements until his body adjusts to not relying on the meds anymore. But these limitations are not getting in the way of Tom's progress. He continues to see positive results every week."
Tony Figueroa/ Karen Maranto
Karen Maranto, also known as "Special K," has a love/hate relationship with her trainer Tony Figueroa. She loves the results of the diet and exercise plan he's crafted for her but isn't always thrilled with the means he uses to get those results.
"At the start, Karen's diet was just protein and vegetables," Figueroa says. "During the last several weeks we added carbs in the afternoon and a little more fruit. I'm sure a cheeseburger with fries would be better but that's not going to happen!"
Always generous with his motivational secrets, Figueroa has introduced Maranto to one of his favorites ... the stairs.
"I introduced her to my best friend the stairs and now she's a stair climber. How fun! And of course lots and lots of crunches."
So many crunches, in fact, that Figueroa has earned the nickname "Captain Crunch."
Status report for the Fittest Loser Competitors (in order of place)
Michael White, 25, of West Dundee
Starting weight: 320
Current weight: 256
Weight lost this week: 8 pounds
Total weight loss: 64 pounds, 20 percent
Brian Corrigan, 44, of Carol Stream
Starting weight: 275
Current weight: 227
Weight lost this week: 4 pounds
Total weight loss: 48 pounds, 17.5 percent
Matt Kramer, 47, of Elk Grove Village
Starting weight: 372
Current weight: 308
Weight lost this week: 6 pounds
Total weight loss: 64 pounds, 17.2 percent
Katie Przyszlak, 32, of Schaumburg
Starting weight: 266
Current weight: 233
Weight lost this week: 2 pounds
Total weight loss: 33 pounds, 12.4 percent
Karen Maranto, 47, of Bloomingdale
Starting weight: 288
Current weight: 256
Weight lost this week: 3 pounds
Total weight loss: 32 pounds, 11.1 percent
Tom Hampson, 64, of Hoffman Estates
Weight lost this week:4 pounds
Total weight loss: 32 pounds, 10.1 percent