Sometimes, it seems like life has you stuck in place.
Something's not going right, and it's hard to see a way through all the obstacles to getting back on track.
That's why participants in the Daily Herald Fittest Loser Challenge are such an inspiration -- and not just for those of us who want to lose weight and improve our fitness and health. The six contestants, as well as nearly 100 other individuals who competed on park district teams in the Fittest Loser Community Challenge, stepped up with the kind of focus and hard work that form a lesson in how to get unstuck from all kinds of personal challenges that might be holding us back.
It wasn't easy for them -- with some predawn or post-work workouts and strict diets -- but the contestants together lost 266 pounds and gained better health in 12 weeks.
The six overcame a wide range of hurdles, from fear of failure to the sheer difficulty of the task, that many of us face all the time.
We know, for example, we'll have to think twice about ever using the "too busy" excuse after seeing the determination of Fittest Loser winner Marianne Costales-Roman of Carol Stream.
The 38-year-old mother of two is a full-time school social worker, has another part-time job and cares for her disabled mother and autistic brother, yet was so committed she lost 60 pounds and set a record for the highest percentage of body weight lost in the Fittest Loser Challenge's five-year history.
"She is one of the hardest workers I ever had," said Tony Rinehart, Costales-Roman's personal trainer with Push Fitness in Schaumburg, the Daily Herald's partner in the Fittest Loser Challenge.
In the Fittest Loser's five years, 27 contestants have lost 1,386 pounds, noted Eileen Brown, Daily Herald director of strategic marketing and innovation.
"More importantly, they have gone off medications for blood pressure, diabetes and cholesterol," she said. "Their health has been dramatically improved by this competition. Their lives have been changed."
And that's not all.
This year, with the Community Challenge, "we expanded that reach and the results are amazing," Brown said.
Working with their suburban park districts, 90 people lost a collective 1,180 pounds. Two individuals won from different Schaumburg Park District teams, Stacey Sosa with a loss of 44.8 pounds and Ed Poczatek with a 44.6-pound weight loss.
We're proud of all of the Fittest Loser Challenge contestants. We're inspired by them.
And we're happy to have had a hand in helping to improve the health of our contestants, and our communities.