The washer and dryer are almost always running at Erin Pron's house.
And it's not just because she's constantly trying to keep up with the laundry from her 8-year-old twin daughters, Caitlin and Megan.
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Pron is doing her own laundry just as often, perhaps even more so. If she doesn't, her closet will empty quickly.
"I don't have a very big wardrobe anymore," said Pron, a 42-year-old work-from-home medical biller who lives in Lake Villa. "I've donated all of my old clothes, and I don't want to spend a lot of money on new clothes when I'm still changing so much."
Pron has made a dramatic physical transformation over the last two years, and she's still very much a work in progress.
Once 330 pounds, the 5-foot-7 Pron has dropped 148 pounds in the last two years, and has moved down a jeans size each month, by eating right and participating in a new and popular fitness regimen that seems to have struck a chord with women.
Pron, who says she wants to drop another 27 pounds to get to her goal weight of 155 pounds, is a faithful member at Real Results Fitness in Grayslake, a small and locally owned gym that specializes in group boot camp classes. Bootcamp classes at Real Results, where I met Erin and have dropped 18 pounds myself since mid-September, incorporate not only intense cardio work, but also weightlifting and mobility exercises.
The regimen, which can include pushups, pullups, chin-ups, burpees and situps, just to name a few "favorites," is different every day and is designed to push everyone from beginners to even more advanced members outside of their comfort zones.
The beauty of these classes for women is the social aspect and the community feel.
Classes last only one hour, so there's not a lot of time for chitchat while you work. But when you keep working out and pushing yourself alongside the same people each morning or afternoon, friendships certainly develop.
There's definitely a sense of camaraderie and community that serves as a support system throughout your fitness journey.
Members often chat after class, or "chat" with each other on the gym's Facebook message boards about their workouts, overall fitness issues or life in general.
With this approach, gone are the days of walking into the gym with anonymity, or down into your basement alone, and logging yet another monotonous workout on the treadmill in solitude. That's a workout that becomes easy to skip.
The environment and the variety in a boot camp setting keeps people coming back for more.
"The social aspect is huge with women because boot camp gives them an environment that they look forward to going to, a second home of sorts," said Dustin Martorano, a 1999 Warren High School graduate who is a certified trainer and the owner of Real Results Fitness. "It's also about the accountability. You're almost being held accountable by the other people in your class. I think it really works for a lot of women, and my mission is to help as many women in Lake County as I can to live a longer, happier, healthier life."
Of course, men are also welcome at Real Results, and my husband is one of many men who attends classes. But Pron says that one of the reasons she kept coming back during those tough, early days is that she never felt judged or uncomfortable around the guys, as she did at some of the less personal and big box coed gyms she had tried in the past.
She never lasted at those gyms for more than a month or two, she said.
"I remember my first day of boot camp and how I was scared to death. I didn't sleep at all the night before. I didn't think I would fit in," Pron said. "But there were three of us who started that day and everyone there was so welcoming. I struggled getting through everything. I mean, I couldn't even do a jumping jack. The trainers worked with me and showed me different modifications that I could do and told me that as long as I kept moving, I was doing something. No one made me feel stupid for doing that.
"At the end of that first class, everyone applauded the new people. That made me feel really good. And every day I went after that, I'd meet new people, make new friends and I'd get a little better."
Pron, who also tracks her food intake through My Fitness Pal and Weight Watchers, has gotten so good at boot camp that she's bumped up her schedule from three days a week to five days a week. She's also trying out a new program at Real Results: strength camp. Since moving to a bigger location at 1838 Belvidere Road, Real Results has added a heavy weightlifting class and also a cross-fit class, which is essentially a more intense version of boot camp.
"Before I started boot camp, I had never even picked up a free weight and now I'm trying strength camp," Pron said. "I've been overweight my whole life, and now I'm on brochures for a fitness place. It's all so crazy to me."
Pron, who still keeps her "before" picture in her purse so that she never forgets where she started from, mostly relishes the little victories, like being more active in her daughters' lives.
"I was able to sled with my kids, which almost brought tears to my eyes" Pron said. "I was always the one who had to wait at the bottom of the hill for them, because I couldn't climb up. I just couldn't make it to the top. Now, I can do that. I can play tag with them. I'm an active parent now, not a sideline parent.
"Bootcamp has changed my life in so many ways. I don't know where I'd be without it. It's been magical, and it's been so much easier having people with me on the journey."
• Follow Patricia on Twitter@babcockmcgraw.