Two words, no three, describe a common bond between the contestants of the Fittest Loser Challenge this week: sore, sore muscles.
While their bodies have become more accustomed to the stress related to pulling dead weights, pushing slightly lighter ones, running past their comfort zone and using their body weight to challenge themselves further, the results have been more than a few aches and pains.
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"Some pain during strength training, that's normal," says Dr. Anthony M. Auriemma, medical director of Alexian Brothers Weight Loss Solutions with offices in Schaumburg and Bartlett. Auriemma performed physical exams on each contestant at the onset of the Challenge.
While not all soreness after exercising is a good thing, he says it can be.
"When you have muscle soreness, due to exercises done under professional instruction, you've done microscopic damage to muscle, and then your body goes back and builds stronger muscles," he explains.
And when a person feels the burn during exercise, Auriemma says it's due to a buildup of lactic acid, a byproduct of the body using its metabolism, "oxygen and calories being consumed in muscle."
Those minor sore spots, he says, can be remedied with an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory, like Advil or Ibuprofen.
That's good news for Chris Kalamatas of Lake in the Hills.
"When I was younger and recommitted to getting in shape I would work out hard, feel sore the next day, then it would go away," recalls Kalamatas. "But with the Push Fitness workouts, it seems like I am sore the night of training and feel a lot of stiffness the day after. I know the muscles develop through this sort of movement and weight training. I have come to expect to be pushed to the point of pain when I go to the gym because, from my experiences in my years of being in shape, 'No pain, no gain.' "
Kalamatas, who has had more than five surgeries on one knee and suffers from arthritis in his lower back, hands and knees, is not alone.
"For me, the soreness changes depending on the exercises. It's mostly in my quads and shoulders now," says Allie Monroe of Schaumburg, adding that it's nothing that the foam roller and a massage can't relieve.
"I felt the back of my hip pop in the first week and went to go get it fixed. But I don't mind the soreness; it means I have worked hard. I have dealt with being sore a lot in my life and know what comes with intense workouts and using muscles you haven't used in a while. It's not fun when you're barely able to sit down and stand back up, but you know that you worked hard for that burn."
John Bohanek of South Elgin remembers that after the first week of training, he was so sore he had to "roll out" of bed. It surprises him that he still experiences such soreness in his quads and core.
"What gets me is I have been working these muscles for weeks now and during the exercises they still seem to be on fire sometimes," he says. "Then once I stop moving, they're sore. I need to keep moving for the rest of the day because if I sit down I get stiff, and it is harder to get going," says Bohanek, who usually nurses the pain with a hot shower and early bedtime.
But there's been an upside, too. Bohanek's doctor just took him off his blood pressure meds.
Cheryl Seibert of Joliet thought the pain might've lessened by now, as well.
"I have to say that I expected to be sore, but thought it would ease up after three weeks," the firefighter and mother of two says.
"The first two weeks, I thought, 'I just want to be able to sit down and stand up without pain.' Now, there are days that I feel sore, but it just reminds me how hard I'm working. My twins are 3, so they don't understand why I move slowly sometimes. And getting in and out of the rigs at work is funny because the steps are pretty high, and my legs are usually sore; it makes the steps seem that much higher. But my clothes are already looser, and I feel better overall, so dealing with the soreness isn't so bad."
Albeit as sore as his fellow contestants, Tim Lange of Algonquin says the gains far outweigh the soreness when he looks in the mirror as sees less of himself.
"Soreness is the name of the game, but it does go away after a day of resting, ice and Advil," Lange says cheerfully. "Before I started the Challenge, soreness was my way of life. Stairs, bending down and just daily life was impacted by my pain. But since starting this program, my general pain has subsided. Now, don't get me wrong, I still have pain, but it's from my workouts and goes away with stretching and ice. My family has seen such an improvement with my life and the direction I am going that they can't believe it. Plus, the soreness is also a good excuse to get a massage from your significant other."
John Bohanek, 46, South Elgin
Starting weight: 361
Current weight: 328
Weight lost this week: 4 pounds
Total weight loss: 33 pounds, 9.1 percent
Chris Kalamatas, 63, Lake in the Hills
Starting weight: 262
Current weight: 240
Weight lost this week: 5 pounds
Total weight loss: 22 pounds, 8.4 percent
Tim Lange, 57, Algonquin
Starting weight: 236
Current weight: 216
Weight lost this week: 5 pounds
Total weight loss: 20 pounds, 8.5 percent
Allie Monroe, 29, Schaumburg
Starting weight: 334
Current weight: 302
Weight lost this week: 6 pounds
Total weight loss: 32 pounds, 9.6 percent
Cheryl Seibert, 40, Joliet
Starting weight: 263
Current weight: 248
Weight lost this week: 1 pound
Total weight loss: 15 pounds, 5.7 percent