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posted: 5/19/2014 5:30 AM

Energy, stamina and confidence worth the workout battle scars

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  • Twelve weeks later and 32 pounds lighter.

      Twelve weeks later and 32 pounds lighter.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

  • Lisa Jones Townsel at the start of the Fittest Loser Challenge.

      Lisa Jones Townsel at the start of the Fittest Loser Challenge.
    BOB CHWEDYK | Staff Photographer


What a bittersweet time to have the Fittest Loser Challenge end. While the nutrition plan was strict and the exercise regimen extra hard, it's now time to face life on my own … a graduation, if you will. But there is no way that I will soon forget this enormous learning experience.

Along the way, I tried to take mental notes about what the important matters were that the trainers all stressed. For one, proper positioning during exercise is key. It turns out that to avoid injury, even the way you position your body during exercise is important. I'll have to remember that. I listened when they emphasized eating clean, whole foods, too. Before the challenge, I knew there was an element missing from my attempts at healthy eating, but I didn't know what. This plan put the focus on eating lean meats, fresh produce and healthy oils that were filling and nourishing.

After our last boot camp workout and secret weigh-in (we weren't allowed to see our final numbers), I was elated to have reached this milestone among so many of my new friends, but I was also frightened by the idea of my efforts going awry once I stepped out of the door. That first day was uneventful. I did savor every bite of a juicy apple (yum!), but I stayed on the plan.

But I won't soon forget my regular workouts at Push Fitness in Schaumburg. They were like nothing I had ever imagined. I left trails of sweat in my wake regularly and often wondered if I'd have the chutzpah to complete the challenging sessions. Well, I did, and I have a few battle scars to prove it. There's my scabbed elbows from doing sweaty plank walks on mats; tender knees from half push ups; shoulder knots from dozens of burpees (no, hundreds of them); calloused hands from barbell curls and just some overall achiness that serves more as a badge of honor than anything.

If this sounds like I'm complaining, I'm not. These are take-home souvenirs of my efforts -- memory makers of what it took to get to this point -- 32 pounds down. There's no way, I would've lost two to three dress sizes, so many inches all over and gained the energy, stamina and confidence that I have without the boost offered by this dizzying 12-week program.

Since my last Push workout, I have continued to run. I've attended bodybuilding classes, kickboxing classes and am anxiously figuring out which 5K to sign up for next. But my weight journey is far from over. I will still have to catch myself when I want to celebrate with food, or find comfort by eating.

Yes, I would like to lose more weight. But more importantly, I want to do what will be necessary to keep it off. I'm plenty nervous about this. But my trainer, Push owner Joshua Steckler assures me that I am now equipped to eat nutritiously and exercise properly.

With calloused hands and all, fears and frets aside, I don't want to look back. This is a new stage, and a really exciting one at that. Knowledge is power, and I am determined to use what I've learned to fuel a much healthier future.

• Freelance writer Lisa Jones Townsel now gets ready for the hard part: riding into the sunset without training wheels. She's off!

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