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posted: 4/16/2017 7:40 AM

New clothes, new lungs, new fame for Fittest Loser contestants

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  • Since the Foodie 5K, Fittest Loser contestant Russ Page has run six more 5Ks.

      Since the Foodie 5K, Fittest Loser contestant Russ Page has run six more 5Ks.
    Daniel White | Staff Photographer

  • Russ Page of Antioch is all smiles before starting a workout. He says his physique, energy and stamina have all changed since starting the Fittest Loser Challenge.

      Russ Page of Antioch is all smiles before starting a workout. He says his physique, energy and stamina have all changed since starting the Fittest Loser Challenge.
    Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

 
By Dave Gathman
Daily Herald Correspondent

As the four military veterans in this year's Fittest Losers Challenge passed the two-thirds point in their 12-week effort, they were seeing some big changes in their bodies.

Most were good. Some were painful. And some were expensive.

Russell Page

Contestant Russ Page of Antioch at the beginning of the Fittest Loser Challenge.
  Contestant Russ Page of Antioch at the beginning of the Fittest Loser Challenge. - Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

After

Russ Page of Antioch halfway through the Fittest Loser Contest.
  Russ Page of Antioch halfway through the Fittest Loser Contest. - Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer
losing 32 pounds -- including four in just the last week -- 60-year-old Air Force veteran Russ Page from Antioch said, "I noticed I have all these clothes I can't wear anymore. My pants would fall off. So I bought a new wardrobe. But now I've shrunk right through that whole wardrobe too."

Page said, "My size and physique and energy and stamina have all changed. Since last Saturday's 5K race I have run six more 5Ks," sometimes two in the same day, some on a treadmill and some outdoors.

Previously Page had to alternate running and walking on long courses. But Page discovered during the Foodie 5K Race on April 1 that he could keep up a running pace through all 5 kilometers (3.1 miles).

While he was losing pounds, Page was winning something else -- an election. He was elected on April 4 to the board of Grass Lake School District 36 in his hometown of Antioch. So his attention has been divided among the dieting and working out, his part-time job as a business teacher at Northern Illinois University, and election campaigning.

James 'J.D.' DeBouver

Contestant James DeBouver at the beginning of the Fittest Loser Challenge.
  Contestant James DeBouver at the beginning of the Fittest Loser Challenge. - Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

James

James DeBouver of Schaumburg halfway through the Fittest Loser Contest.
  James DeBouver of Schaumburg halfway through the Fittest Loser Contest. - Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer
"J.D." DeBouver, a 33-year-old Army veteran from Schaumburg, has lost 31 pounds despite being laid up for the past three weeks by back injuries.

As he and the other contestants traded war stories after the eighth weigh-in, DeBouver said he has kept building his core strength and balance by doing Pilates exercises under the guidance of his mother, who happens to be a professional Pilates teacher.

"Without her you wouldn't be seeing me here," DeBouver said. "Pilates helps with my balance and my core strength."

DeBouver said he soon will have to invest in new pants.

"The pants I wear don't have a real belt," DeBouver said. "It's like a Sansabelt. But when I started this competition, it had about 2 inches slack in it. Now it's about 6 inches. I'm about 10 pounds from having to buy a new size of pants."

Page asked him what size he wears now. DeBouver said, "XXL."

"I've got some 38s. You interested?" Page said.

The trainers are working with DeBouver to keep him active while not aggravating his back.

At a recent Saturday boot camp, the other three contestants ran around the Push Fitness building, did a variety of calisthenics, and boxing moves. But trainer Josh Steckler put the injured DeBouver through a modified set of exercises such as holding planks and pushing a foam roller along the floor.

Penny Brown

Contestant Penny Brown of Fox Lake at the beginning of the Fittest Loser Challenge.
  Contestant Penny Brown of Fox Lake at the beginning of the Fittest Loser Challenge. - Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Penny

Penny Brown of Fox Lake halfway through the Fittest Loser Contest.
  Penny Brown of Fox Lake halfway through the Fittest Loser Contest. - Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer
Brown, a 37-year-old Navy veteran from Fox Lake, had a rough week. After running in the Foodie 5K, she discovered she was suffering from a strep throat infection, so she hadn't worked out all week.

Still, Brown lost another pound during those seven days. And now she made an ambitious vow to her comrades: "I'm gonna lose six pounds this week and when we come back next week I'll be under 200."

Already "I'm down one size in pants and shorts," she said.

Brown said none of her co-workers in the lunchroom of a Fox Lake school had seen the news coverage about her. But, they noticed the change in her appearance.

"One of the teachers asked, 'Are you losing weight?' So I explained about the challenge."

Tony Wiszowaty

Fittest Loser contestant Tony Wiszowaty of Schaumburg at the beginning of the Fittest Loser Challenge.
  Fittest Loser contestant Tony Wiszowaty of Schaumburg at the beginning of the Fittest Loser Challenge. - Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer

Tony

Tony Wiszowaty of Schaumburg halfway through the Fittest Loser Contest.
  Tony Wiszowaty of Schaumburg halfway through the Fittest Loser Contest. - Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer
Wiszowaty, a 68-year-old Marine veteran from Schaumburg, said his exercising "is getting easier and more fun. You get to that point where that breakthrough starts to happen."

The Daily Herald stories about Fittest Loser have given the contestants a level of fame -- and some external pressure to stick to the narrow path.

Wiszowaty said he got a phone call this week from a girl he hasn't seen in years who had read about his Fittest Loser activities, and also from a guy he hasn't seen since college.

Sometimes this "fame" can be intimidating, though. Wiszowaty said he was eating some sample foods being offered at Sam's Club when someone who recognized him from the newspaper walked by and said, "Are you supposed to be eating that?"

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