Boot camps kick workouts into high gear

The Fittest Loser contestants are vying for the big prize — being named 2013 Fittest Loser. It's a competition and there will be only one “winner.” But at Push Fitness every Saturday, it's hard to tell the six contestants are competing against one another.

By all appearances they get along rather well ... even if they are wearing boxing gloves. Welcome to boot camp, Fittest Loser style!

In addition to working out with their personal trainers three times a week, the Fittest Losers are required to participate in a weekly boot camp. The Push Fitness trainers take turns running the competitors through their uniquely designed drills from boxing to jumping jacks and lots of other exercises in between.

There's no more sleeping in on Saturday mornings for Mike Paulo. He's up at 5 a.m. carefully choosing the right food that digests easily, then in the car by 6 a.m.

“I arrive early and loosen up by walking fast and jogging on the treadmill for 20 to 25 minutes,” Paulo says.

For all the Fittest Losers surviving the trainer's warm-up is the first challenge.

Greg Moehrlin recalls Tony Figueroa's boot camp. “My first experience with the 'stairs' was at our boot camp with Tony.”

“One of the hardest exercises I've had to do so far was climb up the nine flights of stairs in the building,” says Megan McCarthy-Cook. “It was so hard for me, but I did it!”

“Boot camp has been one of my favorite parts of the Fittest Loser program,” Moehrlin says. “While all of the contestants are competitive and want to win, I think we all support and encourage each other very well.”

The early-morning group exercise sessions are designed to increase heart rates and take the Fittest Losers to the brink of exertion. But it's also a time for the competitors to check in with each other. They talk about how their workouts are going, the challenges they're facing, exchange recipes and motivate each other.

“Everyone is so supportive and positive,” says McCarthy-Cook. “We're all struggling with the same issues and being able to talk about it with someone who can relate really helps.”

“I really enjoyed when Brodie led our boot camp,” says Karen Castillo of trainer Brodie Medlock. “He started by huddling us up and giving us some words of motivation. Then he split us up with a partner to motivate one another while working out.”

Working together is a highlight for the contestants. Mixing it up is what it's about for the trainers. Not only do they make sure the boot camp routine provides a full-body workout, they also are attuned to each of the participants and their individual limitations. The trainers are able to modify exercises for those who can't perform them.

For example, jumping jacks can be done with less “jump” to take the strain off compromised knees. But that doesn't mean the participant gets to take anything off the “jack.” The entire group is jacked up, and no one more so than the trainer.

The pace is quick. There's no time for chatting between sets and there is no rest. If there's a 30-second break, breathing hard is the most popular pastime.

Four weeks into his workouts with Figueroa, contestant Joe Gundling is used to sparring with the former boxer during their training sessions. But for some of the contestants, the boot camp Figueroa led was their first boxing experience. “It was awesome seeing everyone else react to his type of training,” Gundling says.

The week Marianne Costales-Roman's trainer, Tony Rinehart, led boot camp he had his eye on her.

“I can't get away with anything because Tony knows when I'm not putting in 100 percent,” she says.

McCarthy-Cook is looking forward to the week her trainer, Steve Amsden, is in charge of boot camp. “Everyone better look out,” she says of the U.S. Army veteran. “He's tough!”

Status Report

Karen Castillo, 37, Carpentersville

Starting weight: 206

Current weight: 199

Weight lost this week: 5 pounds

Total weight loss: 7 pounds, 3.3 percent

Marianne Costales-Roman, 37, Carol Stream

Starting weight: 222

Current weight: 207

Weight lost this week: 9 pounds

Total weight loss: 15 pounds, 6.7 percent

Joe Gundling, 18, Hanover Park

Starting weight: 264

Current weight: 249

Weight lost this week: 0 pounds

Total weight loss: 15 pounds, 5.6 percent

Megan McCarthy-Cook, 33, Hoffman Estates

Starting weight: 282

Current weight: 266

Weight lost this week: 5 pounds

Total weight loss: 16 pounds, 5.6 percent

Greg Moehrlin, 39, St. Charles

Starting weight: 245

Current weight: 229

Weight lost this week: 5 pounds

Total weight loss: 16 pounds, 6.5 percent

Mike Paulo, 58, Woodridge

Starting weight: 294

Current weight: 283

Weight lost this week: 2 pounds

Total weight loss: 11 pounds, 3.7 percent

She's surviving demanding boot camp

Teams fight to overcome plateaus of weight loss

Holding the squat position isn't easy for Megan McCarthy-Cook. Sharing her pain are, from left, Joe Gundling, Greg Moehrlin and 2012 Fittest Loser contestant Matt Kramer.
Karen Castillo lunges at Saturday morning boot camp.
Marianne Costales-Roman, right, works out next to the Daily Herald's Fittest Loser Melynda Findlay.
  ItÂ’s high-fives all around with trainer Tony Rinhart at the end of the 45-minute boot-camp workout. Bob Chwedyk/
  Every Saturday boot camp ends with the official weekly weigh-in. One benefit of all the sweat poured out in the gym is the potential for an extra ounce or two off the scale. For all the contestants, including Megan McCarthy-Cook, stepping on the scale brings on anxiety. Bob Chwedyk/

<b>Keep up with the contest</b>

Check out our Fittest Loser page at <a href="http://"></a> for the latest stories, plus videos of all the contestants and an interactive map tracking the community teams.

Article Comments
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the "flag" link in the lower-right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.