She's surviving demanding boot camp

There was a time not very long ago when I thought going for a stroll every few days constituted proper exercise.

HA! I was so deluded.

I now work out seven days a week. I work out three days with my trainer, Josh, at Push Fitness. I hit the treadmill — either at home or at the Mount Prospect Park District — three days per week. And on the seventh day, there's Push Fitness boot camp.

It's at 7 a.m. every Saturday. I'm a second-shifter, and 7 a.m. is roughly six hours after I usually leave work. Not only do I have to wake up at a completely unreasonable hour after getting very little sleep, I also have to eat some sort of breakfast and be ready to work out hard.

Plus I have to work out with other people — all the current Fittest Loser contestants, plus a few past participants back for cameo appearances. Yikes. I've never loved exercising in front of other people. I'm not even remotely an athlete, and to say I'm clumsy and uncoordinated is an understatement. (Hey, Mom and Dad ... sorry about all that money you spent on the years and years of ballet lessons)

Well, just like everything else so far in the Fittest Loser journey, my initial perception was completely different from the reality.

The waking up thing turned out to be not so terrible. My bosses and co-workers have taken pity on me and kick me out early on Friday nights. For the actual waking up, my boyfriend, Brian, and I worked out a system: I get home, he makes a pot of coffee, I go to bed, he stays up drinking coffee, playing video games and drinking more coffee until the alarm goes off to make sure I get up and out the door.

And then there's boot camp. OK. It's hard. It's REALLY hard. A different trainer each week takes us through all sorts of activities, including calisthenics, boxing, moves with weighted bars and lunges — SO MANY LUNGES.

There was one day we warmed up with a trip up and down eight flights of stairs. I hated every second of it, I was the very last one to finish and my knees really hurt for a week afterward. But, oddly enough, all I could think when I was done was “Did I really just do that? I'm awesome!”

Now that I think about it, I've walked away from boot camp every week thinking that same thing. (Shhh! Don't tell anybody, but I may have even described it as “fun” to a couple of people).

And working out with other people — the part I probably dreaded the most — has turned out to be the best part of all. I genuinely like all the contestants, and I love how we all support each other and cheer each other on. I now look forward to seeing all my new friends on Saturday mornings.

I guess boot camp is kind of like being really afraid to fly, but needing to take a plane to get to an awesome vacation destination. You dread it, and you may even hate getting there. But let me tell you: The destination — which for me is less tropical island and more a sense of accomplishment — is so worth it.

Ÿ Melynda Findlay is a member of the night copy desk at the Daily Herald, where she's worked for 14 years. She lives in Arlington Heights and really loves grilled cheese sandwiches.

Status report for the Fittest Loser contestants

Teams fight to overcome plateaus of weight loss

  Trainer Tony Rinehart offers some suggestions during a Fittest Loser boot camp on a recent Saturday morning at Push Fitness in Schaumburg. I have no idea what he was telling me, because my brain was only thinking “I survived eight flights of stairs! I can do anything!” Bob Chwedyk/

Melynda Findlay, 44, Arlington Heights

Starting weight: 249

Current weight: 237

Weight lost this week: 3 pounds

Total weight loss: 12 pounds, 4.8 percent

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