A new workout world for Fittest Loser contestants

  • Push Fitness trainer Wade Merrill works on strengthening with contestant Michael White.

    Push Fitness trainer Wade Merrill works on strengthening with contestant Michael White. Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

  • Trainer Tony Figueroa's boxing workout is a big hit with the Fittest Loser contestants, including Katie Przyszlak of Schaumburg.

    Trainer Tony Figueroa's boxing workout is a big hit with the Fittest Loser contestants, including Katie Przyszlak of Schaumburg. Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

By Gerry Alger
Posted3/5/2012 6:00 AM

Some were high school and college athletes, others were fit and trim while in the military, and there are those who remember thinner days before babies came along. But for all of them, those are distant memories.

The six Fittest Loser contestants told their stories to Push Fitness trainers and Daily Herald editors and said they were ready to do whatever it took to change.


By "whatever it takes" did they mean planks, lunges, push-ups, squats and crunches? Did they picture themselves wearing boxing gloves, running on a treadmill or thrusting a weight bar over their head ... repeatedly?

Welcome to the Fittest Loser's new world of workouts.

Katie Przyszlak

"There are days when I feel great about my workouts," says 32-year-old Katie Przyszlak of Schaumburg. "Then there are the days when it's hard for me to even lift a dumbbell.

"As someone who is immensely overweight, the hardest activities for me are those that require holding my own body weight ... planks, push-ups or plank walks," Przyszlak says. "I dread these exercises because I feel like I'm failing when I do them. Mostly, I'm angry for allowing myself to get this heavy!

"After doing push-ups in the gym, I dread going to work and writing on the board for fear I won't be able to get my arm up that high.

Przyszlak's favorite thing?

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"I absolutely love boxing!"

And her favorite sparring partner is Tony Figueroa, boot camp instructor and contestant Karen Maranto's trainer. "Even though it kills me at the time, I love being paired up with Tony."

Juggling a full-time job and family isn't easy. "I know there are days when I am more tired, and it makes my workouts hard," Przyszlak says. "Then there are the days when I feel like I could workout forever, OK, maybe not forever, but if I had to choose my favorite part of this competition, it would definitely be the exercise!

Starting weight: 266

Current weight: 248

Weight lost this week: 3 pounds

Total weight loss: 18 pounds, 6.8 percent

Matt Kramer

"I've never been a person who enjoyed exercise," says Matt Kramer. "I've always liked sports ... football, basketball, golf and tennis. It's been the training that's bothered me.

"Circuit training? My idea of circuit training was billiards, followed by pop-a-shot, followed by darts, followed by golden tee, followed by 16-ounce curls of Guinness. I guess you could say I was more of a bar athlete.


"Boy, has that changed in the last three weeks."

Circuit training has taken on a whole new meaning for the 47-year-old from Elk Grove Village. "Now it's squats, followed by push-ups, followed by crunches, followed by stairs. Then make it even more interesting ... add 20 to 30 pounds of weight on my shoulders and do it all over again.

After just three weeks, Kramer has more bounce in his step and credits his trainer, Mark Trapp, for the change.

"I'll never question the means to his madness. In my eyes, he's a fitness guru who has saved my life and is changing the way I think," Kramer says. "I really cannot believe the results I'm seeing. I never thought I'd be able to get into a push-up position with dumbbells and hold my entire weight up as I brought each dumbbell up to my chest ... 20 times. I mean never, but I did it!

Starting weight: 372

Current weight: 342

Weight lost this week: 12 pounds

Total weight loss: 30 pounds, 8.1 percent

Karen Maranto

"I began this journey as a mom, not doing an organized 'workout' except for stairs in the house, laundry, cooking, dishes, occasionally cutting the grass or shoveling snow," says 47-year-old Karen Maranto of Bloomingdale.

Now, as part of the Fittest Loser Challenge, Maranto's workouts include three days during the week at Push Fitness working out with her trainer, Tony Figueroa, and joining the rest of the Fittest Losers at boot camp on Saturday mornings. The three remaining days find her in the pool or on an exercise bike at the YMCA in Elmhurst.

"After straining my knee early in the competition," Maranto says, "Tony has been very creative, coming up with ways to hurt every other part of my body on a very consistent basis.

"He actually had me doing crunches. Just a short time ago, I never would have been able to do that. Nor could I have done the 60 sit-ups that ended my workout the other day. I know when Tony sets something up for me to do, he's doing it because he knows its something I can do. Even though I doubt myself, I just do it.

"My favorite thing to do with Tony is boxing! Last week, I was punching as hard as I could, and each punch was a food, a food that put me in the situation I'm in. During that three-minute drill, I took out a lot of pizza, cookies, ice cream and pasta. It was GREAT!"

Starting weight: 288

Current weight: 274

Weight lost this week: 4 pounds

Total weight loss: 14 pounds, 4.9 percent

Tom Hampson

"I've never particularly enjoyed working out, which might explain why I'm fat," says Tom Hampson of Hoffman Estates. "It always seemed so pointless and boring. I especially dislike doing those exercises that make breathing impossible.

"One is particularly bad. I'm not sure what it's called, but you start in a push-up position with both hands on a step about 6 inches high. On command, you hand walk down and to the right, then left and back up on the step, then down and left, then right and up, and so on until you pass out from oxygen deprivation, or you learn to live without breathing. Go ahead and try this at home."

On the other hand, Hampson's love of sports is fed every Saturday at boot camp, boxing boot camp, that is.

"I love the feel of the strike and the loud popping sound of the glove hitting the target," says the 64-year-old. "At least I do for the first 60 seconds. After that it sounds more like SpongeBob falling onto a feather pillow. In fact, after 60 seconds I can't hear much of anything except for the sound of me desperately gasping for breath.

"My favorite exercise is downhill skiing in Colorado. In fact, I'm sure there's still time for the trainers to book us a field trip out to Vail," Hampson suggests. "But I probably shouldn't hold my breath."

Starting weight: 316

Current weight: 302

Weight lost this week: 4 pounds

Total weight loss: 14 pounds, 4.4 percent

Michael White

"Three weeks ago I could not imagine this much progress," says 25-year-old Michael White of West Dundee.

"When I walk into the gym and pick up a 25-pound plate, it's both exciting and disgusting at the same time, because three weeks ago I was carrying around that much weight on my body.

"I enjoy getting out of the house on my early-morning workout days. When I'm the only one on the road that early, it gives me time to mentally prepare for my workout. With some oldies on the radio and a bottle of water sitting shotgun, I feel ready to take on the world."

Then White actually gets to the gym.

"I really dread doing push-ups, but I'm starting to like working my abs," he says. "'Sore to the core' are the words running through my head as I leave the gym."

It must mean those abdominal exercises are working.

Starting weight: 320

Current weight: 291

Weight lost this week: 7 pounds

Total weight loss: 29 pounds, 9.1 percent

Brian Corrigan

"I love working out, says Brian Corrigan of Carol Stream. "For me, any type of lifting or strength conditioning is what I considered working out. Cardio meant playing sports or pickup games when I was younger. Because I tweaked my back early in the competition, cardio, for me, is now time spent on the evil treadmill.

The treadmill, according to Corrigan, is monotonous.

"Fortunately," he says, "my trainer, Steve Amsden, is doing an incredible job working around my back issues and putting together great routines."

Except for the stairs.

"The worst exercise is climbing those hideous stairs in the building. Those are Steve's torture chamber for me. I swear I almost died twice in that stairwell!"

But three weeks in, Corrigan is feeling better and loving the variety of circuit training exercises he's doing at Push Fitness. "Every time I walk in the door, I never know what to expect. I like that!"

Starting weight: 275

Current weight: 251

Weight lost this week: 6 pounds

Total weight loss: 24 pounds, 8.7 percent

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