Exercise now part of normal routine for contestants

  • After injuring her knee early in the competition, Karen Maranto needed to find alternatives to a typical cardio workout. She landed in the pool at the Elmhurst YMCA's Hydro Fit class.

    After injuring her knee early in the competition, Karen Maranto needed to find alternatives to a typical cardio workout. She landed in the pool at the Elmhurst YMCA's Hydro Fit class. Paul Michna | Staff Photographer

  • Between workouts with his trainer, Mark Trapp at Push Fitness, time spent on the treadmill and the vigorous walks he's sharing with his wife, contestant Matt Kramer is seeing results on the scale.

    Between workouts with his trainer, Mark Trapp at Push Fitness, time spent on the treadmill and the vigorous walks he's sharing with his wife, contestant Matt Kramer is seeing results on the scale. Bill Zars | Staff Photographer

By Gerry Alger
Updated 3/19/2012 6:39 AM

If they're not exercising, they're thinking about the next time they're going to exercise. When they are exercising, they're hearing their trainer's voice in their head urging them on. Such is the life of the Fittest Losers five weeks into the competition. They're driven, they're focused, they're tired and they're in it 100 percent.

Karen Maranto


"I feel like I'm always under the watchful eye of my trainer," says 47-year-old contestant Karen Maranto. "Even when I'm not at Push, I hear Tony in my head. Does this mean I'm in need of a mental health evaluation? No, it means I'm physically and mentally into the program!"

Maranto is with her trainer, Tony Figueroa, at Push Fitness three days every week. On her off days, she can be found in the pool or the fitness center at the Elmhurst YMCA.

"I'm amazed at the sweat you can get going in a pool," Maranto says.

Last week, Maranto added a yoga class to her regimen. How does she fit it all in?

"I don't find it difficult to discipline myself because I'm a planner. If it's in my 'book,' it's scheduled and I do it," Maranto says.

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Starting weight: 288

Current weight: 267

Weight lost this week: 5 pounds

Total weight loss: 21 pounds, 7.3 percent

Matt Kramer

When Matt Kramer isn't with his trainer, he's on the treadmill. His trainer, Mark Trapp, has set up a series of cardio routines for him on the treadmill.

"I get my cardio in at the YMCA in the mornings," Kramer says. "One hour on the treadmill at different speeds and different incline levels. When we first started, I could barely make 45 minutes at 3.2 speed. Today, my speed is at 4.4 and I'm getting stronger every day.

According to Kramer, the key is to keep challenging your body and your mind. And try to keep up with your wife.

"Last weekend, my wife and I went to Navy Pier for the flower and garden show. In the past, after walking around all afternoon, I'd just want to come home and take a nap. This year we found street parking a mile from Navy Pier. We walked to the show and down the pier and after the show back to the car. My wife is a fast talker and a fast walker," Kramer says. "I have a hard time keeping up with her talking. At least now, I can keep up with her walking."


After spending the day downtown, the Kramers went home, had a snack and worked in the garden for a few hours.

"It's a challenge to get up and work out when my trainer is not there," Kramer says. "Fortunately I have two drill sergeants, my trainer and my wife. She pushes me when I don't feel like getting up at 4:30 a.m. and reminds me of how bad I'm going to feel if I don't go. I suspect the two of them have had some strategic meetings regarding my wellness that I'm not aware of."

Starting weight: 372

Current weight: 329

Weight lost this week: 10 pounds

Total weight loss: 43 pounds, 11.6 percent

Katie Przyszlak

Katie Przyszlak, 32, is hearing a voice in her head that sounds a lot like Push Fitness trainer Michelle Amsden.

"It's hard to workout by myself," Przyszlak says. "I definitely get pushed more when I'm with Michelle. When I'm by myself I know that if she were standing next to me, she'd be telling me, 'almost there, Katie ... keep going!'"

Five weeks into the Fittest Loser Challenge, it seems to Przyszlak that she's either at work, working out with Amsden or on the treadmill.

"Before the competition began, I had signed up for a half marathon in May," Przyszlak says. "Since then, it's been recommended that in order to shed the weight I focus on interval running."

Amsden put together a variety of treadmill routines including interval runs to keep some variety in her cardio.

As they say, variety is the spice of life. Przyszlak is taking that to heart and joining Karen Maranto for a hot yoga class.

Starting weight: 266

Current weight: 242

Weight lost this week: 4 pounds

Total weight loss: 24 pounds, 9.0 percent

Michael White

"I've been pushing myself more each time I get on the treadmill," says 25-year-old Michael White of West Dundee. "It feels much better running without the extra 40-plus pounds I'd been carrying around."

White's trainer, Wade Merrill, put together a couple of cardio workouts for White to do when he's at the gym on his own.

"There's one nicknamed 'death' that incorporates different elevations and speeds on the treadmill combined with some core and upper body workouts in between treadmill sets," White says. "At one point about halfway through, there's an eight-minute stretch with the treadmill at a 12 percent incline that has me dripping buckets of sweat.

"My job is to show up at the gym and Wade gives me the tools and knowledge to focus on one goal: work harder!"

Starting weight: 320

Current weight: 277

Weight lost this week: 8 pounds

Total weight loss: 43 pounds, 13.4 percent

Tom Hampson

"Sports are fun. Competition in sports is exhilarating and I enjoy a variety of sports activities," says Tom Hampson of Hoffman Estates. "But exercise? Mind numbing."

At least that was Hampson's attitude before he met Push Fitness trainer Joshua Steckler.

"Over these last several weeks, I've come to appreciate how I feel 10 minutes after exercising, especially on those days when I'm under the direct supervision of my trainer. It's similar to the feeling you get after escaping a near-death experience," Hampson says. "Because of the positive reinforcement of the survival euphoria, it has not been too difficult to stick to my daily workout.

"On the days I'm not with my trainer, the hardest thing for me to do is to stay motivated. I work out mostly on the elliptical machine because it's easier on my joints. It works my arms as well as my legs, and it's a good cardio workout. But the machine doesn't go anywhere, there is nothing interesting to look at, there's no one to talk to and even if there was I'm told that if you can speak you're not working hard enough," Hampson says. "I read books on my e-reader and listen to music. Even so, time does not fly."

There is, however, a reward in this mind-numbing regimen, according to Hampson. He's focused on the long-term weight loss and a vastly improved level of fitness.

"It seems I feel better every day."

Starting weight: 316

Current weight: 294

Weight lost this week: 5 pounds

Total weight loss: 22 pounds, 7.0 percent

Brian Corrigan

Contestant Brian Corrigan hears his mom's voice repeating a phrase heard often in his youth. "Your character is defined by how you conduct yourself when no one is watching," Corrigan remembers. "I've never forgotten that lesson.

"I'm with a trainer a maximum of four hours during the week," says the 44-year-old. "The work and discipline for the remaining 164 hours are on me. Push Fitness gives us the toolbox. I have to decide to pick up those tools and use them. It's all about discipline."

Both at Push Fitness and at the gym on his own, Corrigan is influenced by his trainer, Steve Amsden.

"When I'm not working out, I'm thinking about my next workout. I take the exercises Steve has taught me and mix them to ensure I am working my upper body, lower body and core in each circuit. For cardio, Steve has put together a number of treadmill routines with times and goals. I alternate working out on the treadmill with a bike, elliptical or steps to ensure my body is always having to adapt to something new."

Starting weight: 275

Current weight: 242

Weight lost this week: 5 pounds

Total weight loss: 33 pounds, 12.0 percent

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