If your body has been in park—or idling on the couch—Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute trainer Robert Reames has a few words of advice before you hit the gas.» read more
Nearly 10,000 people participated in this year's Gold's Gym Challenge and lost a combined 117,000 pounds. Meet 2012's 10 winners and learn how and why they transformed their bodies and, more importantly, their lives.
The Gold's Gym Challenge Winners Circle
Over the past 12 weeks, thousands of Gold's Gym members joined in the Gold's Gym Challenge and, with the help of local trainers, lost a combined 117,000 pounds and 81,000 inches. Ten winners emerged from all the contestants. Read on to get the full scoop on how our two overall winners found the strength to change their bodies and their lives.
Plus: Find out the secret strategies that helped our winners avoid diet pitfalls, sneak in extra workouts or stay motivated.
Female Winner 18-29
Secret strategy: I love sweets. The only thing that saved me was Emerald dry roasted almonds, either cocoa or cinnamon dusted. They are amazing and healthy!
Female Winner 30-39
Secret strategy: After each milestone, I went to my favorite Italian restaurant and had a Greek salad and some thin-crust, no cheese, easy-on-the-sauce, all-veggie pizza. Ilove pizza!
Female Winner 40-49
Secret strategy: To celebrate reaching a new goal, I took a day off from cardio. I didn't want to use food as a reward—for me that can be a slippery slope.
Male Winner 18-29
Secret strategy: During all those hours of cardio, I make a point of reminding myself that I take time away from my family to get in better shape for our future—so I better not cheat them or myself while I'm at the gym.
Overall Female Winner
Secret strategy: When I had downtime in my office or at night, I sneaked in some floor exercises that a trainer had shown me.
Before the challenge: I've always been a very outgoing, happy person, but the last five years were a dark spot. I went through a painful divorce, my father passed away, my daughter left for college, and I became the caretaker for my mother and two siblings. I also work two jobs—as a Home Ec teacher and a part-time bartender—and though I love both, it was a lot. I was worn out and mourning the fact that I was 50, single and overweight.
Her inspiration: This was the third time I had signed up for the challenge. When I told my daughter, she said in a sarcastic but loving tone, "Didn't we have this conversation last year?" My daughter is a college scholarship basketball player and has always been fit and determined. I wanted to show her that I could do it. And she's been my biggest supporter, cheering me on the whole way. When I won, she said it was the proudest moment of her life.
Her motivator: My principal said he'd meet me at the gym at 4:30 a.m. to support me—and I didn't want to go into school after standing up my boss! He showed up every morning right to the end.
Secret to her success: You don't have to work out for three hours every day to get in shape. I went to the gym every day, but only for an hour and 10 minutes—that was all the time I had—and did boot camp class on Sunday.
Moment she almost quit: I weighed myself after four weeks—and I had lost 14 pounds in a month. I was thrilled, excited, ecstatic! The next week? I had gained two pounds. I now realize it was just that muscle weighs more than fat, but at the time I resolved not to step on the scale again until the challenge was done. When they told me my final weight, I was so happy that I screamed loud enough for the whole gym to hear!
Life after the challenge: I'm so excited to be alive again. Forget 50, I feel like I'm 30! I'm ready to start dating again. I'm going to the beach and out for drinks with my girlfriends. For the past five years, I've been hibernating like a bear in a dark cave, but now I'm back in the sunshine. I hope other single 50-something women who might feel discouraged or unhappy know that there is a way to feel young again. If I did it, so can you.
Overall Male Winner
Secret strategy: I satisfied my sweet tooth with sugar-free Jell-O.
Before the challenge: I was in the Marines, but I was injured during a training exercise. I was stationed in New Orleans when I had my back surgery, and we had to evacuate when Katrina hit. My back never healed properly, so the Marines released me. Then I went through unemployment, divorce, and finally a move to Texas to be near my family. I remarried and had another child, but my weight had ballooned to 275 pounds. I couldn't play with my kids. I had pain in my back, knees and hips, and my doctor said I was borderline diabetic.
His inspiration: My uncle. His doctor told him that if he didn't lose weight, he'd have a heart attack. He dropped 40 or 50 pounds, but the damage to his heart was just too much. He had so much regret. I watched my dying uncle cry about the fact that he wouldn't get to see his children grow up or get married. I didn't want that for myself.
His motivator: My trainer, Mark Frary, was there for me at every step. He showed me how to train around my injuries with low-impact cardio and resistance training. He helped me plan my diet—and I could call him to ask what was okay to eat, especially if I was at a restaurant. My trainer knew I loved food, so he said I could have a "cheat food" every time I lost five pounds; I could have a steak or a piece of cheesecake. He kept dangling that carrot out there.
Secrets to his success: I was a stay-at-home dad during the challenge. A friend gave me her old jogging stroller, and that's how I got in my morning cardio—pushing my daughter while I ran. So for any parents out there, this is one way to watch your kids while you exercise, and there are plenty of places to buy jogging strollers for a very low cost.
Life after the challenge: I got my life back. Now I enjoy myself and I'm not embarrassed to go out in public. I've inspired my whole family to get in better shape. When they saw that I could do it, they started losing weight. And I've heard from other Gold's Gym members—they believe they can get a new body because they watched me do it.
Female Winner 60+
Secret strategy: I'd open a box of stored clothes I had kept from when I was thinner. Feels so great to wear them after all these years.
Male Winner 40-49
Secret strategy: I always went straight from work to Gold's Gym—and kept an extra set of gym clothes in my trunk so I'd never have an excuse to skip my workout. I knew if I went home, the couch would start calling to me and I'd never get to the gym.
Male Winner 50-59
Secret strategy: Every time I felt the urge to cheat, I would make myself a cup of plain Greek yogurt mixed with blueberries and chopped almonds.