Judging by the weather forecast for Sunday morning, chilly, the Downsize Fitness folks had the right idea. While I’m freezing my butt off at the Hot Chocolate 5K--thank goodness there’s hot chocolate at the finish line to keep me warm and I'm only running 3.1 miles--they'll be climbing stairs inside the Sears, er Willis Tower. That might be warmer, but it also feels about 10 times harder. But that's not going to stop the 17 DF climbers participating in the annual Skyrise Chicago , a stairclimbing event that benefits the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago.
They're all going to cross the finish line 103 floors up even if their quads burn, their knees ache and their lungs are begging for more air--and even if Bobbi Kral, their motivating trainer who decided the climb would be a good challenge for the group and was attracted by its beneficiary RIC because it was near and dear to her heart, has to push, pull and drag them to the top. Kral might not be yanking on anyone's limbs, but her energy is enough to get anyone to finish. This group has been training for weeks, practicing in stair wells so they're prepared for the real thing, and learning the do's and don'ts to surviving beyond the climb's first 10 minutes after the initial adrenaline rush has worn off. They've faced their biggest challenges well before lining up to climb these 2,109 steps: taking steps toward a healthier lifestyle and losing weight that's haunted them for years.
Downsize Fitness isn't your average gym--and it's not filled with average-size people. The West Loop facility offers a unique fitness and nutrition program for people who have at least 50 pounds to lose. Call it Chicago's own Biggest Loser ranch, except its members are learning how to incorporate the smart eating and fitness into their regular lives (yeah, there's no seclusion here). By doing the stairclimb, they're setting out to prove to themselves that they can accomplish anything from an endurance challenge to their weight loss. Kral knows what it's like to be in their shoes--she shed 140 pounds and caught the fitness bug in the process. And she knows how to make the preparation for this stairclimb fun. They've exercised through Theme Fridays and endurance challenges, and they'll be carb loading with a healthy pre-race pasta dinner on Saturday night. Now there's a community that makes healthy living fun.
This group is ready to climb Willis Tower.
From what I gathered in speaking with Bobbi, the group is psyched to be climbing on Sunday. Perhaps the most excited, and maybe even a little nervous, is member Eve Fogtiene. She's lost 60 pounds since she started attending Downsize Fitness and says that she still has more to go after a lifetime of being overweight. But with stair climbing, she'll be triumphing over an event that likely turned her off from these types of events 20 years ago. At a charity walk, Fogtiene was ditched by a fellow co-worker who didn't want to finish the event last. I can't say I'd want to participate in another race if my partner-in-crime left me out there. But Kral assured Fogtiene she won't have to climb alone and the two are going to claim that medal so Fogtiene can put it, and her bib, into the frame she already has for it at home. Hearing that totally made me smile--I love stories like this.
Good luck to everyone climbing Sunday!
Photos courtesy of Downsize Fitness. In the group shot from top to bottom: Eileen Heneghan, Rick Selin, Chris Almaguer, Gerri Gall, Eve Fogtiene (right), Bobbi Kral (left).