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Make the most of every opportunity.

Annamarie McMurray, 69, is a retired systems analyst from Schaumburg. She applied to the Fittest Loser Challenge in hopes of using it as a springboard for returning to her previous healthier exercise and nutrition habits.

Until a few years ago, McMurray exercised regularly. She attended aerobics classes and worked out with free weights consistently with her husband until he passed away.

After that, McMurray said it was much easier to reach for "junk food" when she was cooking for only one person; it became harder to maintain a regular workout routine and eat right.

Under the guidance of her trainer, Joshua Steckler, owner of Push Fitness in Schaumburg, McMurray surpassed her goal of losing 30 pounds over the 12-week Challenge and gained confidence, energy and more happiness along the way.

By the end of the contest, McMurray lost 32 pounds, 4 inches off her waist, 16.7 percent of her body weight and she went from a size 18 dress to a size 10. Steckler was proud of what she accomplished and said she was the perfect example of someone who took full advantage of the Fittest Loser opportunity.

McMurray fully embraced challenge. She attended the healthy eating tour at Jewel-Osco, the healthy eating cooking class at Adlai E. Stevenson High School, attend the tour of the Fitness Factory and could often be found working out at Push Fitness twice a day. She'd attend two group classes such as Pilates, Tabata and boot camp back to back in addition to training with Steckler. She loved every minute of it.

"I had the time of my life. I won't forget it," McMurray said.

She made tremendous gains in her physical fitness throughout the challenge. She placed third in her age group at her first 5K and increased her overall strength by incorporating planks, squats, lunges and other full-body exercises into her routine. She's returned to her healthy eating habits, too.

McMurray can cook a healthy meal in 30 minutes or less and learned how to meal plan so that when she cooks, she makes enough for several lunches or dinners.

McMurray said the first two weeks of the challenge were the toughest, but after that the diet and exercise plan became second nature. Now that she's back on track, she's confident she'll maintain this healthy lifestyle and has proved that even if you fall off the wagon you can always get back on.

"Don't give up. Make up your mind and do it," she said.

N.A. House

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Title Annotation:Niche/Adv
Publication:Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL)
Date:Jun 3, 2019
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