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Project fitness
We all want it: to be attractive, 
healthy and feel good


November 2007


Age: 53
Height: 5 feet 9 inches
Body fat percentage: 25.6/24
Key stat: Overall fitness score improved from 20 to 66 on a scale of 1-100
Studio: Fitness Together,

The question is, with today’s lifestyles and stress and our own penchant for quick fixes, how much — and for how long — are we willing to do what it takes to attain it?

Experts agree, if you’re genuinely serious, the first step is to realize it takes a lifestyle change, but that doesn’t mean it has to be difficult. There is no quick fix. This is not like a diet, which all too often has a beginning, middle and an end. If you’re serious, there’s a beginning, but there really is no end. It’s lifelong.

Ben Quist, co-owner and operator of Form & Fitness in Grafton and a 15-year veteran of the fitness and training business, says to be successful there are only two essential elements: motivation and the right program for you. "Probably the hardest part of my job is convincing people that exercise is fun," he says.

"It’s all about balance — in your program and in your life," Push Functional Fitness owner Erika Gudgeon says.

Three staffers at M Magazine decided to take this philosophy personally. From March to August, Jordan Dechambre-Childers, managing editor of M’s City edition; Janet Raasch, managing editor of the Northshore edition; and Deb Hulterstrum, account executive for M, created a challenge of sorts: enter a weight loss and fitness improvement program, set goals and measure the results. It turned out to be more of a self-challenge than a competition among the three of them.

Dechambre-Childers is in her 20s, Raasch, her 40s, and Hulterstrum is in her 50s. Each set goals and aligned themselves with personal trainers. They also worked with dietary experts at the three fitness studios: Form & Fitness in Grafton, Push Functional Fitness, Milwaukee, and Fitness Together, Brookfield.


Age: 44
Height: 5 feet 9 inches
Weight: 155/138 pounds
Body fat percentage: 24.3/21.1
Key stat: Waist 32.7/29
Stufio: Form & Fitness, Grafton

Deb Hulterstrum

Going into this "challenge," Deb Hulterstrum says it was different for her than it was for her two co-workers. "It was very difficult for me," she says.

She says being older, being in sales with her unpredictable schedule and still suffering the effects of a car crash, made her endeavor somewhat of a struggle, although she says she was successful. The trauma from the crash left her with neck, back and knee pain, limiting her ability to exercise. Fitness Together fitness consultant Paul Ludka modified her program to accommodate her. "Paul was really good with me," Hulterstrum says. "He would modify things based on how I was feeling that day."

"Instead of doing squats, we’d do straight leg lifts followed by 20 minutes of aerobic exercise for her cardiovascular system," Ludka says.

"I think it was a challenge for my trainer as well, based on my limitations," Hulterstrum says. "You know, how much can this person really accomplish," she says with a laugh. But having a program and trainer helped push her beyond what she thought she could do just on her own. Ludka points out each client requires the right approach. "We helped her learn the right techniques at the right level for her," he says. That was combined with a change in Hulterstrum’s diet that included "fiber and carbs and eating smaller amounts more frequently: a good breakfast, snack, lunch, an afternoon snack and early dinner," he says.

Hulterstrum’s goals centered on learning how to exercise correctly, not weight loss per se, and to increase her strength, flexibility and energy.

Her program included some physical exercise: crunches, lifting and twisting with a medicine ball, for example.

She does have a gym machine at home and plans to include her exercises with that "because now I know what I’m doing," she says.

"I think it’s good to start with a personal trainer to get you on a path," Hulterstrum says. "You need someone to show you the way."

Her approach did not concentrate on losing weight, she says. It was more a focus on fitness and body composition: body fat vs. muscle.

Hulterstrum also does yoga every morning. She’s been doing that long before she started her formal program. "It’s good and not abrasive," she says.

Asked if she’ll continue, she hesitates, but says honestly, "Well, I’m not sure. I’ll see if I can work this into my schedule. I’d like to pursue it again. I don’t just want to leave it where I am now when I know that if I continue I’ll have better results," she says. "You know, it’s just a matter of what I want to do for myself.

"I am happy with what I accomplished," she says.


Age: 29
Height: 5 feet, 5 inches
Weight: 123/115
Body fat percentage: 25.5/19
Key stats: waist: 26.5/23; hips: 35/31
Studio: Push Functional Fitness, Milwaukee,

Janet Raasch

Raasch’s goal was to lose 10 to 15 pounds and tone up. After her daughter was born nearly 10 years ago, Raasch bounced back and forth between dress sizes. She was tired of the "yo-yo" effect.

As with the others, she had her specific goals and a program tailored just to her. "Every single client is different," says her trainer Ben Quist. That’s why a program created especially for the client is critical to success. "Janet did great!" Quist says. He notes she incorporated the program into her life; made a permanent lifestyle change, lost weight — 17 pounds — and got fit.

Raasch’s program started with setting goals, then metabolic testing, outlining an exercise program and re-educating her about nutrition.

Holly Gonwa, one of Raasch’s personal trainers, says the metabolic testing determines how many calories Raasch needs just to function when she was resting. Then they added calories to determine what level she needed not for exercise, but just to maintain her daily physical activity at her current weight.

Form & Fitness uses a fitness machine called a Power Plate: a round, vibrating disc that moves in all three dimensions. Raasch would stand on the plate and do a set of exercises — squats, lunges, push-ups with her hands on the plate and her feet on the floor. The Power Plate makes muscles fire 300 times faster than during regular exercises. "We used the Power Plate as a warm-up," Gonwa says. "I’m a skeptic when it comes to gadgets." But this is no gadget; Gonwa became certified in its use.

Raasch’s program was mostly functional training that mimicked her daily activities in exercise form. There was a strength component — squats, arm curls and little weight lifting — and walking about 20 minutes on a treadmill. That, for Raasch, has progressed into running. She was a member of the four-person Form and Fitness relay team in last month’s Lakefront Marathon and plans to train for a triathlon next year.

"The things Janet does on a daily basis, except maybe the running, will probably continue for her lifetime," Gonwa says. She’s successful because she was properly motivated with the proper trainer and dietician and on the proper path, she adds.

Gonwa knows training is not a quick fix for a lifetime of bad eating habits, which is why a nutritional element to every program is crucial. Raasch worked with registered dietician Wendy Ellis. Together, they established a meal plan of 1,500 to 1,600 calories a day. Raasch kept a journal to track her caloric intake. "Once I saw it on paper," she says, it made it easy to see exactly what she was doing. Once she started seeing progress by losing weight, having more energy and stamina, the "success built success." The progress was encouraging.

For Raasch, it boiled down to this:

350 calories for breakfast

400 calories for lunch

250 calories for a midafternoon snack

500-600 calories for dinner.

Breakfast, says Ellis, needs to have dairy, fresh fruit and whole grain and fiber. The average daily diet should include 25 grams of fiber, which is hard to do without fiber at breakfast, Ellis says. Today’s high-fiber foods no longer mean they have to taste like cardboard or grass, Ellis notes. She recommends the Web site,, for more information.

The American Heart Association Web site,, is another helpful Web site, with information on diet and nutrition, health tools, cholesterol, exercise and fitness, managing weight and even a page on "smart shopping" when you’re at the grocery store.

Ellis describes herself as an educator, motivator, cheerleader and psychologist. She’s also realistic.

"It wasn’t a stringent diet," Raasch says. And she had flexibility in her program. It’s a simple approach: If you take in more calories than you burn, you’re not going to lose any weight. If Raasch went over in one area, she’d cut back in another. "I had a cream puff at State Fair," she says, but then compensated for it at a later meal. "One bad day isn’t the end of the world," she says.

The clothes in her closet range from size 8 to 12. "Now, the 8s are baggy on me," she says.

Gonwa says Raasch was successful because she made a series of small changes that were easy to incorporate into her life and did what was right for her. "She makes me so happy each time I see her," Gonwa says. There is not a magic pill, no quick fix. Gonwa’s advice: do it slowly, gradually increase and incorporate your specific program into your daily life.

Gonwa predicts that Raasch is hooked probably for the rest of her life because she had the right prescription: the right motivation combined with the right people and the right program. "It wasn’t that difficult," Raasch says, reflecting on the experience.

Jordan Dechambre-Childers

Dechambre-Childers wanted to be healthier. She didn’t necessarily want to lose weight, but wanted to drop a couple of inches here and there. She says she wasn’t able to do that with previous programs. So, this "challenge" was an opportunity to learn how to do that for her body.

Her No. 1 goal was to build muscle on her slim frame, get rid of some excess inches on her midsection and thighs — "and to look better in a bikini." Push owner and trainer Erika Gudgeon remembers thinking, "She’s so thin. What am I going to do with her?"

The first step was to establish goals and then design a specific approach just for Dechambre-Childers. The program Gudgeon outlined resulted in her losing about eight pounds, about 8 percent of her total body fat and some of those unwanted inches.

The ambitious program included an hour-long workout with her trainer three days a week, plus an extra 30 minutes on her own. On the days she didn’t see a trainer, she was to work out for 45 minutes.

Dechambre-Childers says the dietary component was the greatest obstacle to overcome. "It was incredibly difficult," she says. Dechambre-Childers grew up in Door County where her grandparents ran a restaurant. Growing up, "I was always able to eat whatever I wanted to eat," she confesses.

Dechambre-Childers had to keep a food diary and maintain a diet with a minimum protein intake. "It was mostly lean meats, nuts and other sources of protein." Wheat breads and pastas were also included, as were vegetables and fresh fruits, but nothing with sugar in it. "I couldn’t have something like watermelon, but I could have grapefruit," she says.

To her surprise, once she adopted the diet, found her determination and changed her eating habits, "It wasn’t nearly as hard as I thought it was going to be," she says.

She stringently followed her eating program five days a week, then had two "free" days.

But Dechambre-Childers’ program included an additional, more aggressive element: Saturday "boot camps." They were 45-minute sessions of physical exercise: strenuous aerobics, weights and running — indoors in winter, on the beach and stairs outdoors in warm weather. "It was a really tough cardiovascular workout," she says.

She noticed, however, she was feeling light-headed during these sessions. She saw her physician and learned she had low blood pressure. Working with her doctor, and a prescription, she was able to adjust and continue without problems. "I really had to watch her heart rate," Gudgeon says, and urged Dechambre-Childers to use a heart monitor during workouts.

There were other, half-hearted attempts in the past to improve her fitness level, but Dechambre-Childers says she never got the tangible results she achieved with this program. "I was so lazy for so long," she admits. "This was probably the first time I seriously tried to work with someone to lose weight (and get fit)," she says. "If you’re really serious about losing weight or you just want to lead a healthier lifestyle … just going in and talking with someone (knowledgeable), getting their expert advice, is the best thing you can do," she says.

"You have one body and one life, so why not do everything you can for it," she says.

As seen on TV - Nathan Harrmann

M Magazine staff photographer Nathan Harrmann decided to get in on the fitness project, but because of a hectic schedule, the lack of a nearby fitness center and family obligations, he did it on his own.

Despite hiking and volleyball, he says he didn’t feel as physically fit as he wanted. "I was always fit. I used to be in the Army," he says. "But I just wasn’t at the level where I wanted to be."

He found a home fitness training program on TV that offered a comprehensive workout and diet. For $120, he bought the DVD and book through the company’s Web site, A set of dumbbells cost him about $200 and a pull-up bar $100.

He worked out six days a week doing cardiovascular and weight exercises — dips, lunges, squats, plyometrics, power yoga, pull-ups and a variety of push-ups, all designed to work a specific set of muscles.

His regimen also included a nutrition program: a protein-rich, low-carb diet, but that meant buying special groceries, which increased the weekly food budget by about $60.

The program promised results in 90 days. "Actually, I got to a point in about 65 or 70 days where I was completely happy with it," Harrmann says. He dropped 15 pounds, gained muscle and increased his overall fitness.

Now, he works out three days a week, but says the key to his success was incorporating his routine into his life. — Mark McLaughlin