Fit Challenge Participants: Checking Back In


Audrey Rush has felt like a runner ever since she was young. She said her legs would subconsciously fidget and squirm, but her body was too big to do more than that. Running the mile in high school was as physically challenging as it was socially; she wore jeans to hide her body and did not exert herself so as to not break an unflattering sweat.

Nearly seven years later, at an age when some are left to merely reflect upon the athletic prowess of their teenage days, Rush has triumphed. Before the Fit 90-day challenge, she struggled to walk long distances without getting winded.

Three months later, she is now able to run. And not just run, but at a solid pace. Near the end of the challenge, she said she ran a mile in nine minutes 54 seconds.

“It was huge. I cried at the gym,” Rush said.

What Rush had that many others didn’t, her trainer said, was a uniquely passionate desire to change.

“The most important aspect had nothing to do with me—it was that she finally knew she wanted it,” said Karie Smith of The Athletic Club of Columbus.

Smith devised an intense program to match that tenacity.

“It was a lot to ask of her,” Smith said. “But she had such a spirit and I wanted to honor that.”

Rush did five to six workouts per week, usually three of those with Smith. The first task was to reintroduce Rush to basic strength training to prevent injury. After four weeks, the team introduced more cardio into the strength training to burn more fat.

Rush said having a support system through a trainer was critical to her success. When she felt frustrated because the scale did not reflect her efforts, Smith showed her other ways her body had changed—such as in what she was able to physically accomplish.

“It’s done so much for my confidence,” Rush said. “When you’re big and immobile, you feel like an entity that gets in the way of people … you don’t feel like part of the typical human race. Now, I see myself as a person. I don’t see myself as an ‘other’ anymore.”

If someone could prove that physical limitations do not have to limit someone’s fitness goals, Erica Kellenbarger could serve as a fitting example.

Her back problems were so severe, one doctor prescribed pain medication three times per day. She was also told to avoid strenuous activity. Yet when she decided that the side effects of these “remedies” were causing more health problems than they were preventing, she refused to accept that lifestyle.

As she found out after 90 days, she was right.

She trained with Lisa Treadway of Columbus Fitness Consultants. Treadway said the program began with a focus on performing exercises correctly and making sure Kellenbarger had a strong core to protect her back. They transitioned into more “functional” activities in the second month, like running and exercises to improve Kellenbarger’s pastime sport of bowling. The training wrapped up with more strenuous weight-lifting exercises, such as those involving cable columns.

The greatest challenge was overcoming the realization that she was not as strong as she once was.

“That’s daunting, when you’ve gone from a pretty athletic kid,” she said. “We kind of hold onto those memories. We think we can do now what we could do then. Being flat out unable to do something was daunting.”

Yet she conquered this hurdle through scheduling. In that sense, she credited much of her success to having a trainer not only give her a regimented plan but to hold her accountable.

“All in all, it’s been an amazing opportunity and one that I am truly, truly grateful for,” she said. “I don’t think I would be able to accomplish what I did in 90 days without the opportunity.”

Kellenbarger said she was satisfied with her results—not only in terms of physical improvement but also in the sense of learning what she can accomplish.

“I realized that nothing is beyond me,” she said. “As long as I listen to my body, I can do anything.”

Denise Pfefferle began the 90-day challenge with a dramatic goal: she wanted to reduce her body-fat percentage from 18 to 10. She made it to 15 percent, which, is beyond ideal according to her trainer.

“We dropped fat and maintained lean muscle, which is a challenge at 18 percent,” said Rick Rick III of Energy Lab.

He said that women could have up to 30 percent body fat and still be considered healthy; he advised against going lower than that for anything other than short-term events, such as a fitness competition.

Pfefferle, while she still hopes to shave off additional body fat, said the program has made her more satisfied with her current composition.

“Denise had a pretty good baseline of fitness to begin with,” Rick said. “She wasn’t someone who wasn’t conditioned or not active … so it was just fine-tuning and making sure that the quality of training was there.”

He said they began with fundamental bar movements, such as squatting, benching and dead lifts. They progressed to weight training blended with kettlebells.

Pfefferle said she is happy with the results. She admitted that there is still that idea tugging at the back of her mind—that 10-percent-body-fat ideal—but is learning to accept her body as it is now.

“I know that where I’m at right now is really great—considered very lean and athletic,” Pfefferle said. “But for me, it’s still kind of a little high … for me personally, I know that I can do better.”

Pfefferle said she was able to take her workouts to the next level because of the variety that a training program offered. She also said the exposure to a group allowed her to think more positively about her accomplishments.

“I think I really became more accepting of myself over the last few months,” she said.

Working out with a trainer and a group helped her put her own goals into perspective.

“I think where I have been focused on that body-fat percentage and getting it down so low, I wasn’t stepping back and seeing what I can do,” Pfefferle said. “I’m pretty fit, but I think I’ve always discounted that and discounting what I can do. So now realizing … that there’s more to just that number. My body can do a lot. It is capable of a lot. I need to start giving myself more credit.”