Here’s a fresh scoop of motivation just in time for the New Year.  A profile of three people whose lives have been changed because they’ve prioritized fitness and health into their lives.

Bernie Salazar
Bernie SalazarBefore he was a contestant of  season 5 of The Biggest Loser, Bernie Salazar was a 5’5″ 283-pound man who was a “food lover in every sense of the word.” His vices weren’t necessarily eating all the wrong foods, rather he simply ate a lot of food at all the wrong times. Skipping meals and not devoting enough time to simply take care of himself resulted in overeating and hazardous weight gain. Just shy of his 27th birthday when he started on the show, Salazar stuck through ten grueling weeks until he was voted off, forcing him to retreat to his hometown of Chicago where he was bound and determined not to lose the momentum he worked so hard to build up. His devotion to turning his life around paid off at the end of the season. Salazar returned only to become the “At Home Winner,” taking home a prize of $100,000. At the final weigh in, Salazar lost 130 pounds (46% of his body weight!).

From the Ranch to Real Life
It’s been 3 years since Salazar was a contestant on the show. Now a newlywed with a busy schedule, Salazar  understands that health is more than just fitness, but wellness and having the ability to forgive yourself. “For a long time, it was about weight, not wellness. If I’m going to continue to be healthy, I have to forgive myself.” Salazar feels that occasionally skipping a workout or having a slice of cake is just fine – as long as you let it go and don’t let things get out of hand.

A Little Love Chub
Salazar and his new wife, Jennifer Verastegui married in August. Verastegui, the cousin of Salazar’s Biggest Loser parter, Brittany Aberle, is an anchor and source of inspiration in his own life. Salazar says his new bride is motivated about life and a believer that “nothing is permanent. You can turn anything around.” Admitting that he’s put on a couple pounds since leaving the show, something Verastegui affectionately refers to as “love chub,” Salazar has maintained a well-calibrated lifestyle with 100+ pounds left in the dust.

Monstercise, by Bernie SalazarToday Salazar has teamed up with Washington D.C. based registered dietitian Rebecca Scritchfield to start up Nuture Principles, a wellness company that drives to get at the root of what influences a person’s unique health behavior. A believer in health from an early age, Salazar can be found on the circuit speaking to schools and promoting his new children’s book, Monstercise: a monster’s guide to good healthy fun!, due out Spring 2011.

Music that Motivates
If you picked up Bernie’s iPod today, on it you’d find:

  • Time to Shine, Chad Gentry
  • Green Light, John Legend
  • Sexy Back, Justin Timberlake

Sarah Ruhl
Every now and then you hear a story about someone who makes a remarkable comeback from a medical setback that would knock most of us down for the count. Well, this is one of those stories. Four years ago, Sarah Ruhl, a Chicago-based group fitness instructor and small business owner, learned she had a meningioma, a tumor, usually benign, arising from the meningeal tissue of the brain. At the time, it was small enough to be left untreated, but closely monitored. This past October, a routine MRI showed that the tumor had doubled in size in the past 12 months. It was time to remove the tumor. Surgery was schedule for December 10, 2010. “I was terrified. My heart raced and I even had several panic attacks when thinking about it. My classes and my own personal workouts helped clear my head and keep me strong.”

Even with the tumor, doctors allowed Ruhl to maintain her 12-class-per-week schedule, working out to her normal intensity until the day before her surgery. Her doctors, however, made it clear, what this 39-year-old mother and wife could expect post-surgery. ” I was told the surgery should take several hours and that I’d be able to see my family once I was in intensive care.” From there she’d have a few days in the hospital followed by a four to six week recovery at home.

What actually happened was surprisingly different. The surgery proceeded on schedule at 11:00am. By 1:30pm, Ruhl went straight to recovery, completely skipping her presumed stint in intensive care. By 4:00pm that day, Ruhl was transferred to a regular hospital room. The next morning she took a walk with her physical therapist. At noon of the same day, she was discharged. Yes, Ruhl went home. “I still had a bandage and 50 staples in my head, but I was home.” Her staples came out ten days later, and she got the green light to start walking in the treadmill.

Fortunately, Ruhl’s pathology report came back revealing the tumor was indeed benign. She acknowledges that recovery for brain surgery patients is highly dependent on the circumstances of the patient’s condition. “I was in the best shape of my life upon entering surgery. I do not know all the physiological reasons, but I do know that my muscular strength, cardio strength, flexibility and endurance, in combination with my mental strength, promoted a rapid recovery.”

When Ruhl isn’t busy being a mom or group fitness instructor, she’s working hard as the owner of The Papermint, a stationery, invitation and announcement boutique launched in 2007.

Music that Motivates
If you picked up Sarah’s iPod today, on it you’d find:

  • Raise Your Glass, or any song by Pink!
  • Just the Way You Are, Bruno Mars
  • Just a Dream, Nelly

Kiley Schoenfelder
Don’t let this super sultry shot of Kiley Schoenfelder fool you. Any one of the many personal training clients or friends of Schoenfelder are likely to remark on her smile or positive attitude as one of the many great attributes she possesses.

Lemons to Lemonade
Schoenfelder, 33, has  been living with diabetes for 25 years. Diagnosed with type-1 diabetes as a child, Schoenfelder has turned her disease into an opportunity to share her knowledge to make a positive change in the lives of others. She sets an example of how every person living with this disease can thrive.  As a personal trainer and owner of New York City-based KS Optimal Fitness, Schoenfelder is completely aware that diabetes could affect her if she isn’t monitoring what she eats, her activity level or her medication at all times.

Schoenfelder, whose business specializes in the disease, looks at diabetes as a lifestyle that “must be tended to every single hour of the day. Not just a quick morning pill like a cholesterol medication. If a diabetic’s blood glucose is too high, they tend to feel nauseous, tired or thirsty to name a few things. If their blood sugar is too low they’ll feel equally tired, sweaty or light-headed.” She admits it’s a lot to think about on top of life’s everyday duties, but once it’s worked into a lifestyle, it’s quite manageable.

“The irony of diabetes”,Schoenfelder says, “particularly Type 2 [formerly referred to as adult onset diabetes], is if everyone took care of themselves the way a diabetic should, we’d all be a lot healthier.”
Music that Motivates
If you picked up Kiley’s iPod today, on it you’d find:

  • We Have Love (hot city remix), Hot Chip
  • Brass Monkey, Beastie Boys
  • 6 foot 7 foot, Lil’ Wayne

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