SparkPeople Challenge Winner Trains With Jillian Michaels

By , SparkPeople Blogger

When Debbie Morales discovered she won the grand prize after finishing the FitFusion & SparkPeople 28-Day Check-In Challenge, she was shocked. After all, it's not every day you win a trip to train with Jillian Michaels in Los Angeles.

But win it, she did. In order to be eligible for the grand prize, Debbie had to complete 28 straight days of workouts with the FitFusion trainers via their on-demand video series. Tailored especially for SparkPeople, these workouts could be completed at home on almost any device in 10-, 20- and 30-plus-minute time frames. The challenge cycled through workouts that targeted the entire body—buns and thighs; chest, arms and back; and abs and core. The FitFusion challenge also included built-in rest days.

Unfortunately, after winning, Debbie wasn't able to go to L.A. right away to train due to a neck injury she had sustained prior to completing the challenge. "I had to delay our training session for a long time since my neck injury had gotten worse. I couldn’t move my arms without pain," she says. "So, as much as I wanted this opportunity, I had to let her know that I didn’t know when I was physically going to be able to do it. In fact, we still had to modify my upper-body exercises [when we did finally train together]."

Debbie's Journey Comes Full Circle

Although Debbie had been very active over the past 10 years, she joined SparkPeople right around when she decided to really try to get in shape and gain muscle. "I was trying to lose those last five pounds. I was never overweight, I just wasn't comfortable with the weight I was at and I wanted my clothes to fit better without having to go up a size. I joined SparkPeople to be with like-minded people who wanted to be active and simply get in shape. I wanted to gain more muscle tone and to lose some body fat," she says.

This goal eventually led her to SparkPeople's Biggest Loser Challenge team. Debbie started as a participant and ended up finishing as a co-captain of one of the teams. When she finally stepped down from the challenge team, she also took a step back from SparkPeople for a while.   

Then, when Debbie decided to log back into SparkPeople, she saw the FitFusion challenge and was intrigued by the joint venture between SparkPeople and "Biggest Loser" star trainer Jillian Michaels. At that point in her life, Debbie says she was looking for a new challenge and this felt like the perfect fit.

Ironically, the first thing Debbie says she learned about herself throughout the course of the challenge was that she had bad timing, as she had already sustained her neck injury. "I injured myself and had to modify a lot of the workouts," Debbie explains. "I was frustrated because I used to be able to do these workouts with no problem. However, I decided to stick with it even if I had to greatly reduce what I was capable of doing."

Once she was cleared to workout again, Debbie was ready to meet Jillian. After making the one-hour drive to Malibu with her best friend and fellow SparkPeople member Jane, the two women were ready for a sweat session they'd never forget.

And sweat they did. "Jillian was great! She essentially gave us two different workouts," Debbie explained. "I wish I could have her as a trainer every day!"

As for the actual workout, Debbie says, "We warmed up on the treadmill with some hill walking and then light jogging. Jillian focused on lower-body exercises for me but really pushed my friend Jane. We both did step-ups; I used a weight bench and Jane used a lower plyo box. We also did two different variations of squats. Jane used the assisted pull-up machine and did modified pushups while I did a minor upper-body workout of chest squeezes and back [exercises] on one of the machines."

"Then we did a little bit of core work and [went] on to the stair machine! As much time as I've spent at the gym, I've never used the stair machine. We were only on there for three minutes but Jillian pushed us to do 10 flights in that time—I even had to go back and do it one more time! We also did one-legged bridges and planks. Who knew you could sweat so much in
such a little bit of time? And, of course, we ended with a good stretch."

Debbie Gets It Done 

Jillian was happy to work out with Debbie and Jane, saying how much she loves helping others achieve their health and fitness goals. "I love my work and it brings so much meaning into my life," Jillian says. "To play a part in someone's journey toward a better life is an honor, no matter how small. It's something I have and always will cherish."
Jillian was thankful that Debbie and Jane had the willingness to show up, because in her mind, that's what matters the most, "Showing up for life and being in the moment," she says.

Jillian hopes that Debbie and Jane's takeaway is that they got a sense of their true potential and are feeling empowered to try new things when it comes to their fitness. "When it comes to fitness you don’t have to be miserable. The key is moving. Just four, 20- to 30- minute sessions a week can have a huge impact, even if you are training at home," she explains. "Showing up for yourself and making time for self-care will have a huge impact in the long run on all facets of your life—from great health to a strong sense of self-worth."
If you are afraid to try new things that you feel like might be too hard or out of your comfort zone, Jillian's advice is this: "Abandon the notion of perfection. It’s not about perfect; it’s about progress. By putting yourself out there, you are exposing yourself to new things and progress is inevitable." 
And, regarding the workout, Jillian says, "They crushed it!"

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