A 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a 26.2 mile run. These are the daunting distances that make up a full Ironman triathlon. Many superior athletes don’t even take a second look at these races because they’re simply so demanding. The training, the discipline, and the excruciating race are all just too much for most to handle. However, a new unlikely trend seems to be taking place within the Ironman. The least likely of competitors are throwing their hat in the ring and chasing that fateful moment when the announcer says, “You are an Ironman!”.
This surprising group is comprised of Biggest Loser contestants. People who entered a television reality show morbidly obese and then moved on to complete what is possibly the toughest physical feat on the planet – these elite individuals are hardly losers.
There have been five Biggest Loser contestants who have completed an Ironman, and they are Tara Costa (BL7), Hollie Self (BL4), Jay Kruger (BL5), Ali Vincent (BL5), and Matt Hoover (BL2). One theme seems to be shared among them all – finding out just how far they could push themselves drove them to take on their biggest challenge yet.
“…being on the Biggest Loser, you quickly learn that you can do so much more than what you think is possible if you just try,” said Tara Costa, a finalist in season 7.
All of the finishers say something to the effect that being on the show showed them that they were much more capable than they previously thought and once they were off the show, they needed another huge challenge to keep proving that to themselves.
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Adam Wedekind of Annapolis, Maryland was an active active child growing up, but the pressures of high school sports were enough to keep him from trying out. Instead, he turned to video games. This new, inactive lifestyle coupled with a poor diet led to severe weight gain, which left Adam the subject of frequent bullying.
To apease his parents Adam, now 22, tried to keep up his grades up so they couldn’t complain about his new hobby. He became so entranced with gaming that he drew away from all his friends and turned to people he met playing online video games for social interaction. He loved that he could be whoever he wanted online.
Post high school Adam went onto vocal college and kept up his gaming habits, which caused him to neglect his studies and eventually drop out. At that point he moved to Ohio to escape from his failures.
In 2009 Adam re-enrolled in college but still wasn’t dedicated to school and his grades suffered because of it. Despite his struggles, Adam’s mom continued to still support him. But even that encouragement left him at an all-time low.
“I hit a point where I didn’t want to leave my room.” said Adam. “I didn’t want to do anything, I played video games and I didn’t have any friends. I just sat in my room and I had no reason to leave. I was so depressed I even had suicidal thoughts.”
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Talking with people who have made drastic changes in their lives for the better is one of the most inspiring and humbling experiences I’ve encountered. Recognizing how difficult it is to lose 5, 10 and even 20 pounds myself, I sympathize with those who struggle with their weight. But after speaking with individuals who have lost more than 100 pounds in some cases, I am often left speechless.
In 2012 we shared the true weight loss stories of more than 20 remarkable individuals from around the world, and their combined total weight loss was 2,466 pounds! This an accomplishment we were truly humbled to be a part of. Though each person shares a uniquely inspiring story, we’ve gathered six of our favorites to give a glimpse into the truly amazing transformations we’ve witnessed on Diets in Review this year. Let’s start with the first true weight loss story I had the privilege of writing: Grace Goodman.
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By Chrissa Hardy for HelloGiggles.com
“Ugh Mom, I hate it here. I mean, I love Tony and obviously I want to support him, but at what cost? It’s 5 in the freaking morning! I’m surrounded by people who keep mentioning gels and energy cubes. How can these people be SO into this? Are they insane?????” I said on the phone to my mother in the wee hours of the morn on my boyfriend Tony’s race day. The verdict? Yes, these triathletes and runners may just be insane. Little did I know, I was about to enter their crazy world of energy cubes and gels, with a smile.
I was never an active kid. I played softball, but for the most part, all of my energy was spent trying to get out of physical activities with fake ailments. I preferred the comfort of my couch with “Saved By the Bell” reruns playing on a constant loop via an endless stack of VHS tapes. Feeling sweaty and hot never seemed worth the fun of any sport. So, a couch potato I remained until August of 2010.
Tony is just the opposite. He’s always loved sports. He’s such a natural talent in any sport he tries that it ruffles my feathers with envy. Tony was a track star in high school and decided to get back into running as an adult. He started with a 5K. Then another. And another. Then he tried his hand at triathlons. I could see his hunger for longer distances and tougher races increasing in front of me. In thirteen months, Tony went from a 5K race to an Ironman distance race (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike ride and a 26 mile run). Insane, right? He did this quicker than is recommended, but he’s a hungry over-achiever so there was no stopping him.
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Tara Costa first caught our hearts during The Biggest Loser season 7, and she’s gone on to do some great things, including training for her first Ironman. Her favorite part of the grueling race? “It’s definitely the camaraderie amongst the athletes. Ever since the first race I participated in, I realized how giving and inspiring all the athletes are,” Costa said. “I am so blessed to have the opportunity to participate and be pushed by elite athletes.”
If you would have told her a few years ago she’d be competing with world class athletes, Costa wouldn’t have believed it. She sees the race as a testament to how far she’s come. “I also love when I see the finish line. Each time I have the finish line in sight, I realize that I am doing something that I would never have been able to do years back. The finish line reminds me of how far I have come and how you can do anything you set your mind to do.”
Aside from continuing to push herself physically, Costa’s been hard at work creating her own foundation Kicks4Kids. This program, designed to supply under privileged children with new sneakers and a playbook, will provide the child different exercise games/activities to help them achieve the daily 60 minutes of exercise that is currently recommended. Kicks4Kids is set to launch in Hawaii in October, coinciding with the Ford Ironman World Championship that Costa will run.
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