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If you've ever debated participating in a RISE Fitness + RISE Cycle 6-week Back to School CHALLENGE, this story is a must read! It showcases the journey of one of our inspiring clients, Jennifer Benkert, who has lost an outstanding 80 lbs and counting since making the choice to commit to her first RISE Challenge in September 2016. Don't take our word for it, though. Jennifer has graciously given us permission to share her story.

My “Rise”-olution story… where do I begin? For me, this goes back a bit further than just January. This journey of a healthier happier lifestyle goes back to September, but let’s be honest, it probably goes back much further than that. Being tall has always been a blessing and a curse. Especially for a person who has not always loved athletics (yes, I know I have wasted my height), exercise, or eating healthy! A few pounds here or there has always been super easy to hide in a long body. But for me, it has never been about dieting. I have always just wanted the mantra, to eat, drink, and have fun, for tomorrow I may die! And along, this journey, I have still maintained that philosophy, but have just fine-tuned it a bit. Last spring, I had to wear healed shoes for a number of occasions , another factor with being tall that doesn’t occur often. With that being said, I ended up creating a stress fracture in my foot and in a boot for 6-8 weeks. While all of this was happening, the summer of fun kept on moving, drinks on the boat, late night snacks with friends, and stagnate sitting around the fire pit. I knew my body wasn’t the same and hadn’t been for a long time, but like I said, I was able to hide it. But after the summer of shear laziness, I knew I needed to get a bit more active. Even though I had never attended a class at RISE before, I was somehow on their email list. Perfect timing alert… September rolled around and I received an email about the Back to School Challenge. I read it, and was intrigued by it. I’ve seen these before, but never was even remotely interested. I’m tall, I don’t need to exercise mentality was imbedded in me. But in the meantime, my mind kept spinning and this challenge was being thought about in there. Later that week, I met a friend for drink, who doesn’t like exercise as much as me and I told her I was thinking about doing the RISE Challenge. She responded with, “Funny you say that, I just signed up. You should do it with me.” She proceeded to tell me how the Challenge consisted of groups of 4 and how a mutual friend of ours, my bff since 1st grade was in her group of four. At that point, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do this. I LOVE my bff more than words and we do everything together, but she is one of those crazy workout people who I don’t really associate myself with at all. She thrives off of exercise, when I think just walking to and from my car counts. But at this point, friend one is more my speed and it would be nice to have another person my pace as part of the group. I went home that night, sat in front of my computer, hemmed and hawed, and bit the bullet. I did it. I was now part of the fall RISE Back to School Challenge. The way to describe me best is that I am a Type A, organizing, check things of my list kind of gal. So, after attending the challenge meeting on this, I was like, ok, this is manageable, I can check things off of a list. I started slowly with only what I could handle. I did my 45 minutes of exercise by walking every day, I was eating what was on the list, I was contacting my team, yada, yada, yada, and by the end of the first it was working. Hmm, you mean exercising and eating right go hand in hand? Not rocket science, but a success story that I had never wanted to commit to. I continued on with the checkoff list and walking daily for the next few weeks. Ok, I realized I had this going in the right direction, maybe I would add a class in to this process. I wasn’t ready to start at Rise yet; all those girls look so fit and are just like my bff, crazy workout people. So, what to do, I used some guest passes at HealthTrack with my mom and tried out a few classes at the Park District. Now things are moving forward, I can do this, it isn’t as bad as I thought it was gonna be for me. The funny part is, I actually like my team holding me accountable every day. So much so, that similar exercise friend encouraged me to take a Fusion class with Julie. I’m not gonna lie, I was so nervous. Not only have I committed to this whole challenge thing, but I have agreed go workout with the big wig exercisers. Saturday, came and I did it. I prefaced to Julie how new I was to all of this and she took it slow with me and didn’t make me feel like an idiot. Not bad for a first time. So, I did it again. Then I added another class with Katelyn. Couldn’t walk, but didn’t die! Kinda want to be her. Am obsessed to going to Barre and Spin with her because she makes me be the best version of myself. The months continued to go on the first challenge was over and I was down over 20 lbs. Wow, what an accomplishment! Not sure what I really wanted to get out of the challenge, but losing over 20 lbs and eating healthy wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be and I was looking better, my clothes were fitting me better. And not that this is a big deal, but others were starting to take notice. All my hard work was paying off in directing me in route to a better and healthier self. In my head, I decided, I like how this is working, and is it ok to have a piece of cake or a night out for drinks with the girls, hell yes, but I also realized how good moderation of all of this was for my mental self too. I continued what I did for the Back to School Challenge all the way through the holiday season and before I knew it, it was time for the Rise-o-lution Challenge. Without hesitation, I signed up! Ready, but nervous for the no sugar challenge! Could it be much harder than what I was already doing? Along the way, I have changed so many views, including how my crazy work out bff has been the most encouraging person in my life. Is she still a crazy work out person, yes, but she is the best. She hasn’t made me want to jump off a cliff and not look back, but she has held my hand and supported me along the way. The staff at Rise has given me inspiration. They have not made me feel inadequate or silly when I still continue to modify things. They have taught me that this is my road and my time and to do it at my pace. They have pushed, but not to the point of making me run away and not come back. They have been here like friends and have pushed like a good coach. I look forward to seeing them every day. They have also showed me that I can do the classes I have been afraid of doing. Carin Fanter forms a reputation of being hard, but awesome! For me, that is a bit scary, but I also was a bit intrigued. Could I do it? I really hesitated for quite a while and finally, after chatting with Carin, I took the plunge. Now Kettlebell is one of my favorites. I don’t want to forget the “eating right” part of all of this too. Alicia’s recipes have guided me to staying on track. In the fall, I relied heavily on what was sent to me each week. Some I absolutely loved, some motivated me to try new things, and some I have been like - been there done that, I think I’ll stick to some of the other ones. But since September, these recipes, and food coaches (Alicia and Lisa) have been my rock. They have taught me the happy balance I needed to have in taking care of my whole being. I am finding I am able to use the recipes as my guide go creating well balanced meals for me and my family. I have also learned how to be a better snacker too. I find myself making much healthier choices in that department. The blog on Facebook has been so important in my process of the trial and error of different recipes and products. I have been pushed out of my comfort zone and am finding foods that I never would have tried and liked before this challenge. This challenge has taught me that I am important too. That I can do it and I need to take care of myself. It helps my mind, my body, and my soul. It given me a greater confidence of what my body is actually capable of doing. I no longer care if anyone sees me looking like the long uncoordinated person that I am, but I just know that I need to do it. This challenge has taught me that finding people who support and encourage you is important in this process. It is like having an even bigger extended family. They may push you and you may sometimes get frustrated because it is hard, but the good things in your life take hard work and dedication. Looking back over past almost 6 months, I have come so far. I am more confident in myself and I have a huge support network that is with me every step of the way. Thank you to my family, my teammates, my RISE instructors, Bailey for smiling and greeting me each day, and all of my new friends at RISE! You have been there with me on this journey and know that I will be there for the next new person who needs someone to relate to in this journey.


Yes, the RISE Challenge is more than a competition. As its name implies, it is a challenge to change up your habits, re-engage with yourself, reconnect with your body, and focus on your health. The best part is you do it with a team who is there to support you every step way, along with the entire RISE community.

CLICK HERE to sign up for the 2017 RISE Back to School CHALLENGE. It kicks off September 9!

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