Women top 10 in national contest

BURNHAM – After eight weeks of intense work-outs, pushing through personal limits and sticking to a food plan, Tolly Bilger and Evelyn Ludington have placed as two of the top 10 finalists, out of 793 entries, in the national RIPPED2FIT challenge.

Bilger and Ludington, both of Lewistown, entered the contest as part of the TAZ Fitness team, made-up of 23 local members. Coached by TAZ owner Terri Whitsel and instructor Amy Banks, both women are up for the grand prize.

“Out of all those entries, it was so shocking that we had two finalists in the running,” Whitsel said. “We’re so excited for Tolly and Evelyn. It’s such a great thing to see them represent our community.”

The competition ran from April 15 to June 15. Both women had to commit to at least two R.I.P.P.E.D. classes a week, known as the one stop body shock, as well as a strict eating plan that focused on healthy portions of proteins, carbs and fat, Whitsel said.

“It was certainly a steep learning curve for everyone involved,” Whitsel said. “As a coach, my job was to make sure our team was held accountable for their goals and understood the food plan. Amy and I were constantly pushing them out of their comfort zones.”

The 10 finalists were chosen based on visual changes in body composition, documented with “before and after” photos, rather than in inches or weight lost.

The title of grand prize winner is based on popular vote for each finalist. Votes can be cast until June 30 on the R.I.P.P.E.D. Facebook page, by clicking the R.I.P.P.E.D.2Fit voting app. Each contestant’s before and after picture, as well as an essay and video about the experience, are available on the voting page.

The grand prize is a three-day trip to California, where the winner will be filmed for a R.I.P.P.E.D. Instructor video in which he or she will be featured.

Evelyn’s Story:

“Before R.I.P.P.E.D., I wasn’t in good shape and neither was my health. I had issues with episodes of hypertension that were uncontrolled and crippling migraines. I spent days on end curled up on the couch, hugging a pillow, oftentimes in tears. Running was the only thing that relieved my migraines, but I started having severe knee pain and couldn’t run anymore.

“A friend of mine wanted me to attend a Zumba or PiYo class with her. I got on the TAZ Fitness website to look at the different classes and times, and R.I.P.P.E.D. caught my eye. The possible calorie burn was the first thing that drew me in, but as I read on, it seemed like a very complete intense workout. I figured if I was going to start working out again, I might as well do it right. I walked in terrified and hobbled out of there as a R.I.P.P.E.D.-aholic.

“I now attend four to eight R.I.P.P.E.D. classes a week. It’s been amazing to see how far I’ve come. When I started, there were so many things I couldn’t do. But I kept on pushing, modifying when necessary, until I could. Now I’m adding extra things when possible – air jacks, floor slaps, whatever I can. I’m in the best shape of my life.

“Now that I’ve finished this challenge, I think the best part for me has been how we’ve all come together. People from all across the country in one big group sharing recipes, stories, and pictures. It has particularly brought our TAZ Fitness family together even more, and I’m so grateful for that.

“I lost about 13 pounds throughout the challenge, I work out and run without knee braces thanks to new shoes and my blood pressure and migraines are under control. I plan to someday get certified as an instructor and keep sculpting my body. It’s possible to look and feel the way I want to, as long as I’m willing to work for it. I know that now. This was an incredible eye-opening experience for me. I’ll never be the same – thank you all for that.”

Tolly’s Story:

“Before R.I.P.P.E.D., I was on the verge of self-destruction. I hated exercise. It seemed like hard work and no quick reward. I had zero energy. I would come home from work and head straight for the junk food, eat dinner and head to the couch for a nap. I was literally killing myself with carb overload and no activity. If I did get the nerve to take a walk, I would reward myself with a snack.

“I couldn’t fit into my clothes. I’m the general manager at a hotel, in the public eye daily, and I was wearing pants to work that I couldn’t button or zip. I would eat fast food, ice cream and indulging in the fresh-baked cookies, Danish pastries and muffins offered to our guests daily. My sister would laugh at me because I always had a gym membership. I would carry it on my key ring in case I had the urge to workout. Tastykakes were my drug. If they were on sale five boxes for $10, I was in heaven.

“I found out about R.I.P.P.E.D. from Terri Whitsel. I was attending a Zumba toning class with my fiance when Terri encouraged me to try R.I.P.P.E.D. I was terrified. The name alone meant business. I was also slightly amused. What was this bubbly, energetic fitness instructor thinking? Does she see me? Does she see that I am overweight? You want me to do push-ups and jump around for an hour? Well, I couldn’t say no to her then or now. When she says high knees, you give her high knees.

“I love my new-found strength and energy level that I gain from attending class three times per week. It is exciting knowing I can do a push-up, thread the needle and side plank. I find a challenge in every section and love them equally. My plan is to continue the entire program and maybe one day get certification to teach. My children, fiance and I thank you.

“I am R.I.P.P.E.D.: A Real Improved Person Performing Exercise Daily.”