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On the run: A lesson from a master chef

Thursday - 8/29/2013, 8:55am  ET

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Paula Wolfson challenges 'Top Chef' Mike Isabella to a workout session. (Courtesy Jennifer Resick Williams)

WASHINGTON - I will never be able to keep up with D.C.'s famous "Top Chef" Mike Isabella in the kitchen. But I thought I might be able to match him push-up for push-up in the gym.

That is why I couldn't resist when he threw down the gauntlet and invited me to share a session with his trainer. Turns out, the man is a workout tiger. Even his trainer says he works hard -- and we all know that trainers never think we work hard enough.

Mike, like many local chefs, is extremely competitive and also deeply concerned about the impact his high-profile, high-stress occupation has on his waistline.

He started talking to his buddies in the business about this stress and they decided to enroll in a 12-week weight loss challenge -- think "Top Chef" meets "The Biggest Loser."

By the end of the first month, Mike was down 23 pounds. Fast forward to week nine, when I met him at Vida Fitness at Verizon Center, and he was down 35.

Mike says he might have done better if he was able to get to the gym a bit more (been there, done that). And while he has cleaned up his diet, there have been the occasional late-night slips (ditto).

For a guy who just opened two restaurants and has had two days off all summer, Mike looks svelte. (Courtesy Jennifer Resick Williams)

But for a guy who just opened two restaurants -- Kapnos and G -- and has had two days off all summer, he looks, well, happy and svelte.

Trainer Christina Vasquez would like to see more exercise on his schedule, if he ever gets the time. She says for now, she is focusing a lot on cardiovascular training to help burn those final pounds before the big reveal at the Taste of Hope gala at the Carnegie Library to benefit the American Cancer Society on Sept. 24.

Let the record show, she really put us through the paces during our two-person "group" session. It was a mix of cardio and metabolism-boosting resistance training -- everything from sprints, to squats and, yes, push-ups on a bosu balance ball.

We sweated a lot, laughed a lot and maybe worked off a bowl of Mike's pasta between us, as Christie pushed us to do "just two more" of about everything. He lifted more weight than I did and was better at anything involving jumps but I was the "master chef" of the push-ups.

And along the way, I learned a few things that may just help me with my next marathon, like how good it feels to sprint and then run backwards at the end of a workout. I also gained a new appreciation for the guy on the next treadmill -- and not just because he does a killer roast chicken.

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