First step is the hardest

A 100-pound lighter Bob Honkala of Somonauk participated in the Super Spartan Race on Oct. 27.
A 100-pound lighter Bob Honkala of Somonauk participated in the Super Spartan Race on Oct. 27.

SOMONAUK — According to someone who should know, the hardest part to changing your life is taking the first step.

“I think that 99 percent of it is walking through the front door and making the effort and saying I’m going to do something,” Bob Honkala said. “Once people make a decision they’re going to make a change - that’s the hardest part.”

Thanks to a lot of hard work and his personal trainer, Josh Chrestman, the Somonauk man has lost 100 pounds over the past year, getting down to about 205 pounds.

Like a lot of us, Honkala - who played baseball and basketball at Somonauk High School - began to gain weight once he got out of school, eventually getting up to 305 pounds.

“I just got to the point I needed a lifestyle change,” he said. “I got to a weight I thought I had to do something about it.”

On the advice of family and friends who had trained with him, Honkala contacted Chrestman, a former Division I college football player who has been a personal trainer for seven years, the past five as owner of J.C. Health & Fitness in Sandwich.

One of the first things Chrestman did when they first talked in August 2011, Honkala said, was sit down with him and go over his eating habits.

“He never put me on a diet,” Honkala said, adding that Chrestman puts everything a client does in perspective. “He just suggested healthier substitutes to what I was eating.”

“It’s a whole lifestyle change,” Chrestman said, noting that he tries to fix problem patterns that aren’t correct. “It’s about nutrition and exercise. It’s the whole combination.”

Training for an hour three times a week, Honkala said he lost 11 pounds a month until he reached his goal. Although he has put on a few pounds since then, it’s all from muscle, which they’re focusing on building up, rather than body fat.

“It just started coming off,” Chrestman said. “He became more and more athletic and started looking better.”

To celebrate his achievement, Honkala participated in the 9-mile Midwest Super Spartan obstacle race in Marseilles in October, the longest he’s ever run at one time.

“It was a grueling race,” he said. “My weight was coming off, I was getting in shape, we sort of jumped into this race.”

Although he didn’t really need it, Honkala said the race gave him a little extra motivation to work out.

What a lot of people don’t realize, Honkala said, is that with Chrestman, it’s just you and him; no one else is in the room with you so you get his full attention.

“Everyone wants to know the secret (to losing weight),” Chrestman said. “There’s no secret. It’s a good nutrition plan and a good, steady exercise program. We don’t look for any quick fixes. We do everything the old-fashioned way. That’s the only way I  know how to get long-lasting results. Hard work always wins in the end.”

It’s an assessment with which Honkala agrees.

“It’s a lot easier than people think,” he said “The secret is there’s no secret: eat a little healthier and work out. There were times when it wasn’t fun, but Josh has a way of motivating you. Once you get over the hump, I can’t wait to work out.”

Besides taking that first step, Honkala credits two other things with his success: teaming up with the right person and sticking to it.

“I got teamed up with the right person,” he said. “I can’t speak any better of what he does as a trainer and the confidence he builds in his clients. He becomes a friend. When you get on that level with someone, you can trust them.”

Honkala, who said he only works out at the fitness center, said “everyone has it inside. For anyone who makes the commitment, it’s a life-changing experience. I would encourage anyone on the fence to go in and talk to Josh.”

“It’s possible, basically, for anybody to change their lives if they just start with small steps,” Chrestman said.

Anyone interested in contacting him, can do so by calling 815-786-9291. Hours at his center, 10 W. Railroad St. in Sandwich, are by appointment only.

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