I’d like to take this moment to publicly apologize for all the times I watched the contestants working out on NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” and thought: I could do that.
The weight-loss reality show began shooting its seventh season outside Los Angeles last week. After a day-long press junket to introduce the new contestants, the media was invited to work out with the show’s trainers Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels.
I jumped at the chance. I was a little concerned about the heat -- it was over 100 degrees -- but really, how hard could the workouts be if people who are 300 to 400-plus pounds can do them?
The cavernous gym at the “Biggest Loser” headquarters is something to behold -- state-of-the-art cardio equipment; medicine balls of seemingly every size, shape and color; kettle weights; balance boards -- the “Biggest Loser” contestants enjoy the works.
But there’s one thing they don’t have: air conditioning. (There is some vague cooling system. But, at one point, Bob hollered at a crew member to open the doors to let some air in. Uh, thanks Bob.)
I started out the same way that the contestants do. A warm-up, followed by cardio followed by circuit training with Bob or Jillian.
Bob ordered me -- and that’s the right verb -- to begin running at 5 miles per hour -- and at a 5% incline. That’s kind of fast and kind of steep. It wasn’t long before I smelled something burning -- my hamstrings.
When neither trainer was looking, I dropped the pace down to 4.7 mph. Eagle-eyed Bob detected it almost immediately. The giveaway? The turnover of my feet.
“You should be at 5 miles per hour,” he barked -- again the correct verb. I picked the pace back up. That was followed by minute-long interval runs -- I got as high as 8.3 mph on my treadmill, far faster than I ever thought I could go.
Jillian pulled me off the treadmill, but relief didn’t last long. There were burpees. Squats. Vertical leaps. High kicks. Back rows. Jumping lunges. More squats. And many, many, many incline push-ups with Jillian leaning across my upper shoulders -- and bellowing directly in my ear: “C’mon. Push. Resist. “
I was gassed.
“I can’t catch my breath, Jillian, I need a break.”
She held her fingers to my neck to check my pulse. “Nah, you’re fine. No break.”
I went directly into knee-to-the-ground reverse lunges while holding a 10-pound dumbbell overhead. Midway through, my arms began buckling. I told her that I really was done.
“No, you’re not,” she said.
“I think I’m going to throw up,” I said.
“So? Throw up,” she said.
Then I said the two magic words: “I can’t.” Jillian’s green eyes flashed as if I’d smacked her -- “What did you just say to me?” she snarled -- and even Bob whipped his head around and said, “Did you just say ‘I can’t’?”
Jillian charged toward me and started snapping her fingers in my face. “Where’s your focus! I want it with me. Focus! Get that weight up. Strong arms, strong arms.”
Jillian’s training philosophy is to take people far beyond what they perceive they are capable of, just to prove them wrong. That’s exactly what she did with me -- she wanted 10 more lunges while holding up that stupid weight.
And while I didn’t make 10, I did do six or seven. Then it was back on the treadmill for more intervals with Bob and more darn lunges.
I went looking for water at one point but only found Brita water coolers -- with no cups. I’m not proud of this, but I was so desperate that I grabbed someone’s empty, discarded water bottle out of the garbage, filled it and drank from it. I looked up and saw some of the contestants from the next season watching me. One of the women shook her head, either in commiseration or disgust.
Luckily, mercifully, I was able to cut the workout short because of another interview. As I hobbled to my car, I was proud of this much: I did not throw up.
Sure, I run and lift weights, but the reality is that the 45-minute workout Bob and Jillian put me through was easy -- easy when compared with the workouts that the “Biggest Loser” contestants endure.
They work out for hours upon hours each day. And they do it while carrying all those unwanted pounds.
America, the next time you see me I’m going to be 20 pounds lighter and able to belt out those burpees with ease. And in the meantime, as I’m watching those contestants suffer through their workouts, I will raise a calorie-free beverage and think: I’m so glad that’s not me.
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