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Willmar, Minn., man logs workout a day for one year in weight-loss effort

Lee Wierschem pauses for a breather Wednesday after working out at Snap Fitness on First Street in Willmar. Wierschem is 87 pounds lighter than he was this time last year. Since becoming committed to his physical fitness, the 54-year-old from Willmar has logged 365 straight days at the gym. Tribune photo by Gary Miller

WILLMAR — Lee Wierschem admits it: The extra pounds “kind of snuck up on me.”

Then a year ago he went to the rental shop to be fitted for the outfit he would wear to his son’s wedding last August.

Call it a moment of truth.

“I couldn’t believe what size I was fitting into,” said Wierschem, 54. “I didn’t like what I saw. I resembled a Kraft marshmallow, and I’m not talking about the miniature ones… It was an eye opener.”

Determined to shape up and lose weight, he joined a gym.

Exactly one year later, he has logged 365 consecutive days at Snap Fitness, lost 87 pounds, gone down four pants sizes and regained a better feeling about himself.

Snap Fitness celebrated Wierschem’s milestone Wednesday with snacks, sparkling juice and a round of applause from staff and fellow members.

“Something like this I’ve never seen,” said Ben Dols, Snap Fitness manager. “There’s motivated people and then there’s Lee.”

Wierschem completed a one-hour workout every single day for the past year, sometimes on a treadmill but most often on his favorite machine, an elliptical trainer.

“When I first started out, it was a struggle,” he said.

“Some days it hurt more but I just worked through it. There were days that I had other plans but you can’t use that as an excuse.”

He went to the gym whenever he had time — during the daytime, late at night and even at 3 in the morning. When he traveled to watch his children play hockey in Rochester or Duluth, he used his membership card to work out at the Snap Fitness center there.

Initially his goal was to shed enough weight to wear a smaller size at his son’s wedding. But when he reached the goal and liked what he saw in the mirror, he decided to keep going, this time with the aim of working out every day for a year.

Having a goal is everything, Dols said. “Without a goal, you’re treading water. Consistency is the most important thing. You have to treat it like setting an appointment. It’s only an hour a day but you’ve got to schedule your day around it.”

Wierschem’s constant presence at the gym made him familiar with almost everyone, Dols said. “Everybody here knows Lee.”

As Wierschem neared 365 days in a row of working out, it became the talk of the gym. The inspirational story is being added to the Willmar Snap Fitness member wall of fame, Dols said. “I’m proud to have him as a member.”

During his high school days Wierschem was the quarterback for the football team. But as the years passed, his fitness began to wane.

“I was doing things for others. I wasn’t doing anything for myself,” he said.

Joining a gym gave him the motivation and resources he needed, he said. “They’re very, very willing to help out and guide you in the right direction. It’s just a great place to work out — friendly staff, friendly people to work out with. I would recommend this to anyone.”

It also brought an unexpected bonus. Through his connection with Peter Taunton, a Willmar graduate and the founder and chief executive of the Snap Fitness chain, Wierschem managed to secure Snap Fitness as the leading sponsor of the USA Curling Mixed National Championship hosted in Willmar earlier this month.

Wierschem said his next goal is to go another year with a daily session at the gym, this time adding an upper-body workout.

“I call it a lifesaver to be able to continue to do things I look forward to doing,” he said.

Anne Polta

Anne Polta covers health care, business/economic development and general assignment. Her HealthBeat blog can be found at Follow her on Twitter at @AnnePolta.

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