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Posted on Mon. Feb. 04, 2013 - 12:19 am EDT


Chad Bohnke 33, of Fort Wayne

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Fort Wayne’s Smallest Winner is casting its sixth season, and there is also a public division. For more information or to apply, go to

Chad Bohnke’s alarm goes off at 4:30 Monday mornings. By 5 a.m., he’s on the saddle of an indoor cycling bike.

During the hourlong workout at Spiece, he will pedal with force as he increases the tension on the bike. But the 33-year-old of Fort Wayne is not one to forget that just a year ago he wouldn’t have been able to pedal the bike at all, much less make it through 60 minutes of Spinning.

Bohnke is the Season 5 winner of Fort Wayne’s Smallest Winner, a fitness and nutrition program modeled after weight-loss competition show “The Biggest Loser.” Bohnke had lost 95.4 pounds by the finale through changes in his diet and rigorous workouts.

The program’s directors, Rick and Tina Walters, say the participants did everything from Zumba to step and circuit. What stuck with Bohnke the most, though, was part of the program’s end goal: running a half marathon.

“I really enjoy running. I wish I could get out on the road right now but I can’t (because of injury),” he says. “When you are out there on the road, or even on a treadmill with your headphones on, not thinking about anything else but what’s in front of you, it’s just an amazing feeling because you do feel like you are at peace.”

Bohnke hurt his left leg playing with his two daughters but is maintaining his fitness through low-impact exercise, such as cycling. He’s worked too hard not to.

“When I look in that mirror, I see a new me,” Bohnke says, “and I want to keep that new me right there.”

Schedule: Bohnke works out three times a week – at least. He takes indoor cycling classes Monday, Wednesday and Friday; a cardio workout such as “Insanity” on Tuesday; and runs on Thursdays.

Early preparations: Smallest Winner contestants work out at 6 a.m. during the program, and Bohnke now works out at 5 a.m. Getting up can be a challenge but he tries to go to bed by 9 p.m. and lays everything out the night before.

“When I turn off the alarm, my hand is touching my workout clothes,” he says. “I’m 90 percent there already.”

Fueled up: A typical pre-workout breakfast is two slices of wheat toast with peanut butter, and he leaves a banana in the car for after his sweat session.

Right note: “I love my music,” says Bohnke, who calls his iPod a favorite gym accessory. “Music can motivate people and I try to use that to an advantage.”

His favorite song for working out? “Whatever” by Godsmack – the live version.

Sweet tip: “Somebody told me once, ‘You don’t eat that candy bar out of that machine, you can afford a gym membership,’ ” he says. Bohnke was a frequent customer at the vending machine at work, buying candy and soda. “It was like $25 a week.” In addition to the money, he was “spending” more than 4,500 calories – “gaining a pound and a quarter” each week, he says.

For beginners: “Don’t give up,” he says. “It will be hard but you’ve already taken the hardest step, and that’s getting up off the couch, off the chair and getting yourself active.”

Motivation: Road races are among the ways Bohnke maintains his weight in a fun way.

“Now I’ve gotta maintain my nutrition, I’ve gotta maintain this … I’ve gotta get out on the road and run,” he says. “It keeps myself accountable.”

Looking toward future: Bohnke will help facilitate a Smallest Winner running group, which begins today, and is registered for the Veterans Marathon – his first – in Columbia City, on Nov. 9.


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