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Walking and losing weight for the kids

(Adam Lukach )
February 01, 2013|By Adam Lukach, @lucheezy | RedEye

If you see a man walking on a treadmill in a storefront window on Randolph Street during the next month, know that it's for a good cause. Also know that you're welcome to walk with him.

Until the end of February, Francis Wisniewski will be walking 10 miles per day to raise money and awareness for childhood obesity. The money will go toward scholarships through his charity, Downsize 4 Life, that are essentially gym memberships to his gym, Downsize Fitness. Anyone can walk with Wisniewski, 39, for a $10-per-half-hour donation, or they can text "DOWNSIZE" to 56512.

Downsize Fitness is not a typical gym. It strives to eliminate the insecurities that come with public workouts, especially for those trying to ditch more than just a few excess pounds. The gym wants people who are 50 or more pounds overweight to join Downsize, as it tries to create an atmosphere where body scrutiny is not an issue.

"Gyms are generally built for fit people to stay fit, not for fat people to get fit," said Wisniewski, who is the gym's founder.

The gym takes a comprehensive approach, complete with nutritionists on hand, personal trainers and special equipment designed to handle the heavier clientele. The gym won't kick out people once they get in shape, but he said the idea is to empower them to work out wherever, however they want.

"We've had stories since then about people that have stopped in parking lots of normal gyms and cried because they were intimidated to walk in, and never actually joined," he said. "There are a lot of overweight people who want to get fit, but they're afraid."

As a father of two, he wants to stop the process before it gets to that point. Wisnieski has lost 60 pounds since he started working out and acknowledges that it's much easier for kids to lose weight, so it's important that they stay active from the beginning. He tells the stories of two kids who have had success at Downsize: one lost almost 175 pounds after starting at more than 500, the other won fall homecoming queen after spending a summer getting fit at Downsize.

He said they plan to give out between 15 to 20 six-month scholarships this year. To apply, people can go online to the gym's website and write as short essay about why they want to lose weight.

Consistency, Wisniewski said, has been the key to losing weight in his eyes.

"When I improve my diet and get my exercise, my weight goes down. It's impossible to not lose weight when I really do those two things."

He's trying to share that with everyone else.

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