The treadmill tears into Frank Turpin's shins. He can't take any more and lifts his legs from the spinning rubber.
Nearby, an exercise bike looks far less taxing, and he takes his place on the machine.
Mike Prosnick notices the switch and runs across Gold's Gym in Norcross to investigate the problem. He pumps Turpin with motivation, his eyes intense and his body language animated.
"He has to get out of his comfort zone," Prosnick said. "Hard work pays off."
This is what Turpin wanted.
"I feel better. I have a better attitude about myself," said Turpin, his clothes saturated with sweat. "I work better in structure."
Turpin is one of two people The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is following for a year, tracking their quest to change their bodies with diet and exercise.
The past month has been a challenge for Turpin. Results had become sluggish, and he was experiencing back pain that forced him to miss dates at the gym.
To speed up his progress, he looked for a little professional guidance. He contacted Bodyworks, a personal training service run out of the Gold's Gym he frequents. Prosnick, owner of Bodyworks, helped design a three-pronged program that combines weight training, cardiovascular exercise and a customized nutrition plan.
The latter is especially important, Prosnick said.
"That's 75 percent of his success," he said.
As he finishes his time on the bike, Turpin steps over to the scale in the corner of the room.
His weight: 349 pounds, 9 fewer than the 358 he weighed more than a month ago and 23 fewer when he began working toward this goal.
Now, with personal trainers guiding him, "Team Turpin" has high hopes for his next weigh-in in July.
"I'm going to follow it to a T," he said.
Vanessa Brooks has had her own challenges the past month.
Brooks is on a nutritional and exercise plan devised by Curves for Women, a fitness and weight-loss center in Norcross.
She, too, had reached a plateau. The solution: gain weight.
"I was only losing ounces, so they put me on a metabolic tune-up," Brooks said. "I gain the weight, and then I have to diet for three days, and when I diet, I have to Iose three pounds in three days. My family was like, 'What?' "
The odd strategy was designed to boost her metabolism: She gains three pounds, loses it. Gains three pounds, loses it. On the first go-round, it took only three days to put on the weight. It now takes her 10. The goal is for her metabolism to speed up to the point that it takes two weeks for her to gain those 48 ounces.
Even with this self-imposed yo-yo, she has managed to drop from 260 pounds a little more than a month ago to 253 pounds. Her starting weight was 277.
A challenge arose last month when her sister got married and she faced a reception full of rich food. She passed on all the treats.
"Nothing's the same anymore," she said. "Nothing tastes the same. You don't want the food, almost."
Her weight loss is already boosting her self-esteem. She's sporting a shorter and more stylish haircut. Gone are her eyeglasses, replaced with contact lenses.
"It feels good but it's still kind of scary," Brooks said. "You don't want to go in the other direction. I can see the results, so many people are making comments to me, but you don't want to fail."
Copyright 2003 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution