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Face of FITNESS Contest Finalists

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READERS' CHOICE FINALIST: Melissa Bender, 30, Pittsburgh

Melissa received the most votes from readers and Facebook fans, which netted her an extra $500 (in addition to a weekly $250 prize)!

A recent fitness accomplishment: I just competed in my first NPC bikini competition; I wanted to celebrate turning 30 years old by feeling healthier, happier, and fitter than ever before. I feel better than when I turned 20! I was nervous about getting up on that stage, but I am proud of myself for setting a goal and going after it.

Personal "I Did It!" moment: Getting a medal in my second-ever 5K. (I was never a runner, but I married a very talented runner!) When I first started running, I couldn't go more than two blocks without stopping to walk.

A health challenge she's had to overcome: A few years ago, I found a lump in my breast. The lump was surgically removed and luckily it was not cancer -- but it was one of the most emotionally challenging experiences of my life.

Favorite (healthy) things to eat: Vegetables! Especially eggplant.

Favorite workouts: I love body weight workouts and interval workouts. I love any variation of the plank, Burpees, and core exercises.

Personal fitness motto: You are only limited by the things you think you can't do. Fitness should never be about how you compare to someone else. It's your personal journey, so celebrate every accomplishment along the way.

How she influences others to be healthier: I started a fitness blog when I was in graduate school and it's now surpassed a million views! I have been very blessed in being able to share my workouts on my blog, YouTube channel, and Facebook page. Getting pictures from people who have achieved their goals, or improved their confidence through my workouts have brought tears to my eyes, many times.

On her fitness bucket list: Outdoor rock climbing, run a half-marathon, create a fitness DVD, and run a sub 20-minute 5K. Just to name a few!

Upcoming goal: I want to start an occupational therapy-based life coaching business to help people live fit, functional lives. Fitness means so much more to me than achieving an aesthetic goal. Fitness is about strength, courage, and learning what you are physically and mentally capable of.

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rmcampoli wrote:

Over 50 women want help and guidance to a healthier,stronger and more fit lifestyle too.send help my way at

4/26/2013 04:33:36 PM Report Abuse
rmcampoli wrote:

Loved the article but would love to see women 50+ who are also living healthy and could pass on some great tips for the over 50 group trying to get to a better,healthier lifestyle too.Would love some feed back from women that have done this and that are still doing this over 50 years old.please let me know!!!

4/26/2013 04:30:24 PM Report Abuse
smartin927 wrote:

Yes, I agree...let's have someone who's in their 50's and 60's!!! I work out regularly and feel that I'm in better shape today than I was in my 20's and 30's...and I'm sure I'm in good company!

4/26/2013 01:43:54 PM Report Abuse
cmazick1 wrote:

I also admire all of these YOUNG women - especially since several had overcome physical problems - but I was in that shape also when I was in my 20's and 30's but there wasn't a lot of encouragement for women over 60. I am 69 retired this year and now take a Zumba class 3 times a week - mow my own lawn with a push mower - walk the golf course at least once a week -still would like some strength training tips

4/26/2013 01:07:01 PM Report Abuse
beth2150 wrote:

Just reading through this article and realized I went to school with Jessica. Congrats girl!

4/26/2013 12:07:27 PM Report Abuse

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