As she flipped through a magazine on a business trip in June, Erin Jane Pitsor stumbled across an ad for a fitness challenge. "I should totally do that," she thought. A career-focused woman, she'd been wanting to add balance to her lifestyle of 11-hour workdays, client and customer dinners and happy hours. Always competitive, Pitsor won her way into the STEELE Fitness Challenge with a video that features her showering and climbing the steps to the State Capitol in a barely-there purple workout sports bra and shorts. Now she's nearing the end of the challenge -- in which judges, online voting, and fitness results determine the winner among 10 contestants -- and feeling that whatever the outcome of the challenge, she's come out ahead.

No more bread, beer

"I set out to establish healthy habits and nutrition and working out, and I've become more cognizant of what I'm putting into my body. Psychologically, it was really hard at the beginning. Bread was really tough the first week. I had to do things like dump ketchup on it to make it look less appetizing. It's not as tough anymore. I eat a lot of grilled chicken, mahi-mahi, steamed veggies -- and Greek yogurt. I should probably buy stock in it. On Sunday and Wednesday nights, I prepare food and package them up. I bring a cooler to work with four to six little meals. I haven't eaten bread in two months. Or Surly Furious. Or vodka."

Single-minded focus

"In high school I loved tennis and cheerleading, but then college comes and you get involved with a sorority, and then engaged in a career. ... I've spent the last eight years on my career and let other things fall by the wayside."

The other 23

"I've been getting a workout in every single day, and two or three days a week I do two workouts. STEELE gives [the contestants] a trainer, so I've been working with Casey three times a week, and on the days I'm not with her I do STEELE T.W.O. [bootcamp-style group workout] -- it's a really good [butt]-kicking. But they say it's not the hour you spend in the gym; it's the other 23. That's when I'm eating. I've cheated twice so far: I had half a taco shell, and half a Tater Tot. It was the best Tater Tot I've ever had."

More exercise = more energy

You'd think you'd be more tired because you're doing more and expending more calories, but I'm not. It used to be that at 1 p.m. I'd want to take a nap, but I don't want that anymore. I feel better; I have more energy. I have a lot of back issues that I think will continue to get better, too. I have scoliosis, so it makes it tough even to get out of bed, and there are small improvements there."

5 a.m. workout, anyone?

"Finding the time to do everything has been the hardest. When you're working from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m. and getting up early to get a workout in, and finding time to do two workouts, and traveling -- travel is so hard, because I know I'm not pushing myself as hard as Casey would. Then I come home and can't move after her workout."

Goal: finding balance

"I'm goal-oriented to a fault: That's the way I live my life, 100 percent or nothing. I've been 100 percent focused on career, and now my focus is changing to needing to find a balance. Winning [the competition] is important, not just for the things you get but because I'm competitive, and the win includes getting to continue to understand how to get healthy for life (if you win, you get another year at STEELE Fitness). If I win, I'm thinking, how far can I take this? I'm ready for my next challenge -- I have officially decided to compete in a fitness competition in 2013."