zap photo hough lake dancing abc gallery 420 'Dancing With the Stars': Ricki Lake breaks down 'very heated' weekRicki Lake is taking a deep breath the day after two particularly emotional nights on “Dancing With the Stars.”

“Wednesdays are hard,” Lake tells Zap2it, “because you start over. It’s almost like it didn’t happen. We lost Chaz [Bono, the latest celebrity contestant eliminated from the ABC show], and he’s such a good guy. I really enjoyed getting to know him. He’s incredibly brave, strong and quiet, and I think his being there was very important.”

Lake adds “the Maks thing,” with pro dancer Maksim Chmerkovskiy telling judge Len Goodman “maybe it’s time to go” during Monday’s (Oct. 24) critique of soccer-star dance partner Hope Solo, “was crazy. It’s very heated at this point in the competition.” (Chmerkovskiy later apologized.)

Midway through the 13th “Dancing” season, Lake reflects, “I expected it to be really hard and to sort of consume my life, and also to be the opportunity of my lifetime. It’s been all of that, but it’s also been even more … the body pains, the injuries, the time that I never get to see my family. Now we’re doing two dances a week, including the group dance, and it’s a grind.

“I’m definitely petering out on some level, I think. I’m exhausted, but I love a good competition and I love learning these dances and I love that my body has changed so much. There’s only a few more weeks, and I keep relating it to giving birth. It’s a transition. I’m in the worst part of it, where I think I can’t go any farther, then you get past it and you forget all about the pain. I’m definitely in that place right now.”

Lake announced this week that she’s lost 20 lbs. over the course of the “Dancing” competition thus far. “That was definitely one of the perks I was looking forward to,” she confirms. “I don’t want to say it was effortless, because I’ve been dancing and sweating five hours a day, but you don’t notice it because you’re desperate to learn these steps.

“In some ways, it’s the perfect exercise, because you don’t feel like you’re exercising. Then, of course, I get home and I have ice packs on my knees and Epsom-salt baths. It’s grueling, and it’s also a lot of fun. And I have a great partner.”

Derek Hough — who helped guide Lake through a judge-pleasing “Luck Be a Lady” from the stage-musical classic “Guys and Dolls” this week — is “a machine,” in Lake’s view. “He is so talented and so driven. He’s an artist. He thinks like a director, very visually; it’s not the just the steps and the intricacy, but what the concept is and what it’s going to look like. He’s very much a visionary, and I’m so impressed with him.

“All around, it’s been a really amazing experience,” concludes Lake, who also will return to the syndicated-talk-show arena next year, and has executive-produced the DVD documentary series “More Business of Being Born” (being released Tuesday, Nov. 8). “But I’m also excited for the vacation that will happen after it’s over.”

Posted by:Jay Bobbin