Upcoming Fitness Events

Upcoming Fitness Events:
Aug. 5-10 -- Beach Week (yes, this counts as a fitness event!)
Sept. 8 -- Zombie Escape (5k mud run)
Nov. 17 -- Color Run Charlotte (5k color extravaganza)

Friday, August 3, 2012

No Jiggle July -- Final Wrap-up

Well, No Jiggle July has come to an end. Overall, I think it ended up being a good month. In the course of 31 days, I worked out 15 times, so I managed to maintain my average of every other day. I dropped about a pound (not amazing, but better than going the other way I guess) and am slightly lower than I was in body fat percentage. 

In my head, I think I was hoping for more dramatic results, but I know the reality is that it was just one month. And I do feel better than I did, so I think No Jiggle July served its purposes well. The Zombie Escape 5k obstacle course is a little over a month away. I'm still not sure quite what I was thinking when I agreed to sign up for the race, but I feel decently prepared. Well, maybe. I mean, in the course of the next month, I think I'll be reasonably ready, anyways. 

And so, July turns into August. I don't have a quirky name for this month (though maybe I should...it seemed to help!), but the mission continues. Thanks for following along on this journey!

Monday, July 23, 2012

No Jiggle July -- Week 3 (Almost There!)

Happy Monday! I was hoping for an exciting post this week, but I'm afraid there's not much new to report. The frequency of my workouts has remained about the same (averaging every other day), but I do feel a little better about the intentionality of my workouts. I've had some decent cardio blasts this week, and I've also continued working on strength training.

As I start the final week or so of No Jiggle July, I'm curious as to whether my "before" and "after" pictures are going to show any progress. I know that you can only do but so much in a month, but I think it will be interesting to see if there's a noticeable difference. I'll keep you posted!

Monday, July 16, 2012

No Jiggle July -- Second Week Slump

Why is the second week of something always harder than the first? Because excitement and motivation wear away quickly!

Week 2 of No Jiggle July could be the poster child for the sophomore slump. This week was hard to get moving! I'm averaging a workout every other day, but I still feel like I could step it up a little. If nothing else, I want to make sure that the time I spend actually working out is productive and intentional, not just me half-heartedly going through the motions. My weight is also up a little bit...an indication that I'm not paying as much attention to what I'm eating as I need to.

On the plus side, my favorite workout this past week occurred on Tuesday night. I ended up getting home from work too late to make that Body Combat class that I wanted to go to, but I had scheduled Tuesday as a workout day, so I knew I needed to do something! After dinner, I changed into my workout clothes (note to self: working out on the way home from work is MUCH easier than trying to get up the energy to do so after dinner!) and headed to the backyard. As best as I could, I tried to put myself through the paces in a "backyard boot camp" circuit. Basically, this involved me running around in circles (thankfully we have a big backyard), doing jumping jacks and (a few) burpees, and anything else I could think of to just move. I'm pretty sure that the hubby (and probably the neighbors!) thought I was crazy, but the dog and I had fun running around like idiots!

So with some hits and a few misses, I'm down to 2 1/2 weeks of No Jiggle July and 3 weeks until my beach trip. If you need me, I'll be at the gym...

Monday, July 9, 2012

No Jiggle July - Week One Wrap-up

No Jiggle July has started out well, I think. I've been to the gym three times over the past week, and I went running in the neighborhood next to ours on the 4th. I'm struggling with the endurance factor of my cardio (that is, when I ran/walked outside, my time/distance was MUCH higher than it has been on the treadmill), but I think that's more a mental/discipline thing than anything else. On the plus side, I've been really trying to focus on the strength training portion of my workouts. I'm even a little bit sore today, so I'll take that as a good sign. :-)

Today will probably be an off day, but I'm already thinking about hitting up Body Combat tomorrow night at the gym. I've taken the class once or twice, but it's been awhile, so I thought I should give it another shot. I'm also trying to avoid boredom and muscle adaptation (from too many of the same type of workouts). I've seen lots of different strength training exercises and circuits online, but it's so hard to remember any of them when I'm actually standing in the gym!

1 week down, 3 1/2 more to go!

Monday, July 2, 2012

No Jiggle July -- Days 1 & 2

Thanks to a much needed lazy Sunday, No Jiggle July started with a whimper, but should be in full effect starting today. In the absence of real exercise yesterday, I did take "before" pictures and checked on my weight and body fat percentage (25.2%). I'll be very interested to see what those numbers are 30 days from now.

Tonight's plan includes the gym (for sure) and RPM spinning class (most likely). I'm looking forward to a break in this crazy heat to be able to do some more running/walking outside, but for now, the air conditioned gym is definitely the way to go!

Friday, June 29, 2012

Introducing...No Jiggle July!

I've decided that it's time to kick it up a notch here at Maintaining Merth. I've been floating around in the post-race slump for the past few weeks, and I'm ready to get back to some more focused, regular training. There are two events coming up this fall (Zombie Escape and the Color Run) that I really want to be prepared for, so I don't want to lose the progress I made this spring. Oh yeah...there's also a trip to the beach coming up in August that, well, I want to be prepared for too!

SO...I'm declaring next month to be "No Jiggle July" -- a month-long quest to get back on track and really work on strength training and toning. Thankfully, today's only June 29, so I still have a couple of days to decide exactly what that's going to look like. Some of my ideas I'm thinking about are below:

1. Incorporate at least 15 minutes of exercise into my day EVERY day in July. (Yikes!)
2. Work my way through the gobs of fitness pins that I have saved on Pinterest.
3. Find the most creative ways I can to fit fitness in to my regular routine.

I suspect that No Jiggle July will contain a combination of all of the above, but I'm also open to suggestions. What do you think I should do?

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

I am Ninja!

On Saturday, I ran the Ninja Challenge with a group of my friends. 5K. 15 obstacles. NC heat.

My teammate Diana and I started the day early with a little ninja prepping. Who says ninjas can't look good while they're stealthily moving from one challenge to the next?

Finally, it was time to leave for the race. I think we were both nervous, but with a few deep breaths of assurance, we decided we were ready to tackle whatever lay ahead of us. Following the trail from the parking lot to the check-in area, we passed by a hay bale obstacle. Whew. The hay bale seemed manageable. Maybe we CAN do this!

With the sun blazing down, we found the rest of our team and began preparing for our start time. Water? Check. Peanut butter and jelly sandwich? Check. Pre-race pit stop? Check. 

And so it began. Our team opted to bring up the rear of our starting heat so as to be able to take our time and not hold anyone else up. We ran. We jumped over log hurdles. We crossed ponds. We leaped into ice cold water. We climbed cargo nets. We skipped. We finished. We had a blast.

And so, we survived the Ninja Challenge. I went into the race anticipating that it would be one of those things that I did to do and that would be it. But in truth, although it was challenging, it was also a lot of fun. So much fun that I think we're trying again -- the Zombie Escape mud (!) run in September. After several months of "training," I felt reasonably prepared for some elements of the course, but not as prepared as I should have been for others. While I'm not sure how I feel about the mud aspect of the next race, I'm thankful to have something to work toward for the next several months. Here we go again!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Measuring Body Fat

As I mentioned a few months ago, I have been trying to track my body fat percentage as part of my ongoing metrics of health. I originally tried to do this by taking measurements and plugging them into an online formula, but I had trouble measuring with consistency (is this the same place on my arm that I measured last time?).

As I researched the topic, I discovered that there are basic machines that can help determine your body fat percentage. For about $35, I purchased a hand-held body fat monitor. Doctors and other professionals probably have more exact ways to measure, but for my needs, this little machine seems to work great.

You hold the machine by both hands at an arms' length away from your body and push the start button. In 5-10 seconds, your current body fat percentage displays. Quick and simple!

For what it's worth, my initial measurement calculations of 24-26% body fat actually proved to be fairly accurate. I'm in the "normal" range for a woman in her 30s, though I would like to move more into the "lean/fit" category (closer to 20-22%). It's handy to be able to track both my weight and my body fat percentage as I see how my body changes and responds to diet and exercise. The adventure continues....

Friday, May 18, 2012


It would appear that I've been practicing my disappearing ninja skills around here lately. I'm getting pretty good at it, huh?

Anyways, the countdown has begun for my back-to-back 5K weekends. Run the 'Quay is two weeks from tomorrow, and the Ninja Challenge is the weekend after that. Yikes!

To train for Run the 'Quay, I've been doing one of the Couch to 5K apps on my phone. It's actually pretty cool -- the program leads you through a series of progressively harder walk/run workouts until you're ready to run the full 5K. I've been doing some other workouts along the way, so I haven't progressed quite as far as I would have liked, but it's a helpful tool to judge how I'm doing. I'm running the race with my brother, so I'm also motivated by the fact that I don't want to slow him down too much!

As for the Ninja Challenge, I'm not sure that I'll ever be as prepared as I want to be. When I first signed up, it seemed like I had so much more time! It's also hard to know what to expect, but I guess we'll figure it out as we go. In addition to running, I've been working on basic strength exercises (push ups, core strengthening, etc.). I hope it will be enough!

Two weeks and counting...

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Salsa Chicken Taco Salad

I'm always trying to come up with quick, easy, delicious, low-point lunches for work. (That's not too much to ask, right?) One of my new favorites is salsa chicken taco salad. I originally made the chicken to use in a wrap, and while it's good there, I discovered that it is fantastic with a salad.

The chicken is super easy to make and is moist enough that you don't really need dressing for the salad.

Salsa chicken:
1-2 chicken breasts
Jar of salsa

Put the chicken breasts in a small crock pot and cover with salsa. (I usually use one chicken breast and about half a jar of the salsa.) Cover and cook until chicken is cooked through (2-3 hours???). Remove chicken breast from crock pot, shred with two forks, and then return to crock pot to soak up a little more of the salsa goodness.

Serve over lettuce with low-fat shredded cheese and crumbled tortilla chips. Yum!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Outward Bound

One of the coolest experiences I had growing up was to participate in an Outward Bound excursion. Outward Bound is an organization that provides outdoor experiences for a wide-range of participants -- troubled teens, college kids, adults who want to experience adventure, etc. There are Outward Bound camps throughout the world, and the organization exists to help push people outside of their comfort zones and find a strength to pull from for the future. The idea came from observing sailors in WWII -- in stressful, tumultuous situations, everyone expected the young, spry sailors to be the ones who came through with flying colors. In reality, it was the older sailors -- the ones who had "been there, done there" -- who were able to keep their cool and provide stability for the crew. From these observations, the founders of Outward Bound sought to develop a safe atmosphere where people could could be challenged to become stronger.

Instead of traditional field trips to DC or some other educational destination, my middle school set up a program for 8th graders to be able to experience a small taste of Outward Bound. There is a base camp in the North Carolina mountains, which is only about 45 minutes from where I grew up. In several waves throughout the spring of my 8th grade year, groups of students spent five days living in the woods. And by living in the woods, I mean living in the woods -- eating, sleeping, using the bathroom, carrying-everything-you-have-in-your-backpack living in the woods.

Needless to say, it was a challenging, but amazing, experience. For five days, we hiked and participated in team challenges. We rock climbed. We tackled a high ropes course. We cried. We laughed. We stumbled. We fell. We dreamed of taking a hot shower.

Part of the Outward Bound experience involves reflection, and we had a "book of readings" to help spur that on. During my trip, I found one of my favorite quotes by Mark Twain: "I did it partly because it was worth it, but mostly because I shall never have to do it again." That pretty much sums it up for me -- I'm not an outdoorsy type of person, but I've always been grateful that I had the opportunity to experience what I did during those five days.

These days, 8th grade seems like a lifetime ago, but I've been thinking a lot about Outward Bound lately. Just like I had to "train" for my five days in the woods, I'm now training for one day in the woods -- The Ninja Challenge. To be perfectly honest, I'm kind of scared -- 15 obstacles, many of them unknown. While I'm probably in better shape than I was in 8th grade, I'm also about 18 years older.

Like the sailors of old, I hope that my previous experience will help me push through.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Training in Progress

Whew! What a crazy month March has been. Work has been non-stop lately, and Dave and I have been working hard to finish out the hockey season (Go Canes!). Somewhere in the midst of all that, I found myself agreeing to participate in a 5K obstacle course/race in June. Shortly thereafter, reality set in -- it's time to get myself in gear and start training!

A little motivation is a good thing, and I've been trying to take advantage of whatever time I have at the gym. I started one of the Couch to 5K programs (I had been running some, but I find the structure helpful), and I'm in the middle of Week 4 (I skipped a few of the early, easy runs, but who's counting!?!). I've also been trying to incorporate push-ups and pull-ups into my routine...it's slow moving, but I think I'm beginning of make a little bit of progress. (We'll see what happens when I have to pull myself up over obstacles in June!)

I was contemplating participating in a 5K while we're in Pittsburgh later this month, but due to the limited time that we're going to have while we're there, I think I'm going to pass. That race aside, however, I have several events in my future. Details are below -- come join me!

June 2 - Run the 'Quay 
Last year's race was the first 5K I ran. Ever. I'm looking forward to having a second go at it -- and hoping to be better prepared for it this year.

June 9 - The Ninja Challenge
5K. Lots of obstacles. Team race.

Sept. 22 - The Color Run (Washington, DC)
Start the race wearing white. Finish in tie-dye glory. Awesome.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

D Day

Today's the day -- my four year anniversary of reaching my initial weight loss goal. After an 18-month journey, on March 11, 2008, I stepped on the scale for my weekly weigh in and realized that I had finally reached the number that I had been striving for -- a number that was 75 pounds from the one I had started with. Needless to say, it was a proud moment in my life. To this day, I still count losing weight as one of the best things I've ever done for myself.

What I didn't fully realize then, however, was that the real adventure was just beginning. It's one thing to lose weight; it's another to keep it off. For the past four years, that's been the reality of my life. Whether I like or not, I have to think about my food choices every day. Sometimes I don't mind, but sometimes I hate it. It's tough to keep up the motivation to consistently make wise choices, and I fail just like everyone else.

Six weeks ago, I mentioned that I had a goal to slim down and tone up a little by today. In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to tell you that I didn't make it. I weigh exactly what I did six weeks ago and my measurements are essentially the same as well.

Doom and gloom aside, however, I'm still proud of where I've been and where I am today. Although I'm heavier today than I have been on my previous maintenance anniversaries, I'm still within three pounds of the goal weight that I reached four years ago. As for my short-term goal, the past two weeks have been considerably better than the first four were, so I'm hoping to build on that momentum in moving forward. My goals are still my goals (hey, bathing suit season is coming!), despite a change in time frame.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Crunch Time

It's crunch time!

As I was getting into my car from the gym last night, it occurred to me that today was the beginning of March...which means my (self-imposed) fitness deadline is quickly approaching. By March 11, I was supposed to have dropped a couple of pounds and reduced my body fat percentage. I haven't taken my measurements lately, so I can't speak for the percentage part, but I know that my weight is not where it's supposed to be (or, at least, where I want it to be).

Given that I'm down to 11 days, I realize that it may be too late to fully meet my weight loss goal, but I'm still going to try to get as close as possible. (I work better under pressure anyways!) Time to recapture my determination and make smart decisions. Let's do this!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Let's Get Physical!

Is it just me, or is it difficult to find time to exercise? For the most part, I'm willing TO exercise, it just doesn't fit into my schedule as conveniently as I would like. I work full-time, my commute is lengthy, and I have a husband who would like for me to be home and cook dinner at some type of a reasonable hour. (I can't even begin to imagine how those with children do it!)

And yet, exercise is definitely important. For me, the key to losing weight is watching what I eat, but I certainly can't knock the benefits that exercise provides -- muscle tone, heightened weight losses, stress relief. I think the secret is trying to find ways to sneak it in...something I'm still working on.

When I first lost weight, I was surprised at how I didn't mind parking a little further away from the grocery store doors -- I actually wanted to walk. I don't encounter many flights of stairs, but I try to take those as well (at least on occasion). If nothing else, I try to keep in mind that what could be seen as inconveniences in life (walking further in the parking lot, circling the office a few times to find someone, having seats on the 3rd level of the hockey arena) are opportunities to squeeze in a little extra fitness. It may not be much, but I'm certain that it's better than nothing!

On a side note, I loved the song "Let's Get Physical" as a child (I thought it was really about working out!). I'm sure my mother just loved having her 4-year-old belt it out on a regular basis! ;-)

Thursday, February 16, 2012


It would appear that there's nothing like announcing your plans to slim down and tone up to really throw a wrench in your diet. I'm nearly half-way through my six weeks, and if anything, I think I'm worse off than I was. I've been working on switching up my workouts (interval-style cardio, more strength training), so that part is good (when I actually make it to the gym!), but the diet part of my plan has been terrible.

I'd love to blame the usual suspects -- Super Bowl, Valentine's Day, gourmet cupcakes -- but the truth of the matter is that there's always going to be some type of special event or tempting food to derail my plans. At the end of the day, I have to make a choice to give in or resist. Unfortunately, I'm not very good at choosing wisely.

Over the course of the past week, I've been thinking a lot about Paul's confession that he so often finds himself doing the very things that he doesn't want to do. And wouldn't you know, that's exactly the chapter in Romans that we studied in my small group Bible study last weekend.

From The Message version of that passage:
 17-20But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can't keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don't have what it takes. I can will it, but I can't do it. I decide to do good, but I don't really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don't result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.

21-23It happens so regularly that it's predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God's commands, but it's pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.

24I've tried everything and nothing helps. I'm at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn't that the real question?

25The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.

I love Paul's honesty about his struggles. I can't count how many times I've found myself in that very spot -- with food and diet, but also in life. I say that I want to stick to my diet, but the siren song of donuts from the break room is all that I can hear. I set out to spend time reading my Bible every day, but four days later, it still sits on the table untouched. I vow to buckle down and be productive, taking care of the things that need to be done, but some shiny object distracts me for far too long.

While this human weakness is so frustrating, I am thankful that God is bigger than any distraction or temptation that I will ever encounter. I'm also thankful that God is a God of forgiveness...that no matter how many times I fail (and I will fail), God still sees me as His chosen child.

I'm pretty sure that's better than a donut.... :-)

Monday, February 6, 2012


If the dog can do it, then so can I!

On a somewhat related note, did you see Madonna's half-time show?!? I can only hope to be in that kind of shape when I'm in my 50s! Maybe I should hire the VW dog as my personal trainer...!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Skinny Fat

I've recently discovered the concept of "skinny fat." There are a number of articles online that describe what skinny fat is and what goes into it, but it's basically this -- by weight standards and BMI, you appear to be healthy, but you still have a high body fat percentage. In other words, you look great in clothes, but as you begin to peel off the layers (read: bathing suits!), things aren't as fit and trim as you might think (or hope for!).

Unfortunately, I've come to realize that I fall into the category of skinny fat (or at least, it wouldn't take much to get there). I don't know that I've been skinny fat for the duration of my years on maintenance, but I think I've drifted that way over the past year or two. I suspect that I've reached this point for a number of reasons -- my eating habits have gotten a little lax lately and, though I've been going to the gym, a good chunk of the past year was spent focusing on running (to train for my first 5K last June). While there's nothing wrong with running (and cardio in general), my downfall was that I stopped weight training in lieu of spending more of my gym time on the treadmill. As I now realize, weight training is one of the keys to being fit, instead of just skinny. Without pushing and developing your muscles, the flab stays flabby.

And so, that's where I am today. Seeking to turn my skinny body into a fit one. As best as I can tell through my very un-scientific Google search for online body fat percentage calculators, I seem to have approximately 24-26% body fat, which I don't think is horrible but leaves room for improvement. I'm also currently about 3 pounds heavier than my initial goal weight that I set when first losing weight. 

That said, my new goal is this: in 6 weeks (March 11), I will be celebrating my four-year anniversary of reaching my WW goal weight. Between now and then, I would like to 1) reduce my body fat percentage (that is, tone up from where I am now) and 2) return to my goal weight. While those two goals can actually work against each other (muscle weighs more than fat), I think they are reasonable goals. I'll be able to measure goal number 1 through body fat percentage and body measurements; goal 2 will be tracked through my home scale. I'll keep you posted on my progress!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Getting here

"Before" (Thanksgiving 2006) and "After" (Easter 2008)

Like so many others, my struggle with weight has plagued most of my adult life. Between a family disposition to be on the heavier side and my love for Southern (and otherwise) comfort food, I was far from being the size that I wanted or needed to be, and while I said that I wanted to do something, I didn't for a long time. 

In 2004-2005, after reaching my highest weight, I teamed up with some friends who also wanted to lose weight to try to help each other get there. Having the support helped, and I lost a decent amount of weight (40-ish lbs, I think). I was thrilled at my new body, but I didn't know how to take care of where I had gotten. Plus, I fell in love. ♥ Spending time with my husband-to-be and cooking for him sounded a lot better than watching what I was eating.

Fast forward six months into our marriage, and you'll find me fighting my highest weight again. In fact, the day that I started Weight Watchers, I was a single pound shy of where I had started in 2004. That day was a painful day, but also one of the best. I was getting dressed for work and complaining (again!) about nothing fitting well. Apparently that was enough for dear hubby because he gave me an ultimatum -- either do something about my weight or shut up about it. I have no doubt that he would have loved me either way, but hearing it spelled out so clearly hurt my pride enough to get my attention. I joined Weight Watchers online that morning and never looked back.

Over the course of the next 15 months, I lost 75 pounds, reaching my goal weight on March 11, 2008. Since then, I have been working to successfully maintain my weight loss, which is it's own struggle (and the motivation for this blog!).

People often ask what's the secret to weight loss -- the only answer I have is that comes down to sheer determination. Something clicked inside me that morning, and I knew that if I was going to do something, I had to DO SOMETHING and do it right. Losing weight is not easy; maintaining a weight loss may even be harder. But aside from choosing to follow Christ, it's the best thing I've ever done for myself and absolutely worth it.

Friday, January 20, 2012


It hardly seems fair to call this a beginning. I mean, it's the beginning of a blog about my journey, but it's hardly the beginning OF the journey. That journey began a long time ago and has reiterated itself many times -- the journey of finding myself. 

Now, lest you think I'm about to go off on some sort of new age, hippie rage about the metaphysical entity that is my person, I should probably set the record straight.
1. If that's what you thought, you likely don't know me very well.
2. To me, finding myself is discovering and refining the woman that God has created me to be -- mind, body, and spirit.

When I first thought about starting a new blog, my initial thoughts were that I wanted to write a blog about weight loss, fitness, and learning to find my happy place in the world of weight loss maintenance (New Year's resolutions and all that jazz). The more I thought about it, however, the more I realized that I can't leave it just there. To me, losing weight and living in a smaller body is about balance. But without mind and spirit, the body itself is without balance.

So, there it is. A blog about fitness and my weight loss maintenance journey, sprinkled with other musings about the important things in life. My journey toward maintaining Merth...