April 23, 2009

Megan's challenge As a soccer player on an athletic scholarship in college, Megan Lytle had to stay in top form. "With practices and games, exercise was built into my schedule, so it was easy," she says. During the off-season, her class schedule allowed her to fit in regular weight-training and cardio workouts and she stayed in shape.

After graduation, Megan immersed herself in her new career. "Fitness wasn't a priority for me," she says. "I didn't have time to plan healthful meals, so I grabbed fast food." A year later, Megan was popping out of size-10 pants, and when she stepped onto the scale, she realized she was now 20 pounds heavier than when she'd finished school.

Her turning point When a co-worker shared her plans to enter a marathon, something clicked, and Megan decided to train for the same race. "I needed an incentive to restart my fitness program," she says. "When I was in college, my scholarship kept me on track, and now the upcoming race motivated me to get back into exercise."

Her weight-loss & exercise plan The idea of completing a marathon was daunting, but Megan was determined. She had taken several nutrition and health courses in college, so she already knew that healthful eating was key if she wanted to be marathon-ready in three months. "Each morning, I set two or three nutrition goals I wanted to reach that day, such as drinking an additional glass of water or eating an extra serving of vegetables," she says. Megan also packed healthful lunches and snacks, such as fruit and hard-boiled eggs, to take with her to work, and committed to working out consistently. She made sure to hit the gym right after work so she wouldn't go home and find excuses to skip exercising.

Making success happen At the gym, Megan started off by walking and jogging on the treadmill for 30 minutes. "It had been a year since I had exercised, so the first half of the workout was hard," Megan says. "But then it was exhilarating, and I realized how much my body had missed being active." Her exercise plan consisted of five workouts a week that included both cardio and weight training. After the first two weeks, Megan felt unstoppable. She slowly increased her time and distance over the next several months so she would be ready for the marathon.

By race day she had lost 10 pounds, and she finished in the top half of her age group. "I wish I had given myself more time to train, but I loved the spirit and competitive nature of the event," she says. After the marathon, Megan continued with her healthful habits and six months later, she'd lost another 10 pounds and reached her college weight of 125 pounds.

Megan's next goal is to compete in a triathlon. "I love running and biking, but I have to build up my swimming skills," she says. "Having that challenge will keep me focused, and I know I'll be up to the task."

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