From a Newlywed Gone Soft to a Hard-Bodied Marathoner

By , SparkPeople Blogger
One of SparkPeople's most dedicated and popular members is featured in this month's Redbook, on newsstands now! Magda, aka SMURFETTE0725, shares her inspirational story. Magda, the the Director of Apparel Merchandising for PUMA, lost the "married 15" weight she gained after her wedding and kept going. She lost more than 30 pounds, learned to run, bike and swim under water. Magda, who lives in Watertown, Massachusetts, is now a veteran marathoner and triathlete whose next goal is to qualify for the Boston Marathon!

Magda, 32, recently took time to answer some questions for the dailySpark via email. Read her motivating and inspirational answers, and learn how SparkPeople helps her reach her goals!

dailySpark: How has SparkPeople helped you reach your goal?

Magda: SparkPeople has helped me in so many ways!!
The food and fitness trackers have kept me focused on proper nutrition and exercise. During my weight loss phase, I made sure to stay under my 1,400 calorie goal by logging everything I ate. I would also use it to plan ahead. I'd enter my planned meals to ensure my calories would not exceed my goal for the day. I would also log all of my workouts in the fitness tracker so that I could keep track of my calories burned. My other strategy was to plan my workouts in advance by posting a Weekly Fitness Plan on my blog which consisted of my daily workout goals. I'd then go in update each day so I could track my progress.

I've also established great relationships through SparkPeople Teams and Pages. My Sparkie Friends inspire me and help me stay the course! I don't want to disappoint them! They've been so supportive of my journey!

And I love that by being active on the site, logging, tracking, posting, etc. I accumulate SparkPoints towards ribbons and trophies. I'm proud to say that I've accumulated 41k points since becoming an Active Member of the site and am 18k points away from the ultimate trophy! It's such a personal accomplishment to think that I've remained committed for this long, and will continue to stay committed.

dS: Now that you're in maintenance mode, for what do use SparkPeople?

Magda: I continue to track my nutrition and fitness via the trackers. It keeps me honest and accountable for the decisions I make.
I also continue to blog and post my weekly fitness plans (this week is #121!!); this helps me to stay focused on the strategies that got me to where I am today (proper planning, prioritizing workouts and healthy eating, etc) and continue to share my journey with those around me.

I'm also active on two teams. The first team I ever joined and continue to participate in is the "DW Nestie Fitness Hotties." We're a group of women that met on back in 2004 when we were all planning our destination weddings, and then moved over to the after our weddings. Then in 2006 we decided to move to SparkPeople, since wedding plans were far behind us, nestie talks did not really interest us, and we all shared a desire to live a healthier and happier life, especially after having gained some post-wedding weight! The other team that I actively participate in is the "Time To Shine in Oh-9!" Team. Our leader, Shawna (Shawnatony), creates creative challenges such as this month’s EasterEggHunt, where each team needs to fill their basket with eggs they *find* by posting their daily strength sessions! Because I’ve got a little bit of a competitive streak in me, I often find myself working out a little harder and longer just to help my team accumulate points so we can win!

I love both of these two teams because I know I can always discuss fitness and nutrition related topics with my Sparkie Friends, since we share similar goals and are all overcoming similar challenges. They have been a huge source of inspiration to me and an incredible support system!

dS:What is a typical day like in terms of exercise?

Magda: A typical day? Are you ready .... ?!?! ;)
Well, I wake up @ 4:30 or 5:00am, head to the gym for 60-90 minutes of cardio (generally a Treadmill Run and/or Spin Class), plus 30 minutes of Upper Body Weight Training 3 days per week, and 10 minutes of post-workout stretching. Later in the evening, I head to the Yoga studio after work for 90 min of Bikram Yoga. I walked into my first Bikram Yoga class 2.5 months ago and immediately fell in love. It's such a great balance to all the running I do, and helps me unwind and de-stress after a busy day at the office.

When I first started though, a typical day would be 30 - 60 minutes of cardio using the Elliptical or Stair Master, 4 - 5 mornings per week, plus three 30 min sessions of weight training, usually 2 sessions of Upper Body, 1 day of Lower Body.

dS: What do you eat on a regular basis?

Magda: During the week I basically stick to the same meal plan each day!
150 calorie snack before my workout. Can either be a banana, small breakfast bar, or slice of bread with cheese.

Breakfast is Quaker Oatmeal (Lower Sugar) with 10 raw almonds and mixed berries and 16 oz of green tea.
Morning Snack is a container of the Breakstone's Doubles .... 2% cottage cheese with fruit!
Lunch is a Veggie Burger wrapped in a Joseph's Lavash wrap with fat free cheese and spinach, a side of steamed veggies, and some fresh fruit, typically grapes!
My afternoon Snack is usually non-fat greek yogurt and a piece of fruit, usually an orange or apple.
Before Bikram I have a 100 calorie bag of pretzels
And dinner is typical grilled chicken or fish with brown rice or sweet potato and a large helping of steamed veggies.
For dessert I have a tall glass of Skim Milk with No Sugar Added Nestle chocolate powder, sometimes I add sugar free cool whip, too!
I also drink approximately 80 oz of water per day. This is roughly 1,600 calories.

Magda on New Year's Eve

dS: What is your biggest challenge when it comes to living healthfully?

Magda: Sticking to my nutrition plan, for sure! I have such a sweet tooth!! I could snack on chocolate and ice cream ALL DAY LONG!!! But I know if I do, I'll see it and feel it immediately, it's just not worth it. But even so, I have to make the decision hundreds of times per day to not give in to the temptations and to stick with the foods that I know will make me feel and look my best. I don't ALWAYS make the right decisions though, I'm only human! ;) The key is to not let that moment of weakness throw me off for days and weeks. I need to get right back on track ASAP!!

To help with this and other challenges when it comes to living healthfully, I’ve developed my "Flag System," a system that helps me identify when I first start to veer off course. The "Flag System" corrects me when I start to slide just a little so that I don't end up worse than when I started.

The first part of this system are the GREEN FLAGS, all the healthy activities I'm doing to keep this weight off. By doing them, I know that I am clearly on track ... GREEN FLAG, GO!

The second part of the system are my YELLOW FLAGS. These are my warnings, alerting me to the reality that I may be veering too far off course. By recognizing these warning signs, I am able to reassess the situation, and take stock of my schedule, my motivation, and my overall excitement. I will then need to be honest with myself and make a change in my routine. The sooner I recognize these YELLOW FLAGS, the quicker I am able to correct myself. My YELLOW FLAGS say WARNING! When these YELLOW FLAGS begin to pop up, I will slow down, reassess, and put a plan into action!!

Lastly, the third part of the system are my RED FLAGS. Prior to November 2006, many of these red flags were everyday occurrences for me. The truth is, if I see these RED FLAGS pop up on a regular basis I must admit to myself that I am on the fast track to my old (unhealthy, miserable) lifestyle. My RED FLAGS say STOP ... NOW!

For more detail on the “Flag System” check out my blog.

dS: What goals have you set for yourself?

Magda: During this journey I realized that I needed to set athletic goals in order to stay focused. I also realized why I always failed to stick to weight loss plans in the past .... the scale had been my only indicator of success, and unfortunately, the scale never kept me motivated for very long. For that reason, my goals have to be about athletic accomplishments. Currently, I want to qualify for the Boston Marathon (finishing a marathon distance in under 3 hours, 40 minutes), so I always have "my next race" scheduled. I'm always training for something! Currently I'm training for my 3rd marathon .... in 10 days!! I also want to one day compete in an Ironman Triathlon, which means I must continue to strengthen my swimming and cycling skills (I just learned to do both last year so I have a long road ahead of me!)

Recently I completed a 60 Day Bikram Yoga Challenge (60 Classes in 60 Days) and discovered the amazing physical and mental benefits of Bikram. For that reason, I have also set a goal of continuing to practice Bikram at least 5 days per week for the next year. I'm secretly considering signing up for the 9-week Bikram Teacher certification course once I've completed my first year of Bikram practice (OK, so maybe that's not much of a secret anymore!)

And most importantly, as I continue to work towards completing these goals, my most important goal in life is to never take for granted the love and support I receive from my husband Rob (GEEPAS) and to make sure he always feels loved and supported. I am blessed to have such an understanding and supportive partner in life. He wants to see me meet my goals, which makes me work even harder to achieve them.

dS: What is the most rewarding part of having lost the weight?

Magda: After a lifetime of looking in the mirror and wishing I was someone else, I can now look at my reflection and smile. I am proud of the person I have become. I am a marathoner, a triathlete, a yogini. I am a wife and a friend. I am also a professional who travels internationally on a regular basis. Since losing the weight I discovered my inner athlete, and also discovered an inner strength and determination that I never knew I had. Because of this discovery I am able to balance my different roles in life and be the best me that I can be. I hope that my journey inspires those around me to do the same because everyone deserves to be this happy!

dS:What advice would you have for people who are new to the site and trying to find motivation?

Magda: My first recommendation would be to set up your SparkPage and share your story and goals. Secondly, become active on a team or two and take advantage of the incredible support system on SparkPeople. This is a special place!!

Most importantly, though, you have to utilize the nutrition tracker to track your calorie intake and stay within the recommended calorie ranges. You should also utilize the fitness tracker to log your daily workouts and track calories burned. Weight loss is actually not that difficult. You need to burn more than calories than you consume! One pound is roughly 3,500 calories. Burn 3,500 calories, lose one pound. Burn 17,500 calories, lose five pounds! So put a plan in place to burn more calories than you consume (stay within your daily calorie limit and make sure to get 45 – 60 minutes of exercise 4 – 5 times per week), and STICK WITH IT!! Remind yourself that the weightloss will not happen overnight and that it will take time. But it will happen, as long as you remain disciplined in your goals and objectives. You will find yourself getting stronger with each day. And before you know it, 6 months will have gone by .... and you'll be able to look back on all of your many accomplishments .... accomplishments achieved through faith and discipline and you’ll smile.

If you ever find yourself doubting this, just check out SparkPeople’s library of motivational SparkPages, there are TONS of them! People who turned their lives around and have stuck with it! People like you and me.

Does Magda's story inspire you? Be sure to pick up a copy of Redbook today!