Off to a running start

Times Staff Writer

Four weeks ago, thousands of Southern Californians made a New Year's resolution to get in shape and lose weight. Three of those resolution-makers -- Harry McLachlan, Liana Neyer and Yvonne Crafter -- agreed to share their struggles and triumphs as they devised their own fitness routines and diet programs. This is the first in a series of updates on their progress.



Age: 48

Height: 6 feet

Beginning weight: 245 pounds

Current weight: 239 pounds

Despite a demanding work schedule that sometimes thwarts his exercise routine, entrepreneur Harry McLachlan has managed to lose 6 pounds. He's also cut out fast-food lunches and improved the time on his runs.

McLachlan's goal was to run three mornings during the workweek and once or twice on weekends. He also wanted to replace Jumbo Jacks and Big Macs with healthier meals. During the week of Dec. 29 he ran a 6-mile course at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach three times, whittling his time from 1 hour, 17 minutes, to 1 hour, 6 minutes. That Sunday he did a shorter run -- about 4.5 miles -- near his home.

Then came two weeks in which a large production run at his company prevented him from doing any exercise. However, McLachlan noted that much of his day is spent on his feet, so "I get a fair amount of walking done." He's thinking about getting a pedometer to see how far he's going.

"I'm trying to add in activity when I can," he said. "When I go to the store, I park far away, things like that. I'm trying to be conscious of it. It's been tougher to get in those three mornings a week than I thought it would be."

McLachlan has almost eliminated fast food and junk food from his diet. His meals are now heavy on salads, fresh vegetables, fruit and lean cuts of meat and fish. "I don't feel like I'm depriving myself," he says. "Once you change and get used to it, it's not so bad. But I have to tell myself -- no Big Macs. The convenience is the big thing." Does he miss those salt- and fat-heavy meals? "Yes, if I drive by and smell it cooking. But I try to not think about it."

Since starting the program, McLachlan said he feels more alert during the day and less tired during his runs. Although he says his weight loss isn't that visible to others, "I can tell. My stomach is smaller. It was a good feeling when I got on the scale."



Age: 34

Height: 5 feet, 8 inches

Beginning weight: 153 pounds

Current weight: 150 pounds

Beginning body fat: 34%

Current body fat: 31%

Beginning waist size: 32.5 inches

Current waist size: 32.5 inches

Liana Neyer has a close relationship with her new stationary bike -- they've seen each other almost daily since she started her fitness program.

"I've exercised pretty much every day," she said. "I think it's easier for me to keep it up if I do it that way." She started out with 20 minutes per day (sometimes splitting that into two 10-minute sessions), then gradually increased it to about 30 minutes. A few times a week, she also adds short sets of sit-ups and push-ups.

That schedule has surpassed the stay-at-home mom's original plan of cycling three times a week and alternating that with weight training. It seems to be paying off -- she's lost 3 pounds and decreased her body fat percentage.

"I feel good," she said. "I like working up a sweat, I feel like I've done something good for my body. My energy is increasing and I feel myself getting stronger, and those are the things I wanted to happen. I just get on my bike while my son's napping and put my music on." For two weeks, Neyer also adhered to a prepared meal plan that strictly limited bread and pasta, and found herself at times craving those foods.

Since beginning her fitness program, Neyer has discovered several tricks for staying motivated. She bought fitness clothes that double as street wear, eliminating the need to change into workout gear. "Wearing them also reminds me that I need to exercise," she said.

Keeping a journal helps her track her progress and stay on course. "I've been keeping the tone positive and praising myself for what I've accomplished," Neyer said. She also writes down immediate goals, such as adding more push-ups, to keep her workout challenging.

Friends and family have been "very supportive of me," Neyer added, "and I find that talking about my fitness program helps me stick to it."

Although Neyer admitted she's "definitely proud" of her progress, she realizes it's easier to stay motivated in the early phase of any new fitness program. "I am afraid that maybe I'll get bored with the bike, and I don't know how that's going to play out during the rest of the year. But right now it's working really well for me."



Age: 46

Height: 5 feet, 7 inches

Beginning weight: 225 pounds

Current weight: 217 pounds

Beginning body fat: 47%

Current body fat: 45%

Staying motivated on her new exercise program has been "more difficult than I thought it would be," Yvonne Crafter said, but she's still been able to lose eight pounds and stay faithful to a walking program.

Crafter's plan was to walk three to four days a week around her neighborhood, and she's managed to average about five. The first week, her walks lasted 20 minutes, but by the third week she increased it to 30 minutes. "The hardest thing is getting out of the house," said the client service representative for a medical lab. "But once I'm out and I put my headset on, it's not that bad." She'd like to eventually increase her time to 45 minutes to an hour, and vary her route to include a nearby park.

Crafter's strategy to weight-train twice a week at her gym has fallen a bit short -- she's only managed to make it once a week. "It's harder to get there [than to go walking]," she explained, "and I feel like the amount of resistance work I do [about 30 minutes] is so small."

Staying on her diet has been "absolutely the hardest part," she said. "I'm OK during the day, but when I go home, I mess up. I'll end up getting something sweet, or fast food."

Breakfast is usually oatmeal, skim milk and half a banana, and lunch typically consists of frozen low-fat meals or salads with some low-fat protein. And although she plans to eat a balanced dinner, by the time she gets off work, "I just want to eat what I want to eat. I think it's my way of de-stressing."

But recognizing that this is a problem, Crafter said: "I know I have to change my routine in the evenings, maybe find something to do after work. I need to figure out some way to help myself."

Attending a support group twice a week has been beneficial, she said.

In the last week, Crafter noted that her energy has started to pick up. "When I first started this, I felt even more tired. But now I feel better. I thought I would feel more motivated than I am. In some ways I feel disappointed with myself, and I get upset with myself in the evening. But then I look at the other parts that have gone well."

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