October 8th, 2008
Tonya and Newt Merrick tag team not only as teachers at North Myrtle Beach Elementary School: They’ve made getting into shape by their 50th birthdays next year their goal together this year.
After each day at work, where Tonya teaches second- and third-graders art and he teaches physical education, they hit the gym together to work out.
Sharing home-made pasta salad during a lunch break last week, the Merricks talked about their exercise routines. In a T-shirt and knit shorts, he already looked dressed for an after-school workout because of the gym classes he leads all day long.
Tonya Merrick likes to turn her workouts into combinations of activities. She uses free weights, elliptical machines and various classes, such as Pilates, her favorite.
Running is Newt Merrick’s choice activity. It’s how he got into regular exercise. He would run as far as he could, then walk, then run again, and so on. He said his latest run covered 4½ miles in 36 minutes.
Besides coaching boys’ soccer at North Myrtle Beach High School, Newt Merrick plays soccer in an adult league he started, the Fat Man League.
“He used to be the ‘fat man,’ before he lost 60 pounds,” Tonya Merrick said.
Her husband weighs himself daily, she weekly. He is down to 208 pounds and wants to get to 203.
The Merricks, married for 16 years, also play golf and tennis with their two children.
The couple find their energy level higher after a day in classes and the gym.
“It’s a different lifestyle,” Newt Merrick said. “You have to change everything.”
Falling out of his running routine is out of the question, because weight gains would result.
“It’s simple to put it on,” he said. “It’s almost impossible to take it off.”
Tonya Merrick gets creative with exercise at school. She said because the students already might have spent time mostly sitting down in other classes or before recess, she gets them on their feet, using jumping jacks to spell out colors for instance.
“I talk about muscles, which are used for cutting and sketching,” she said.
The children flex their limbs when looking for objects hidden around the room for a Picasso project, for example.
“I just try to intersperse movement in my lessons in some way,” Tonya Merrick said.
The pair use their willpower with food; that’s why they bring their own lunch.
“We still eat three meals a day,” Tonya Merrick said, but in smaller portions. They try to avoid breads and sweets.
The cook between the two, Tonya Merrick grills and sautes a lot of vegetables, with only a little red meat and lots of salads.
Fruit serves as their snacks, and water their main beverage.
Even when they dine out, they usually share one entree.
“It’s plenty,” Newt Merrick said.
Sharing the lunch table with the Merricks, Megan Magnotta, the school’s other physical education teacher, remarked on the couple’s good influence for fitness and diet.
Magnotta munched on a salad and some warmed-up sliced potatoes brought from home.
She and the Merricks said in their efforts to be good role models for children and parents, they resist the temptation to overindulge in candy or other goodies.
“You just eat one of something instead of the whole bag,” Magnotta said.
By Steve Palisin
The Sun News – Myrtle Beach, Fl