As I watched Sarah Crowder approach the finish line, the expression on her face made it evident what an emotional journey this has been for her.
Moments later, friends, family and I eagerly waited our turn to give her a well-earned congratulatory hug. Once I reached her, a physically spent and emotionally overcome Sarah sobbed beyond control as I proudly held her. I wouldn’t simplify it as tears of joy or sadness, but rather an emotional realization that all of her hard work had come to fruition and that she had forever changed.
Two weeks later in a conversation, she summed up her experience in one word: “profound.”
In four years of training, Sarah has lost a total of 40 pounds. This year she worked diligently to successfully complete Emmett’s Most Excellent Triathlon — a so-called sprint triathlon at shorter distances — with aspirations of completing more.
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Sarah’s success is a result of a “non-negotiable” regimen that includes a steady mix of weight training, spinning and triathlon training.
“You have to commit and show up. However that looks for you, simply commit,” said Sarah, a 34-year-old speech-language pathologist at Horizon Home Health & Hospice in Meridian. “Once you are willing to commit, everything is attainable.”
What it takes
Sarah’s catalyst for change happened in 2013, when her father passed away. His poor health and general apathy toward things he could control — specifically, his health — were a big influence on her decision to change her lifestyle. Knowing that she didn’t want to be like him in that regard, she made responsibility for her health a high priority.
Watching her husband train and compete in spartan races and half-marathons — and seeing the benefits he was getting as a result — played a huge role in taking the next step, training for her first triathlon. But the tipping point was being encouraged by her “fitness family” — the members of her group strength and conditioning program.
Once she decided to commit, she spent at least an hour five or six days a week on aerobic and/or strength training. She was mentally present for each physical workout. In addition, she knew that the results would be equal only to the effort she put in, and she kept in mind that the physical pain of a workout paled in comparison to the long-term pain of staying in her present state.
And, of course, nutritional changes were necessary in order to lose 40 pounds.
“I cut out Diet Coke completely, which is HUGE for me,” said Sarah, who used to have at least one 32-ounce fountain drink a day (twice on a bad day).
She said she “significantly cut down on ‘bad carbs’ ” such as french fries, chips and crackers, instead eating brown rice, replacing salad for fries, and eating more fruits and vegetables. She also ate more protein.
Beyond that, Sarah still enjoys food, trying to be mindful of healthier choices when eating out and allowing herself an occasional cheat day.
Naturally, there were struggles along the way for Sarah. Her personal demon was the feeling that she would never be as good as everyone else in the gym. The turning point for her was shifting to an inward focus and getting out of her own way, and not worrying about the other women exercising around her.
“I had to get out of my own head and accept where I was in the process and stop feeling like I had to compete with anyone or be as good as anyone else,” she said.
In addition to her physical changes, the person she is today compared to person who first started is what’s most striking. She is more confident, no longer worries about what others think of her and can tackle day-to-day life much more easily.
“I feel like I can do anything — anything,” Sarah continues. “And I’m more positive and have a much better mindset during the day.” Jokingly, she added, “I’m not a very pleasant person to be around when I haven’t worked out.”
And Sarah’s greatest advice to those starting out?
“It’s not out of reach. So many people feel this is so out of reach,” she said. “No matter how out of shape you are or overweight you are, it is attainable. It just requires work, effort and showing up.”
Jason Wanlass is the owner of Champion Fitness Training in Meridian. Contact him at email@example.com or championfit.net.
HOW SHE DID IT
Champion Fitness Training client Sarah Crowder lost 40 pounds by giving up Diet Coke, increasing her protein intake and cutting back on carbs, and going “all in” on fitness.
Favorite workouts: weightlifting and spinning
Athletic accomplishments: completed Emmett’s Most Excellent Triathlon 2017, a sprint triathlon (500-yard swim, 12-mile bike, 5k run)
Future goals: complete Olympic-distance triathlon
NUGGETS FOR SUCCESS
Find someone who will help hold you accountable. For Sarah, this was her husband, Tony. Once he joined Champion Fitness, that pushed her to do better. Plus, it made fitness a common goal that they were both working toward.
Ditch the comparison to others. At first, Sarah kept comparing herself to girls in the gym who either were fitter or had a different body type than her. Once she focused on just being the best version of herself as opposed to what others were doing or looked like, there was less pressure mentally, and her body responded physically as a result.
Make working out as important as anything else in your life Sarah simply made working out a “non-negotiable” part of her day. She doesn’t allow herself to make excuses. If she misses a morning workout, she makes sure that she can still schedule one for the evening.
Small victories add up to long-term results. Sarah’s first mile eventually led to her first triathlon. She saw herself add more weight to exercises like the bench press, deadlifts and squats.
Join a like-minded group. For Sarah, this was Champion Fitness Training. Joining a group helps you naturally align with the right people, who serve as a catalyst to make the changes you are after.