Chris has been a part of the Figarelle’s Fitness family since February 2013. We chose her for this month’s family member of the month because she constantly steps up to any new challenge- whether it be a 15 minute Burpee Challenge to raise money for cystic fibrosis, a cause that supports a fellow Boot camper, or the personal challenge of hiking Flattop mountain. Chris consistently attends Boot Camp classes each week and she recently started strength training in our Saturday small group PT class with coach Charlene. She’s regularly setting new goals and pushing herself to achieve them; no excuses. We’re proud to work with Chris and she’s a constant source of inspiration for all of us!

Hi Chris! Please tell us a little about yourself. 

I hail from Louisiana originally. Sports and outside activities have always been a big part of my life.  I played golf, softball, tennis, bicycled, and later turned to basketball. After graduating college in Georgia, I attended the police academy where I was introduced to a variety of obstacle courses.  Tackling these beasts and getting over a fear of failing was great!  After a year in law enforcement, then came the Army for a 20 year stint!

During that time, I continued to play sports (softball and basketball) but also took up running; more than the usual 2 miles required for testing. I started running 10K races, marathons, and 24 hour relay races. I ran in Germany; in Panama; and in Texas. Someone in Texas introduced me to bicycle races.

I got a bike and took that up in 1989. If I wasn’t out running, I’d be bicycling along the highway somewhere.  Just like running, I found many rides to compete in.  My most favorite ride was the Hotter than Hell Hundred (August in Wichita Falls, TX). With Texas getting hotter and hotter, I got tired of the heat.  Alaska was calling and I arrived here in February 2008. Since coming here, I’ve gone white water rafting a few times; hiked numerous trails; kayaked; gone glacier ice climbing; and accomplished the 460 mile Yukon River Quest canoe race in 2011. I’m always looking for a new challenge!

I like reading history books and watching history shows on TV.  I’ve taught history and government classes for a junior college. I prefer old, classic movies. Disco is still alive in my mind and my music collection! Being the daughter of an undertaker, the “Mushing Mortician” is my favorite Iditarod racer.  I am trying to learn how to play the bagpipes. I am also a ham radio operator (AD5CM). And of course, you all have seen and heard Gimli, my Skye terrier!

You’ve been working with Figarelle’s Fitness for over a year now. In that time, what have you learned about fitness and about yourself? 

I came to Figarelle’s Fitness in February 2013. I thought I knew about fitness since I was prior military. My eyes were opened with my first boot camp session! I huffed and puffed and struggled through the first session, but was hooked! Not just push-ups or sit-ups or running makes for a fit body, or a good state of mind. It takes more!  And that’s what the coaches have been conveying to me and others for the past year.  It takes proper form in the exercises; confidence in one’s self to do more; proper nutrition; teamwork; and desire to be better than you were before you entered the door.

Chris, enjoying a high-energy FF Boot Camp class.

Chris, enjoying a high-energy FF Boot Camp class.

I’ve discovered that while I might not be the fastest one or the strongest one there, I am better than when I first arrived. I love a good challenge and boot camp provides great challenges each time! Pushing myself to regain a better lifestyle is a great challenge and I think I’m turning that clock back with boot camp!  I’m learning that “the old gray mare just ain’t what she used to be” but in fact, she’s getting better every day!  I look forward to each session. A friend who does yoga in Massachusetts gave me a mantra of “I can conquer all” and that’s what I’m aiming to do…with the help of great coaches, encouraging fellow boot campers, and plenty of workout sessions!  I’ve learned that I’m not alone in my journey, but have so many folks there with me.

You regularly attend fitness boot camp classes and more recently small group personal training. What do you like about each of these fitness programs?

The actual boot camp sessions are always fun and mysterious.  You never know what might be hidden behind that blank white board. There is a special energy with the large group.  Lots of “high fives” as you pass by another sweaty boot camper.  While we all do our own thing, there is time to cheer one another along during the minute at the station. Small group is new to me and I like it because it gives me a chance to work on toning up a bit more. We are a small but mighty group of six! Charlene makes the workouts worthwhile for the 60 minutes we have. I’m learning I have more strength and endurance than I thought I had.  Both sessions are great!

You’re the oldest person in our group, but I’ve never heard you use your age as an excuse to not do something. How old do you really feel?

I’m 59 years old. I’ve never really felt my age, and can’t tell you how old I really felt until the burpee challenge. When I completed that event and did better than I thought I would, I felt like 20 years instantly dropped off my calendar! In that moment, I told myself I feel 40! I remember my activities and events at 40 and it was a busy time. Working to regain some of that excitement, well, it can be done! I look in the mirror and see a 40 year old, not a 59 year old. I tell myself that age is just a number; it’s how you act and feel about yourself that defines your age.  I see myself as someone who is getting stronger and getting more fit with each day and each session. I’ll keep the graying hair, tho. But seriously, no matter what the physical age of anyone, it’s what is in your heart that makes you young and keeps you going.  Shapes can be changed!  And so can attitude.  Age is what it is. But we definitely don’t have to act our age; we can act younger!  

You have been setting, and more importantly attaining a lot of goals lately. What is your next BIG goal?  

For the challenge, I am hoping to go glacier ice climbing again. Trying to find an open slot has been difficult, but I found out about another company that offers climbs and will be checking out their schedule.  But a really BIG goal that is not fitness related at all is to finally take that Scotland-Ireland vacation next year that I’ve promised myself since 1998! Next summer I’ll be heading across the pond for possibly a month and during that time, I hope to see my niece in The Netherlands.

Since starting with FF, how has your nutrition changed over the last year?

My eating habits sucked before Figarelle’s Fitness!  To boil a bag of rice; sauté an onion and piece of sausage; plop butter on it all; well, that was supper.  A snack was a full pint of ice cream probably followed by a bag of popcorn.  Candy bars were my friend. A bottle of wine was no big deal at night. Yes, I ate that way!  Well, being educated on proteins, carbs, and fats, and the benefits of lots of water and cutting back on the alcohol, my habits have improved greatly.  Now, I eat a nutritious meal three times a day and give myself three snacks.  I’ve tried to follow the 30/30/40 (Carb/Fat/Protein) guidance (we all have our good days and our not so good ones); increased the water intake and cut down the alcohol intake; have more home-cooked meals and shy away from the fast foods as a daily routine.

I love having a green shake of spinach, kale, celery, tomato, garlic, and berries a few times a week. I’ve added protein shakes to the routine, too. One thing I’ve noticed, I really don’t have a large craving for sweets like I used to have.  Trying to get the right balance of proteins, carbs, and fats has still been a challenge, but all-in-all, I definitely eat much better!  Changing my eating habits, along with the increased exercise has definitely improved my overall health, and that was something I definitely wanted with boot camp.

Recently you hiked Flattop Mountain, which was a huge goal of yours. How did it feel when you made it to the top?

I felt tired!  But I also felt proud of the accomplishment! The climb was tougher than I thought it would be. A few times (more than I’d like to admit) I had to dig deep and tell myself to keep going; that I could do it. When I reached the top and my fellow climbers cheered me in, I actually wanted to cry.

Flattop hike: Goal accomplished!

Flattop hike: Goal accomplished!

Just knowing that they all waited up there in the chilly, foggy weather for me to come over the crest, well, it made me feel more a part of a family than before.  I can say that Flattop was tough, but I proved to be tougher!   Thanks to Haylie for going up with me and Lela for encouraging me on the return route. That’s what is great about anything associated with Figarelle’s Fitness; everyone cares!

What are a few of your favorite exercises at Boot Camp, and what do you like about them?

I like flipping the heaviest tire.  I remember when I first started boot camp, I could barely heave the tire up.  Now, I look forward to it. It’s something I had trouble doing and now can do. The battling rope is fun to me.  While I am challenged in the rhythm department, I like to try and pop the ropes according to whatever music is playing.  It takes my mind off how tired my arms are sometimes. I want to one day make those ropes dance like the video we saw. The “hurricanes” were not a favorite of mine when they were first introduced, but have grown on me.  Definitely a good workout with them!  Definitely brings on a good sweat!

During our last Burpee Challenge (in June), you had a goal of doing 50 Burpees to raise money for cystic fibrosis. You smashed this goal and did a whopping 75 Burpees! What was going through your mind during the challenge, and when you surpassed your goal?

I’m not the fastest person when it comes to getting up or down from a burpee. I wanted to try the challenge and see if I could do it. I told myself that I’d at least do 5 in a minute and take a brief break. As I slowed down, I’d still have time to finish.  Charlene ended up being my counter.  I told her of my plans. When the challenge started, I knocked out 10 before stopping. I surprised myself and decided I might have a better chance on the goal than I figured. I thought I was on a pretty good roll but would revert to the “5 and rest” plan. At 10 minutes I had finished 52! I wanted to jump up and yell “YES!” Charlene encouraged me to aim for my age (59).

Chris, kicking ass at the 2014 Burpee Challenge!

Chris, kicking ass at the 2014 Burpee Challenge!

When I hit that, I went for one more.  Oh well, let’s see how many before the time expires!  I kept plugging away–5 at a time with a very short break in between. I could hear Erin beside me cheering me on as she worked on her burpees. Charlene was cheering me on as she counted. When you have positive influences around, you can’t help but succeed! I was smiling inside that I was really doing this!  That I had made my goal and was still going! I wanted to do my best for a few reasons: 1) to show myself and others that I could do this; 2) to help raise money for a good cause; 3) and finally show my coaches that their training was paying off and I was getting stronger.  I’ll have to say I was mighty proud of myself.

We’re currently in the middle of a FF Transformation Challenge. What are some of the goals you set out to accomplish and how are you doing in the challenge?  

Climbing Flattop was a big challenge, along with the burpee challenge that I set for myself.  I said I would lose 3% body fat and 10 pounds during the challenge.  I made it to keeping off 5 pounds so far. I’ll wait until the end for a final count. Steph tells us that we need to open our minds to information that is helpful to us; not just mindlessly watching TV. I enjoy watching educational shows on TV and reading history books.  I challenged myself to step away from the TV and to read 8 books mostly out of my comfort zone. I’ve completed The Power of Now; How to Meditate; Life without Limbs; and a few other books.  I have 3 more to complete this goal.  Setting time at night to read these instead of watching TV or reading the newspaper has been different, but I’m actually now thinking about canceling my newspaper subscription! This coming weekend I hope to hit the golf course and play 9 holes.  I’ve been meaning to do that since I arrived in Alaska. That’ll be another goal to check off.

With boot camp, we post a lot of things on Facebook, whether on the FF sites, or our own timelines.  I love posting things that I have done.  To hear the praises from those who read them is great, but to receive a post from someone who said that things I was doing inspired them to try things they thought not possible, well, that’s priceless!  I love reading accomplishments of my fellow boot campers.  Each and every one of them inspires me in so many ways!  I am so very happy I found out about Figarelle’s Fitness!  Definitely a positive, life-changing place with coaches that care!