Ironman to Iron Woman: A Fearless Fitness Journey
Regence employee Jennifer Cram knows what it’s like to undertake a fitness journey, which is why she spent her recent Saturday rooting for participants at the Have a Heart Run/Walk to benefit Community Action of Skagit County. We can all use a little motivation as we work our way into summer shape. Read on to hear Jennifer’s remarkable story:
You mentioned that you had never really run before in your life. Do you remember the moment you decided to make a change?
At 29 years old I was starting to show signs of chronic disease: I was overweight, low energy, and feeling like I was watching my life pass me by. I was also newly remarried and my husband ran every day, so I wanted to be able to run with him.
You went from the couch to competing in an Ironman. What were some of the milestones and support systems along the way to help you in your remarkable progress?
I started out by walking and going to the gym. I would have good weeks and then bad. It wasn’t until I started a Couch to 5k program that my life really changed. It was just what I needed. I committed to starting the program with an acquaintance from work.
12 weeks of hard work later, we completed our first of many races. Those 12 weeks built up our friendship, our cardio and - most importantly - our confidence. From there we kept setting our sites on bigger, more challenging things. My journey went from couch to 5K, to 10K, to running a half marathon, and then to completing a half-Ironman: 1.2-mile swim, 56-mile bike ride, and 13.1-mile run. Along the way, I became certified to teach spin class and aquatics at my gym. The whole process took me about 7 years.
You recently experienced a setback after having major surgery – what has that been like for you?
It has been a true test to my spirit. I was on top of the world, feeling great and conquering my biggest fears when BAM! In 2017, I had two surgeries and a long road to recovery. After spending months indoors and depressed, I realized that working out had become my outlet, my hobby, and my social connection.
When I got the green light to start exercising again, it took me months to figure out that I was not the same person. I had gone through something so major and it had changed my life and that change was just beginning. It has been about a year now and I am finally feeling better emotionally and physically.
What advice do you have for someone struggling to come back from an injury?
Be kind to yourself. That is what I have struggled with the most. I was so hard on myself because I could not just go back to where I was, but I was making progress. Celebrate the small successes. Allow yourself to be frustrated. And keep going.
As a Knowledge and Training Manager at Regence, I imagine you spend a lot of time sitting in front of a computer. How have you managed to make health a priority over the years?
At times this is really hard when you are in meetings all day. I try to take walking breaks and I have worked out on my lunches to get it in. Having our gym and weights onsite has been really handy for me when I couldn’t get to my gym.
Regence likes to encourage members and employees to live fearless. What does fearless mean to you?
Fearless to me is just going for it even though you don’t know how to do it. I literally did not know how to swim, but I put my face in the water and learned. I wasn’t a runner, but I put one foot in front of the other. I didn’t bike, so I went out and bought one. Fearless has been about putting myself out there and allowing myself to be awkward and new and it has been amazing!
I feel such gratitude that I fought my way back and stayed on my journey. I like to refer to it as how I went from Ironman to Iron Woman. So, for anyone working on their own comeback story, remember to just be kind to yourself. You are going to have setbacks, but you are also going to have success! Rinse and repeat!