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Ironman to iron woman: A fearless fitness journey

Regence employee Jennifer Cram knows what it’s like to undertake a long fitness journey—twice.

Slow and steady wins the fitness race

When Jennifer was only 29, she began to worry she would develop a chronic disease. She was overweight, had low energy and felt like life was passing her by. Her new husband was a runner and she watched him from the sidelines, eager to join in.

She knew small goals were the smart way to go. “I started out by walking and going to the gym. I would have good weeks and then bad,” she admits. Then she joined a Couch to 5k program with a work acquaintance and that changed everything. 

Twelve weeks of hard work later, she finished her first race. She then had an improved fitness level, a new friendship and the most critical component of all: confidence. “From there we kept setting our sights 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.” By the time she was 36, Jennifer had also become a certified spin and aquatics instructor at her gym. 

How to conquer setbacks

In 2017, Jennifer’s fit lifestyle was challenged when she needed two surgeries that called for long recoveries. She was forced to spend months indoors and even became a bit depressed. “I realized that working out had become my outlet, my hobby and my social connection.” Then, after her doctors told her she was strong enough to start exercising, it took about a year before she felt like herself again, both emotionally and physically.

Her advice for getting back up when life hands you a hurdle or two? “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. Also, celebrate the small successes, allow yourself to be frustrated and keep going.”

Be fearless

For Jennifer, being fearless means trying something new, even if you don’t know how to do it. “I literally did not know how to swim,” she says. “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.” She says being fearless is all about putting yourself out there and allowing yourself to be awkward while you learn something new. 

Whether you’re starting a fitness routine for the first time, like she did at 29, or recovering from major surgery, like she did more than 7 years later, Jennifer knows you can meet your goals if you just put your mind to it. “I feel such gratitude that I fought my way back and stayed on my journey,” she says, thinking back on the time after her surgeries. “I like to refer to it as how I went from Ironman to iron woman.”

Jennifer adds: “You are going to have setbacks, but you are also going to have success. Rinse and repeat!”

 

What's your fearless story?