Back in May, we ran a contest called “Unleash Your Inner Warrior“. With the support of sponsors including Spartan Race, Katie K Active, Sportsbras.ca and Body Positive Athletes, we created the ultimate plus size athletic opportunity for 2 women to be fully supported through athletic wear, training support and a free race entry to successfully complete a Spartan race of their choice. One of the winners was Samantha Kassis, a 35-year old from Northridge, California. Building off of her Crossfit and weightlifting training regime, Samantha took this new challenge on with full force, and is the reason why she is our December, Featured Plus Size Athlete. She just completed her race, and shared with us, her whole experience.
1. Samantha, you were our U.S. grand prize winner of the Unleash Your Inner Warrior contest back in May? Tell us your first thoughts, when you got the news?
I was honestly completely shocked when I had learned, that I won because I NEVER win contests! It was super exciting because I was at the beginning of my current weight-loss journey, but then I thought, wait a minute! A Spartan Race! How terrifying! Am I actually going to put this free entry to a Spartan Race to good use?
The first thing I did was search for a race nearby. I found one about 30 minutes away that was taking place in December. That gave me about 5 months to build up my confidence and train. As far as the Katie K Active clothing and sports bra, I had fun picking out cute workout clothes to help motivate me to continue on my journey and training. Katie K had some fun colors and Sportsbra.ca had a lot of styles and options. I’m always a little hesitant ordering clothes online because it’s such a hassle having to return things. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. It was really easy and the sizing was quite accurate.
3. What steps did you take in preparing for your race? Did you enlist local help, train with friends etc?
At the beginning of the year, I had signed up for CrossFit and fell in love with it immediately! My coach, Cindy, has truly been a huge part of my transformation. In January of this year, I wasn’t able to run 50 meters. My first goal was to run 100 meters, then 200, then 300 and so on. In less than 6 months, I was able to run a mile (1600 meters). In November, my coach ran my first 5k with me with RunDisney. In addition to running, I became much stronger as I fell in love with weightlifting. Something about being able to lift over 100 pounds overhead is very empowering.
CrossFit has helped me lose 40 pounds thus far. It has also given me a lot of firsts like running, box jumps, jumping rope and lifting weights. In addition to these achievements, I knew I had to put in more work in order to build up even more confidence, endurance and strength for my upcoming race. I had been following the feed in a Facebook Spartan Race group and I eventually built up the courage to write a post asking if there were any local training groups. A woman reached out and told me about a group not too far from my office. I started training with them a couple of months ago, every Monday night. This group of amazing athletes is run by a local running shop called Runners Lane in Santa Clarita, California. Flo and Mark (our fearless leaders) would take time out of their busy lives and coach our group for free! They are all about making the group better athletes and truly put their heart and soul into our workouts and programming. Our workouts included anything from running, burpees, climbing fences, push ups, sit ups, tire flips and more! We all registered as a team for the Spartan Race. We started together and ended together and it made for the best experience!
4. What challenges did you face and overcome, whether it be in training or during race day?
There were definitely physical and mental challenges leading up to the race and during. In the beginning, there was the mental challenge of being the last one to finish everything. I always felt bad when the group ran back to me and ran the rest of the way with me. The thing is, no one ever gave me reason to feel this way. My training group has always been 100% supportive, helpful, encouraging and motivating. BUT…. I get in my own head. The bright side to that is that it pushes me to work harder, be better, be faster. Progress not perfection, right? Race day challenges proved to go hand in hand with the mental. I probably cried like 5 times! LOL Slipping down a hill or struggling to get over a wall was very frustrating! I don’t like my feet off the ground at all! There were some obstacles where you had to climb cargo nets and ladders more than what seemed to be 1 million feet high. At the top, it all sank in and I started to freak out for a few seconds. I composed myself, and then climbed down without any assistance. Bam! I’ve gotten pretty good at hyping myself up. I have to say, as hard as it was, I never quit! The goal was to finish, and I did.
5. What lessons have your learned along this journey that you’d like to share with other plus size women, who are still thinking about unleashing their inner athlete?
The biggest lesson I’ve learned is not using the word “can’t.” As a plus-size person, it’s easy to say you can’t do this or that. At the beginning of my fitness/weight-loss journey I couldn’t do a lot of things. And there are some things I am still not strong enough to do. I couldn’t run or do handstands months ago and now I can. It’s all about baby steps and working your way up to whatever your goals are. Sure, you may not be able to do something now, but that’s now. Fear of what I thought I couldn’t do or wouldn’t at least try, has really held me back for a long time. Remember, everything can be scaled and modified to one’s own abilities. Crossift has taught me that. Wherever my journey takes me next, whether it be more races, gymnastics or cycling, I know now that I don’t have to dive in. If I put in the work, all I need to do is make sure whatever I’m doing, I do so safely. Don’t remain stagnant. There are endless possibilities. Discover and do what you love.
6. Anything else you’d like to add - how people can follow you etc?
I am so glad I discovered “Born to Reign Athletics” on Instagram. A lot of my motivation comes from the people I follow there. I came across a plus-size crossfitter like myself and saw that she had tagged “Born to Reign Athletics” on one of her posts. As curiosity always takes the best of me, I clicked on the link. I thought, wow! This is it! This brand is exactly what I aspire to promote as well. Anyone can be an athlete! It is important to me to show other plus-size athletes or people who may lack the confidence to get up and try something, that it CAN be done. You can bike, run, swim, lift weights etc. It’s your journey. Don’t listen to the naysayers or haters. You decided to take this path. Embrace it, enjoy it and love yourself. If anyone is interested in following my journey, I am @kettlebelle_n_bows on Instagram.
About the Author:
Krista is the Founder of Born to Reign Athletics, a blog + portal website dedicated to motivating, educating and celebrating plus size women who unleash their inner athlete as a means of living a healthy life. She is an award-winning multi-sport athlete in triathlon and indoor rowing, and is recognized as a global leader in plus size fitness and athletics.