September’s Featured Plus Size Athlete - Shana, Triathlete

How does a soccer player become a triathlete qualifying for the National Championship in just 3 years?  Maybe it has something to do with swim and soccer game brick workouts or logging over 200 cycling miles in August.  When we heard about this athlete, we knew we wanted to feature her. So meet Shana McKnight, our September Featured Plus Size Athlete.

Shana, a 40 year old mom from El Paso, Texas has made fitness her #1 athletic goal and it encompasses many aspects from hard core training, helping others in her community rise to their potential and paying close attention to putting organic nourishment in her body from.  Shana has 7 organic fruit trees and a vegetable garden in her own backyard, now that’s what we call eating locally.  Shana has been living the athletic lifestyle for many years and shares how she specifically got into triathlon and how health & fitness are weaved into many areas of her life.

1. When and how did you get involved in triathlon?

I competed in my 1st triathlon in 2011, it was the Mighty Mujer and is an all female sprint distance triathlon which was advertised as being good for beginners to the sport. I didn’t do a 5K first or a duathlon, I just jumped right into triathlons. My friend JoAnne Miller is a personal trainer and she heard about it through work and told me that we should do it since we were already using our bikes instead of driving a car to get back and forth to work and school etc.. All we really needed to worry about was the swimming since it’s not something that we had ever done before. I thought that I could swim, but as it turns out I had a lot to learn about style and form and training in the pool. I would watch the other swimmers at the pool and try to duplicate them, I asked several swimmers for pointers and advice. I am very grateful for the athletes that have shared their knowledge with me and in turn I share it with the girls I train with and the group work outs I organize. So I was encouraged to do it by my 1st training partner, we started out as gym buddies and took it to the next level by becoming triathletes. We did several races together after that.

2. What do you love about triathlon that kept you coming back, time and time again?

I love the training for triathlons and the community of athletes. I look forward to those early mornings and those late nights. It’s a demanding schedule and an exhausting work out regime, but I live for it, The adrenaline rush and accomplished feelings I get from it. Training is the time I spend with my friends whether it’s a hard core session or a recovery ride. The people that I have met who live here in El Paso as well as those who live in other cities and states are all great folks who i wouldn’t have encountered through any other way than the sport.

3. You qualified for the USA Triathlon National Championships, how exciting is that?

I have qualified for the National Championships twice. It was so incomprehensible (the first time) that I couldn’t take it seriously. There was just no way that I would be able to do it. It came along when I wasn’t ready mentally for the challenge. The first time it was in the Athena category against the women under 40 years old and over a certain weight in the United States. I qualified by finishing high at USAT sanctioned races.

This year I qualified for my age group (non-Athena), by placing in the top of my age group in the United States. This is based on my completion time versus other women over 40 years old. It is quite an accomplishment for anyone and it makes me proud to be able to say that I have a chance to be part of Team USA. Is there any greater accomplishment in this sport? I don’t think so. Am I surprised ? Oh gosh yes! I am a very competitive athlete and I strive to be the best I can be. It just so happens that I have been noticed by the pro’s, the feeling is indescribable and the opportunity is overwhelming. It’s shock, fear, doubt etc.

This year, at my 40th birthday party my husband told everyone to encourage me to do it and bully me into signing up. The reservations that I have about competing at the championship is the open water swim and the cost. Basically I am afraid of the open water swim. I have never done one and have no desire. The cost to get to the race in Wisconsin is just another factor as to why I didn’t go this year. My goal is to train even harder this year and once again qualify for the national championships. I have been trying to get sponsorship so that I can get there next year and try for TEAM USA. Since I decided that I would, if given the opportunity again, go compete my life has gotten more complicated. The search for sponsorship is exhausting and time consuming. I already do a lot around my community, but now I take pictures and videos and post on 3 different social media sites including Facebook, Google + and Tumblr. I have also started a YouTube channel just recently where I  have made videos for cooking healthy. As far as what is next for me, open water swimming and facing my fear. A training partner of mine Christie Ruebush who has competed at the nationals twice now took me to the bottomless lakes in New Mexico to help me get out there and get over it. I must say that she pushes me to my limits and for the most part I welcome the challenges.

4. Training for an endurance sport can be mentally challenging.  How do you get through it, when you’re not feeling it?

When it comes to training, I am all in. The anticipation can vary depending on what I’m doing and the time of day it happens. On the days that I don’t feel good or I just want to sit or lay down or stay in bed snuggling is when I struggle. It’s all about discipline and having training partners for me is key. I am held accountable if we have something scheduled so I can’t back out. I will be letting someone down and that’s not what I like to do. if I cancel a work out, it’s for serious reasons, not just because I don’t want to or I don’t feel like it. I have several different training partners for motivation. We all motivate each other. They are counting on me and can’t let them down and back out. No excuses. You can’t organize something and then cancel. They will be at my door at 5:30 a.m. on Saturday morning and I have to be ready to go. I look forward to spending time with them, exercise is my hobby.

5. You’re very active in your community, tell us about the various projects you’ve initiated to support women becoming active in sport and being body positive?

I am very into my community through sporting events mostly, as well as community service and volunteer work. I have my own soccer team that I play on, manage and co-coach with Bobby Wilson. I met him when I started volunteering with A.Y.S.O. (Americas Youth Soccer Organization) in 2011, where I coached both of my sons teams and was on the Board of Directors. We play on an outdoor women’s soccer league year round here in the desert. I also recently started a female flag football league and so far it has been great, though all of this is very time consuming, it is rewarding. I organize group rides and mountain hiking for my friends that can’t play the contact sports, or can’t afford the league fees, or commit to the games and practices, yet still want to be active. I help out at the Women’s Club of El Paso with community service as do my children by pulling weeds from the parking lots and literally helping older ladies cross the street. I have been attempting to get more people into doing the local races by initiating relay teams and so far that has been a little challenging. Folks will be interested and then they will start to doubt themselves and get scared. I’ve had people back out on me and it makes me sad that they lack such self confidence. I want to motivate and empower women, we tend to give up more of ourselves and our time to take care of the other people in our lives. While I believe that this is important, so is self identity and enjoyment. I encourage them to take some time for yourself/themselves to do something fun, something new, something challenging, something to talk about and be proud of. I think it’s important for your children to see you doing something that you like and sticking with it. It takes discipline and dedication and these are good qualities to have and teach.

The fact that I am 40 and obese is a key in me getting other women to be willing to try what I invite them out to do. I tell them that they can do it. If i can do it, you can do it and I always ask them, “why not”? many people give me excuses and I do my best to help them overcome what ever the reasons are. Many women have insecurities and I strive to help them be more body positive and love themselves. I encourage them with the promise that it will be fun, and it always is. I create an environment that is inviting and enjoyable, when we get older it’s not as easy to make new friends, there just isn’t the opportunity like when we were in school. Most people spend their time on social media and the couch watching t.v. to me that’s just not living. I want to get out and get moving and have fun so I want that for others as well. When I do group hikes sometimes its just girls and other times it’s a family experience where everyone brings their spouse and their kids to enjoy the fun. Most of the time I convince women for weight loss reasons, everyone wants to “earn” their glass of wine or dessert, or there is a special occasion coming up, but I will take what I can get and hopefully it will become more than just a chore, but an experience to look forward to and brag about to your co-workers and family.

6. Who inspires you?

I am inspired by so many people and over the past few years those people have changed. As I have grown into the level of athlete that I am now, I can look back and see who has really had an impact on me whether it was them developing me or I giving them the tools and opportunity to blossom. Currently I have 2 fellow athletes who push and inspire me: Christie Ruebush and Rebecca Majors for their awesome accomplishments in sports and life.

7. What words of wisdom do you have for plus size women, wanting to unleash their inner athlete?

To all the women out there who have convinced themselves that they can’t, let me tell you that you can. To those who are afraid that others will make fun of them, I say “who really cares what they think?” I sure don’t and you shouldn’t either. I participated in a 5K to honor a friend of mine who passed. For the race the family team all wore pink butterfly wings, sometimes when i go out and run Iwear them.   I imagine it’s quite a site to see and people will honk at me and i just smile and wave. It doesn’t matter to me if they are laughing at me or with me. What I know is that I have gotten their attention, broken their stereotype and brought a smile to their face even if it’s because they are making fun of the obese woman that they saw running in pink wings. Don’t let other people stop you from going to the gym, don’t let the clothes rack discourage you because you can’t find your size.

I had to wear men’s clothes for a while until I got down into women’s sizes and there are still some items that I have to get from the mens side of the store. You have to start somewhere and that’s usually the bottom, but that just means that you have room to stretch out. Small changes will produce huge results in the beginning. One work out a week is all it takes to start. Cutting down a little on your meal portion sizes will help you drop pounds on the scale right away and in the beginning that is usually what motivates women to start trying, pick something that you like and try to stick with it whether it’s yoga, spin class, elliptical etc. you might try something and realize that roman chairs are your favorite, i am quite fond of them myself. Or get a training partner, they are gold. I have my sweat angel and she is a firecracker. I’m not going to lie, sometimes it’s going to hurt the next day, but that just means that change is coming and it should be welcomed.

8. Where can people follow you?

Find me, the Fabulous Fathlete on Google + Tumblr and YouTube

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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.

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8 Responses to September’s Featured Plus Size Athlete - Shana, Triathlete

  1. Luis November 5, 2015 at 6:39 am #

    Hello… I’m not hating… I’m just curious.. but… what is it that you guys eat.. in order to do that amount of exercise and yet have those bodies??… I just don’t get it I’m sorry… I understand the fact that you guys want and are runners or atheletes or whatever. I’m fat myself, but I’m also an active man doing exercise, BUT… I do want to become fitter and slimer, and I do ant to look good naked (I’m not saying you don’t look good naked like that) I don’t know like.. I don’t see the whole point of doing so much incredible sports and then eat like shit.. I just don’t get it… also, there is people with big bodies and small ones for sure… but everyone can be healthy and fit also…

  2. Luz (Lady) October 1, 2015 at 9:31 am #

    Shana you are a true representation of the warrior spirit that all women have in them. You have taken the triathlon world by storm and I’m very proud of all your strengths and accomplishments.

  3. rebecca September 30, 2015 at 2:32 pm #

    I am proud of you shana….you have been a great training partner and person that I have appreciated to be a part of my journey.

  4. Shana McKnight September 30, 2015 at 1:04 am #

    me too! More of this positivity is needed in the world and on the web.

  5. Regina September 29, 2015 at 11:10 pm #

    Shanna is a generous and caring person. But dont get me wrong she will take you down on the soccer field without meaning too! I can not wait to see what your future holds for you!

  6. Marie Escobedo September 29, 2015 at 10:39 pm #

    Shana! You are so amazing… I can’t wait to see what you do! You’re an inspiration to all women… Thank you for being so Shantastic!

    • Shana McKnight September 30, 2015 at 1:03 am #

      Thanks sweets :-)

  7. Elayne September 29, 2015 at 8:49 pm #

    I so look forward to these articles. I too a plus sized gal and find it inspiring and comforting to know I’m not the only one out there who is working hard and is not a size 5! Keep it coming PLEASE

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