An athlete is…

An athlete is…
A mom squeezing in her workout before the kids wake up.

Candace Parker squeezing in one more rep as she prepares her post-partum body for another season of pro hoops.

A woman who juggles work commitments but never forgets her commitments to herself.

That woman on the elliptical breaking bad habits as she builds a better body.

Dara Torres breaking barriers even if she’s not breaking records.

A girl discovering the competent machine that is her body.

A woman discovering the same thing.

What is an athlete? An athlete is you.

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Missy Park, Founder


Iron Maiden

ironmaidenLiz McQuinn’s path to athletic glory began at age four. “I wanted to keep up with my Dad and brothers,” she says. “I did whatever they did, just so I could spend time with them.” She definitely kept up, and then some. Last June, she completed her third Ironman triathlon, a competition involving a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile bike race, and a 26-mile marathon…all without a break!

Just thinking about that might seem like exercise enough, but for Liz it’s “an invitation to dig deep and define yourself as an endurance athlete who disciplines herself to train to the point of exhaustion and keep going…spurred on by the goal to give all she is—mentally and physically.”

“Discipline” is key. For each Ironman, Liz spends six months training 9-16 hours per week. And that’s on top of forty-plus hours a week as a Navy Officer, volunteer work for her church and community, and a busy social and family life. “The hardest part is that it requires me to be disciplined about going to bed around 9:15, so I can get up at 5:15.” How does she pull it all off? It’s just a matter of “putting one foot in front of the other. There’s no magic formula or special talent required. I found a sport that I enjoy and a group of people with whom I love training.”

Speaking of love, Liz plans to take a year off from Ironman training to focus on another workout: “I consider my ‘Ironman’ for 2010 to be successfully navigating the first year of marriage!” Of course, marital success seems guaranteed for someone who always tries to give her best, “using my gifts to serve others in love, and encouraging people to live a life of joy and purpose.”


Home: Austin, TX
Occupation: Navy Officer
Education: BS in Political Science from US Naval Academy; MA in Govt and Politics from University of MD
Partner: Chris Leonard, fiancé; getting married Oct 24th!!
Children: None
Age: 31
Height: 6’0”
Weight: 160 lbs
Sports, past and present: Everything. 🙂 Swimming, soccer, baseball as a kid; softball, basketball in junior high; volleyball, basketball, track in high school; track in college (thrower – discus, hammer, 20 lb weight); triathlon as an adult; recreational runner/swimmer my whole life.
Athletic accomplishments: Two-time VA AAA High School State Champion in volleyball; broke discus record at USNA as a freshman; three Ironman competitions.
What do you get out of your workout? Energy, clarity of thought, stress relief, strength to endure tough times, shared experiences with friends, goals to work toward and achieve.
Little known fact about you: I was a cheerleader in eighth grade—not what you’d expect out of a six-foot-tall tomboy. 🙂
Environmentally incorrect preference: American-made, gas guzzling, classic muscle cars.
Guilty pleasure: Spoonful of peanut butter from the stash in my desk drawer at work.
Most embarrassing moment: At age ten, forgetting the music I memorized in the middle of my piano recital; I had to make up the ending, and it was awful!
Greatest triumph: One of the sailors I worked with thanked me for believing in him, taking a chance on him, and encouraging him to strive for excellence. In two years, he went from troublemaker to the top sailor on the ship.
Favorite thing to do when not working or working out: Playing with my nieces and nephews.
Moment of Inspiration: Comprehending the strength it took for my grandmother to live as a widow for almost twenty years in the hill country of TX. During that time, she successfully beat cancer several times. The final time, it took her home to Jesus.
Favorite Quote: Sorry, it’s a long one by Theodore Roosevelt 🙂

“It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming, but who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, who spends himself for a worthy cause; who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.”


I have 2 schedules that I’ve alternated between the past three years; Ironman training lasts for 6 months prior to the race.
1)    Ironman: 9-16 hrs/wk (base, intensity build, taper, etc)
Mon – yoga 1hr in am; run 1 hr in pm
Tues – spin 1 hr in am; often short run immediately after spin (brick workout)
Wed – core strength training 1 hr in am; swim 1 hr in pm
Thur – spin 1 hr in am
Fri – swim 1 hr in am; sometimes run for .5-1 hr
Sat –3-7 hr ride depending on the schedule; sometimes run for 30-60 min immediately following ride (brick workout)
Sun – run 1.5 – 4 hrs depending on the schedule
2)    Non-Ironman: 7-9 hrs/wk
Mon – 1 hr swim at lunch or 1 hr run in pm
Tues – 1 hr spin in am; often short run immediately after spin (brick)
Wed – 1 hr core in am; 1 hr swim in pm or 1 hr run
Thurs – 1 hr spin in am if missed spin on Tues
Fri – 1 hr swim in am
Sat – 2-3 hr ride in am
Sun – 1-2 hr run


A Breathtaking Life

It’s not surprising that Denise Hitzeman is asked to be a motivational speaker throughout California. Her story is as inspiring as it gets.

Seven years ago, Denise was diagnosed with hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT), a vascular disorder that means her blood doesn’t carry enough oxygen. She had always been physically active. She was a dancer, followed a regular routine of cardio and weight training, and loved mountain and road biking. But something was wrong, and getting worse. “I never understood why I hated running,” she says, “why I was usually the one struggling during a workout.” Then she started passing out in gyms: “It’s funny how fast a club will release you from a one-year contract when you loose consciousness in their facility.” Less funny was the discovery that HHT was the reason.

Photo: Facchino Photography

Photo: Facchino Photography

Before long, Denise was on therapeutic oxygen 24/7, and many things we take for granted, like doing the laundry, were “workouts” for her. But she was determined not to let her disease define her life. With the help of pulmonary therapist Cathe Pleasant, who she describes as “my hero,” she began an intense training regime that, she says, “brought me back from barely being able to make my bed, or sing my children to sleep, to running the 10K Wharf to Wharf race.” Since then, she’s done another 10K race, three Bay Area Mermaid races, and a 25-mile bike race…all with heavy oxygen tanks strapped to her back, or in her panniers. “I am healthier today than I was before being diagnosed, physically and mentally.”

Denise credits her accomplishments more to others than to herself: to Cathe, to the friends and family who lined her first race to help switch out her tanks. “It takes a village to get me across the finish line. It was so amazing that so many people came together to help me realize my goal.”

It also takes a very special woman to work her workouts into a life that would put many of us down for the count. But, as Denise puts it, sharing her favorite quote, ““Life isn’t measured by the number of breaths you take, but by the moments that take your breath away.”


Home: Scotts Valley, CA
Occupation: Full time mom. Motivational Speaker. Entrepreneur.
Education: BS from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo
Partner: Scott, married for 13 years.
Children: Two wonderful (99.9% of the time) children Madeline 11, and Alexander 7.
Age: 42
Height: 5’6”
Weight: I stopped stepping on the scale years ago.
Sports, past and present: Dance (modern and jazz), diving, surfing, cycling and now running.
Athletic accomplishments: Ran Wharf to Wharf  twice: first while pushing two ten-pound oxygen tanks, then while carrying an oxygen tank on my back in a hydration back pack.
Little known fact about you: I’m shy… really.
Environmentally incorrect preference: I have the reusable bags from every store, but I usually forget them in the car when I go shopping.
Guilty pleasure: Pirate Booty
Greatest triumph: Last Saturday riding with my friends and family in the Bike for Breath ride and watching my daughter finish her 18 miles, dashing across the finish line with the biggest smile on her face!
Favorite thing to do when not working or working out: Watching classic old movies during “family movie night” with all four of us squished together on the couch and sharing a big tub of popcorn. And, for my quiet, alone time—gardening.
Weekly Workout Schedule: Tuesdays and Thursdays with my Better Breathers group at the Hospital, doing cardio and weight training. Then, I try one other day with my friends from the neighborhood, usually a walk along the beach or around the ‘hood’ while our children play in the park. Last, one day on the weekend with my family usually a hike in the park.
Moment of Inspiration: When my daughter was three years old and I was just put on oxygen 24/7, I was very depressed. As I’m crying, from the other room, my husband and I hear our daughter talking to the dog.  “C’mon Sam,” she said, “let’s go find mommy.” A  few seconds later Maddie enters our room with a huge smile, looks at the dog, and exclaims, “See Sam, I told you we would find her, all you have to do is follow the hose,” referring to the fifty-foot oxygen tube that wound through the house to me.  At that moment, I saw that I was no different from the mom Maddie had before. She didn’t see me any differently, so why should I?


Learning Curve Moments

When’s the last time you tried something for the first time?

Earlier this year, I found myself wondering if, amidst the busyness of job, family, community and commitments, I had let my learning muscles go a little soft.  Perhaps I’d gotten too good at being pretty good, too comfortable in my well-worn competence.   But can I actually jump back onto the steep part of the learning curve?  Now, I think, is a good time to find out.  Will you join me?  Share your learning curve moments in the comments section below.

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Missy Park, Founder


Your Sports Story

What’s your story?

Maybe you came to sport late.

You found it in the gym or the studio.

Maybe you discovered it early, on a court or a course.

Maybe it’s walking, maybe it’s running, maybe it’s dance or yoga or swimming or hiking. Maybe you found your sport when you saw your daughter transformed by that first athletic success and knew that your own transformation was out there waiting for you. Maybe you found it on your way to something else—a kid’s practice, a healthier life, a friend’s race. But no matter where each of our sports stories begins, we all end up at the same place, a place where we are becoming our own best selves.

Tell us your story!

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Founder, Missy Park