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Endurance Adventures for a Cause: Katie Spotz Swims, Bikes, Rows and Runs to Raise Funds

Written on November 29, 2011 at 10:56 am , by

Katie rowed across the Atlantic Ocean—solo—in 70 days. (Photo by Laura Watilo Blake)

Katie Spotz grew up playing tennis and soccer, running track and competing on the swim team. “I was terrible at all of them, but I loved being active,” the 24-year-old admits. When she grew out of school-based sports, Spotz searched for new ways to stay fit. She first joined a walk/run class in college—testing her limits since she always thought that endurance was for “‘those’ people, not me.” But she got bit by the running bug, and eventually worked her way up from jogging minutes at a time to five miles, and later to a marathon. “I thought, ‘if I can do this, what else can I do?’” Spotz says.

After a random discussion with college friends when she was just 19, Spotz heard about someone who had rowed across the Atlantic Ocean. “I called home 24 hours later and told my parents I was going to do it too—despite the fact that I had no rowing experience,” Spotz says.

So she trained, meditated and prepared, and eventually completed the amazing solo journey from Guyana, South America, to Senegal, Africa, often rowing more than eight hours daily. During her “Row for Water” excursion, Spotz raised funds for Blue Planet Run, a non-profit bringing safe drinking water to all—$150,000 in all! (She tells us that $30 can provide one person clean water for life. That means 5,000 people were helped by her transatlantic travels!)

That event kicked off her passion for endurance events and helping others, and since, she has completed the following to raise money for various causes with personal meaning for Spotz:

  • Swim for Water: first person to swim the entire 325 miles of the Allegheny River
  • Big Ride Across America: cycled 3,300 miles from Seattle to Washington, D.C.
  • Desert Run: ran 150 miles solo across the Mojave and Colorado Desert
  • Half Ironman Triathlon (1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run): placed first in age group
  • Oxfam Trail Run: 62-mile ultramarathon in Australia

Spotz is currently visiting Kenya to see the impact of her clean water fundraising and hopes to eventually get her MBA and pursue non-profit work. That way, she says, “I can incorporate my passions into everyday life,” Spotz says.

More from FITNESS: Check out 22 ways you can run, walk or get fit for charity.

Now tell us: What causes would keep you motivated to train for endurance events?

How Did Your Dad Affect Your Fitness?

Written on June 17, 2011 at 11:44 am , by

Parents Beth and Keith stay fit with their kids. (Photo by Sarah Kehoe)

For Father’s Day this Sunday, we asked over at Facebook how dad helped us get healthier and inspired us to stay fit. Here are some of our favorite responses:

  • “Dad taught me how to play tennis—hours of hitting against a garage door ‘backboard.’ Now, at age 70+, he competes with me every year in a tennis tournament up in Maine where he retired. Priceless!” —Margaret Williams Blount
  • “I remember when I was younger he used to go to the gym, weight train and ran a few marathons. I was too young to participate in things like that at the time. Now that I’m older, I’m the one cracking the whip FOR HIM to get moving! I love him and I want him around for quite a bit longer.”  — Erika Bernd
  • “Any sport I was in, my dad was there, cheering me on. Cheerleading competition? Dad was there, cheering me on. Track meet? Dad was there. Pictures, videos, the whole nine yards. My dad is an amazing man and role model. He played football in high school and University and he still walks everyday and sails occasionally. My fitness hero.” — Julie Doss Becker
  • “Sports weren’t very popular for girls when I was growing up, but Daddy didn’t care and always helped me to participate in whatever I wanted to. There were no cleats for girls, or girl ballgloves, no softball helmets with a hole for a ponytail, or even girl softball uniforms. We wore the boys’ stuff. At an impromptu softball practice on a city field  long ago, we were shooed away by nearby neighborhood boys wanting the field. Daddy piped up to the girls and the moms around, ‘Hey, we’re not gonna let those boys treat us girls that way!’ And we didn’t budge. He was always one of the girls.” — Kristie Sharp Williams
  • “My Father just passed away last month. Although we didn’t work out together, he did pass on his love for gardening to me. I love that he wanted nothing but healthy, organic foods for his family. I am now raising my family to be active and enjoy ‘real’ and organic foods. My kids love to garden with me just their Grandpa!” — Leaann Haley Hoffman
  • “My dad passed away many years ago. At the time he was so active, he was called an ‘exercise nut’. He passed on his love of exercise to me and there are many times when I’ve done something physically challenging, I think how proud he would be of my accomplishment. Thanks, Dad.”— Lynn Olmsted

Happy Father’s Day from the FITNESS team! Thanks to all the dads who’ve become fitness inspirations and role models!

Now tell us: How did your dad affect your fit lifestyle today?

The Wassner Twins: Triathlete Sisters LIVESTRONG

Written on June 10, 2011 at 1:38 pm , by

Lauren, left, and Rebeccah (Photo by H & E Enterprises)

Laurel, left, and Rebeccah won a combined nine triathlons in 2010! (Photo by H & E Enterprises)

Rebeccah Wassner began competing in triathlons professionally in 2004 and was not only inspiring fans of the sport, but also motivating her twin sister. Laurel, an athlete herself, watched her sister school the competition in races while she fought (and beat) Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at age 23. “I was her number one cheerleader,” Laurel says. Rebeccah’s success on the triathlon circuit fueled Laurel’s desire to get strong and healthy again. In 2008, Laurel was selected as the 2008 USA Pro Triathlon Rookie of the Year. Talk about a comeback!

We spoke with the Wassner twins about their amazing journey together, the power of a training partner and their work with the LIVESTRONG foundation.

Do you train together?

Rebeccah: Yes. Since I’ve been doing this longer, I tend to call the shots. I’ve had the opportunity to train with so many great athletes, so when I’m training with Laurel, I try to show her what I’ve learned from them. Of course, just having Laurel out there is a huge motivation for me.

Laurel: Bec is very driven and focused. I try to provide some of the fun, and try to keep the workouts interesting. We usually motivate each other without even talking—maybe it’s a “twin thing.” Before we know it, we’ll be racing!

Read more

Get-Fit Reality TV

Written on March 14, 2011 at 2:22 pm , by

What show inspires you to work up a sweat? (Photo by Jay Sullivan)

What show inspires you to work up a sweat? (Photo by Jay Sullivan)

Here at FITNESS, we love keeping up with any health-related pop culture news. Books, movies, TV shows—we keep tabs on them all. Personally, I’ve been known to arrange my workouts so that I can catch The Biggest Loser while on the treadmill because I’m such a diehard fan (and since multitask is my middle name!).

Counting the shows that are currently airing and those that recently wrapped up, it seems like more than ever, channels that air reality TV shows have placed a large focus on fitness and weight loss. So we want to know: Which one of these reality shows motivates you to get up and get moving? Has any one in particular inspired you to make a change in your life? Sounds off in the poll, then tell us more in the comments!

More from FITNESS: Reality TV Star Katie Fanok’s Stay Slim Secrets