In the past, aerobics, jazzercise and yoga classes were the ways many women came together to get or stay in shape. These days, though, women are combining speed workouts, strength training and long-distance runs for a full-body workout, thanks to a new breed of 20-something fitness instructors.
Sarah Gahagan, 28, of Presque Isle, teaches a devoted group of clients three days a week in what she calls her “boot camp.” She uses kettle bells, body weight exercises, and track workouts to get her class, made up mostly of women, in shape. Gahagan’s style is inspirational, and her message is simple.
“When someone says they can’t do something, we break it down,” says Gahagan, who has a degree in exercise science from Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. “Little by little they get it, and then they get the itch to continue. It’s so fulfilling.”
Gahagan knows from personal experience how fulfilling it can be to push through the limits of your mind to achieve a physical goal. She won the Tri Aroostook on June 8, a sprint triathlon that featured pouring rain and warmer than average temperatures. She shaved a minute off of her winning time from last year.
There aren’t a whole lot of fitness challenges Gahagan wouldn’t be up for. Once, when she was living in Alaska and working as a tour guide in Skagway, she and a friend decided to follow a 40-mile gold miners’ trail up the side of a mountain – a trek that usually takes hikers three days to complete. She and her friend started out at 9 p.m. and were at the end of the trail, where the railroad passes, by 9 the next morning.
“It got dark for a couple of hours and it was pretty rugged terrain,” she says. “But we had to finish in time to catch the train.”
Gahagan’s most recent fitness challenge was “Tough Mudder Boston.” It actually took place on the side of Gunstock Mountain in Gilford, N.H., and consisted of 22 events along a 12-mile obstacle course. Some of the highlights included the Arctic Enema (jumping into an ice bath), Electroshock Therapy (crawling over, under and around electrified wires), and crawling through mud on hands and knees.
“The mountain terrain was the toughest part,” she says of the course, which took about five hours for her and her 12 friends to complete. “It’s more of a challenge than a race.”
Gahagan is also into mountain biking, snowshoe running (yes, running) and kettleball training. She views her penchant for pushing herself as a way to honor God for the gifts she’s been given.
“I have so much to be thankful for,” she says. “My talents are a gift that I want to take good care of.”
This philosophy also explains why Gahagan is so passionate about motivating others to get and stay fit. She’s started a new class called “Outbound,” which takes her clients out of the gym, using different locations around Presque Isle for various fitness activities. The idea, she says, is to utilize the terrain and teach her clients that they don’t have to be in a fitness class to stay in shape.
While Gahagan provides lots of motivation to her students, she confesses that they are also great motivation for her. At the recent triathlon, a few of her students were volunteers. When Gahagan came in sight, they cheered her on and encouraged her to finish strong.
“It was a great role reversal,” she says. “You have to practice what you preach. Moments like that make it all worth it.”