TEAM SHERI ATHLETE OF THE WEEK
Check out Sharon’s journey to becoming a professional Triathlete, and the Director of a successful Charity
She is an amazing lady and has a very interesting story to share.
NAME: Sharon Gallant
Founder & Executive Director, Fit Active Beautiful (FAB) Foundation.
YEARS DOING TRIATHLONS:
First triathlon was at age 30
GOAL RACE FOR THE YEAR:
Mont Tremblant. I’m hoping to race between 10:00-10:15
WHY YOU STARTED DOING TRIATHLONS:
Oddly enough, doing an Ironman is the very first dream I can remember having.
I can still recall the moment I was sitting on the floor in my living room watching this event unfold on TV. My imagination was captured. I had no idea what it really meant, only that I would be an Ironman one day. After losing touch with that dream, I met several people in my late 20s who were active triathletes and it reignited a passion….and the rest is history!
My challenges are likely no different than most in the triathlon community – time! I have an incredibly busy job that extends into most evenings and week-ends, making work/life balance challenging at times. While I do have flexibility in the mornings, which is when I do most of my workouts, I have a ton of detail and responsibility swirling around in my head non-stop.
I’m most proud of raising my daughter and having a good relationship with her. Adult relationships are always a choice and I value and respect that.
I’m also very proud that I found the courage to start FAB and push myself way outside my comfort zone to make good things happen. At my core, I’m an introvert, so being the face and voice of a charity and sharing and celebrating my private life and journey has been challenging at times.
I worked hard and finished Ironman Tremblant in 10:29 last year and decided to race as a pro this year. I obviously have no problem starting at the bottom and crawling my way up
Most interesting fact about me right now is that, not only did I have a daughter when I was 17; I’m going to be a grandma at 38!
After many years of believing that my daughter’s road to parenthood would likely be paved with fertility treatments due to a condition she was diagnosed with at 16, we’ve been surprised and blessed with a baby girl who’s developing healthy and is expected to join our family in November.
You can bet I’m going to rewrite the book on grandparenthood
WHAT YOU HAVE LEARNED ABOUT YOURSELF ALONG THE WAY
More than what I’ve learned about myself along the way, triathlons constantly reinforce lessons I’ve learned and affords me the opportunity to take those lessons and shape my journey. Each training day, each race, each season has a way of gently or willfully slapping you in the face with things we know, value and appreciate. A healthy sense of humor is recommended, as triathlons aren’t for the faint of heart. He is some fun, yet obvious things training and racing reminds me of:
1. Let go of the things you can’t control (your genetics, where you live, your age, your equipment) and honor yourself the things you can (get your ass out of bed when the alarm goes off, enjoy a cup of strong coffee and then train your ass off in the smartest way passible – you and you alone know what you put in).
2. Mind over matter Have a life and training mantra cause it’s going to get messy out there!
3. The definition of insanity is to do the same thing over and over and expect a different outcome…so when something isn’t working, try something else
4. Too much of anything can be a bad thing. Pick a thing related to triathlons and it applies…gels, cliff bars, running, cycling, sun, water, Gatorade…there is an endless list…
5. You get what you give. There is no faking your way through an Ironman.
6. The human mind and body is capable of great things. Be inspired.
7. Equally as important as finding joy in what you do if finding humor in what you do. Laugh often
I’ve attached the story of FAB. It’s a speech I give to groups when I share information on FAB. If you’d like to include information on FAB, this might be worth including. If not, that’s fine too! I’m good either way.
WHAT DOES YOUR SPOUSE THINK OF ALL THIS
Lucky for me, my partner is unconditionally supportive and is always my rock and push when I need it. He has much more confidence and passion in me than I do many days. He not only makes sure I have what I need, he makes sure my bike has what she needs, the car is ready to go, the route is mapped out, the hotel or campground is booked and the coffee is on. When I’m feeling insecure or unprepared, he always reminds me of the road behind us, which has usually been paved with awesome workouts. Oh, and did I mention that he also wakes up a stupid o-clock with me and joins me for my workouts because he too is doing Ironman Mont Tremblant? Yup, that’s Andy and he’s awesome!
For those who don’t know about FAB, I like to share our story through 7 life lessons I’ve learned. Each lesson has helped shape me personally and has each has been woven into the fabric of FAB.
1) Dreams Matter
Becoming an Ironman was the very first dream I remember having.
I can still recall the moment that I was sitting on the floor as a little girl watching this event unfold on TV. My imagination was captured. I had no idea what it really meant, only that I would be an Ironman.
I’ll come back to this dream a bit later, but what I want to share is this….
Dreams matter. They matter because they give us hope.
• They give us focus and purpose
• Help us drowned out the noise
• They push us to grow
• They keep us moving forward and they inspire others
At FAB, our goal is to inspire girls to dream big and live big.
2) It’s Not About What Happens To You
Like many, I experienced a lot of trauma and challenges as a young teen. When I was about 13 my family unit crumbled when both of my parents became addicted to crack cocaine. My father join a motorcycle gang and my mother ended up in and out of jail for years.
By the time I was 16, I was living in poverty, I had dropped out of school, I was in a bad relationship and I had become pregnant.
The future didn’t look good. Although I knew I could do more and wanted to do more, I had no idea how to get from where I was to where I wanted to be.
Before I had the capacity to invest in myself, I made a commitment to my daughter that we would end the poverty cycle in her generation. That led me to a career in the financial services industry. I went back to school and after a few years found myself doing really well. The more success I achieved, the more I began to understand a simple but life changing truth. Successful people set goals. And not only that, but that there is a model for setting goals. And anyone could take that model and direct their life in a meaningful way.
The other life changing realization I had after I started running at 26 is there is very little difference between setting a goal for a 5k and setting a goal in life. In fact, sport is a fantastic vehicle to teach us skills that we may or may not tap into because we may or may not know we have them.
The more I lived and appreciated these concepts, the more I felt my purpose in life shifting. I spent a lot of time thinking about how to combine the power of sport and goal setting skills to provide young girls with an opportunity to challenge themselves and experience ‘I Can’.
In May of 2008 on a sunny afternoon in Nova Scotia after taking part in a 24-hour relay race, I was talking with a friend of mine about what we would be doing if we could do whatever we wanted. We both described similar visions – working with youth and using running as a vehicle to inspire and empower. At the end of the conversation he said to me…I just don’t know if I’m brave enough to make the change. Although I didn’t say it out loud, I remember thinking to myself ‘I don’t want to be a person who looks back and wishes they had chosen a different path’.
3) Follow Your Passion
Shortly after that conversation I decided that I needed to follow my passion in life; and that my passion was helping young girls become strong women.
With that decision, I left my career in financial services and started FAB and our FAB Girls 5K Challenge.
Our FAB Girls 5K Challenge is a 12-week program that challenges girls in grades 6, 7 and 8 – specifically in disadvantaged communities – to train for and complete a 5 km run.
The aim of our program is two-fold:
• To encourage youth girls to become more physically active and engage in healthy living, and
• To help develop goal-setting skills that can be used to achieve any future goal or dream.
In 5 short years, we’ve grown from our initial pilot in 2009 with 9 girls and 2 volunteer coaches to running our program in 13 locations across the city with almost 200 girls and 50 volunteer coaches.
4) Remove Barriers To Create Opportunities
The largest barriers to participation for girls living in lower income communities are:
• Registration fees
We remove all of them. We understood early in the process that if we wanted to engage girls living in lower income communities we needed to remove the barriers to participation.
The first thing we did was decide to offer our program in the communities girls live in so they can walk to our program.
In addition, each girl who participates in our program receives:
• An I’m FAB training shirt
• A new pair of quality running shoes
• Healthy snacks at each of our training sessions
• Free entry and bus transportation into program events
5) Have Focus and Keep It Simple
In a world where there is a lot of need, we’ve developed a very clear focus.
• Girls in grades 6 through 8
• Who live in lower income communities in Hamilton
Why is this our focus?
• If you are a girl living in Hamilton you are more likely to live in poverty than if you were a boy
• 24% of the girl population is living below the poverty line
With growth comes challenges and complexity, but at our core, we have a very focused and simple model.
6) Never Give Up On Your Dreams
While I came into triathlons late in life, I fulfilled my childhood dream in 2010 when I was crossed the finish line at Ironman Lake Placid and was declared an Ironman. 11 hours, 18 minutes.
One of the great things about dreams is they are often stepping stones in life. They inspire us get to a place we weren’t sure we could get to. And when we arrive at that place, we tend to keep going. We keep challenging ourselves. We keep growing.
My triathlon journey has been no different. Last year I crossed the finish line of Ironman Mont Tremblant in 10 hours 29 minutes, bettering the professional standard by more than 15 minutes. I’ve earned the right to line up wit the very best triathletes in the world.
In April when we kicked off our 2014 program with almost 200 FAB Girls from across the city, I had the privilege of sharing my ironman journey with them. Not because I have any illusions of really competing with the very best. But because in sharing my journey I undoubtedly inspired them to realize that if I could overcome the barriers in my life and not give up on my dreams, they can too.
7) The last lesion, The Power of I Can
As individuals, we only do what we believe we can do. This is true for each of us. And it is also true to the over 4000 girls between the ages of 10-14 in Hamilton living below the poverty line.
At the core of this belief is a confidence that even though you don’t know what lies ahead, you have the tools and confidence to face challenges head on.
I’d like to share with you a story of I can that came out of our program last year.
Last year we had a girl who had just arrived from Pakistan find her way to our program. Four weeks into our program we take part in a 3K Mud Run. She was feeling very timid and asked her coaches if she could sit out because she wasn’t sure that she was ready. Her coaches were very supportive and suggested they go to the start line to cheer the rest of the girls on. So there they were at the start line, cheering all of our FAB Girls on. Then without warning when the gun went off she takes off with the other girls into the woods. Her coaches were both surprised and a bit worried. Somewhere along the route this young girl meets up with a FAB coach from a different program location and they decided to finish the run together. The FAB Girl’s coaches waited at the finish line and before long she crests the final hill to the finish with a huge grin on her face. After the cheering and hugs the FAB coach who finished the event with her looked at her and said, now tell your coaches what you learned out there. And without hesitation she smiled and confidently said “I Can!”.
So here’s the thing…..a girl who believes she can, moves towards challenges in life with confidence that she’ll be able to figure things out.
A girl who doesn’t believe she can; doesn’t.
Let’s take a moment to consider what happens when a girl population of 4000 doesn’t believe they can?
This is why building skills and confidence is important. This is why we believe FAB is important.
Our goal is to inspire girls to dream big and live big. We do this by helping girls understand the relationships between setting a goal, developing and executing a plan and achieving a dream.