Caitlin Constantine is a busy woman. She is a senior digital producer for a TV news station in the Tampa Bay area, an award-winning triathlete, and one of the most powerful voices in the growing body-positive fitness movement. On her blog, Fit and Feminist, Caitlin writes about fitness from a feminist perspective. She often calls out the mainstream women's fitness industry for their bullshit and shares personal stories. Her in-depth and honest race reports are some of my favorite fitness stories on the web. Her writing is smart and funny and unapologetically feminist.
Be sure to read this post about her first 50 mile race and Forget Internet Memes My Fitspo Comes from Real Life.
I'm so excited to include her here as one of our featured athletes. Her blog was truly one of the most powerful inspirations behind the creation of Superfit Hero. I'm beyond grateful that she agreed to answer these questions for us and to share her story with all of you!
What is your superpower?
I can be incredibly stubborn. Sometimes this hasn't been the greatest trait ever, like the time I was ten years old and I didn't want to eat dinner. My parents insisted I sit at the table until I ate my food, and so I sat and sat and sat and sat for five loooong hours, until finally my dad threw my plate of food away and told me to go to bed. (Sorry, mom and dad. I was such a brat.)
As a grown-up, I've harnessed that power for good instead of evil, and I bring it with me to endurance sports. That mulishness translates into a near-ridiculous ability to withstand discomfort and pain and boredom if I really want whatever is on the other side of all that gnarliness. It particularly came in handy last May, when I ran the Keys 50-miler in 10:27. You don't keep moving for 10-plus hours and 50 miles without being stubborn and unrelenting in the face of pain and boredom. (And by the way, that still remains one of the coolest things I've ever done, gnarliness and all. I would do it again in a heartbeat.)
Obviously I train very hard to be the best endurance athlete I can be, but as any endurance athlete knows, what goes on with your body is just one aspect of the sport. What goes on in your brain is just as important, if not more so, and what goes on in my brain is basically a brick wall of stubbornness.
What accomplishment are you most proud of in your life?
I've tucked a lot of accomplishments under my belt in my years, but what I'm most proud of is finding the courage to leave an abusive relationship when I was in my late 20s. I had been in the relationship for nine years - my entire adult life up until that point - and I was terrified. I honestly wasn't sure I had it in me to survive on my own, but I'd reached a point where I just could not stay anymore. The pain of staying in that situation had become greater than my fear of the unknown, and so I packed up my belongings in a bunch of black garbage bags and left. I was in college at the time, too, and so I had to balance my classwork with all of this personal turmoil. Somehow, though, I managed to make it work.
The amazing thing is how my life flourished after I left. I had been so afraid, not just of my former partner but of what I was sure was my own incompetence and weakness, and yet once I had the chance to prove myself, I rose to the challenge and then some. Now I look back at who I used to be and I barely even recognize that girl anymore. Sometimes I want to go back and tell her, "Girl, stop underestimating yourself! You are WAY better than this!" but at the same time I recognize that surviving all of that has made me the tough, compassionate woman I am today, and so I can't be too mad at myself.
That said, I also have a really powerful sense of gratitude for the second chance I've been given, because in my line of work, I encounter a lot of stories of women for whom there was no second chance. I see myself in their stories and all I can think is, "There but for the grace of God go I." Things could have very easily gone quite badly for me, and it's through sheer luck that they didn't. Not a day goes by where I am not incredibly grateful for my new life, and I am doing what I can to make the most out of it.
What does a typical week in fitness look like for you?
Well, it changes depending on whether I'm in running season or in triathlon season. Currently I'm in my triathlon season, and so I do my best to get in at least three workouts in each of the disciplines. I also hit the gym 2-3 times a week for 45 minutes of strength training. Right now I'm working my way through Nia Shanks' 3x3 program, which is a minimalist strength training plan that manages to kick my ass anyway.
One of my biggest challenges is that I work in an industry - 24/7 cable TV news - where my schedule changes radically from week to week, and sometimes even from day to day. Sometimes I start my shift at 4:30 a.m., and other times I'm at work until 11 p.m. As a result, I have no real set training schedule. I do my best to work out with my racing team (Kennedy Law Racing) on their Monday and Wednesday night runs and their Thursday night master's swims. I also lift weights on my lunch break, and when I don't have access to daylight, I'll get on my bike on the indoor trainer and do some intervals while watching a movie.
I'm really lucky in that I live close to a good recreational trail, that I have access to excellent municipal pools and that I'm 10 minutes away from the Gulf of Mexico, which has some really excellent open-water swimming opportunities (sandy bottoms, clear-ish water, not a lot of crazy-scary sea life, not a lot of big surf). Plus, it's warm and sunny like 10 months out of the year. The opportunities to train here are everywhere; it just requires some flexibility and creativity on my part to take advantage of them.
What's your biggest challenge/goal right now?
Well, I actually just achieved one of my biggest long-term goals! About three years ago, I got it in my head that I might be capable of qualifying for the Boston Marathon, and so my husband Brian and I set out a plan where I would chip away at my marathon time until qualifying became feasible, and then I'd go for it. And last month, that's exactly what happened! I needed to run a marathon in under 3:40, and I ran one in 3:34. The reality that I actually qualified for Boston has only now really sunk in, and it has me all excited to see just how fast I can run a marathon. I doubt I'll ever be a sub-3:00 marathoner, but sub-3:30? Sub-3:25? I'm excited to find out!
My next big goal is to break six hours at the Hutchinson Island half-iron distance triathlon in September. I've only done one half-iron distance triathlon before, so I feel like I've got a lot of room to grow in this sport. And then my goals for 2016 are to do my first Ragnar Relay down in the Florida Keys with my racing team in February, run the Boston Marathon in April, and then later that year tackle my first full Ironman in Louisville. I have a lot of other goals - like running 1:35 in the half-marathon or riding my first century or taking part in a 5K open-water swim - but the ones I mentioned are my Big Ones, the audacious ones that electrify me with fear and excitement.
How can the Superfit Hero community support you?
Just continue to be the inspiring badasses you all are. That sounds trite and silly, but it's true. I wrote on my blog that my fitspo comes from real life, which is one hundred million percent true. I know some people are all about the images of fit babes in bikinis superimposed with text that says things like "Sweat is fat crying" (ew) or something like that, but I personally am way more motivated by people I actually know. I see their struggles, their triumphs, their attitudes, and it means so much more to me because I know them as people and not just as two-dimensional objects on my Pinterest wall.
The flip side of that is seeing people I know as people achieve extraordinary things helps me to believe the same is possible for myself. I got into running and triathlon because I saw how much Brian loved it, and now that I train with a team full of some really badass athletes, I am inspired to work even harder because by looking at them I start to glimpse what might be possible in my own life.
So yeah, all the Superfit Hero community needs to do to help me is to keep on kicking ass and taking names and making sure the world knows about it I see you out there and I am inspired by all of you, and I know I'm not the only one.