Friday FITspiration: From ‘Unfit Girl’ to Runner and IRONMAN

August 22, 2014

Here at, Fridays are all about sharing the inspiring stories of fit people who motivate all of us to be better tomorrow than we were yesterday. My Friday FITspiration series profiles runners, triathletes and casual exercisers who are making choices every day to be as healthy as they can be – in both huge ways and through simple, small victories. Their stories are about the journey of transforming from ordinary to extraordinary each and every day.

Today, I’m excited to introduce you to Shawna Block from the Building Block Blog. I had the good fortune of meeting Shawna for the first time earlier this month when we both volunteered at a local triathlon to hand out water on the run course. Shawna describes herself as a 40-year-old single woman chasing a dream she didn’t know she had: finishing her first half IRONMAN and IRONMAN this fall – all while trying to meet Mr. Right. Find out how Shawna lost 50+ pounds, started running and will soon cover 140.6 miles in November.

Friday FITspiration: Shawna Block on

When did you start running and what inspired you to start?
In 2008, I ran one 5K in May and one 4-mile race in June. That was the beginning and end of my attempt to be a runner.

I consider May 2011 to be my “runniversary.”

I am a women’s lacrosse official and have been since 2007. In 2011, there was an opportunity to achieve a higher ranking so I could officiate college level games. However, the tournament (opportunity) wasn’t until June, meaning I had 4 weeks before I would be on the field again. I knew I had to keep moving or I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the game and wouldn’t earn my higher ranking. I printed out a 10K training plan and decided to follow it until the tournament. It worked. I earned the ranking I was after.

I stuck with the running because my friend Laurie convinced me to sign up for a local half marathon in October 2011. The rest is history.

Friday FITspiration: Shawna Block on
This is Shawna after her first half marathon

You once called yourself an “unfit girl,” but you’ve lost 50 pounds and are taking on your first half IRONMAN and full IRONMAN this year. Tell us about your incredible journey and your mental and physical transformation.
I have always been an athlete. Even at my heaviest, I was playing tennis, basketball and refereeing lacrosse … but I ate horribly. I worked long crazy hours and had no concept of meal planning. I ate fast food probably once a day.

Friday FITspiration: Shawna Block on
This was Shawna in April 2008 before her weight loss and endurance sports journey.

I’m currently down 57 pounds from my highest weight that I can remember. I think I’m an anomaly as I didn’t decide one day I was going to monitor my food and lose weight. I was out of work, a full-time graduate student and was living at my sister’s house. For multiple reasons, I stopped eating fast food and I packed a lunch and snack on days I had class. It was also lacrosse season so I was refereeing 5 to 6 days a week.

By the end of lacrosse season, I had dropped 20 pounds. The crazy part was, I hadn’t really noticed.

Friday FITspiration: Shawna Block on

The physical transformation is obvious. I went from wearing an extra-large/size 18 to a medium and about a size 6/8. I also might be the only woman who is genuinely THRILLED that my boobs shrunk! I had been a 40DD. I think I lost half of them! I’m still trying to get to my race weight; it’s incredibly difficult to drop the last 5 pounds.

The mental transformation is still very much a work in progress. I’m working on shifting my concept of self and not focusing on my scale. I work with Aaron from Achieve Peak Performance. He helps me with my food planning and strength training. As I mentioned, I’m still trying to get to my race weight. My tape measure shifts, but not the scale. Aaron has been helpful in encouraging me to ditch my scale and focus on other means of measurement.

I’m a happier person now than I was before, but I still often see the old me in the mirror. I like to create before and after pictures so I can see the results. I often encourage others that have begun the journey to do it also. They don’t have to post them publicly, just so they can truly see the changes. I also have lingering self-doubt and insecurity issues. It drives my coaches CRAZY! However, I’m much more likely to suggest or agree to do something physical (e.g. hike, kayak, go parasailing) than I was before. Before, I would have an excuse, not because I didn’t want to try it, but because I feared I couldn’t keep up.

On your blog, you not only write about your adventures of running and triathlon training, but you also talk openly about being single and dating as a triathlete. What’s the worst date you’ve been on this year (or ever)?
Oh, there have been so many dates that are just fun stories to tell!

There was the guy who had a girlfriend.

The guy who was (and still is) married.

The guy who told me he smokes pot every day.

The guy who spent our entire dinner conversation telling me about all his injuries and how he’s just getting old and can’t do anything anymore.

I met a guy who told me how the restaurant he was taking me to probably wouldn’t have anything I’d like to eat (he said this part multiple times), but they have the best chili dogs and it’s one of his favorite places to go.

Another guy I went out with a few times got annoyed with me and asked me (with disdain): Will you eat this? (It was a fried chicken dish when we had already shared a fried appetizer.)

There was a guy I had a very nice first date with and then for a second date, he thought he’d just bring a bottle of wine to my place. He didn’t understand why I didn’t like that idea.

Eventually I’ll be done with the toads and find my prince.

Do you have any dating advice for other single runners or triathletes out there?
Make time for it. I tell my friends that dating is like the lottery: If you don’t play, you can’t win. I’m willing to turn in my single card if the right guy came along. Yes, training for my IRONMAN is a priority, but so is finding someone to torture … I mean go with me to family gatherings. That’s why I make time for it. The guy for me doesn’t have to be a triathlete or a runner, although that could be fun. I would like him to live a healthier lifestyle and have something of his own that he was into (golf, tennis, etc.). An adventurous eater would be a bonus!

One of my best first dates was a 5-mile run. It was a fun date, and even if it hadn’t been, I still would have gotten my run in.

How did you decide to get into triathlons? What was the hardest part? What has been the best part?
My friend Stacey called me while I was tapering for the 2013 Charleston Marathon. I was a bit burned out on running. She convinced me to sign up for the local Iron Girl Sprint in my area, even though at that point I didn’t own a bike and I could barely swim 50 meters. Thankfully, I had met Jason with Fast Forward Multisports at the Nashville Marathon in April 2012. I knew he was a triathlete and was going through the process of becoming a certified coach. He helped me with everything: training plans, finding a reasonable bike to start with, very basic swim instruction. He is still coaching me through my first IRONMAN.

Friday FITspiration: Shawna Block on
This is Shawna in Augusta after a recent training ride for the IRONMAN 70.3 Augusta, which she will compete in at the end of September.

The hardest part for me is the bike. I used to tip over. Seriously, last year was my first season and my friends and I had a score card going for my bike rides. I think the final score was Shawna: 5, Ground: 3. Now, I’m having saddle issues, and it makes it challenging to stay on the bike for the amount of time I need.

The best part is all the people I’m meeting: the elites, the mid-packers and the back of the packers. The people are amazing. Their stories are inspiring. I also enjoy the training. It’s diverse, divided up between swim, bike and run and recently strength.

What do you wish you had known before signing up for an IRONMAN that you know now?
I had no idea how hard it was going to be to get my bike fit correctly and to find a saddle that would be good enough. I also didn’t know that my saddle issues would intrigue local tri friends, local non tri friends, and tri friends I still haven’t met. Oh, and that I would ALWAYS be hungry.

What advice/tips would you give someone who considers themselves an “unfit girl or guy” and wants to get active?
Eat less, move more. Friends, family and strangers who hear I lost more than 50 pounds and changed my life always ask me how I did it. I said it was simple: Eat less, move more. I don’t mean don’t eat; that’s crazy talk. Making better food choices helps. It’s amazing what some small exchanges can do. I would go out to eat and pick appetizer or dessert, not both. I try not to have junk food in my home.

Go for a walk. Sign up for a race with a friend. Take the stairs. Do something you enjoy. If you enjoy it, you are more likely to stick with it. There are so many ways to be active: Zumba, walk, run, bike, swim, golf, tennis, hike.

What are your running/training mantras? 
One more mile.
You are stronger than you think.

If you listen to music, what’s your favorite tune(s) to run to at the moment? 
I use mixes from when I do listen to music. Triathlons do not allow headphones at all. You can be disqualified. Therefore, I try really hard to not use my headphones during triathlon training season.

How can people connect with you?


If you or someone you know would be a great candidate for Friday FITspiration, email me at

Shawna talks a lot about dating on her blog. What was the worst date you’ve ever been on? If you date or are married to someone who doesn’t run or train for races, what tips do you have for balancing your passion with your partner who may not enjoy it?



Another great, inspiring story! I’m in awe of anyone who is pursuing an Ironman!!! I also loved the list of all the bad dates – hilarious!!! Why won’t you eat fried chicken?? hahaha Good luck with all your training!!!!


what an incredible journey! best of luck in your upcoming irons.