Tracey O’Connell


Tracey O’Connell

tracey-4-189x300Member Since September 2009

What has been your favorite workout so far? 
I don’t have a “favorite workout”. My goals for the workout are:
Show up.
Complete the workout.
Don’t get hurt.
I guess I consider any workout where I can meet these three goals a success! Also, I NEVER look at the workout online before coming to class – otherwise, I will psych myself out and find some toilets to clean instead.

What were you doing for exercise before Strength & Conditioning? 
Before Strength & Conditioning, I was not doing any sort of regimented fitness program.  I was always active but not organized with my workouts and often didn’t make exercise a priority.  I work and have 3 young-ish children.  I would go hiking in Umstead park after work on days I could squeeze it in.  I also had an “8-Minute Abs” video that I tried to do a few times a week.  It always seemed my health and fitness were “on the back burner.”

tracey-3-178x300How would you describe your previous athletic background before Strength & Conditioning? 
I have never been athletic. I never did any sort of sports as a kid. We moved to Wisconsin when I was in fifth grade and all the other kids had been playing organized sports for years. I was small and intimidated and did not like getting in the middle of the fray with team sports. I once got a “C” in gym in 8th grade which did nothing to encourage me to get involved (I was just annoyed that it ruined my GPA!) I was coordinated and liked dancing. I was a cheerleader in high school. I went to college in Boulder, Colorado which is a beautiful place that proved a great inspiration to do more downhill skiing, hiking, biking and occasional running. During medical school and residency at UNC, I did absolutely NOTHING physical and really regret it because I know now that it would have been a huge and much-needed stress-reducer at that time in my life. I started running regularly late in medical training and ran one 5K race before I found out I was pregnant. After my first child was born, I injured my hip running and was told by my doctors that I had “an unstable pelvis that looked like a 70-year old woman on x-ray”, that I should be gentle with my body and never have any more children. After a year of stress, “fibromyalgia” and physical therapy, I “accidentally” got pregnant with my second child and realized I really needed to get in shape in order to carry that baby. I swam throughout the second pregnancy but was self-taught and never really pushed myself. But swimming really helped me bounce back fast after my second son was born. During my third pregnancy with my daughter, I felt listless and drained the whole time and only moved when I actually had to get somewhere.

What made you want to give Strength & Conditioning a try? 
When I could see my 40th birthday on the horizon, I felt like I needed to do something to improve myself and my life so that I wouldn’t see myself as old. I had a friend who was doing Strength & Conditioning and when he described it to me it just sounded really different and actually fun. My first class was September 3rd, 2009- two months before my 40th birthday- the free Saturday 11a public workout. There were four of us who showed up. Dave was the instructor. We went over the Strength & Conditioning principles and then got to the first workout. I can’t remember the actual activities but I know we did a ton of air squats. I thought I was going to die. I was literally trembling halfway through the WOD and my heart was pounding. I was so winded I thought I was going to pass out. My legs were still trembling from just spastic nerve action on my drive home. For two days, I walked up and down the stairs like I had just gotten off a horse. I am certain that Dave thought he’d never see me again. What a shock for both of us when I showed up for Foundations the following week.

tracey-1-300x199What impact has Strength & Conditioning had on your life? 
Strength & Conditioning has radically changed my life. I had never pushed myself physically. In the past, whenever I was exercising and got “uncomfortable”, I would stop. Whenever I knew the ball was coming to me, I would duck or scream. The Strength & Conditioning philosophy and strategy has given me skills that involve pushing myself through that discomfort and getting to the other side. Every time I start the workout, I think, “Oh man. This is going to be tough. Wow- maybe I should skip out…?” But by the time I complete the workout, I feel amazing. I feel strong and capable, like nothing can beat me down. Not only am I physically stronger (which I am and I love that- I love being able to lift things and keep up with my kids) but mentally, I have never been better. I am also really proud of myself for being able to work through and overcome fears of incompetency. It has helped me relax. I think it’s also great for my kids to see me doing this. They occasionally come with me and they find the whole place so exciting and want to try everything themselves. It is so important for future generations to keep active and combat the sedentary life and obesity epidemic that is such a problem in our society.

What is your favorite thing about Strength & Conditioning? Courage Fitness Durham specifically? 
The variety. Over the almost 3 years I’ve been coming to the gym, the workouts continue to evolve and change. Every workout is unique. The group workouts are really fun when we work as teams and can encourage each other to work harder. I like the workouts that are silly, like banging or flipping the tire. Courage Fitness Durham has become a community for me that is very different

from the rest of my life. It is not the hospital, it is not the playground, it is not my kids’ school and it is not in my neighborhood. Because it is something I do by myself, it feels like an escape to special realm. The emphasis on nutrition and health as well as fitness help me feel like participating is improving every aspect of my life. I love the people at Courage Fitness Durham. CFD makes me happy.

How would you describe Strength & Conditioning to someone that had never heard of it before? 
People ask me this all the time. It’s really hard to get into all the different aspects that make it so amazing so I find myself saying, “It’s awesome. But it’s hard to explain…”

What is your Strength & Conditioning nemesis? 
Double Unders. Again, I think of myself as pretty coordinated but damn it, I cannot get that movement down and it makes me REALLY angry and frustrated. I also have a hard time jumping without wetting my pants so… just one more reason for me to want to avoid them 🙂

What is your favorite movement? 
I love anything with squatting. Since I spend a lot of my work days sitting, squatting feels great for my back, butt and legs. I used to really dislike the weight-lifting, but now I love it and feel that overall, I benefit the most from the lifts that really strengthen my core, which is most of them.

What piece of advice would you offer to others thinking about starting Strength & Conditioning? 
“Just Do It!” You won’t regret it. It’s the best choice for overall health, fitness and well being.