How A Woman Went from Overweight and Depressed to Ironman Finisher

I remember looking into the mirror at age 40 and thinking to myself, 'Who is this fat, middle-aged woman?' It was like I didn't recognize myself; up until the age of 18, I was an athlete."

Read on to discover how Sandi became an ironman finisher.

Sandi experienced her moment of realization. 

As many of us know, a lot can happen in 22 years.

"First, it was the smoking, and then I blew my knee. I waited 6 months for an MRI and then another 6 months for surgery. During that time I was inactive, and that’s when the weight started to pile on. My first major bout of depression came next. At that time the only thing that gave me comfort was food.

"Through it all, my mom was my biggest support, so you can imagine that when she passed away I was absolutely devastated. After you lose someone that special the first year is a blur, and the 2nd year is much worse. Birthday’s and holidays were just painful reminders. I was at the end of my rope, hanging on for dear life, and then when I was let go from my job that’s when I fell deeper into depression.” 

Every success story starts with a rock bottom. When something or a series of bad things happen to you, you have three choices...you can let it:

  1. Define you.
  2. Destroy you, or
  3. Strengthen you.

Sandi knew that she did not want to spend the rest of her life in this place, so she describes her transformation:

"It was not an overnight thing. In fact, it started off with just 20-minutes of walking three times a week. Then I added exercise videos. It needed to start within the comfort of home where nobody could see me. Once again, though, I could not stay there. I felt that if I wanted to go to the next level, I needed to have the courage to exercise in public. 

"Joining a gym was a huge step. I remember thinking that I didn’t belong there with all those hard bodies, but I knew that the only way I was going to get better was if I kept going forward. After consistently going to the gym, I realized that I enjoyed spin class the most. This then motivated me to dust off my mountain bike and cycle outdoors. I then aimed to cycle a little further every time I went out." 

Just like Sandi’s downward spiral into weight gain and depression, the way she got herself out of it was to climb upwards toward the next challenge...the next level of change. 

"I joined a cycling group, and once again I remember thinking to myself that I did not belong here with these athletes; but, I persevered anyway, which led me to sign up for my first long distance cycling event. 

"After finishing 160 km and crossing that finish line I knew I was hooked. 

"So what’s next? I wonder if I can run?

"Joining a running group was even more intimidating than the cycling group. I was the fat girl in the back of the group, but I couldn’t let that discourage me; the pain of running felt 100x better than the pain of depression. Before I knew it my first 5 km race finish was upgraded into my first half marathon finish.

"What was my next challenge...I wonder if I could still swim? 

"If you think the running group was intimidating, there was nothing like joining a triathlon group. Getting into a bathing suit was a huge step for me. I remember being so nervous before my first sprint distance triathlon, but once I finished you could not wipe the grin off my face. 

"The year I turned 50 I knew I needed to do something BIG.

"So I set out to train for my first Ironman 70.3 race, which consisted of a 1900 m swim, 90 km bike, and 21 km run. It was one of the hardest things I have ever done."

I had the opportunity to witness Sandi’s finish that day in Calgary, Alberta. Since I have finished that distance before, and I knew the obstacles she had to overcome to get to that point, I was more excited for her epic finish than my own...and an epic finish it was. 

After the dust settled, and her muscles recovered, I knew I had to interview her and ask her the question that every person who hits bottom want to know...

HOW?

This is what Sandi gave me...

Three Things That Got Me From Fat and Depressed to Ironman Finisher

1. The only way to get better was to keep going.

"There was plenty of opportunity during this transformation to quit. I had to be very aware of my self-talk, because if I wasn't careful, I could talk myself out of it."

2. Pay no attention to what others think.

"After a while, I realized my self-consciousness was my problem and not anyone else’s. Once I got over myself, I discovered that nobody was thinking about me at all. We were all there trying to better ourselves. Realizing that I am not the centre of the universe helped me overcome being intimidated."

3. The secret of knowing the HOW is in knowing the WHY.

"At first, I was doing it for my mental health. Then my WHY evolved into me doing it because I love this community of athletes. Now my WHY is the fact that I get to tell people I DO TRIATHLON."

Since Sandi's Ironman 70.3 finish she has continued to challenge herself in new ways. Just recently she has completed a 10,000 meter open water swim. Way to go Sandi!


Having a moment of realization is what every person needs to do before they take on a transformation like Sandi did. As a coach, I always try to understand what people go through and how they feel when they are at their lowest. This is why I am so grateful that Sandi was more than willing to share her story with me.

As a health coach my mission and purpose is to inspire lifelong positive changes like the ones described here in Sandi's story. If you think health coaching might be right for you, and you would like to speak with me for a FREE one-on-one Zoom or Phone session, please take a few minutes to Schedule Your Consultation!