In this edition of Spartan Women, we meet Jessica Calhoun, who shares her emotional, personal story.
At 350 pounds, Jessica Calhoun found that warrior spirit that makes someone a Spartan — at home and on the course. How? It's what she calls an "all-inclusive" community.
Jessica Calhoun: From Supermom to Super Spartan
At age 41, Jessica Calhoun knew something had to give. The mother of two beautiful children, who were both diagnosed with autism and ADHD, Jessica understood she had a duty to get her health in gear.
Calhoun had lost her dad and stepmom when they were both in their 50s. And now, as a woman whose life-long battle with obesity had left her unfit and riddled with health problems, she realized she might not make it to mid-life to watch her own kids growing up.
“I was aware that if I didn't do something, perhaps I may not be there for my children like they deserved,” Jessica says. “And my love for my children and the promise I made to myself to be the best mother I could possibly be to them was one I simply wouldn't break.”
That promise was what propelled her through the doors of a local CrossFit gym in Santa Clarita, California, in the fall of 2015. At 350 lbs she was determined to get a handle on her health once and for all.
Completely daunted, but also desperate to make a change, Jessica was unsure of what her next step should even be. Though she started attending the gym regularly, she wasn’t shifting the weight as quickly as she had hoped. When a coach approached her and asked if she would like to join him and his team for a Spartan Race in Temecula, the following January, she took a deep breath and said, “Sure, sign me up!”
Finish Lines Teach Spartans to Start Over
That one courageous decision was the turning point, and the first of many brave decisions Jessica began to make. After crossing the finish line at Temecula, she says, “The sense of positivity and community of that event completely blew me away. And once I’d processed the experience, I made the decision to sign up for another race!”
Since then, Jessica has become a regular on the Spartan race course, and has competed in over 15 OCR events.
The now-47-year-old has also become a devotee of CrossFit, even earning her Level 1 trainer certificate — “just to learn more", she laughs.
The Spartan Community is Everything
CrossFit allows her to maintain her fitness foundation, and enables her to race in the number of events that she does. But it’s the community itself that keeps her coming back for more.
“This sport is all-inclusive,” Jessica says. “No matter who you are, where you are, where you came from, YOU BELONG if you want to be here. Being on the course and being connected to the community is a constant reminder that you can always be better than you were yesterday, and you can always rely on the encourage and support. I adore this community. It's truly like a big family.”
Beyond the Race: Spartan Philosophies Belong at Home
Of course, signing up is the first step. Racing is the next. But really, Jessica has learned that the good stuff truly comes when you commit to an honest Spartan lifestyle.
“I continually work on my nutritional habits and get behind the emotional issues of why I overate in the first place,” she says. “I gave up alcohol almost a year ago, and that has been a game changer ... I focus on my life being a journey of constant improvement. And I making sure my technique and form are safe in training while being coachable, so I can enjoy this lifestyle for many years to come.”
Spartans Shelve the Shame
For others who look at her and think “Wow!” then “How?” she has some smart advice.
“Don't feel any shame for where you are at the moment. Just use it as a starting point. Remember your why and make the decision to sign up and train!
I also can't say enough about the value in tapping into the online community,” she adds. “There are several Facebook communities you can join. Look for your regional group (there is West Coast Spartans, Midwest Spartans, Northeast Spartans, and Southern Spartans) and absolutely join the Spartan Women group, connect and we will answer any questions and cheer you on! I would also say, your power is within you - you just need to discover for itself. It's that journey that will build your strength.”
Once a Spartan, Always a Spartan
As for her own journey, Jessica freely admits that she’s experienced more in these last few years than she has in much of her life previously.
“My childhood was very tough,” she reveals. “I also went through school with an undiagnosed learning disorder. I thought for a long time I was a failure, not smart, and battling my weight just made it worse.”
However, that day Jessica Calhoun decided to walk across the threshold of her local CrossFit gym changed everything.
“It was in the decision to make progress for my children," she says, "that I finally discovered I was worth fighting for in the process."