Shauna Cooper | SOF

Shauna Cooper

I’ve heard the following question a few times lately about my fitness: “Wow, how do you do that?”

The simplest answer I have is that on June 2, 2014 I showed up to my first Soldiers of Fitness class.  A day I will never forget for many reasons.  In my head I asked the same question of all the OPTers (those who have done the course before) of course. I was amazed at what they could do.

And here is the long answer (I could write a novel).  I played team sports my whole life and had been very active, but never had a real relationship with food and exercise.  I wasn’t overweight, but I certainly wasn’t skinny. Then I got to the heaviest I had been in a while, and decided it was time to take a conscious effort in my weight.  I found a Living Social coupon for a bootcamp at Hogs Back Park. Every so often I would see another group running around with weird heavy things and stretchers. I thought to myself, “I would never do that.”

I saw great weight loss results from that first bootcamp, but they didn’t continue classes.  In the three years before starting Soldiers of Fitness I went to three different bootcamps and gyms, never consistently.  Usually when I felt my clothes getting tighter or had a trip coming up.

Then I found myself in need of a change physically and mentally.  I had decided I wanted to put myself first and do something I wanted to do.  I thought about how much I loved working out outdoors and remembered about the group with the stretchers. I Googled and was able to figure out who they were. I took the plunge and signed up for a month.  Adrenaline got me through the first class, the fear of burpees got me to the next classes, the people and instructors brought me back the next month and the results, challenges and atmosphere have kept me for almost five years.

When I started SOF I was actually at my lightest, not from proper diet and exercise, but rather a stress diet.  I certainly was not at my strongest. I never really had a goal in mind when I started out, but goals have certainly evolved.  In my time at SOF, I have run my first 5k and 10k, completed my first Spartan (which I hated), did my first pull up and my first set of 10 on my toes push-ups.  Since those firsts I’ve personal bested my race times, finished top 5 in my age group in obstacle course races, lifted heavier and run further.  It has not been easy.  A lot of days were a struggle.  But with the help of Coach Mark and the other SOFers I was able to get through those classes.  Someone would come back for last, someone would switch out on a tire pull, someone would take a rebar and the group would help complete my numbers.

Then one day I didn’t need someone to take the rebar, the next class I finished my numbers, then one day I was going back for last.

In the last year and half, I have discovered a love of obstacle course races.  After that horrible first one in 2016, I tried again in 2017 just to see if the experience would be different, and it was. I loved every second of it, even though I failed multiple obstacles.  These races have become my goal and my inspiration for classes.  I wrote down my goals, and started IFT’s (personal training) with Coach Mark.  This is when I really began to see the changes in my skills, my strength and my mental determination.  Now that I have something concrete to work towards, I want to do better at each and every class. I can now climb a rope, swing from ring to ring, complete monkey bars and jump over walls.

I’ve seen the program evolve, moving towards a program with long term health benefits.  My form is better, my stamina increased, my knowledge of nutrition and mobility has grown.  The challenges Mark sends out keep you working towards something and help you make and meet new goals.  I have fallen in love with the process and seeing the small improvements. When you love going to class, fitness doesn’t feel like a chore. 

Going to class is something I want to do, not something I have to do, and even with the ups and downs of life I’m proud I have made SOF a time and financial commitment.

Coach Mark knows how to work with each of his clients to get the best results.  On days I didn’t believe in myself, he and the SOFers did.  Their belief in me and their encouragement sticks with me even outside of class. 

I am now the strongest I have ever been.  I have more self-confidence and challenge myself more at class without doubt.  That is one thing about SOF, when you are successful you have everyone celebrating your success with you.  When you think you’ve failed, you haven’t; so long as you’re giving 100% effort everyone on course is rooting for you, and we’re all learning something new.

I currently may not be the lightest I’ve ever been, but my body can do all of these amazing things now.  And I love that I can now be an SOFer who helps someone else reach their own goals by helping them and giving encouragement.