Just another challenge: Alisha Etzel takes on triathlons

November 2016 Posted in Community, People, Your Health

Silverton resident Alisha Etzel will run, bike and swim in preparation to compete in the 2017 Olympic length triathlon in Omaha, Neb. next August.By Kristine Thomas

Silverton resident Alisha Etzel hates running, describing it as boring. She has logged more miles on a stationary bike than a road bike. Fortunately, she said, she actually likes to swim.

Take all that into consideration and she’s wondering how she’s managed to do so well competing in sprint and Olympic triathlons in the last two years.

“I was surprised how well I did considering I have never specifically trained for a triathlon,” she said, laughing.

An instructor at Silverton Fitness, Etzel finished fourth in thea 35 to 39 age group at an Olympic triathlon in Sweet Home in September. An Olympic length triathlon requires swimming less than a mile, biking 24 miles and running 6.1 miles.

She was surprised to learn her finish qualified her for the National Age Group Olympic length triathlon in Omaha, Neb. Her clients and friends at Silverton Fitness are rallying behind her to help her raise the $1,500 she will need to go to Omaha. She needs to register by March for Aug. 12 event.

“Now,” she said, “I am going to have to get serious about training.”

And that is something she is excited about – to learn what she is capable of  if she actually trains for a triathlon.

Silverton Fitness owner Mike Thompson wrote on Silverton Fitness’ Facebook page that “Alisha is as dedicated to her profession, and her clients, as anyone I have ever met in this business. She does very little for herself, and we will do all we can to make sure she makes it to Nebraska next summer.”

The single mother of five kids ranging in age from 6 to 20, Etzel teaches six spinning classes a week along with Pilate and Titanium training. She also schedules time for workouts with a trainer.

She was 35 when she decided to enter her first sprint triathlon in Stayton, where she swam 500 meters, rode 12 miles and ran 3.1 miles. She took first place in her age division. She has completed five triathlons in the last two years, finishing high in each one.

“I wanted to try competing in a triathlon because it sounded like a challenge,” she said. “In my first triathlon I took first in my age group, so I thought why not challenge myself some more.”

A 1997 graduate of Silverton High School, Etzel said she wasn’t athletic or studious in high school, although she did participate on the school’s swim and soccer teams. At 17 she became a mom. And while still in high school, she worked at a local bank.

“When I told my mom I was pregnant, her response was that I wouldn’t be able to finish high school,” Etzel said. “I told her ‘Watch me.”

That mental toughness, she said, is a key factor in her doing well in triathlons and life. Despite the demands of work and being a mom, she said she has made exercising a priority in her life.

She was 27 years old and the mother of two when she decided to start seriously working out. She hired Thompson to be her trainer. Laughing, the 5-foot-4 Etzel said she was 125 pounds when she began and now is 134 pounds, but two clothing sizes smaller.

The key to meeting fitness goals, Etzel said, is making appointments. And just like any other appointment made, it needs to be kept.

Omaha Olympics Triathlon
Alisha Etzel has qualified to compete in the National Age Group Olympic length triathlon in Omaha, Neb. on Aug. 12, 2017.
She’s trying to raise $1,500 to do so. Donations can be dropped it off at Silverton Fitness, 1099 N First St., Silverton

“I set days and times for fitness appointments and I go to that appointment,” Etzel said. “If you have to do it on your own, 90 percent of us won’t do it because we will find excuses that we don’t have the time. I am a trainer and I know if I didn’t have to be at an appointment that I would make an excuse.”

Etzel said too many people don’t work out or take care of their health because they believe they don’t have the time.

“You have to make time for yourself,” she said. “I love the way working out makes me feel. I have more energy and I feel good about myself.”

She found herself working the front desk at Silverton Fitness after the bank she was working at closed. Gradually, she learned how to train clients and is now an instructor, a job she loves.

Becoming physically fit has empowered her. Competing in triathlons is how she challenges herself.

“It’s a huge adrenaline rush to know your body can do something,” she said, adding her clients are her inspiration and she’s grateful for how they make her laugh and her job fun.

Admitting there has been many hurdles in her life, including adult-onset asthma, she said a positive outlook and determination has propelled her to move forward.

“I am amazed at the woman I have become today,” she said. “I am totally different person. I am an example of how you can change your life and take control of it.”

Knowing there are other women unsure of the steps to take to become healthy, Etzel said the first step is not to doubt themselves, and to ask for assistance.

“We are all capable of more than we think we can do,” Etzel said.

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