09/04/2011 11:46 am ET Updated Nov 04, 2011

Inside The World Of A Competitive Runner

By Deborah Dunham for Blisstree.com

We frequently hear about celebrities and what they do (or don’t) do in the gym, but what about real women? We’re far more interested in the accomplishments and challenges of real women who’ve made health and fitness a priority. So we’re starting a column meant to celebrate women of all ages, shapes, sizes and athletic persuasions, from all over the country (and hopefully beyond). This week, we’re kicking it off with Jo Shott, a competitive runner and triathlete:

Joanna (You can call me JO) Shott

Jacksonville, FL

I’m 32 years young.

Fitness/health accomplishment you are most proud of:
To this point, I’m most proud of walking onto the UNF cross country team in 2001 (never ran on a team before). I trained with the team for three years before I had enough nerve to join. So, my senior year of college, I finally competed as a UNF running Osprey, one of the best decisions of my life. It’s where I met two loves I would have for the rest of my life: running and the true love of my life, my husband, Owen.

What inspires you to get fit every day?
I pull inspiration from my faith in Jesus Christ. I don’t know why I’m successful at running or triathlons, but I know it’s for a higher purpose than just my own glory. It became more evident to me recently. I started training for my first half-Ironman in February of this year, and four months later I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. The day after my diagnosis, I met an 11-year-old girl named Courtney who is living with Cystic Fibrosis. Courtney is cherishing every breath given to her and making the best of life while she can. God has spoken to me through her, and I’m inspired to get out of bed every morning because I can! I am blessed to have an opportunity to train for events like the half-Ironman and along the way raise money and awareness of needs bigger than my own. I may not be able to run, bike and/or swim one day, but right now I can, and I consider that a daily blessing from God and want to help others along the way.

What do you do when you don’t feel like working out?
Well, my husband (Owen) is my number one fan, coach and motivation to stay strong mentally and physically. He is a constant reminder of my goals, and when I’m whining about not wanting to do a workout, he reminds me of my biggest competitor and says, “I bet [insert girl’s name] is training today.” How can you resist? Not to mention, I also live with Deena Dog, the OCD runner in the family. She is so in love with running that we have to spell R-U-N around her or she goes crazy and is waiting by the door. So, on days I don’t feel like working out or am unmotivated to get moving, I have a huge support crew at home to remind me of how blessed I am.

Favorite energizing meal:
Confession: I am certifiably addicted to green tea lattes with soy milk and peppermint flavoring at Starbucks. It gives me enough caffeine to feel energized, a little protein from the soy milk and antioxidants from the matcha green tea to help me rationalize having one frequently. I also have a ritual three hours before my workouts lately where I’ve found positive results from whole grain toast and almond butter–thanks to my coach and sports nutritionist, Marni Sumbal.

What’s your favorite way to chill post-workout?
I have discovered my inner yogi. I love yoga, everything it does for you physically, mentally and spiritually. It wasn’t until the last year that I found the hidden magic in yoga, and I can’t say enough good things about its benefits. Most runners never stretch nor learn to belly breath deeply, and yoga is a great avenue to learn both.

What is your top kick-ass workout?
Running: I HAVE to say my favorite kick-ass workout is something known as “The Michigan.” Completing it entails running a fast 1-mile on the track (about 15-20 seconds slower than your best mile time) and then running a slower mile on a road or trail (about a minute slower than your track mile). Then you return to the track to run 1,200 meters at the same pace you ran the first mile and then repeat the 1-mile on the road or trail. After returning to the track, you complete a fast 800 meters and then run another road/trail mile. After that, you finish this CRAZY workout by running 400 meters all out with everything you have left to simulate the kick at the end of a race. The University of Michigan coach created this and they made it famous, but of course the times coming out of the Michigan team are SUPER fast. It’s fun!

Where is your favorite/most unique place you’ve ever exercised?
In April this year I was chosen by lululemon athletica to represent Jacksonville at the Winter Ambassador Summit in Whistler, Canada. It was one of my top three most rewarding and breathtaking trips I’ve ever been on. I was with 100 other athletically minded people from all over the world in a room overlooking snow-capped mountains, doing yoga. AMAZING!

What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned through sports?
The true journey of life is the training along the way. The blood, sweat and tears that go into your daily routine are what make reaching your goal that much sweeter. The race is your reward for all your hard work; enjoy every step. When you cross the finish line, you can look back and smile knowing you gave it all you had and have nothing left!

“When I stand before God at the end of my life, I would hope that I would not have a single bit of talent left and could say, “I used everything you gave me.” ~Erma Bombeck

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