Hello!  My story begins in St. Louis, Missouri where I lived the first 18 years of my life.  I grew up playing a lot of sports.  In high school I played volleyball and basketball and was a sprinter/high jumper for our track team.  Volleyball was my strongest sport, so I chose to play that in college.  I went to Bethel College in St. Paul, MN and played volleyball there for 4 years.  My senior year I was selected First Team All-American….which means that this terrible photograph of me will be displayed on this plaque outside the Bethel gymnasium for the rest of time.  (That picture was taken in the middle of practice, ok people?)


Anyway, toward the end of my college sports career, I remember telling a teammate on one of our conditioning runs that I was excited for the day to come when I could just walk for exercise.  I was burned out on conditioning, and wanted a break.  So I did indeed take a break.  A very long break.  The year after graduating college, I married Matt Shirkey.  We lived and worked in St. Louis for 7 years, and had 2 children during that time (Jackson, 10 and Annika, 8).  Then Matt joined the Army as a chaplain and we moved to our first duty station; Ft. Bliss, TX.  At Ft. Bliss we had 2 more children (Isaac, 6 and Emily, 3).  During these 10 years post college, I felt like I stayed pretty active, but it was very low-key.  I took the kids for walks in the stroller on an almost daily basis and we were always going to playgrounds, hiking, and riding bikes around the neighborhood.  But I was certainly taking a break from serious fitness, and while I never put on a lot of weight during pregnancies, I had gradually added about 20 pounds since my college sports days.


We moved to our second duty station, Ft. Benning, GA in July of 2011.  I continued my routine of meeting friends for walks in the neighborhood or at the park for 2 years.  One time I was walking with my friend at Lakebottom and we saw SSM working their butts off on the tennis court.  My friend told me she knew several of those SSM ladies, and I actually remember saying, “Man!  I’m glad I’m just here walking with you.  That looks hard!”

At this point, 12 years after college, I had definitely started to notice my lack of muscle tone and a few extra pounds, but I just didn’t like long runs and didn’t think I would ever enjoy any kind of rigorous exercise again without the support of awesome coaches and teammates like I had had all through high school and college.  I was ok with being a has-been athlete because I enjoyed my role as wife and mom, and athlete wasn’t really part of my identity anymore.  Well, in 2013, my closest friend and also my main walking buddy moved away and I was crushed.  Military wives should be used to that, right?  But I was super disappointed and also at a loss as to how I should structure my days without this close friend.  I thank God that before my friend moved away, she introduced me to the awesome, Brooke Whitis, SSM instructor extraordinaire.


My friend moved in July, and as I looked at August approaching, and my 2 oldest starting school again, and what my time would look like at home with my 2 and 4 year olds, I decided to give this crazy Stroller Strong Moms a try.  First class is free, right?  So I had nothing to lose.  I decided I would start as soon as my big kids went back to school on Aug 7.  I made sure I knew where Brooke was teaching that morning and I grabbed my piece of crap double bike trailer and headed to Britt David for my first class.


It. Was. Hard.  And I LOVED it!!!  I had expected it to be mostly running and was thrilled to find out it was actually a hard core full body workout including a ton of funky exercises I had never done before.  Had burpees been invented in 1999, the year I stopped exercising?  I had never heard of mountain climbers either.  I had so much to learn!  I loved that my kids were with me, but it didn’t seem like they were with me.  I loved that there were crazy fit moms and not-so-fit-yet moms and that we could all benefit from the same workout.  I loved that it was outside and at a perfect time of day and that I might actually start feeling like an athlete again…with “coaches” and “teammates”!   I had a time and a place to report for “practice” every day and even though it was HARD and I could barely move the rest of the day for those first 2 weeks, I always looked forward to the next class.  Man, the variety!  I have been going to class 3-4 days a week for 18 months and every single class we do something I have never done before.  It’s the best.


Stroller Strong Moms has been life-changing for me.  I really don’t think I ever would have started exercising again if I hadn’t found it.  Last year during the Get Fit Challenge, and the month following, I lost 15 pounds.  I have kept that weight off this year, and now along with class 4 days a week, I am also training for my first half marathon in April.  That is something I NEVER thought I would do.  I am so thankful for all the delightful people I have met through SSM and I know that even when the Army moves us again, I will always find a way to stay fit thanks to all I have learned through SSM.