Part mom, part wife, part manager, and part Spartan athlete, Jackie Schultz is the definition of goal-getter. This Wisconsin native left everything she knew in 2011 to pursue the unknown on the East Coast. Now, she continues to challenge herself daily both at O2 Fitness Holly Springs and at home. You can find her on the turf swinging battle ropes before work or indulging in sushi after crushing a Spartan race.
When did you first start your fitness journey?
I started my fitness journey when I was in high school when I was in year-round club track. It was the best time of my athletic career. I was a sprinter and I did relays and long jump.
When I went to college I quit track. I had a coach that only taught long distance and race walking. He said, "If you don’t race walk you can’t be on my team." Neither of those were for me so I worked out on my own very minimally. I had been doing sports all my life, so I went from playing sports every day of my life to doing nothing.
Eventually I stopped working out the rest of my college career. I got my degree, had my daughter six days after I graduated from college, and started working right away. During this time I didn’t work out at all. I got completely involved in my job. I was a new mom and I decided to go back to school full-time for my Master's degree. I still don’t know how I did it.
I didn't go back to working out until after I had my son in 2014. I literally took 10 years off just because life happens. I look at pictures and I wasn’t myself. I was in a size 13 and I had to decide if I was going to buy a 15 because my 13's didn’t fit anymore. I broke down in tears. I had let myself go.
How did you get back into a fitness routine?
I went from going to nationals with my track club to 10 years off and a size 13. I told myself, "Yeah, no this isn’t happening." I started going to the gym across the street in Washington, D.C. and worked out for 30 minutes a day from a program I found on Instagram.
Then I got into kickboxing. The first time I tried it, I almost threw up. I overheard a group of girls there talking about a race they were doing that weekend. I asked what they were talking about and they said they’d been training for months for this Spartan race. I asked them if I could do it and they looked at me like I was crazy and said "We’ve been training for months.” This was on Thursday and the race was on Saturday!
I signed up and when I showed up I just thought, "What did I just sign up for?" I thought I was going to die, but I finished in the worst time ever. The next day the coach asked me what I thought about the race and I said I freaking loved it. She said, "Welcome, they're addicting."
I got engulfed into Spartan. I found my tribe.
Why do you continue to prioritize fitness in your life?
My job is pretty stressful sometimes. I find myself knowing I’m the best me when I work out. I know that for me to be the best wife, the best mom, the best employee, I have to be able to find a way to release and do what I want to do.
And to be able to feel like in an hour you get such a huge rush of accomplishment? You don’t always get that feeling. The feeling from coming out of a dang good workout? You really can’t compare it. I just love it.
What motivates you to get out of bed and head to the gym?
When I first started my fitness journey, I wanted to get back to where I wanted to be. Now I’ve surpassed where I wanted to be. When I wake up at 4:30 a.m. to go to the gym at 5 a.m., it’s not like, "OMG I want to go to the gym!" It’s, "Get your butt up so you start your week better by starting at the gym."
Some people ask, "How do you get up that early?" If I can get up, have someone at the gym who greets me with a "Hey, good morning," why not make it your best hour? Get it in. Start your day right.
When you do it for yourself, that rubs off on people. My daughter sees that fitness is important to me. My husband supports me more than anything. My mother has smoked her entire life and been overweight. Three years ago she quit smoking and this past year she joined the gym.
Seeing the growth around you, you never know who you're going to influence. Good, bad, ugly, whatever. So why not convince someone to do something positive? By working out you're doing something for yourself that's going to add 20 years onto your life.
What would you say to someone who wants to start a fitness journey in 2019?
Thirty minutes a day. Just start with thirty minutes a day. Try anything. It’s okay to walk out of a class if you don’t like it.
Also, know your fitness level. Don’t walk into a bootcamp thinking you’re going to be top of the class. You might need to modify, you might need to take more breaks and drink water. Never compare your journey to someone else’s. Comparison is the thief of joy. You are on your own journey. My Spartan journey has always been me against me. Me against myself. How are you going to get better than last year?
Get your gym bag together and put it at the front door. Don’t walk past your gym bag - it’s going to look back at you! Just go walk for thirty minutes. Walking is better than no walking. You owe it to yourself to do it. It could be a thirty-minute session with a personal trainer or a Group Fitness class.
Find your tribe. Then you’ll start to see people who know you at the gym. They'll recognize you at the front desk. Some days when I walk in they’re like "Hey, you’re late this morning." It’s all about getting started.
What advice would you give to someone who hits a plateau or who needs fresh motivation?
Take a break. As athletes or people who are involved in the gym, you never give yourself a break. I didn’t do it last year and I paid for it. This year I did at least two full weeks of zero workouts. Absolutely nothing at the gym and it drove me nuts. I started looking into self-care with epsom salt baths, foot baths, masks - just taking care of yourself. That can be different things for different people. It can be five minutes of meditation in the car before you go to work. What type of self-care can you squeeze in?
Change up your routine when you are getting bored and change your goals. Shock your body and don’t do the same things you always do. I had never done yoga. I sucked at it, but I came back the next week because I needed to shock my body. Shock your body with something that’s totally different. If you’re doing lifting and that’s all you do, get on the assault treadmill and do sprints. Get on it and try something new. It’s going to change your life.
When you're doing something really tough, what do you tell yourself to get through it?
I tell myself anyone can do something for 30 seconds. Don't make excuses. If I have just 15 minutes left, I'm going to be mad at myself later if I don't finish. You just need to get through it. Your last set is your best set. When your muscles start to scream, that's when you're building. That last set you're trying to get through is going to help you become a better athlete. That last set is what changes you.
Everyone does three sets. Do a fourth.
What is your favorite exercise to do at O2?
I love anything on the turf. Battle ropes, medicine ball slams, the sled is amazing. It's an all-functional space where you can decide how you want to work your body that day. For Spartan training I also like to crank up the incline on the treadmills and wear my hydration pack.
What's the hardest thing you've ever done and how did you feel afterwards?
Life wise, leaving what I’ve known all my life. I think I just wanted to change something. I was born & raised in Wisconsin and surrounded by the same circle. I wanted to block out all the noise and find myself. That was the hardest thing I’ve done to just go into the unknown. When the dust settles and it's quiet, who are you? You have to find yourself.
Fitness wise, the Spartan World Championships in Tahoe was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. It was over 17 miles up a mountain with a 3,000-ft elevation change. I wanted to prove to myself I could do it. It was me against a mountain. I had trained for it but it wasn’t anything I had ever done before. I remember shaking at the starting line. I kept saying I’m going to die, I’m going to die, but I didn’t.
What helps me is encouraging others. There is a lot of competition in Spartan racing but you choose your own attitude. I’ll say great job to any competitors who pass me. I would want to hear the same thing. Saying good job to others gives them motivation and gives yourself motivation. There’s this thing I do when I race, I call it the rabbit. Pick someone in front of you and that’s your rabbit. And you have to hunt them down. Chase them. Once you pass them, tell them great job, and find your next rabbit.
What inspires you?
What inspires me is being your best self. At first it's mental. It's what you put in your mind that changes you. What are you putting in your mind? What do you want your life to be?
The physical side is next - starting to see that improvement, starting to see those goals and getting better and better.
There's also a spiritual side. When I say being your best self, I mean that when God or whoever you believe in gives you a mountain, you have a choice to turn around and walk away or try to go around, over, up, through, but somehow you have to get over it. Being your best self every day is what you need to strive for. For your husband, your wife, your kids, your family, the people around you.
You get the time that you're allotted here. What are you going to do with it? Are you going to look back and say "Dang, I watched a lot of Netflix," or say that you traveled, you got to meet different people, you did great work, you were your best self? What did you put your stamp on?
What does Look Forward mean to you?
Looking forward means that you can design your future. Whatever you want it to be. You can decide. Be realistic, I can’t be CEO of Apple tomorrow, but you can create your own future. Decide what you want to do. Are you happy where you are? If you are, how can you take that to the next level to continue to be happy, not stay stagnant?
Looking forward means this next year, three years, five years, ten years, where are you going to be because you put yourself there?
This past year, did you put yourself there or did you just end up there? If you ended up there, why didn’t you hit your goals? There is nothing that stops you except for yourself mentally. It all starts within you. You have to continue to look forward. You can accomplish anything with hard work and dedication.
The stuff no one wants to talk about is the ugly face you make picking something up that’s too heavy and the fourth set that you don’t want to do, but you’re going to love yourself for doing it. That grit, hard work, determination, is what sets you apart from the person you were last year.
What are you looking forward to in 2019?
For me, 2019 is the year of fulfilling your purpose. I’m going after big things. BHAGs - big, hairy, audacious goals. I want to do my first marathon and just finish. Of course, I’m competitive so I can’t walk it! I also want do my first Ultra Spartan race. Thirty miles, sixty obstacles. I want to do things I’ve never done before. What’s something that’s going to scare the bejesus out of me?