WHO SHE IS: Colleen Fisher, Spinning instructor & mom to four boys
LOCATION: Chevy Chase, Maryland
SUCCESS STORY: Raised $438,000 for Cycle for Survival, an indoor team cycling event that raises funds for rare cancer research
WORK SCHEDULE: 6 a.m. spin classes, 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. mom, 9 p.m. spin music DJ
KIDS: Teddy, 9, twins Mack & Gus, 7, Linc, 4
SANITY VICE: A good sweat and a green smoothie!
BEST TIME-MANAGEMENT TIP: Get your workout out of the way before everyone else wakes up!
GO-TO TECH: Grocery IQ app, MyFitnessDJPro app
WORK-LIFE BALANCE? I’d say a 7. I try not to miss one of my kids’ games but I check my email around them way too often!
5 Questions for Colleen…
1. You’re a mother of four and a spin instructor. How did you get here?
I gained a lot of weight back in college and needed to get to a different place mentally and physically. A friend brought me to a gym, and the rest is history. I lost 40 pounds, gained a community of friends, and went from loving step aerobics to loving Spinning. Back in 1998, one of my favorite teachers suggested I take an instructor training, and it was a move that forever changed me. I met my husband teaching one of my first “training” Spinning classes and gained a confidence I hadn’t known I had in me. Fifteen years later, I’m still married to that gym guy and loving what I do.
After spending my first three years out of college working in MarCom departments of non-profits, I then worked in a graphic design firm (mostly on the account side but doing some creative) for another seven years. The company downsized a lot due to the economy, and I jumped ship in 2002 and went out on my own, freelancing a bit through my first pregnancy and my oldest son’s early days. Once the twins came, family life took precedence, and I opted out of the workforce to hold down the home front. We had some pretty big scares with all the kids (Teddy had surgery at 6 months, the twins were born early and small, and my uterus ruptured with Linc’s delivery — long story short, we’re both lucky to be here). So we figured we would hold on to each other tight for a bit while the kids were small. I’ve never stopped teaching Spinning, however, and I’ve now taught for more than 15 years (4-5x a week), and I love it. Now that the kids are all in school full days, I’m aiming to go back to school and be a health coach (whole foods advocate /nutritionist / personal trainer, which is where my true passion lies.)
2. What advice do you have for moms like me to help us stick to a workout regimen?! What’s a realistic strategy for someone who hasn’t been to the gym in a LONG time (not that I know anyone like that – !).
I truly believe that it’s important to make time for yourself. There’s that adage that you need to put oxygen on yourself before you put it on your kids. When you take time away, feel good about yourself and relieve stress, it changes things for the better in so many ways. But you also have to find a fitness regimen you love. I hate running, but I love Spinning, Tabata and bootcamp. I struggle a bit with yoga, but I’ve grown to appreciate that it heals me. I’ve also realized I need the energy of a group when I exercise. Once you find what works for you, it’s easier to make exercise part of your routine. And, although people think I’m crazy when they hear I’ve been waking up to teach 6 a.m. Spin classes four or so times a week for 15 years, there is very little to stop you at that time of day. No unexpected traffic. No meetings. No excuses. No happy hour. And there’s something amazing about walking out of a gym at 7 am with clear lungs and a clear head. Not to mention, my kids always get up from the breakfast table to run and hug me when I get home!
It was the summer of 2011 when I came across a post on Facebook that caught my eye. A friend had recommended we all vote for a fellow mom’s blog as “blog of the year.” It had been a rough few parenting months, and I was actually in the mood for some validation and humor, so I went to take a peek, thinking that the blog was just simple a “mommy blog.” Boy (pun intended), was I wrong. The blog, www.rockstarronan.com, was actually written by Maya Thompson, a mom who had lost her son Ronan to neuroblastoma just a few days shy of his fourth birthday. It was heart-wrenching and raw, but I became an avid reader. She had three sons, including twins, and her kids were about my age, and my heart just ached for her. It gave me huge perspective on my life and how lucky I was to have four healthy kids. One day a few weeks into it, Maya posted a video of a woman dancing on her 40th birthday and implied that Ronan was in heaven dancing with Jen. I was intrigued. Who was this woman? After some searching, I learned she was Jennifer Goodman Linn, founder of an event called Cycle for Survival, whose co-sponsor was Equinox. As crazy coincidence would have it, an Equinox had just opened a few blocks from my house, and I had accepted an instructor position there. That wasn’t all that aligned. I had lost two dear friends to rare cancers in their 30s — one to T-cell lymphoma and one to mouth cancer — and they both had young kids. For three years, I’d been looking for a way to honor them. Cycle for Survival was the perfect fit, and Team Rockstar was — at that moment — born.
In 2012, our Team Rockstar, made up of 42 “I-only-see-you-at-6 a.m. spinners,” friends and friends-of-friends, raised $140,000 for rare cancer research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, finishing as one of the top-five fundraising teams in the country (out of 2,000 teams!) for Cycle for Survival. Last year, we added a sister Boston team and raised $190,000 and once again finished in the top five! This year, our goal is simple – raise $170,000 – and give us bragging rights to say that our team alone raised a half-million dollars for rare cancer research in just three years. So far, we are at $108,000 and counting with five weeks to go! (The DC event is Feb. 23.)
At one point last year my husband noted that I didn’t do anything halfway. But, I didn’t want to just make a dent, I wanted to make a difference.
4. Fundraising can be daunting if you have never done it before. What have you learned from all your work?
I’ve learned – more than anything – that you can’t be afraid to ask. Most of my donations have come from people I’d least expect. An old neighbor from the dog park gave me $1,000. A regular spinner gave me $500. My kids sold lemonade for almost a year and gave the team $356. Sadly, cancer hits home to everyone. Recent stats show that one of every two men and one of every three women will get cancer in his or her lifetime, and we know that 50 percent of those will be rare cancers. People WANT to give. One teammate sent me a nice note last year and said, “People are thanking ME!” It fueled her so much to know that people believed in her and that she could help save lives. If you want to know the truth, I actually hate asking for money. I hate it! It’s hard. But what’s harder? Watching your two good friends die of cancer at 33 and 35 years old. That is hard. It makes asking for money a piece of cake.
I’ve also learned that things come easy when you are passionate. Whether it’s a workout routine or fundraising, or having a dance party with your kids, when you throw yourself in and truly LOVE what you are doing, magic happens.
5. What’s the media missing about working moms, in your opinion?
There’s really no right way or wrong way to parent or work. We’re all juggling – kids, homework, carpool, schedules, “me” time, date night… you have to do what is true to you in your heart and best for your family. I’m a better mom because I work out. I’m a better wife because I feel like I contribute to our family. I’m a better person because I’m helping people live healthier lives. I’m a better human being because I’m giving back. I graduated with a journalism degree, so I know a little about the media. As long as they keep telling the many sides to the story, they are doing a good job. I’ve also learned that dads play a huge part in the picture. Our role is evolving, yes, but so is theirs. I’m lucky to have a husband who really makes an effort to put our family first. He wakes up early with the kids so I can teach and has done that – without complaining – our entire marriage. When he travels for work, he wakes up early to leave and comes home late at night just to spend as little time away from us as he can. He coaches baseball. He pitches in. Dads deserve some of the credit for our ability to find more balance.
Anything else you would like to answer?
I started doing Cycle for Survival with the intention of giving back. Little did I know about how much I would get out of the deal. I’ve met amazing people, I’ve learned a lot about myself, and I’ve really and truly seen the good in people. I’ve also discovered that one person can start a movement. As the Dalai Lama said, “So one individual makes an effort, then 10 people, 100 people, 1,000 people, then 100,000 people. That’s the way.” I could not have done this without my husband, my kids and my teammates behind me, believing that we could: $170K here we come — Rock on, baby!
Donate to Team Rock Star: http://mskcc.convio.net/site/PageServer?pagename=cycle_national_team_rockstar
To learn more about Cycle, visit www.cycleforsurvival.org.
100% of your donation funds rare cancer research at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center.
(Editor’s note: Full disclosure that Cycle for Survival was started by a good friend, and I am a supporter of this cause and event. If you live in San Francisco and would like to participate or contribute on February 1, please be in touch. You can read more on my team page. http://mskcc.convio.net/site/TR?px=2137904&pg=personal&fr_id=2040)