Kara is a former director and producer who is passionate about being positive and finding her bliss. Four years ago, after the birth of her second child, she knew it was time to make some healthy changes for her life, so she signed up for her first gym membership. Since then, she’s done a number of firsts — taken her first spin class, run her first 5K and now she’s written her first guest post for Growing Bolder!
You can follow Kara’s weight-loss journey on her new blog, Everything’s Coming Up Petunia. Kara wanted to write this post for Growing Bolder to share the story of one of the women who has inspired her on journey to health and wellness — fitness trainer Kris Shanahan.
The first time you walk into one of Kris Shanahan’s fitness classes you will hear things like, “She’s great,” “Oh, she’s tough,” and “She’s going to kill you.” When you walk out of her class, you will be a little sore but think, “That was fun, what a great workout.” The next morning you will wake up unable to move. A few days later, when you’ve recovered, Kris will probably be teaching another class and you will go. You feel good about yourself after completing one of her classes, whether it is weight training, aerobics or spin. Then you hear her story. And you are inspired.
Kris, 47, mom to Brandon, 18 and Allie, 16, has been an aerobics instructor and personal trainer since she was a teenager. When you ask her why she does it she will tell you that she enjoys helping other people.
“When I see a client come into the gym wearing more fitted clothes, walking taller, or speaking with more confidence, it’s a great thing to witness,” Kris says.
Kris doesn’t only train others; she is constantly in training herself as a professional body builder. She started competing in amateur competitions when she was 23. “I like to do it because it takes so much discipline, strength and power, most people don’t feel like they could do it. It feels empowering.”
In 2007, just three days before Christmas, Kris received a call from her doctor while she was walking into a Christmas party. A month earlier she had noticed a lump in her groin. She was so lean for a competition that was coming up, she believed it was just a lymph node that was more apparent. She had it removed and tested all the while believing it was nothing. The call from her doctor changed her reality.
Kris sat in a chair stunned while a coworker put reindeer antlers on her head and glass of champagne in her hand not knowing that her friend had just been diagnosed with cancer. While others were celebrating the holidays, Kris was preparing to undergo her first round of radiation for Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. The treatment was every day for four weeks.
“It wasn’t bad. I just felt tired and I got a bad radiation burn on my groin,” Kris recalls. “I think one of the biggest things that helped me mentally was that I kept teaching and working out the whole time.”
In April of 2008 the doctor told her she was cured. For the next 6 years, life returned to normal. Kris even upped her game, creating Group X, a more targeted training program for small groups of people and getting her credentials to compete professionally on the National Gym Association bodybuilding circuit. She was helping even more people become better versions of themselves and winning pro body building competition. Then a second cancer diagnosis.
Kris noticed another lump on the other side of her groin and had it removed. She was again diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. “At this point I found out that my cancer is not curable, it’s treatable and I’m probably going to have it for the rest of my life.”
The treatment for this particular round of cancer was going to be different. Kris was the perfect candidate for a drug called Rituxan. It isn’t chemotherapy but an anti-body therapy that works with a person’s own immune system to destroy cancerous cells. The treatment was once a week for four weeks and left Kris feeling, as she describes it, “loopy” for a few months after the treatment stopped. During this period Kris kept training clients and working out herself but she was forced to give up Group X for a time and went down to only teaching one spin class a week. “Mentally I was in a really bad place at this point.”
The negativity had started to creep in. Relationships were beginning to suffer and Kris began to close herself off from everyone she knew. Instead of blaming others, Kris looked inward. “Something is messed up here. It has to be me.” That is when she read The Secret by Rhonda Byrne.
“That book saved everything. It saved me. It made me realize the importance of a positive mind. After I read that book, I taught a spin class and I just started sharing my story. All of a sudden I had all these people come up and say, ‘That was awesome. Thank you so much for sharing.'”
That was how A Positive SPIN On Life was created.
During A Positive Spin On Life, Kris is not only giving your body a workout but she is feeding your soul and teaching you how to be a more positive person. As you listen to her telling you to sprint the negativity away and focus on positive goals that you can set for yourself, you begin to feel lighter and happier. By the time class ends, you are sure that you can take on the world. Kris teaches her class 2 to 3 times a week and more often than not, there isn’t a bike left empty. The word has gotten out and an entire community is feeling inspired.
For the past few years Kris has been working with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to raise money for research. She was nominated to compete in a campaign, the LLS Man & Woman of the Year. The 10 week friendly competition is between 10 nominees and their teams to see who can raise the most money. The events that Kris and her team put in place to help raise money have now become annual events in the community including 5Ks, golf tournaments, bike runs and even a battle of the bands. An entire community comes out to these events in support of Kris, who just found out she has beaten cancer for a third time.
Kris’ next body building competition is in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, she’s training and teaching spin and inspiring her students. “What do you get if you give up?” she yells. “NOTHING!” the class roars back and they spin faster and harder because thanks to Kris Shanahan, they know they can.
For more information about Kris Shanahan visit: krisshanahan.com