Athletes abroad: Pushing the limit in London

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“The heptathlon makes me so nervous. I get butterflies and can hear my heart in my ears. During it, I literally think, ‘What am I doing? This sucks.’ But there is just something about it that makes me so happy. I’m happy to continue to learn how to be successful and I’m hoping to learn to put my best marks somewhat together so that I can be less embarrassed to tell people my score — kidding, but not really,” Chari Hawkins writes on her Instagram.  

A former 5x NCAA All-American heptathlete, you’d never expect Chari Hawkins feels nerves before every event. She and her fianceé, CJ Oneal, (who also was a D1 track and field athlete) moved to Bath, England to pursue their master’s degrees. Education for her, entrepreneurship for him, but it wasn’t just academia that pulled them away from the U.S. While studying, Chari continues to train and compete for the University of Bath.

Heptathlon requires constant training and attention and Chari trains six days a week. It’s made up of seven events — 100m hurdles, high jump, shot put, 200m, long jump, javelin throw and 800m — that all require different training styles. And let’s not forget the speed, strength and agility that’s also required to thrive at Track & Field events.

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Chari might seem like a natural-born runner, but she says this wasn’t always the case. “I used to absolutely hate running — with all my heart. Then I actually started running and I realized it was something my body felt good while doing. Even though sometimes I don’t want to do it, at the end of the day, it makes my days better. And anytime I can do that, I will,” Chari says. 

As an adult, Chari radiates positivity. “When I was in high school, I was really ashamed of myself. I cried a lot and felt really alone,” Chari says, “I have pushed through some hard times. I’ve been bullied, suffered from anxiety, been betrayed by friends and disappointed people I love. But, I am so blessed to have all of the opportunities I have had though my life. I fell in love with life, but it was only through my trials that I am as happy as I am. I’ve learned that I am in charge. But I couldn’t have learned it without my downfalls.”

Already, her accomplishments are numerous — she won state in three events in high school, is a five-time All-American, is a USATF Indoor bronze medalist and competed at the 2016 Olympic Trials — but she’s always working to improve. And with that drive toward excellence, there will always be feelings of doubt. “Whenever I start feeling super down, I try to talk to myself as if I am someone else that I like. So I say, ‘Char, sit your butt down and chill. You are ready to run fast already.’ It’s easy to get down, so when that happens, I take a breath to put everything in perspective. I always try and be my best training partner,” Chari says.

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The physical endurance isn’t the only training Chari practices. “I do mental training. Before my workouts and races, I visualize what they’re going to look like. Whether it’s guided meditation or self meditation, it helps a lot. It’s one thing that’s brought me to the next level,” she says.

All her work, on and off the track, has paid off for Chari. She’s humble about her accomplishments and the difficulty of balancing school and practices six times a week: “Seeing tiny victories now helps me see into the future to hopefully get that big one.” Like just a few weeks ago when she took silver in the hurdles and long jump at the British University Championships. And I didn’t even hear it from her. It was CJ who was gushing about his fiancee.

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The couple met at the University of Utah where they both ran and have been together ever since. “Moving to England has been awesome so far. Just a  new adventure,” Chari says. And a big part of that comfort might come from CJ. “Bath started to feel like home the second I was able to see CJ everyday. We’ve been together for seven years, but doing long distance for two, which is crazy,” Chari says. 

Chari’s not planning on letting up anytime soon. “I feel strongest when I’m consistent,” she says, “Whenever I’ve been consistent with my workouts, my meditation or mental training, I walk taller, stronger, better and easier. I feel healthy and happy.” 

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Featuring Chari and CJ in the Mach.

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Limitless in Los Angeles: Running toward acceptance

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“It’s a funny thing when you love yourself unconditionally, it becomes hard to find a ‘bad’ picture of yourself.”

This is a caption from one of Britney Vest’s many Instagram posts. Known to her followers as @fittybritttty, Britney embraces her “flaws” and speaks openly about them. Something that running has helped her to wholeheartedly embrace.

Britney openly speaks about her journey through fitness and self-love on her channel — one that wasn’t easy or quick. “When I first started working out, I was very overweight and I wanted to run. It has changed over the course of my whole fitness journey, but I wanted to run because I felt like runners were the most fit and healthy. So, in my head, being fit meant being a runner,” Britney says.

“When I started out, I was so bad. I was slow, but I was determined. I’m a little stubborn and very driven when I come up with a goal. I won’t stop until I get to it,” she says. “So literally everyday I would try running. Sometimes it was just for a minute or two and then I’d have to walk, but then I’d run again. And I built it up until I could run for miles and miles and miles.”

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It was that determination that jump-started Britney’s confidence and sense of accomplishment. What started as such an ambitious goal for Britney has now turned into a pastime. Weekends spent running along the beach in Santa Monica and 5Ks around the holidays.

As Britney herself states, she’s a bit stubborn, something that was only furthered by opposition. “It’s always amazing to prove people wrong. When someone tells me I can’t do something, it only fuels my fire,” Britney says. “But when I do it for myself, and want to so badly, that’s when I can stick with it and make a lasting change. Maybe it starts as proving someone wrong but in the end, it’s something I actually really want to do.”

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Within the last two years, Britney has done a complete 360. She explains how much more involved she’s become with self-love and positivity, something that was a result of her fitness journey. “When I was losing weight, I definitely was not very nice to myself. I would be really mean whenever I would have a bad day and I was pushing myself into the ground with this horrible, bad energy,” she says. 

Through running, Britney felt more confident, which allowed her to be kinder to herself. “I’m proud of myself now, but it was a really slow process of learning to re-love my body. I had been upset at it for so long. I’d have really happy days, then I’d have really bad, low days of negativity,” she says. “I’d tell myself ‘You still look fat. You’re not doing enough. You could be doing more.'”

“I really wish there was more conversation about being kind and gentle to yourself and your body, whether you are stick-thin or you have curves. You have to learn to embrace it and love your body how it’s made because there’s no use in fighting it. I think a lot more people are thinking about it, but even more need to be because it’s just that important,” she says.

Britney’s journey to self-love only came through having been so negative on herself. But she’s trying to help other achieve the same, just with a healthier perspective. She frequently encourages her followers to engage in body positivity challenges and just share their experiences.

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This all started with a few steps, when later turned into one mile and then many more after that. “I’ve become the person I really want to be. I look back all the time and everything I’ve accomplished has been crazy — being able to become strong and fit and accomplishing my running goals,” she says.

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Featuring Britney Vest in the Cavu. 

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Sweat in the city: Fitness in the Big Apple

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Remy Park is a new-age New Yorker. Better known by her instagram handle, @veggiekins, she’s a prominent lifestyle and fitness influencer in the Big Apple. On the surface, her days seems effortless — runs in Central Park, crafting gourmet vegan meals and tending to her rapidly growing social presence. But, it was only through Remy’s difficult past that she’s become involved in fitness and running.

A New York City native, Remy spent the majority of her childhood travelling in Asia where her extended family lives. Since she was seven years old, every three to four months, she and her family would pack up and move.

“I can only really place childhood memories to New York and not anywhere else I’ve lived in my life. I think the only reason why I haven’t moved is just because the pace of New York is so fast. That’s why I’m drawn to it. Things are always open and it’s non-stop. I really love that about the city. I’m an early riser and I like being constantly active,” Remy says. 

When I ask about her first experiences with running, Remy says, “I actually was a terrible runner. The first time I ever had to run was when I was forced to in P.E. class in middle school. It was terrible.” But, her struggles in running weren’t due to athletic incapability. In fact, she had been quite talented in sports like gymnastics and ballet.

“But there wasn’t any hard training or conditioning in these sports, so I was really terrible at running. And then I struggled with an eating disorder for a couple of years. When I had that going on, I couldn’t run. I just didn’t have any energy,” Remy says.

Starting in third grade, Remy says she was eating only cucumbers throughout the day. This continued for four or five years before she attended an athletically focused middle school and things had to change. “All my friends did sports, so I wanted to join a team too. Maybe it was the combination of having to be able to perform or just the friends that I kept,” she says. “They were all athletes and ate a ton. They really focused on looking at food like it was fuel and that helped me get over it.”

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Before, Remy was forced to shy away from physical activity because she didn’t have the energy or stamina to sustain herself. And after seeing the relationship to food her friends had, it inspired a noticeable shift. She started to create fitness goals — like running a 5K — since that was something she hadn’t been able to do without proper fuel.“When I was younger, I never ever thought I could run for more than two minutes at a time. I still remember when I did my first 5K. I was super proud that I could actually sustain myself and had enough energy to do that. It was a really good feeling,” she says. 

“All these little athletic accomplishments were really meaningful because I felt like I had the strength and energy to fuel my body as if I was an athlete. And that was definitely something I was really surprised by,” she says. “Especially because I never thought I would be able to run at all.”

Remy has since accomplished her running goals, but it’s still a way to keep herself motivated. “Running and sports, any activity really, keeps me in check. If I don’t eat enough in a day, there’s no way I’m going to perform,” she says. This was something Remy had struggled with in the past and she’s been able to come out on the other side. She now gravitates toward the very thing that used to be so hard for her. She’s learned from her past experiences to take care of herself.

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And more importantly, she’s discovered how to embrace food and see it as fuel. “It’s almost a form of self love. Eating is very compassionate because I know the choices I’m making in eating are good for me,” she says. 

Remy doesn’t shy away from her past. It’s something that’s allowed her to find things she loves — running, yoga, being active outdoors. And while all those bring her joy, they also help her stay in tune with her body and be in touch with what’s going on.

Remy’s struggles ultimately have allowed her to help others, like when a young woman wrote her about health issues associated with being underweight. Remy checked in with her once or twice, but didn’t really feel like she was making an impact. Then six months later, the young woman wrote and said that she finally had her health back. “That meant so much to me because it was tangible. I think sometimes we don’t know the impact that we have on other people. Just simple words or a virtual message,” she says. “It’s the little things too. It’s an awesome position to be in and makes me realize just day-to-day, that everything you say can have an impact on other people.”

Hoka-6563Featuring Remy Park wearing the Cavu. 
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