Athlete Spotlight: Cassandra Burke
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, so I can’t think of a better time to send a shout out to the women who have battled or are currently battling this disease. Today, I’m sharing this athlete spotlight who uses her story to inspire others.
After battling breast cancer in 2010, Cassandra Burke became a triathlete, runner, fitness instructor, and blogger. She started her blog, Powered By BLING, as a way to inspire others. She knows that whether you’re a beginner or an advanced endurance athlete, you have a goal. Her goal is to inspire you to find that inner athlete and Challenge Yourself to Cross Your Own Personal Finish Lines.
What is BLING?
BLING is what endurance athletes call the medals we earn as we cross all those finish lines.
What is your favorite part about running/triathlon?
Training for an endurance event like a half marathon or triathlon allows someone to reach deep inside and find themselves. When I first started out in running, I took me an hour to run a 5K. Now, I can run a 10K in less than 1.5 hours. I started out in triathlon only doing sprints, but now I’m focusing on International/Olympic distance with a goal of my first Ironman 70.3 in 2018. I love that with each passing season, I get a little better in each discipline which makes me excited to set new goals. I also love the social aspect of training. My husband and I belong to a running club and I also have a Tri Coach who coaches a small group of athletes. Combining the social aspect with the fitness aspect creates a level of excitement that keeps you accountable to your goals.
How did you get started?
I started my blog after surviving breast cancer as a way to inspire others to live by my philosophy to “Challenge Yourself to Cross Your Own Personal Finish Lines”. #CrossYourFinishLines. In October 2016, I celebrated my 6 Year “Cancerversary”. Running and Triathlons became part of my recovery process. They allowed me to find myself after having spent a year and a half fighting. I realized that each of us goes through something in our life and my journey was leading me toward a path to help inspire and empower others to take those difficult experiences and use them to fuel their personal growth – whatever that may be.
How long have you been running and doing triathlons?
I’ve been an athlete my whole life. I was a gymnast and cheerleader and also played tennis and softball. I didn’t start running or competing in triathlons until after my cancer treatment ended. I actually quit track in middle school because I didn’t like it. Even though I’d never done a triathlon, I celebrated my breast cancer victory by doing two sprint triathlons two weeks apart. I started running with a running club at the beginning of the following summer. At first, I wasn’t that committed to it, but having that social connection with the group made me want to show up more. So, my running got better as a result. Running used to be the sport in triathlon that I dreaded the most. Now, it’s my second favorite – I’m a swimmer at heart!
What is your favorite distance to compete in and why?
For running, I really like 10Ks. I’m a middle-to-back of the pack runner, so it takes me a couple hours to run a half marathon. 10Ks allow me to work on improving my pacing and I can run them hard without feeling drained the rest of the day.
For triathlons, I do love sprints. Although I’m elevating my game to Olympics, sprints are great for being able to do multiple events in a short window. I can do three or four sprints over a summer where with the longer distance, I can only manage one at the moment.
I also love 10Ks, half marathons and sprint tris for racecations! My family and I travel quite a bit and we love “racecations” – combining a race with a vacation. We generally plan most of our yearly vacation schedule around races. We enjoy racing and vacationing so much that I started my own travel agency. Powered By BLING Travel was born out of my desire to help other athletes cross some of those finish lines competing in their bucket list races while making memories with their families.
What is your best training tip?
Find activities that you enjoy because if you don’t enjoy them, you won’t stay committed to them. Maybe you don’t like to workout at the gym, but you love to kayak or play indoor soccer. Fitness doesn’t have to take place on a cardio machine or in a gym.
Fitting in fitness can also be a challenge in our overscheduled world. I am a big advocate of using the pockets of time we all have in our schedule to fit in a little fitness. Do your kids play sports? Go for a walk/run during their practice. Bring some dumbbells and a jump rope with you and find a place to create your own HIIT workout. You can even just do exercises that use your own bodyweight.
Is your evening schedule after work packed? Use your lunch hour for your workout. Walk, run, or find a place to do some bodyweight exercises. If you belong to a gym near your office or if your office has a gym, go there. You could even start your own Lunchtime Fitness Club with a few coworkers. Use that time to step away from work, get in a workout, and enjoy each other’s company. Figure out what will work with your life and then you’re more likely to actually make it a priority.
What keeps you motivated?
There’s something about registering for a race and knowing I have to be ready for that specific date that keeps me focused on my training. Crossing a finish line at a race is exhilarating! Earning that BLING doesn’t hurt either. There are times during a race where you say to yourself, ”Why did I do this? I’m never doing this again.” By the end of the race when you cross that finish line, you’re ready to sign up for the next one. That feeling of being able to push myself past my previous personal best keeps me focused on achieving my goals.
What advice would you give someone who is just starting on his or her fitness journey?
Set a realistic goal. It might be getting to the gym twice a week or it might be running your first 5K. Then, focus on being committed to that goal. Don’t compare yourself to your best friend or the woman in the BodyPump class beside you with three extra plates on her bar. Your fitness journey is all about you pushing yourself past your comfort zone. Once you’ve reached that original goal, set a new one that pushes you a little more to Cross Your Own Personal Finish Lines!