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A Summit Is Only A Halfway Point

We are always on the quest to find unique and badass individuals to not only draw inspiration from, but also share their stories with our readers. Kathleen Stabler fits that bill, and then some. A long time Gym Jones instructor, endurance runner and adventure seeker, Kathleen has some amazing insight to share about how to keep things interesting, no matter where life takes you. According to Kathleen, moving forward is the only way to go. We couldn’t agree more!

LW: We’d like to first thank you for allowing us to peer into your life and for sharing what it is that makes you tick. As a company promoting an active lifestyle and a “no excuses” mentality, you seem to live your life with unwavering motivation and action. We are curious about what drives you to be so active day in and day out. Have you always had this drive or did you have specific experiences that formed your tough mentality?
KS: Thanks for asking me to speak with you! I’ve always had a strong sense of adventure and curiosity. For example, in trail running, one of the toughest things for me is turning around and heading back before I reach the end of a trail, and even then there is always another path to explore. “I wonder if I could ........ ?” is something that runs through my head on a fairly regular basis. Not every one of these leads to a challenge but often the best adventures have started this way.

Once I set a goal I tend to get very single-focused (obsessed is a word that others have thrown around). What attributes will I need to accomplish it? What am I lacking? With every challenge we begin to accumulate the confidence and the tough mindset that are necessary to complete ever bigger and bolder goals. For me, it’s the mental toughness that drives the whole project. I like to arrive for the adventure knowing I am more than prepared and that I have already succeeded, but for the actual doing of it.

LW: Have you always lived in New Mexico? Tell us a little about yourself and where your journey began.
KS: I grew up in the Midwest, in Wisconsin and Iowa. I was lucky enough to be able to spend some summers in Aspen, Colorado, and that’s where I fell truly, deeply in love with the mountains. One day when I was hiking in Maroon Bells I just began to run...... I still remember the exhilaration and the joy I felt. I didn’t know trail running was a “thing” -- maybe it wasn’t -- back then. I went out for track in high school but I wasn’t “fast” and my coach actually told me that I should accept the fact that I was not an athlete. I was crushed at first, but every time I returned to the mountains I could run and run and find that joy again.

LW: What do you deem most important in life as keys to happiness and why?
KS: Maintaining a sense of awe and amazement allows us to be surprised and delighted by life every day. Feeling and expressing deep gratitude (to people in your life and to the universe in general) is essential. I think it keeps us open to all the amazing possibilities that are out there.

Being able to identify your true core values is a key piece that allows us to navigate life with clarity and some sense of ease, as long as we hold fast to whatever those are for us.

LW: As a gym owner, what do you find are the most rewarding and challenging aspects?
KS: It’s both humbling and amazing to see what happens when the physical work in the gym begins to create mental and emotional change as well. My intention always is to create a training relationship that supports and encourages that level of transformation. Small changes beget bigger ones, and lives change in so many ways.

Seeing great potential in a client who is simply unwilling or unable to do the work that would create change is tough. (To be clear, I am referring to the potential to become a happier, healthier, well­-balanced human being, as well as to athletic potential). I will always work very hard to help a client but at some point the desire has to be theirs.

LW: We know that community in any gym is crucial to athlete’s success. How do you work to instill a strong sense of community inside your gym walls and beyond?
KS: I’m fortunate in that I get to decide who gets to walk in the door, and I’ve worked very hard to set the standard. Although I have many different types of clients, every single one shares the same principals: commitment, respect, kindness, courtesy, willingness to support one another, and much more. When like-­minded people come together, a community forms.

LW: What type of advice would you offer to a new gym owner?
KS: I think it’s extremely important to be very clear (to yourself) about what your purpose is for having the gym. What is your philosophy? What are your standards? Who is it that you are seeking to help? A well-­grown training facility should reflect the coach very clearly.

I would also advise taking some time to grow your business mindfully, rather than taking on space, equipment and financial obligations that may pressure you to make bad decisions.

LW: You’re a longtime Gym Jones Supporter and certified coach. How has this impacted your life, your outlook and your mentality?
KS: Yes, I have been extremely fortunate to be a part of Gym Jones for quite a while. I was drawn to the philosophy and the skill with which the mind and the body are trained together. There’s no doubt that the grueling workouts are amazing to watch and of course great fun to do. However, unless the tough inner work is being done, no real progress is ever made. As I went through the process of attending the seminars and training at the gym in hopes of becoming a Fully Certified Instructor, I made the choice to fully commit to that inner work, no matter how difficult. It was very difficult, and it changed my life.

I love that Gym Jones is a community where everyone is committed to that kind of work. It’s also impossible to be there very long without feeling very humbled and amazed by what other individuals are doing. It’s not necessarily the weight on the barbell or the numbers on an erg; it’s the fight that they are waging on behalf of themselves. Always inspiring. Although my gym is different in many ways, I would like to think that it is a reflection of everything I have experienced and learned at Gym Jones.

LW: Before you found Gym Jones and becoming a gym owner, what did you do to stay active?
KS: I was already an athlete and a professional trainer/coach when I first discovered Gym Jones. My primary sport was trail running, although I had been a road runner for many years. In addition to that I was enjoying strength training, rock climbing, hiking, snowshoeing, cycling, yoga and anything else that caught my attention and interest. In the few years prior to coming to Gym Jones I began working with a coach for the first time. Carolyn Parker was the first truly strong, healthy, balanced female athlete I knew. Everything changed for me with that perspective.

LW: We know you train both women and men. What similarities and differences do you see in the way both approach and go about their training, whether in the gym or out on the road or trails?
KS: Sometimes women put tremendous emotional weight on workouts. I always focus on the objective information a workout provides and coach them to do the same. I would also generalize and say that many women don’t like to train alone but rather prefer the company of others. There’s a social component.

I like the straightforward nature of men. Again, generalizing, I find that men tend to get to work on the programming that’s on the board with much less conversation.

LW: Name some of your greatest accomplishments and most proud moments in life so far. What do you want to accomplish next?
KS: There is not a day that goes by where I am not amazed to be doing the work that I do. Lives change. To be even a small piece of that is absolutely the most wonderful thing.

I am very proud to have raised three wonderful sons.

There’s no doubt that I’ve had some great adventures! I find that there are often more moments along the way towards the accomplishment that I look back on rather than the accomplishment itself. A summit is only a half way point, after all.

I have some exciting plans and ideas that I’m formulating for True North. Personally, there are so many places I’d love to visit and explore via trail running and hiking. Iceland is definitely way up on the list. I’m also hoping to do a through run/hike of the John Muir Trail, maybe next summer.

LW: Do you have a favorite season to train? Why or why not?
KS: I follow a periodized training schedule; that is, late winter/spring/summer/early fall are focused primarily on running, with structural integrity work and maintenance strength as supporting modalities. Late fall/early winter is time for serious strength work, while running switches over to maintenance mode. As much as I love trail running, I also love strength season.

If you’re talking about seasonal weather, I run in everything (except I won’t start out in a lightning storm) and I don’t love extreme heat.

LW: Describe the essence of life in 10 words or less.
KS: Ok, this is a tough one. You didn’t say it had to be a sentence, so I’ll just list 10 words that come to mind: joy, freedom, movement, laughter, love, outdoors, amazement, silence, friendship, adventure.

LW: Where do you see yourself in the next 20 years?
KS: Hopefully I’ll still be seeking out adventures! The most important thing is to be able to stay healthy and vibrant, mind/body/spirit.

LW: ­ We know you are always out on the trails. What is the most unusual or unique thing you have seen on a trail run ­ human, animal, or thing?
KS: Last summer I spent some time in Ecuador. I had a week of trail running and hiking in the Andes at high altitude (15000’+). On the second to last day I reached the summit of Cotopaxi, which is 19600’ and glaciated all year round. The summit attempt begins around midnight from a little over 17000’. I had been climbing for a couple hours and was probably near 19000’ when I looked up from the ice and saw the moon, giant and round, sitting directly in front of me on the ice. Of course it wasn’t really; we were simply so high and so near the summit that it appeared to be right there. Nevertheless, I felt as though I could reach out and touch it. That’s one of the most wonderful things I have ever seen.

LW: If you had one piece of advice to give a young person in today’s world, what would it be?
KS: Find the thing that feeds your spirit, then do it often, always! Also, despite what many people say and do, it is possible to create the life that you truly want, and to be deeply happy doing it.

For more information or to get in touch with Kathleen about philosophy and training: