Introducing Candace Couper, a childhood friend of mine through horseback riding. When Candace’s posts about paleo recipes and mud runs appeared on my Facebook feed, I couldn’t wait to hear more about her transformation. I could feel Candace’s inspirational energy through her words, enjoy!
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. How did ‘life as you know it’ come to be? How did you get into your profession? How did you get into mud runs?
I’m Candace. I’m from Boston and I currently live in Denver, CO with my awesome dog, Bruin. I came out to Denver for undergrad then ended up staying for graduate school and have been unable to leave.
I grew up horseback riding and have always loved animals. I got into social work during a high school internship. I originally chose the internship because the woman I wanted to work with was a massage therapist (and that’s what I wanted to do at the time) who also worked full time as a behavior counselor at a middle school for high-risk youth. After accompanying her to the middle school daily, I became passionate about helping at-risk youth. I decided to get my masters degree in social work when I learned about University of Denver’s animal-assisted therapy program. I thought it would be a great opportunity to combine my love of animals with my passion for helping people (and it was!)
I got into mud runs in May of 2013. I had done a few fun runs and 5ks previously and decided – on a whim – to enter the Rugged Maniac. I thought it would be a fun way to keep myself motivated. I thought I was in pretty good shape as I was running quite a few miles several times a week and riding at the time. However, Rugged Maniac kicked my butt. I was so sore afterwards that I couldn’t move for a week and was covered in bruises. Then, I happened to see a deal at Fitness Together (a personal training studio) for introductory sessions and I decided to go for it. I haven’t looked back since! This was the start of a complete lifestyle change for me. I’ve learned so much about exercise, nutrition and all around being healthy. I’ve lost quite a bit (weight, body fat, bad habits, etc.) but have gained so much more (strength, empowerment, courage, self-confidence, and more!) I’ve since participated in eight fun/mud/obstacle runs including the Tough Mudder!
2. Is there any overlap in your profession and your values for health, wellness, and challenging yourself? Do you ever combine the two? In what ways?
Yes! I’m currently working for an after school program focused on movement, nutrition, and mindfulness, which overlap quite a bit with my own core values. Within the social work profession, I am personally very interested in alternative therapies. I’ve utilized equine-assisted therapy, community agriculture, and food justice work with at-risk youth. In the future, I hope to combine my passion for health with my profession by using fitness as a form of an alternative therapy. It’s one of the best methods out there!
3. What is your favorite workout? Favorite weekend activity?
I go back and forth; I was doing a ton of HIIT, (high intensity interval training) which is great for cardio and strength in one and utilizes very little equipment. While HIIT is a very effective workout, I recently switched back to strength/weight training. My original goal when I first joined the gym, and committed to changing my lifestyle, was to get stronger, which is one of the many benefits of weight training. My favorite weight training exercises are squats and deadlifts. I love the feeling I get after a hard weight training session – I feel accomplished, strong and confident.
My favorite weekend activities are hiking and walking my dog. There are so many great hiking areas close to Denver. This past summer, I spent most of my weekends training and doing Mud Runs, including the Manitou Incline and hiking my first 14er (we actually did two/three in one day!).
4. As a young woman, hard worker, and athlete, how do you maintain balance in your life?
Balance has been one of the hardest aspects for me, especially while I was still in school. However, I’m a firm believer that if something matters to you, then you can make some time for it…even if it means going to the gym at 6am on a Saturday. Combining multiple aspects of my life is another great way I’ve found balance. For example, when my family came out for my graduation, I convinced some of my family members to do a mud run with me which was super fun!
5. Any great healthy/balance tips for other young woman?
Keep it interesting and find what you like! This applies to everything – fitness, nutrition, work, and your personal life. If you aren’t enjoying what you’re doing or if you’re bored, you’ll become miserable and less likely to stick with it. Figure out what works for you, (I like working out with a trainer and prefer to work out by myself. Some people work better when they have the support of a buddy or group classes) do it for yourself no one else, keep healthy snacks on hand, (I keep a bag of washed baby carrots in the door of my fridge so even if I’m mindlessly snacking, I am more likely to grab something healthy.) and be patient – with the process and with yourself.
6. What food items do you always keep in your house?
There are so many food items I always have in my apartment – being prepared makes cooking and eating healthy meals so much easier. I always have a wide variety of fresh and frozen produce (frozen is great for emergencies and frozen fruit is one of my favorite desserts.) I always have some sort of precooked protein on hand for nights when I don’t feel like cooking or I’m short on time. Other things I always have are eggs, chicken, nuts, and homemade snacks.
7. What is your favorite indulgence?
I’m a huge chocolate hoarder, especially when it comes to dark chocolate.
8. How do you make health a priority in your life?
Being healthy is somewhat of a new priority for me. At first, it was really difficult to stick with it, but I’ve discovered that being healthy really is a lifestyle. Meal prepping has been a huge help when it comes to eating healthy. In terms of fitness, thankfully, I live in a great place that emphasizes living an active lifestyle and a lot of my friends enjoy being active as well. That makes it easier and more enjoyable to make health my priority.
9. What is your FAVORITE thing about mud runs?
There are so many things about mud runs that I love. I love the physical and mental challenge. One of my favorite aspects, though, has to be the camaraderie. Every mud run I’ve done has focused on helping out fellow participants; there is always someone to lend a hand if you need it whether it be a fellow participant or a volunteer. Participants at mud runs tend to be so supportive and encouraging of one another, which lends to an amazing environment.
10. One Healthy Breakdown: Candace is one tough mudder we can all learn from! Whatever we’re working through in our lives, put health and yourself first!