Kim Sponem strives for the fitness summit

Nearly 30 top-level professionals are competing in the second annual Fittest Executive Challenge, presented by In Business magazine. Who will earn the healthiest marks? Find out at the In Business Expo & Conference on Oct. 23.

This week, Kim Sponem, CEO of Summit Credit Union, shares her experience participating in the “Fittest Women Under 50” challenge.

I believe in the importance of fitness, but the truth is, I really don’t like to exercise. I like the results, but I have to motivate myself to do it. I have tried to like it. It’s kind of like golf — I would really like to like it, but unless it is a sunny, 75- to 85-degree day with good company and a cold beer, I don’t. I do like to be active, though, and do lots of different things. 

But this is a fitness challenge, so back to exercise. I’ve been in and out of exercise my whole life. As it turns out, that has helped me stick to exercising very consistently for the past few years. Let me explain that.

My job is always demanding, but it was especially so a few years back. Like a lot of people, I stopped exercising at a time when I could have used it the most! When I don’t exercise, healthy eating goes too. I decided enough was enough, and as we prepared to move our family to Australia for over three months, my husband and I both decided to take that opportunity to get back in shape.

The first two weeks we stayed at an extended-stay hotel in Sydney. And true to the plan, I got on the treadmill each day. It was so unbelievably painful to get back into exercising. I thought, “How can I be this out of shape?” But I was. After Sydney, we moved to Melbourne (pronounced Mel-bun, by the way) where there was a big park across from our high-rise apartment. While the kids played ball at night, I’d run in the park, often interval-training (run, walk, run) to get my stamina up.

There were some weights in the pool area, so that helped, and there was a fresh market just across the street from my work, so eating healthy foods got a whole lot easier. Junk food and soft drinks were more expensive than healthy food, and candy prices were outrageous. Three dollars for a bag of M&Ms? Ahh, no thanks.

The memory of how long it took and how hard it was to get back into shape is my motivation for exercising on days that I don’t want to.

Here’s my formula. When I don’t feel like exercising, I tell myself, “Just get on the treadmill for 15 minutes” or “I’ll do interval running and walking” or “I’ll do a slow jog or bike ride today.” What happens is, on those days that I feel less committed and use this technique, I often end up continuing the exercise, getting more into it as I go. It helps that I gave myself permission to stop at 15 minutes and not feel guilty or bad about it.



It will not surprise you to know I have never competed in any triathlons or marathons, and I do not plan to. As for this fitness challenge, it has crossed my mind that I may have been better suited to the “Most Improved” category, but here I am, and I can thank this competition, not for an award (probably), but definitely for a reward: I am now more well-rounded and creative in my fitness approach.

Because of the competition, I have been paying more attention to cross-training. I’ve focused on stretching to improve flexibility. (I may no longer be the most inflexible person on the planet!) I am paying attention to what I incorporate, ensuring I get a mix of flexibility, core, strength, cardio, and a healthy diet.

If you’re like me, fitting exercise into an already overloaded schedule with work and three kids’ schedules is a challenge, but an important one. The benefits of exercise are endless, and since I plan to live to be at least 100, I want to do so being able to get around. Strength and flexibility are key to that. 

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