“I love to bring out the ‘strong’ in everyone,” says Vancouver-based personal trainer and athlete Michelle Ford, lighting up at the very thought.
It was this desire to 'bring out the strong in everyone' that convinced Michelle to start a personal training company Peak Power Athletics in 2012. Life at Peak Power means getting up at 4.30am for a long run before a full day of training clients in the gym. But Michelle wouldn't have it any other way. “I eat, breathe, and sleep fitness,” she says happily, “I do it for my career. I do it for my recreation.”
It wasn't always this way. Although she was a gymnast and high school track star in her youth, as well as a competitive snowboarder in her early twenties, Michelle began to feel exasperated by the structured routine of official sports and almost walked away from the fitness lifestyle for good, taking a break to study fine arts and photography at an art college in Vancouver.
Luckily she had a personal epiphany and decided to come back to sports, but this time on her own terms. “I had struggled a lot with getting burned out — with gymnastics, with snowboarding,” says Michelle, “So when I decided to return to athletics I [resolved that] if I felt like I was going to burn out I would remind myself that I’m doing something I love and why I love it. I would work on my mental strength.“
Although Michelle needed an exercise regime that balanced well with her full city life, she was also passionate about getting back into nature and founded a running club Fraser Street Run Club, with her ultra marathon-runner husband, to explore the natural corners in the urban environment. From there Michelle has been drawn to extreme endurance tests like obstacle course race “Spartan Ultra Beast” and ultra marathon ZION 100 in Utah (a 100 mile-long trail run in the high desert). But all of her outside goals come back to the philosophies at Peak Power.
“There are no pink outfits and five-pound dumbbells here,” says Michelle. Michelle creates challenging workouts for her clients, who hop, lift and lunge their way through drills with names like “ball slams” and “pausing icky shuffle.” Exercise through the Michelle Ford lens somehow makes the most grueling work seem like fun. Her enthusiasm is so genuine it’s easy to start imagining yourself running up the side of a mountain or leaping through an obstacle course — if it works for her, it’ll work for you too, right?
Follow @michelleford on Instagram.
Imagine that, sometime in your twenties, you discover that you love running. You used to travel the world as a professional skateboarder, but didn’t make it a career. Now you work as a carpenter. You start to run and begin taking part in races. One day, you sign up for a race that’s 112 kilometers long — longer than you’ve ever run by a third. You run for 14 hours in torrential rain, climb thousands of feet in elevation, and stride across the finish line with a joke on your lips. You are Jesse Booi.
Originally from the Canadian prairies, Jesse has made Vancouver his home for the last 15 years. “Vancouver is awesome. It’s surrounded by nature and filled with people who like to get out there and do stuff,” he says. Three years ago, Jesse began bringing some of those people together on a regular basis when he, along with his wife and their two friends, founded the Fraser Street Run Club. From an idea that spawned while the founders were training for their first 50km trail race, the FSRC has grown into a local running institution. On any given week dozens of runners arrive rain or shine to join their group run that ends in a social mixer.
“It started with maybe two or three people showing up on Fridays and just snowballed from there,” says Jesse. “Now, it ranges from 25 to sometimes 40, 45 people. We take them out on a planned route and after the run everyone comes back, has a beer, and then carries on with their weekends. We call it the Feel Good Friday Run.”
For Jesse, to run is to live, and he has organized his adult life around facilitating the habit. This process included moving to Vancouver’s North Shore Mountains. “It’s my number one area for running,” he says passionately, “the abundance of trails – there are so many choices.” Though he runs every evening after work for at least an hour, maybe two, every weekend still finds Jesse packing a light backpack with snacks and water, and getting gone on the mountain trails for as long as three or four hours at a stretch. “Sometimes as long as six hours, depending on the race I’m training for.”
This may seem insane to some, but for Jesse it’s the opposite. As he explains, running is not just a physical activity; it’s also a means of staying mentally healthy. “Running is a way to clear your head. Say you have a rough day, or things aren’t going well. For me, the run is a way to reset your mind and start fresh the next day.”
Follow @jessebooi on Instagram.