lowI am a LILA, which stands for late in life athlete.

When I was younger I considered myself more of an artistic child, and loved to sing, write, and create my own radio shows.

But my parents never put me in anything like dance, acting, or music. Instead they put me in sports like my all-American brother. He was good at football, baseball, soccer…you name it. I was always stereotypically last picked for the team.

I remember once a year (I called it Hell Week) when we used to have the Presidential Fitness TestΒ in elementary school. That was my worst nightmare. I was always the slowest, the weakest…you name it.

I believe it was the first year that the AYSO started. I was sent off to play soccer. Back in the “old days” there weren’t enough girls to have all-girl teams, so they divided us up and stuck us on a boys team, a fact I couldn’t appreciate until much later in life. πŸ™‚ It just so happened that my team, The YellowJackets, only had one girl: me. My mom used to do my hair in Cindy Brady pigtails with black and yellow ribbons every time we had a game. Apparently, and I don’t’ remember this, but every time I even kicked a ball everyone would get excited. I only played one year.

The closest I came to what I thought was a fun activity as a child, was little league cheerleading. To me it was like performing, and I loved it.

I started getting chubby in junior high. The funny thing is by today’s standards I wasn’t that big, but tell that to all the girls who used to pick on me daily about the way I looked. Did anyone like junior high and think it was a good time? I seriously don’t think so. If you did, you probably were a bully. πŸ™‚

In junior high I also tried out for the softball team, which is strange since I always hated softball. I think it was my last ditch effort to try and make a team. It’s probably a blessing in disguise I got cut.

I gave up on sports, or any other physical activity pretty much all together in high school. I did, however, join the marching band, which surprisingly helped me drop a few pounds my junior year. Whodathunk?

In college I managed not to gain the freshman 15, and even leaned up a little more when I joined the pom pom squad my junior year in college. I think I lost weight mostly because I ate a steady diet of the only thing I knew how to cook: baked potatoes.

Still considering myself non-athletic, I did my fair share of “lite” exercise in my 20’s and early 30’s. Walking, the occasional step class, roller blading, running walking 5k’s, snowboarding, etc. An athlete was slowly emerging. At least I was a healthy weight. In fact oddly enough my weight has never fluctuated more than 5 pounds either way from 125 (I’m 5’4) my whole adult life.

It wasn’t until I moved to Southern California in 2003 that I really started feeling the urge to get more serious about being physically active. My ex boyfriend was really into cycling, so I bought a road bike and off I went. I also became obsessed with surfing, even though I was always a bit too fearful of waves and people to get really good. I even went to a surf camp in Costa Rica twice. But two accidents where I needed stitches in my face made hang up my board for good.

In 2006, when my brother was diagnosed with colon cancer, I cycled 40 miles in both the Ride for the Roses, and the Livestrong Ride Challenge the following year.

But when I REALLY got serious, is when I took up beach volleyball in 2008. I literally became obsessed with the sport, and wanted to get in the best shape of my life. During that time of training I discovered beach running, which I love. It’s twice the cardio workout, but much gentler on the joints.

I also got a lot more serious about what I was eating, trying my best to create better eating habits, while ditching some bad ones (damn you diet coke!)

It was, however, only a matter of time before I knew I wanted to take running further, and so I finally decided to run my first 1/2 marathon this February in Huntington Beach.

Who knows where my journey will take me next…


  1. Hey Tonya! What a great path you’ve taken. I wasn’t an athletic kid, either, and I was on my drum line in marching band in High School! Lots of luck with your half marathon training! You can totally rock it. I never though I’d be able to!

    • Tonya@healthyfitandfrugal says:

      Thanks Jen!! I gotta say I LOVED being in marching band both in high school and the one year in college.

  2. Camille says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your story! I love your site and wish you all the best on the half marathon in February (so close!). A half marathon has been on my bucket list for the last few years, so I’ll probably be sneaking through your posts to learn about how you’re getting the training done.

    • Tonya@healthyfitandfrugal says:

      Thanks Camille! I’ll be the poster child of “if I can run a half marathon, anyone can!” It hasn’t been easy going!

  3. Hey Tonya- I just spend time on here and Budget and the Beach but couldn’t find your email anywhere lol. Are you able to shoot me an email armanthebigmansworld@gmail.com– just in regards to an upcoming post!

    Cheers πŸ˜€

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