An all-female workout group in Hood County has now successfully proven that you’re never too old to finish a race — even if that race involves three miles of mud and challenging obstacles.
Nikki Vasquez, owner of Two Tribes Primal Fitness in Acton, works to train individuals in physical fitness. Although she welcomes both men and women as her clients, Vasquez said she mainly trains older women.
"As we get older as women, we know how women’s bodies change a lot differently than a man can even begin to image,” she said. “And we're all here for the same thing — to try and get functional and stay capable."
Vasquez said about 90% of her female client base is age 60 and above, with 76 being her oldest client.
“That’s kind of my niche,” she said. “Because it’s training a whole different mindset. Some seniors need so much more socialization, and they don't need to be pushed; their bodies are very, very different.”
Which is why when Granbury resident Rebecca Faiola asked to do an event together as a group with the other female clients, Vasquez jokingly recommended the MUDGIRL obstacle race in Forney that was set for Oct. 21.
“I joked and I was like, ‘Hey, this MUDGIRL run, that sounds fun,’ and Rebecca goes, ‘Oh, I'm in,’” Vasquez said. “I was like ‘Okay, let me check with everyone else and see.’ I thought ‘No one's gonna bite,’ but everyone was like, ‘Oh, I'll bring you the money tomorrow.’ ‘Let's get us registered.’ ‘Let's get shirts.’”
Surprisingly to Vasquez, everyone was completely on board with the idea, spurring the 53-year-old trainer to get serious and whip her team into shape for the future event.
Due to the older ages of everyone on the team, the women came up with the name Women of Wisdom to showcase the team’s knowledge and experience.
"That's what we call our morning classes, the Women of Wisdom, because we have so much wisdom there,” Vasquez said. “I've learned so much from these women about life, love, relationships, eating and dancing."
For the next 10 months, Vasquez worked with every Women of Wisdom member, training them on how to exercise properly as well as how to climb and crawl.
“Every month, I would talk about how training is a skill,” Vasquez said. “It's a 5K mud run, and there's 17 obstacles. It's three-plus miles and 17 obstacles.”
According to mudgirlrun.us, participants in MUDGIRL face mud, obstacles, and inflatables in an “amazing atmosphere surrounded by women of all ages and all fitness levels.”
MUDGIRL also coined the hashtag #PinkArmy in support of cancer research. Since 2017, MUDGIRL has made a positive impact on the world, donating a total of $300,000 to breast cancer charities across North America and Europe, according to mudgirlrun.us.
Due to MUDGIRL’s strong support of cancer research, the event is also more meaningful to many of the Women of Wisdom group members.
“I know some of them have had cancer themselves, but I don't think any of our ladies that were there had breast cancer . . . but, still, we were all there, and we were supportive of everybody,” Vasquez said.
She explained that six out of 17 obstacles involved crawling in mud, while additional tasks like carrying a 30-pound sack and pulling a 90-pound sled added to the challenge of completing the three-mile course.
“I gave them the rundown of what to expect, how to go through if you didn't feel comfortable going over an obstacle,” Vasquez explained. “A couple of them you couldn't avoid; you had to go through. There was one we walked a quarter mile in a river up to probably our mid-thighs. Half of my group kind of jogged/walked and the other half we just strictly walked because that was their capability level.”
Although the course was difficult, Vasquez was proud to announce that all 10 members of Women of Wisdom completed the race.
"I had a couple who almost wanted to quit, but they didn't. They were like ‘Oh man, this sucks,’” Vasquez explained. “It was probably 95 degrees. It was in a field in Forney, Texas in the country. There was no real shade. We were getting muddy, and some of them didn't even want to get muddy. That was the funny thing, because they were going to get dirty whether they liked it or not."
Vasquez said the event was well-attended, with thousands of women participating in the obstacle course. She pointed out that, while many of the participants varied in age, the Women of Wisdom were definitely in a niche of their own.
"It was not easy,” she said. “I'm a competitive athlete. I'm a martial artist. I spent a lot of time fighting in the ring. I was a competitive power lifter. I've done CrossFit competitions, but these types of runs — even for me — were not easy.”
She compared how hesitant and reserved everyone was the first day they showed up for training compared to the day of the run.
"Once they started to see the way I trained, they were more open to what we were doing,” Vasquez said. “I wasn't there to hurt them, and I wasn't there to force them to do something that their body wasn't going to do.”
She explained that the first day of training one woman in her 60s wasn’t able to get up and down from the floor by herself and struggled to open a water bottle. Vasquez said, following the 10-month training, the individual’s posture improved, and her osteoporosis turned into osteopenia — meaning she gained bone density.
Another individual came in, Vasquez said, who never enjoyed working out, but during the race she completed every obstacle.
She said Faiola also had bad knees, but she ended up losing body fat and gained strength and muscle from the vigorous training.
“Nikki is the best trainer I have ever worked with,” Faiola told the HCN. “I have never consistently trained for over a year with one person. Her encouragement is genuine, and she knows her stuff with a background in medicine and physical therapy. I’m very proud of her service in the Air Force to our country as well.”
Vasquez said the transition that everyone made in the 10 months was astounding, emphasizing that they all “gained capability.”
"They became able to do this,” she said. “They weren't capable of doing it at first physically. There's no way one of them would have ever gotten up off the ground, but they became capable. Their muscles became stronger, their bones obviously gained some bone density, they were able to pull themselves up, they were able to pull themselves over, and they were able to endure walking in 95 degrees in a field with no shade for three-plus miles that they would have never done before.”
Vasquez said she has also never witnessed an entire group say they were going to sign up for a race and had everyone keep their word.
“Most people flake. I don’t know why; they just do,” she said. “But every single one who registered showed up for me. I'm just overwhelmed with gratitude, because they showed up and they completed it, and they marked it off their bucket list. Overwhelming joy is how I feel. I cannot even describe what it feels like, because there are no words that describe seeing women do bold things. All these women did something bold on Saturday.”
Faiola said that completing the MUDGIRL course was an achievement that she never thought she would accomplish.
“Running the MUDGIRL (course) was an epic personal physical achievement for me that I never dreamed I could attempt,” Faiola said. “With (Vasquez’s) coaching and guidance, I did, and we did it as a team. I am so proud of our age group of women at the event too. We were the boldest women there and did it proud!”
Vasquez reiterated how proud she is of all her Women of Wisdom team members.
"Some of them had emotional fears, some of them had mental fears, and some of them had physical limitations, but I'm so proud of them for accomplishing something," she added. "I am honored to be their coach, and I've learned so much from the Women of Wisdom. I'm sure I'm going to live a long life of extra knowledge that I did not have before this. They are amazing. These are amazing women.”