New Tampa YMCA triathlete transformed more than her image

By Katherine Smith, Spectrum Sports
Last Updated: Monday, March 20, 2017, 3:26 PM EDT

Heather Shourds starts every day with a run.

Before the sun sets, she’ll squeeze in a swim and log some miles on the bike. Shourds is in perpetual motion.

It wasn’t always this way.

Shourds was going to die. Her doctor didn’t mince words.

“You’re pre-diabetic. You have high cholesterol. You’re headed for a heart attack and stroke,” Shourds said. “He said actually, you’re like a 60 year old who doesn’t take care of themselves on the inside.”

Something had to change. Shourds needed to lose weight, so she started from scratch.

She learned to swim for the first time at the age of 31. Then she started to run and bike. And as the pounds melted off, her passion for working out increased.

A funny thing happened to Shourds on the way to a healthy body, she became an athlete.

“I’m 31 years old, I do not know how to swim, I fell off my bike when I was a kid and I wasn’t chosen for the track team," she said. "And here I am, almost eight years later still doing them.”

Nearly a decade after her wake-up call, down 100 pounds with hundreds of triathlons logged, Shourds now instructs others. She's a personal trainer and teaches master swim classes at the New Tampa Family YMCA spreading her motivational message to others.

“She’s just got this whole buzz about her, like this positive vibe and energy," New Tampa Family YMCA member Ashleigh Kemp said. "She’s got so much energy. When you’re with her, you can’t just help but feel energized.”

Shourds will bundle up that energy in August when she competes for Team USA in the Duathlon World Championships in Canada.

“Once I dedicate myself to something, I give it 100 percent," Shourds said. "And that’s what it takes with exercise. It’s a journey, it’s not an overnight process. Training is a journey and you just never know where it will take you.”