Oklahoma State University - Tulsa
Oklahoma State University - Tulsa

Wellness Warrior: Sandy Cooper

Sandy CooperSandy Cooper
Director of Human Resources, OSU in Tulsa

When most people talk about cardio, they think of going for a casual run in their neighborhood. Others might think of taking a dip in the pool or taking the bike for a quick spin. Sandy Cooper doesn't just swim, bike or run -- she does all three! You can find Sandy in the Wellness Center after hours working out in the weight room or around town pedaling away on her road bike.

One thing is very clear about Sandy Cooper: She is a Wellness Warrior. On Sunday, Aug. 18, 2013, Sandy completed her first Sprint Triathlon. Wellness Coordinator Jeremiah Watkins spoke with Sandy to talk about her experience at the race as well as what drives her towards her fitness goals.

1. What inspired you to sign up for the Lake Claremore Triathlon?

Two years ago I became ill after a trip to Mexico. The illness lasted 14 months with another four months of recovery. During this time, I lost 50 pounds and all of my energy. Being healthy became more important than ever to me. I was determined to get in shape. I started with the Women on Weights class through the OSU-Tulsa Wellness Center. That helped build my core, which prepared me for the next steps. In early May, I started thinking about my fitness goals. I had just started running and thought a triathlon would be the way to go. I researched it and found the Lake Claremore Triathlon and decided I could do it! At this point, I had only ridden a bike half a dozen times in the last 30 years and could barely run a mile! It was a stretch goal for sure!

2. How did you prepare for the event?

I found a lot of online resources. On beginnertriathlete.com they had training plans and tips. Triathlete Magazine had a lot of additional resources. CNN is training six people who started as overweight and out of shape and they are doing a triathlon in September…lots of resources and inspiration there too. I talked to as many triathletes as I could. I spent more time building my core in the wellness center and working with Jeremiah Watkins on my running. I worked out six days a week – running every day, yoga, weight training, biking three days a week, and swimming two to three days a week.

3. What was the most challenging part of your training?

Initially it was running. I have never been a runner, and running that first tenth of a mile was a challenge, but I kept at it. Soon I was up to a mile, then two, and finally three. I ran my first 5k last month in the Bedlam Run and finished in 33:43. Eventually swimming became my biggest challenge as I got bored with it. I had to do a pep talk before each training to keep myself going.

Sandy Cooper completes a race

4. What was your favorite part of the race?

Definitely cycling! I love it! I set two personal records during the race – fastest speed of 31.2 miles per hour and my fastest mile at 2:38. I even ran off into the ditch going 20 miles an hour…laughed it off and kept going. When I had ridden the race course two months ago it was a struggle. After training two more months on Turkey Mountain, it wasn't near as hard as I remembered.

5. Do you have any advice for the beginner triathletes in training?

Start with core training! That's my advice for anyone who wants to get in shape. By building your core you will be stronger overall and minimize injuries. Also find people who have done it and are willing to give you advice. I met a guy on the bike trail one day who was training for his third iron man at age 58. He told me "I know I won't come in first and I won't come in last. I am just going to enjoy it and not stress over the small stuff." That became my mantra for the rest of my training. I think it's why I was able to get back on my bike after my fall.

6. What's you next wellness goal?

I am currently training for the Tulsa Run (15k) in October, the Route 66 Half Marathon (13.1 miles) in November and the Tulsa Tough Grand Fondo bike race (225 miles over 2 days) in June.

7. What's your favorite cheat meal?

Pizza or Tamales