Champion spotlight: Elyse Mathos of Grand Rapids

Priority Health Champion, Elyse Mathos, went looking for a challenge when she felt her regular gym routine getting stale and knew she wasn't dedicating enough time to her health. For her, the answer was signing up for a 5K. A few years later, she's still challenging herself, now as a triathlete.

When Elyse signed up for her first 5K, she wasn't exactly thrilled at the idea. "It was overwhelming to me at the time, the thought of running three miles. It was a big challenge." But the challenge and the training left her feeling invigorated and energized, and soon her passion for racing was born.

After a few 5K races, Elyse signed up for 10K, then a triathlon and then a half Ironman. "Running is still tough, but I love accomplishing something I never thought I could do. I never thought I could run a 10K or finish an Olympic triathlon or a half Ironman. It's amazing what the human body can do when you put your mind and energy into it."

Making fitness a priority has been key in Elyse's success. "I put all of my workouts in my calendar so they're just as important as meetings or social events." She creates a training schedule so she's knows what's in store and what mileage she needs to hit at the beginning of each week. She also treats her workouts as personal time. "It's okay to turn things down and say 'I have a workout.' I think a lot of women don't prioritize themselves or put themselves first. 'Me time' is important. My workouts are my priority and my alone time."

Elyse credits a strong support system for keeping her training goals on track. Her now-fiancé, Brad, joined her for her first 5K and has continued with her on their shared fitness journey. On race day, her mom is always there to see her cross the finish line. "My mom comes to every single race. She loves cheering everyone on—not just me!" Being a part of various training and fitness groups keeps her motivated, but Elyse says it can sometimes be "a double-edged sword." "Sometimes I get that feeling of not being good enough, not being fast enough and that competitiveness can creep in."

With such a rigorous training schedule, staying motivated and not overdoing it is a challenge. "For me, it's not so much about staying committed; it's more about not getting burnt out." In the off season, she takes a break from her regimented schedule and gets her exercise through kickboxing. She likes to keep her workouts fun to prevent burnout. "I never want to get to a point where it's too much. That's why I take a break in the off season. I want to keep racing as long as it's fun."

As for the immediate future, Elyse plans to stay busy. She's planning to run in her first standalone half marathon this year and is looking to take part in some longer cycling events. Her ambitions don't stop there: she's also signed up for the Chicago Triple Challenge— three triathlons in just one weekend. In the future, Elyse would love to travel internationally and race in a destination triathlon.

Elyse acknowledges that fitness can be tough, even for someone with her racing prowess. "There are good days and bad days. Some days you'll have a horrible workout and that's ok — you can try again tomorrow." She may be a triathlete now, but she remembers how intimidating it was getting started on her health journey. "Truly the hardest part is just getting out the door the first time. The hardest is that first step, but you have to get out and just do it."

About Priority Health Champions

The Priority Health Champions program is a group of people focused on getting and staying healthy while inspiring others to follow suit. This program is open to everyone who has a passion to be and stay active and healthy. Champions are a close-knit group of people across the state of Michigan who come together to compete in races and walks and share insights on how they're living healthy lifestyles. Learn more about the passionate people that make up the Priority Health Champions community.