In their element: Farmington woman's lifting and confidence inspires others
This is the first installment of The Daily Times' “In their element” series. On the last Thursday of every month in 2015, we'll publish a profile of a Four Corners resident who embraces fitness or the outdoors.
FARMINGTON — For many people, the new year means resolutions for better health and fitness. But for some, those small changes evolve into a lifestyle.
That's the case for Sara Hernandez.
The 36-year-old Farmington woman wasn't always into fitness. In fact, she didn't start that journey until she was in her 30s. But today, the mother-of-four is a yoga teacher, a student at San Juan College and an inspiration to many as a regular competitor in strongman and powerlifting competitions. On Saturday, she and a team of local athletes will compete at the Durango Snowdown Strongman and Strongwoman Event at CrossFit Durango.
"I wasn't very athletic as a child," Hernandez said. "After I had my second son, it was like somebody flipped a switch, and I all of a sudden was like, 'Oh my God, I need to lose all of this baby weight.'"
She practiced yoga and ran long distance for a while. But she discovered her love of heavy lifting after meeting her boyfriend, Brett Lanier, a strength athlete.
"Basically, when I stopped trying to actually be skinny and just be healthy is when everything changed for me," Hernandez said. "I did my first powerlifting competition in 2011, and it just went from there."
In 2012, at the age of 35, she competed in the North American Strongman National Competition. Most of her competitors, she recalled, were 10 to 15 years younger than her.
What sets Hernandez apart from her competitors, though, is her character, said Cory Eddy, of Farmington, who met Hernandez at the gym. Hernandez now helps Eddy with training programs for weight lifting competitions.
"She is through and through a good person," Eddy said. "She wants to see everyone succeed, which is something I really admire about her. She wishes good upon everybody and is excited when other people do well, even her competitors."
Hernandez also credits lifting with boosting her confidence.
"It has definitely helped me make peace with my body," Hernandez said. "I don't have that perfect body, but I really do love what I see in the mirror. I think that is huge for any woman to say. Being able to look in the mirror and see all of my accomplishments versus all of my flaws."
Sarah Scott met Hernandez when she started attending her yoga classes at the college. With Hernandez as her coach, the Farmington woman is now preparing for her first strongman competition this weekend.
"I almost feel honored to be training with her. I admire her because she's got that strength — and the confidence that comes with that strength, too — but (is) still a woman," said Scott, who describes Hernandez as the backbone of the local team that trains for strongman competitions.
Hernandez cautions that the healthy lifestyle isn't a quick fix. She compares it to a marathon, not a sprint.
"I am in this for the long haul, and that is why I believe I have been so successful," she said. "When you make that decision to change and become more active and more physically fit, you really have to enjoy the journey or it is totally useless. You have to celebrate the small victories and surround yourself with like-minded people."
Jaclyn Waggoner cover the outdoors for The Daily Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.