Hi, I’m Paula Broadwell and this is how I work out

Hi, I’m Paula Broadwell and this is how I work out
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This is part of an ongoing series titled How I Work Out, insights into how Charlotte stays fit. Paula Broadwell is an author and consultant. 

Where do you work out?

Where I workout depends on the training regime for the day! I’m usually in training for triathlons, so generally I run, bike, or swim each day. We also reserve one day per weekend for a family sporting adventure, like hiking, trail cycling or rock climbing, and we take family trips during spring and summer breaks to ski or surf with the kids as well.  We love an active lifestyle!

My husband and I recently just purchased the “Class Pass” which gives participants unlimited access to multiple strength, barre, yoga, CrossFit, Fly Wheel (our favorite place) and AIR Fitness. In a quest to survey the best of Charlotte’s fitness hotspots, we have also tried other fitness programs, to include Hilliard Studio Method (awesomely brutal!), MADabolic, Orangetheory Fitness (best anaerobic/calisthenic combo in town), Denise Duffy’s SmartCore (best core strength program in NC) and many of Charlotte’s yoga studios (I especially like Charlotte Yoga and Yoga One). Mixing up our routine and exploring gyms together has been a blast!

I also love the great outdoors, so whenever possible, I run on my favorite local Charlotte trails, including Little Sugar Creek, Queens Road, or at the U.S. National Whitewater Center.  I love to cycle around the so-called “Booty-Loop,” out to the airport, or various other 20-30 miles circuits in town with cycling buddies.


Why do you work out?

  • Competition energizes and motivates me. I love competition!
  • Physical health benefits. For me, I guess fitness comes down to this: Strong body, strong mind.
  • Innumerable mental health benefits (I work off a LOT of stress during my exercise sessions)!
  • Camaraderie. I’ve made some of my closest Charlotte friends through our family’s active lifestyle. I love meeting other Charlotte aspiring athletes and inviting them to our Active Charlotte Alliance “tribe.” Our mission is to advocate for an active, healthy, and connected Charlotte by assessing, elevating, hosting and maintaining community-based wellness, sports and fitness programs for all citizens. Join us! www.activecharlotte.org @activecharlotte

Have you always worked out? If not, what was the tipping point that got you started?

My dad once told me that the first word I said to him was “jock.” I’m not so sure about that and think it was his wishful thinking since he was a college basketball MVP…the first few years of my life I was more into licorice and ice cream than sports.  However, my parents registered me for summer track as a first grader (cheap child care?) and I fell in love with running and competition.

I think I ultimately also had to work hard to keep up with my two older brothers, if not escape from their nefarious chases! In high school, I ran track and was the co-captain of my basketball team the year we won the state championship. I was recruited to play in college. I ultimately ran cross-country and indoor and outdoor track at the United States Military Academy.

Sports and exercise have remained a fundamental need for me since my youth. I graduated in the top 1% of my class for fitness at West Point. (I wish I could say the same about my academic rank!). If there was a tipping point for keeping fitness a priority in my life, it was when I could sense the respect I gained from my male and female classmates at West Point and later in the Army after beating most of the guys in road races and in military obstacle course competitions.


What are your general fitness goals?

  • Stay fit to fight for my own long-term mental and physical well-being.
  • Be active every day.
  • Win first in my age-group in all triathlon races this summer (ah, the benefits of aging!)
  • Win a few races in the Charlotte women’s mountain biking series.

Favorite work out outfit:

Depends on the sport! I especially love high-tech wicking gear from Lululemon and Athleta gear from South Park.

Pre- and post-workout fuel:

  • Pre: lots of water
  • Post: lots of water and whey protein/fruit/chia seed smoothie

Fitness inspiration:

Charlottean Kristan Seaford, quadruple amputee, mother of five, who ran a 5K and started teaching aerobics at the Y within a year of losing her limbs. She reminds me to count my blessings and stay resilient!

Current favorite workout song:

Love the lyrics and soulful tempo of Mumford and Sons remix of “Under my Feet” or remix of One Republic’s “I lived (I did it all.)”

What’s the most challenging workout/competition you’ve ever completed?

The most exhilarating workout: Jumping out of a wobbly Russian helicopter in Poland with the European Parachute Association while carrying a rucksack and unloaded machine gun. There is nothing I’ve done that requires such intensity and focus (steering the parachute to safety) or provides such an adrenaline rush.

The most challenging competition: my first ½ Ironman (1 mile swim, 50 mile bike, ½ marathon, for which I hadn’t trained) in a 90 degree dessert in Colorado. I didn’t have any food or enough water and learned a good lesson. As with any endurance sport, what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger (and wiser)!

What’s the one fitness gadget/app you can’t live without?

I love my Garmin Forerunner 310XT multisport GPS training device because it keeps track of all of my workouts (run, bike, swim, hike, ski), heart rate, calories, elevation gained, etc. and connects to my computer so I can track progress.

What’s your weekly workout schedule?

If in tri training season, I do brick workouts (bike/run, run, swim, bike/swim). Other times of year, my schedule looks like this:

  • Mon: Fly Wheel/Cycle + yoga
  • Tues: Run + MADabolic
  • Wed: Cycle Booty Loop, swim
  • Thurs: Fly Wheel, try something new
  • Fri: Run + yoga
  • Saturday:  Fly Wheel or Run
  • Sunday: family hike at Crowder Mountain


Have you ever been injured? Tell us about the recovery.

I severely bruised my Achilles while surfing one summer and was unable to run; this is when I started cycling more seriously.


Do you have any gym pet peeves?

I have two gym pet peeves:

  • When gym users don’t wipe off their sweat from the equipment.
  • When I’m clearly “in the zone” with training and someone comes up to chat. I think if someone has earphones in, this should be a clear signal to leave them to their exertion!

Generally, though, I’m always happy when at a gym and don’t let anything bother me too much.

What principle from your workouts do you apply in real life?

Nearly everything I do for exercise has some real-world analogy. Here are some favorite quotes:

  • Mountain biking: “It’s not whether you get knocked down; it’s whether you get up.” – Vince Lombardi.  Or “If you have everything under control, you’re not moving fast enough.”- Mario Andretti.  Sometimes there are gnarly roots and rocks, and one is bound to stumble and get pretty bruised, so it’s important to maintain resilience and resolve and dust off, get back on the bike and keep going. Can’t miss the rest of the ride!
  • Long-distance triathlons or marathons: “Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.” – William Barclay
  • Fly Wheel: “Never cruise”
  • Group training: I remember well a bronze plaque in the West Point gym with a quote from General Douglas MacArthur: “Upon the fields of friendly strife are sown the seeds that, upon other fields, on other days, will bear the fruits of victory.” Camaraderie on the field or court builds camaraderie for life. Providing one’s endurance through exhaustive sport gives one the mental capacity to also endure life’s challenges

I could give you a dozen more, but suffice it to say that planning, training, recreating, and competing provide endless principles to me for living life to the fullest!

Is there anything you don’t eat for health reasons?

No. I actually believe chocolate-dipped bacon is good for me. Just kidding. We generally follow a low-carb, high protein diet and subscribe to “all-things-in-moderation” mantra (except, of course, when it comes to working out).

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