Meet Real-life Exercise Hero Marion Shaw

Welcome to the second interview in the Exercise Hero series.

Exercise Hero Series features real people who have transformed themselves from coach potatoes to exercise heros who can inspire the rest of us.

This time I feature one of my favorite fitness bloggers, Marion Shaw (43), from Wisconsin, USA.

Marion calls herself  “Girl Monster” and I sometimes call her “Marion the Amazon”. 🙂 That is because she’s able to do 160 lb bench presses and uses 40 lb dumbbells for bicep curls.


Why did you start exercising? How long did it take before you started liking it?

I started exercising about 3 weeks before my 39th birthday because I was actually scared of the poor physical shape I was in while heading towards my 40th birthday. During this time in my life, I cried about how fat I was quite often. I was not doing anything more than short walks, while eating way too much junk food each day. (In my 30’s, it was not unusual for me to drink 5 cans of soda pop along with candy each day.)

I decided that I was going to give myself the best 40th birthday present ever– a fit healthy body. And I did!

I was a paying member of the gym for about 2 years before I actually started going regularly. At that point in time, I absolutely hated going to the gym, probably because I went to the gym often enough to get very sore, but never enough to overcome that soreness and get in shape.

In January 2007, I started back at the gym with a new iPod I had just gotten from my two oldest daughters for Christmas. They loaded it with fun songs. However, even with the songs urging me on, the first few months of just walking on treadmill (4 miles/workout) were incredibly sore. I had heating pads on my legs every night! Plus, I was always concerned that other gym members were looked at my lumpy legs. Further, I had so many blisters on my feet! Over 100 blisters in all. And, I didn’t know a single person in the gym!

These first months were sort of horrible. But once I started getting in good shape and quit being sore each night, it started getting fun!

How did you become so knowledgeable about all things weightlifting? Years ago I used to go to the gym at least 4 times a week but I definitely didn’t progress the way you did – no pike push ups for me! What’s your secret?

I learned how to weight lift from demonstrations of other gym members and from reading weightlifting books.

When I started trying the weight machines, I tried very hard but I really didn’t understand what to do. Other gym members offered tips. I was smart enough to take advice and keep asking them questions about all sorts of things.

But after some basic tips, the rest of the knowledge was up to me to learn. Once, with a bad cold, I couldn’t go to gym, so I laid in bed reading one of Joe Weider’s weightlifting books from start to finish. Inside were weightlifting principles for how to quickly improve in weightlifting. I learned those principles and strategies, and then actually used them in my workouts. I quickly got better in weightlifting.

I was actually quite scared of free weights. A gym buddy literally grabbed my hand and physically pulled me over to learn how to bench press. I was so resistant! I learned only one new exercise per week, but they added up quickly over the course of a year. Now, I love it!!

I know you do weightlifting and yoga. How and why did you get started with yoga?

One winter morning, I slid on ice and fell and whacked my head hard. My arm was hurt in the process. By the time I got to the gym, my arm was so sore that there was nothing I could do but some elliptical without hands. I ended up elliptical-ing by a woman who loves yoga. We were familiar with each other, but had never talked. She gave me a 30 minute talk about why I would love yoga. I was not convinced.

But it did start the seed growing in my brain. Then I ended up exercising by a fun woman who loved yoga. She was also persuasive. Then I eventually took an Iyengar yoga class with my oldest daughter, who had started taking yoga at college. There was never a magical moment of “I want to start yoga today!”  I started yoga because of people who wanted the best for me.

How do you train at the moment?

  • Tuesday: 2 hours yoga
  • Thursday: 2 hours weightlifting
  • Saturday: 2 hours yoga
  • Saturday: 2 hours weightlifting

I do cardio as warm-ups on each workout day. I often walk my dog in the evenings.

What kind of challenges have you had during your “exercise career”?

I think the biggest challenge for me, and for anybody, is imagining ourselves to be “athletic.” I really used to believe that I was gym loser. It actually took a couple of years of working out and being fit before I truly believed that I was good in the gym. The internal process often comes much slower than the external process.

Do you have any tips for prospective exercise heroes or people who think they hate exercise?

Count on having 2 full months of soreness when starting as a newbie to work out hard in the gym (use heating pads on sore thighs!), but then know that the rainbow comes soon thereafter. It is only fun to exercise when we stop being sore! So if you can get past those first 2 months of extreme soreness, you’ll arrive at the other side—the fun side!

All gyms have some gym members who are helpful, but gym newbies are often too internally defensive to take advice. Smile and be friendly to more knowledgeable gym members so that they talk to you. Then they will help you and be supportive toward your fitness success. My advice—swallow your pride and take as much advice as you can to get better in the gym! Then thank them graciously for taking their precious gym time to help your sorry self get into better shape.

People have very busy jobs nowadays. How do you manage to fit exercise into your busy schedule?

If you are extremely busy or have children, I suggest that you arrive at the gym at 5:00 a.m. sharp and get your exercise in before your kids even get up. It’s a great time to work out. Then, you can be back home by 7:00 a.m. to feed them breakfast, get them off to school, and get yourself off to work.

What are your biggest accomplishments so far? Do you have fitness related goals you’d like to share?

My biggest accomplishment is having so much more confidence in myself!

Also, I have more fun in life because of my gym experiences too. There is rarely a day at the gym when I don’t laugh and cheer on others. Other accomplishments are my 160 pound bench press, using 40 pound dumbbells for bicep curls, and learning to do headstands, splits, and backbends.

Anything else you want to add?

Maybe the most important things I can say is: 1) Don’t worry if you’re not confident in yourself, just believe that maybe you could accomplish your fitness goals. That tiny belief is usually enough. 2) Always work at a challenging level outside your comfort zone. If you are comfortable with your exercise, you’re not trying hard enough!

To keep improving, you have to keep pushing yourself to do better and better. If Lady Gaga is putting more effort into her concerts than you are into your workouts, then you need to work harder! Be the very best that you can be at your fitness level!

Be the superstar of your fitness.


If you have questions you’d like to ask Marion, feel free to use the comment form below!

You can also meet Marion at her blog, AffectionForFitness. If you’re in need of exercise inspiration – or some butt kicking, I advise you to visit her blog.  🙂

Best Wishes,