, a world champion long distance triathlete, Ironman trainee, and a highly active community member, it's easy to see why "just do it!" is one of Shelley Irwin's favorite phrases. As a master of all trades, Shelley gives us some advice on how to seamlessly accomplish it all. Spoiler alert: It's not by drinking six to eight cups of coffee a day.
Rapid Growth: I’ll start off by asking the question that everyone is dying to know the answer to. How on earth do you manage being a part of so many different organizations on top of your full time job?
Shelley Irwin: Time management is key. I don’t have a lot of negative stresses to keep me from saying no or keep me from managing my happenings, I guess. Obviously work comes first, so things get scheduled around what happens with that. But also work is 24/7. So I guess it’s just time management and making sure that everything fits into the puzzle.
RG: How do you avoid negative stresses?
SI: By choosing positive people to be around and keeping exercise as a part of my everyday life so I can stay mentally healthy. Also by being involved in activities that I am passionate about; because if I’m passionate about something, I’m surrounded by people of similar interests. I like to see the glass half full.
RG: What is your advice to people that are trying to accomplish something similar for themselves?
SI: Keep moving forward. If you see an obstacle, get around it by making a positive choice by finding a hole through the fence to get through. I guess I often like to say, “just do it!” If someone asks you to be involved in something, don’t worry about the should I or could I. Just do it if it meets your personal goals and if it meets the realities of your life.
RG: How does the fitness aspect of your life come into play?
SI: I have always been a fit person. I have a Master of Science degree in Physical Therapy, so I did practice in the healthcare field knowing the importance of health and having a healthy body. Since I am very goal oriented in everything I do, as well, I did my first marathon in 1997.
From there, I took a break to change careers, which when I moved to here in late 2001 and signed up for the 5/3 Riverbank Run
. For the past 14 years I have done almost every local race, and recently got into triathlons. Last year I went to Sweden as a world champion long distance triathlete. This year I am going to Switzerland as a world championship long distance duathelete, which is a run, bike, run format.
RG: Qualifying for the world championship? That’s impressive! How did you manage to do that?
SI: You need to attend the qualifying races. The Grand Rapids Triathlon
was the first qualifier for me (the race is held in Ada every year in June). From that, you had to be in the top 20 for your age group for the Half Iron, which is the longest distance race.
I qualified back in 2014 to go to Sweden in 2015, and qualified again in Fort Worth, Texas, this past year for the duathlon. For that I just jumped in the car and drove, and qualified. Which again, you had to be first 20 in your class. I was pleased with that because that was a goal I sought after. It was intentional.
RG: How many people will be participating in the world champion duathlon race in Switzerland?
SI: There will be about 60 people, at the most, representing the USA. Not as many people do duathlons as triathlons.
RG: How many cups of coffee a day do you need to drink to keep all of this momentum going?
SI: People think I don’t sleep. I get about 8 hours of sleep every night. I get up at 5am and from 6 AM to 3 PM are work hours. I try to exercise between 3 PM and 5 PM (and let the dogs out), then usually I have an event at night. Board meetings are typically at lunch or at 4 PM. I try to keep Monday nights open.
So with all that being said, caffeine is my friend. But I do have God-given energy from my parents – they go non-stop. But again, I think being fit has your engine running fairly smoothly
RG: How did you first get your start in radio?
SI: I first practiced physical therapy for 15 years, and I loved it. As a child I always wanted to be in broadcasting, but I had more health care mentors than broadcast mentors.
I did a lot of theater as a kid, so when I lived in Raleigh, North Carolina (working as a Physical Therapist), I did a lot of theater there in my past time, as well. But as I like to tell people... my boyfriend broke up with me, so I moved to Rochester, Michigan. That’s when I thought about changing careers. I was 38 years old at the time.
“Why don’t I take a class in radio?” I said to myself. But you really couldn’t take a singular class in this field - you had to jump in with both feet. So I attended Specs Howard School of Media Arts
in Broadcasting for 8 months, kept a part time job in physical therapy, and interned at WJR
I did that journey for about 2.5 years. When school was over, I took on more hours at WJR. I then did a one-year stint at WXYZ
as production assistant, until I heard that WGVU
had a full time role producer fill in host for The Morning Show
. I did that for a year and a half, as well as a couple of TV shoes, and then I got the full time gig for the morning show in July 2003.
RG: What are some up and coming things you are involved in?
SI: I will be participating in my first Ironman
in Lake Placid, New York. I guess that’s considered the giant of them all. The world championships are cool, but doesn’t compare in distance. So I am working on a lot of training for that. It will be a journey because you need to be done by midnight. You jump in the water at 8 AM and hope you’re done by midnight! It’s a 2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike, 26.2 mile run. So yeah! That will be a big deal.
Of course, it will be balanced between the other local goals. I still want to be involved in Gazelle Girl
, Grand Rapids Triathlon, 5/3 Riverbank Run, and others.
RG: Do you ever get tired?
SI: Well, I always take one day off of working out. Exercise between 3 PM and 5 PM typically gives me my second wind, and I always go to bed by 9 PM. Keeping a schedule is key and 8 hours of sleep is important. I also eat healthy 85% of time. But I always reward myself with a plate of nachos after a race. I’m not a big nap taker. I just move forward again.
Jenna Morton is the RapidChat correspondent for Rapid Growth Media.