Gigi Skeehan grew up being very active. Then, as it does for many of us, life got busy: She went to college, got married, supported her husband through medical school, and became a mom. Meanwhile, her health and fitness fell to the back burner.
It wasn’t long after the birth of her first child, though, that she turned to movement to help her weather the chaos — and it made all the difference.
More than 15 years later, Skeehan credits her consistent fitness routine — and a supportive community — for helping her stay committed to health and well-being through those hectic years. And with more time to focus on her fitness now that her kids are older, she’s living life by a new motto: Be able to do anything at any time.
“If someone says, ‘Let’s go hike Mount Shasta,’ I don’t want to have to say I’d need to train for that. I want to say, ‘That sounds fun, let’s go,’” says Skeehan, 44. “I want to be able to do whatever I want at any given time.”
Her journey began with a few small steps, which led to a life filled with a variety of activities and fitness achievements. Here, she shares how she reconnected with herself, how she found her passions and her people — and what she’s learned along the way.
What I want out of my fitness is to be able to do whatever I want at any given time.
Skeehan and her husband, Dave, were living in Michigan, where he was attending medical school, when they had their first child. They had no family in the state, and her mother, who was fighting cancer at the time, was unable to visit.
“It was very isolating,” says Skeehan. “But I knew I just had to make it work.” She decided she needed a routine, and though she didn’t know what that would look like, she knew she had needed to get out of the house.
So Skeehan joined the Life Time near her home in Shelby Township, Mich., and started going every morning. She took advantage of the Kids Academy, where she could drop off her son for a couple of hours.
Initially, she used that window to simply take a shower and relax in the lounge. Then, she began to explore and utilize different areas of the club. “Getting regular physical exercise was like a reset,” says Skeehan. “My body could move mechanically while my brain could let go. With regular exercise, I was a different person.”
Over the next six years, Skeehan maintained her routine throughout three more pregnancies and while nursing. She focused on low-impact exercises, such as swimming, and worked with a trainer on movements that supported her body during those transitional periods.
“My worth grew knowing I could do certain things and have control over a part of my day,” says Skeehan. “Otherwise I felt like I disappeared into everybody else’s lives.”
Forming her routine started with small strides, and that’s how Skeehan suggests anyone approach it. “First, commit to taking a step,” says Skeehan. “Even if that’s just walking into the club to grab a smoothie. Then, maybe one of the next times, you get your smoothie after you walk on the treadmill for 20 minutes. Eventually, you’ll look back on what felt hard at first and realize that it’s become easier.”
Finding Her Passions
Skeehan’s fitness routine has expanded over the years. “I love everything,” she says — and she’s not kidding. She swims, plays tennis, practices yoga, runs, hikes, snowboards, skis, attends fitness classes, engages in equipment- and body-weight-based workouts, and has done both group and personal training. She also participates in athletic events, crediting the right training and gear (her HOKA ONE ONE® Speedgoat shoes are her favorite for running!) for helping her cover long distances.
“There was a time when running 10 miles would’ve taken everything I had,” says Skeehan. “Now, I’ve done a 50K and this year am looking to do a 100K.”
Skeehan discovered her passion for different activities by testing the theory that it takes 21 days to make a positive habit. She’d pick something new to try, do it for three weeks, and then decide whether to continue pursuing it or not. While she didn’t enjoy every day of it, she never quit.
“If I would take a day or two off, I would struggle having to make the choice to start again,” says Skeehan. “You have to make the decision not really a decision at all. You may struggle along the way, but if you stick with it, you’ll end up feeling proud of what you accomplished.”
Skeehan has also discovered the value that a variety-filled routine offers. “I still feel like I’m 20-years-old,” she says. “I feel strong. Over the years I’ve built up this reserve that protects my body.”
Finding Her People
Skeehan’s pursuit of fitness began as a solitary endeavor. As she tried new activities, she met more people, and now has a strong community that supports her drive.
After seven years in Michigan, Skeehan and her family moved to California, where she’s since built her tribe. It includes the trainers, instructors, coaches, and other members she’s met at the Life Time in Roseville, Calif., as well as members of her running group, “Mom’s RUN This Town.”
“Sometimes you walk into these beautiful clubs, see these people, and get kind of intimidated,” says Skeehan. “But then you get to know the people personally and realize how genuine they are — everybody is rooting for everyone else.”
Having a community has helped Skeehan push herself further, gain a sense of support and camaraderie, and have the courage to try new, unfamiliar things.
There’s something about pushing yourself with other people — you become a team.
The accountability keeps her motivated, too. “This morning, for example, I needed to go for a run, but I had to get up at 4:15 a.m. to make it happen,” says Skeehan. “Because I was running with a friend, I got out of bed.”
Skeehan suggests group fitness classes and group training programs as good places to begin meeting others. They’re helpful because you gather multiple times a week to work out, get fitter together, and cheer each other on. She also advocates for joining a fitness group such as a running club.
“It takes vulnerability, but you have to be brave and show up,” says Skeehan. “You start with small talk, which leads to a connection, which can result in a friendship. I feel like I’ve found lifelong friends in every group setting I’ve been involved in. There’s something about pushing yourself with other people — you become a team.”