We have known Caroline for so long that she is more than a friend – she is a part of the Clean Workout family. She is known to face obstacles head on with incredible fearlessness, strength and maturity. For that she truly is “Our Inspiration.”
Occupation: Elementary Teacher
Preferred Exercise: Aerobic Weight Training
“Necessary Evil” Exercise: High Intensity Training
Favourite Hobby or Pass-time: I don’t know if I am dedicated to one hobby. I like to try out different things (is that a hobby?!?). Some things I can’t live without are: Yoga, Coffee Tasting, Music, Reading and Podcasts.
Ultimate Food Splurge: Italian Cannoli (filled fresh), Pie, Ice Cream Cake, and the Most Expensive Cheeses ☺
Favourite Travel Spot: So far, Taiwan
Typical Friday Night: Any Activity + Red Wine
Biggest Life Accomplishment: Being Fiercely Independent (can get confused with stubborn)
Caroline is an elementary French teacher who is equally committed to fitness as she is to her students.
She grew up in Toronto, Ontario and attended Canada’s prestigious Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. There, she studied History and Spanish and started exploring different types of workouts. She was immediately attracted to running and later became serious about Yoga.
She currently practices various types of Yoga including Hatha, Vinyasa, Ashtanga, Bikram and Pilates. She also does a variety of HIT classes and weightlifting. Like any good teacher trying to motivate their students, Caroline is constantly encouraging her friends and family to lead healthier lifestyles; she even inspired her dad (who initially thought she had begun to attend a cult) to join the Moksha studio where she first became interested in the practice of Yoga.
Her passion for teaching and adventure has taken her to Hong Kong and Taipei where she spent one summer teaching English to children. She crafted and implemented the program along with her Canadian teacher colleagues. The program is meant to model Canadian teaching style in Taiwanese schools.
She notes that some of the most memorable and life-changing parts of that experience were engaging and learning from both students and teachers living on the other side of the world; early morning runs at a local track by her hotel; connecting with locals; and staying up all night to watch the sunrise on Victoria Peak in HK.
Despite her busy work schedule, Caroline always manages to make time for her friends and family, and can cleverly turn fitness classes into social gatherings. For many of us, balancing things like our work and social lives, or fitness practice and enjoying great food is a struggle, but Caroline does this with ease.
At a young age, Caroline was diagnosed with Type I Diabetes – something that would be a challenge for an adult to deal with. Fortunately, she has always demonstrated immense mental and emotional maturity. When she encountered this hurdle, she did not allow it to control her life and her decisions. Instead, she adapted to manage the disease and keep it from interfering with her dreams and goals.
Caroline is a natural-born educator who works to inspire those around her to embrace knowledge, adventure and fitness. She does not allow herself to be limited by anything, which truly makes her Our Inspiration.
I have a disease that, while challenging, is still manageable and allows me to lead a full and active life.
1. CleanWorkout: Most people would find it difficult to comprehend the implications and the lifestyle changes that come with diabetes, especially at a young age. What was the most important thing that you learned about yourself at that time? How has that affected you as an adult? Did it have any impact on your decision to become a teacher?
Caroline Macdonell: When I found out that I had Type 1 Diabetes, I don’t think that I was aware of the profound effects the diagnoses would have on me. It was only once I lived on my own and with roommates that I realized it had forced me to mature earlier than most of my peers. As an adult, I still struggle with feelings of jealousy and guilt. I feel envy for people my own age who have no or minor health conditions. At the same time, I feel guilty for having these feelings because I have an excellent health care team, and I have a disease that, while challenging, is still manageable and allows me to lead a full and active life.
I feel passionate about educating others to lead a balanced life. Sometimes we can swing like a pendulum and go too far – whether it be the newest health fad or the cookie jar! I think that, especially in elementary school where children learn how to behave and interact responsibility with others, it’s important to model how functional adults behave, collaborate, eat, exercise and play. Getting to do this and seeing how kids look up to you and mimic your behaviour is both rewarding and terrifying! It helps keep me focused on how I want to lead my life and what is important.
2. CW: That must be a huge sense of responsibility, but it sounds like you take it seriously and strive to be the best role model possible. What motivated you to start your journey in fitness and athletics?
CM: When I was in high school I struggled with anorexia. While I was recovering, I had to learn about what leading a balanced life meant. I had never been very athletic, but around the age of 18 I became increasingly interested in fitness. I noticed that it helped calm me down and keep me focused when I was working. I find that I have so much energy that I need to burn off – I never want to stay still. Working out helps me focus on the other things I enjoy like cooking and reading.
3. CW: Tell us about your biggest accomplishment in fitness. What kept you motivated through training? How long did you train for? Did you ever think about giving up?
CM: I haven’t done many races. I did a 10K for camp Oochigeas last spring and I was surprised that it gave me a sense of accomplishment. I had been on long runs but never worked toward a goal or done it for charity. It felt good, but I don’t have ambitions of running marathons or anything like that. What keeps me focused and motivated to go to new fitness levels is keeping my mind and body healthy. If I want ever want to have family of my own and stay around for my family and friends, I have to make sure my body is in good functioning order. It is a heavier burden for me than for others because I have been living with Diabetes and its challenges for more than 15 years, now.
Do something active every day.
4. CW: How has fitness helped you in your personal and/or professional life?
CM: Fitness helps calm me down – giving instructions all day to kids can be trying! It’s really nice to go to a class after work and follow instructions for a change. I really enjoy doing fitness with others because you can reflect on the experience afterwards. I think that being an active person can shift how people think of those who are Type 1, which is different from Type 2 Diabetes. People are often unaware of this and want to compare me to their sick elderly relatives. I try not to be offended by this because I know that they are simply trying to relate to me. Still, it can get frustrating.
5. CW: Do you have any words of wisdom for people looking for inspiration to start their fitness journey, or who are struggling with a lifestyle-changing diagnosis?
CM: Do something active every day. No excuses. It doesn’t matter what, but make sure you do something! Try all different kinds of fitness so you know what you like best. Once you do, you’ll become addicted to the endorphins!
6. CW: What is your next fitness goal and what are you doing to achieve it?
CM: I went to a Muay Thai class for the first time and it kicked my butt! But it was fun and I felt proud for getting through pretty well considering how challenging it was. I would like to try some different fitness/activity classes to expand my horizons. I’m thinking fencing could be cool…
7. CM: Anything else you would like to add?
CM: I think people often go off the deep end into restrictive diets when they don’t have to. I think this is a shame because 1) Eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures, and 2) Why restrict yourself when you don’t have to? People who actually need to cut out foods for medical reasons would just think that’s bonkers.
“Just eat everything” – My Mom.
CW: Mom’s words are the perfect note to end on. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us and for your candour. You have certainly inspired us and we hope that your story encourages others to go out and lead healthier, active lives without feeling limited by anything.
Eating is one of life’s greatest pleasures
Diabetes affects the lives of millions of Canadians and remains undiagnosed in about 20% of people living with the disease. To learn more about diabetes, its symptoms and what you can do to help, please visit The Canadian Diabetes Association.
There is no shame admitting that you have an eating disorder. If you are struggling, please visit the National Eating Disorder Information Centre for assistance.