Easier Said Than Run

Penny Navaraj’s journey from awkward AF to Spartan AF

My name is Penny.

I will start by saying I’ve never done anything like this before. By “this” I mean tell my tale to anyone other than my friends and family.

How did I start?

Simply put, I had had enough.

I always struggled with my weight. A scrawny, awkward kid from Cambridge, Massachusetts, I weighed about 95–100lbs in my adolescence. Then, when puberty hit, I would just need to think about a cupcake and my ass would explode a pant size. In my teens, my normal weight would be 155–165lbs, and a size 13+ pants.

This, and I was still, of course, awkward AF.

A quick math lesson:

Prepubescent Teenage Girl + Half Portuguese Heritage (read: hairy) + Weight Gain × Awkward AF = MAJOR SELF ESTEEM ISSUES

By my late teens/early twenties, I found myself at a not-so-healthy 220 lbs with a 5'3" frame.

For the better part of my teenage years, I struggled with eating disorders, depression, anxiety — just to name a few. I would binge and purge, starve myself, and then mentally beat myself up for not being stronger, prettier, smarter etc. Then, I would cut myself to escape the mental battle. I dropped weight at an alarming rate. From age 20 to age 21, I had gone from 198 lbs to 105.

It was around this time that I started an anti-depressant, met the love of my life, Sean, started a new job and met my Ride or Die and Spartan Team mate Stefanie.

I became comfortable.

So, I purchased a new eating dress and started to gain weight at a rate that I can only describe as impressive.

BOOM! Back to 195lbs.

Oh, and by the way, I was a smoker, too.

Then one glorious day, on a not-so-glorious day weather-wise during the Nemo blizzard of 2011, I found myself wheezing after going up 12 steps. And it wasn’t like I was carry anything heavy (like salt, for the butt load of snow we were about to endure).

I was carrying two grocery bags. TWO.

And I’m pretty sure one just had toilet paper in it.

And I had enough.

After a little bit of a health scare — complete with an ER visit and a kick-ass Darth Vader respirator apparatus — I planned out my strategy to become healthy, in every sense of the word: mentally, physically, emotionally. Not only for myself, but for my friends and family.

So it begins. *Cue metal music*

2012 — Quit smoking ✔

2013 — Get into Shape ✔

2014 — Eat better & drink more water✔

2015 — Balance and shape the mind

2016 — Get my first Spartan Race Trifecta Medal?….

Challenge Accepted.

The steps I took were slow and steady. I deliberately took my time. I didn’t let myself rush.

It started with my diet. I reminded myself, “FOOD IS NOT THE ENEMY!” (But the rate at which I jam said food in my face, however, is.) So I cut out anything I knew was horrible for me. Goodbye 2AM slices of chocolate cake. Goodbye soda, juice, anything fun.

And hello exercise.

Again, slow and steady.

Running 101

Step 1 — Walk to a tree or light pole.

Step 2 — Sprint to the next tree or light pole.

Step 3 — Repeat until tired or hungry or cranky. (Whichever comes first.)

It was pretty early on in my journey: not only was the weight coming off, but I was becoming more in tune with my body.

I was concentrating on my movement and form when I kick-boxed or weight trained.

I was focusing on my breathing during a vigorous spin class, striving to find the perfect balance between breath and heart rate.

It’s amazing how much stronger you become in all aspects of your life, when you finally let go and allow yourself to love and be loved.

Don’t get me wrong, there were and still are hella-plenty times when life or work or TV just sucks and all I want to do it say “fuck it” and lie in bed all day in my own funk, Insta-stalking people and mindlessly comparing my life to the Insta-famous.

But what good would that do?

So after some back and forth with my inner Demon and Saint — to “gym or not to gym” — I get up, freshen up for the sake of humanity and hit the gym. If a routine starts to bore me (because I have the attention span of a goldfish), I’ll mix it up by trying something new. That way I don’t wind up boxing myself in for a day of Netflix and Chill. (The “Chill” aspect being a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Chunky Monkey.)

You name it, I’ll try it: spin, barre, kick-boxing. My squad (cleverly named “Here For The Beer”) and I are ready to claim our Trifecta Medal at the Vermont Beast 2016 after falling in love bromance-style with Spartan Race.

As of today, I am 140lbs, and I achieved this in a healthy fashion — a balance of proper diet, exercise and a big ol’ dose of growing up and being an adult.

You want something? Go get it.

4 Things I tried to remember during my journey that I deemed helpful:


You already have the world beating down on you with just the hustle of this game called Life. Give yourself credit, and don’t get too hard on yourself. There will always be someone smarter, stronger, faster — whatever. You can only be better than yourself, yesterday. It’s progress, not a finish line. Celebrate the victories, and learn from the defeats.

That being said…


*cough* Forgive me. What I meant to say is, try not to give up too quickly. Or, in other words, give yourself a challenge. Push yourself. There is no gain in settling for mediocre. You have to get out of your comfort zone.

Surprise! It’s going to hurt for the next couple of days, but hey, so will the faces of anyone who ever doubted you. Let’s be honest: it is a little bit about that.

Speaking of which…


Another crucial step. We fight everyday to find a little bit of happiness. Why would you surround yourself with people who delight in snatching it away? Drop ’em like Holly Holm. (Sorry Ronda, still ❤ you).

And finally, to wrap that up in a bow…


I would die for my friends and family. They are my support group, my hype team, and the reality check that I need when I get too ahead of myself or when I reach for my third cupcake. They keep me grounded and remind me about what really matters in life: love.

So there you have it.

I hope this helps you in some way. It’s not always easy, but it’s not impossible. (You determine that.)

Now get up, get out there, kick some ass, take some names, and then go home, dust yourself off and give yourself a pat on the back because you fucking deserve it.

Rinse and repeat.


Love, Peace and Metal
Penny Navaraj
Makeup Artist

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