Avery Pontell-Schaefer (aka IronAve) is a personal trainer and a two-time Ironman. If you met her, you’d think she was invincible. But for years of her life, she struggled to have confidence in her body and what it could do-simply because it was built differently.
“Growing up, I never allowed myself to think that I was an athlete,” Pontell-Schaefer tells Shape. “I was different than the girls around me. I wasn’t the skinny or toned-looking girl that people think of when they imagine someone fit.”
But Pontell-Schaefer was an athlete-a good one at that. “I was a phenomenal swimmer,” she says. “My coach literally called me ‘Ave The Wave.’ But because of my build and because I didn’t look like I was capable, I never let myself believe that I could run a 5K, let alone complete an Ironman.”
For years, Pontell-Schaefer gave into the notion that she could never be “fit” like other girls-and that her body wasn’t capable of doing tough workouts. In college, being active wasn’t a priority to her. And even into early adulthood, she says she struggled to find a workout that made sense for her. “There just wasn’t anything that I was dying to try, but I knew I wanted to start being active again,” she says.