Ashley Spriggs is a 36-year-old athlete at the top of her game. She does two workouts a day, five days a week, completing grueling workouts like sand sprints and weightlifting. Her diet consists of muscle-building chicken, salads, and protein shakes. She lives, eats, and sleeps according to her strict training schedule. Her goal? To take home a medal competing in snowshoeing as she represents the U.S. in the 2017 Special Olympics World Winter Games, held March 14–25, in Austria.
This is even harder than it sounds as her hometown of Pittsburg, Kansas, doesn't get any snow. But that fact of nature doesn't deter Spriggs, who is a force of nature herself.
"We had to train in the sand," explains her coach, John Lair. "We adapted snowshoes by creating special blades so she could use them in the sand pit."
As anyone who's ever run on the beach knows, running in the sand is much harder than running on hard ground. Yet the sand workouts have become Spriggs' favorite. "I love to push myself," she says. "My goal is to be the world champion."
It wouldn't be the first big goal she's accomplished. Before she got involved in Special Olympics in 2008, she was overweight and didn't get out much. Since joining the program and committing to her training plan, she's lost an incredible 117 pounds. The weight loss has helped her in sports, but it's also given her a new sense of freedom. Because she can ride her bike across town, she is now able to work full-time at a furniture store showroom, live on her own with roommates, and still meet her coach to work out every day at 6 a.m.
"She's like a whole new person now," Lair says. "She used to be a wallflower and now she's outgoing and loves life."
Is she nervous about competing in the Special Olympics? Not really. Even though she's fiercely competitive, she says her favorite part of the upcoming Special Olympics will be getting to cheer on the other athletes—some 2,700 men and women from 107 nations. Spriggs is competing in the 100m, 200m, and 4-person relay snowshoe events.
She has some advice for anyone else trying to accomplish something hard: "Work hard, support your team, and make new friends," she says. Spriggs proves that the right attitude beats workout excuses every time.