By Jill Farr
To say that Chapin Schnick was “active” growing up is an understatement.
“In high school, I played volleyball, soccer, basketball, and softball, and I swam,” Chapin says. “And then I played college softball.”
For many people who are athletes in high school and college, finding the time and energy to be the level of active they were in their youth is difficult; the pressure of getting a job and maintaining an adult life takes a big chunk out of the time formerly devoted to sports. But Chapin stayed athletic.
“I dabbled in things after college, CrossFit, running.” Chapin says. “I stayed active. Even during a time when I was overweight, I was still running marathons.”
Some big events altered that trajectory, however.
“After two consecutive miscarriages and a debilitating wreck,” Chapin says, “I took an extended break from the gym and enjoyed a few years where I just focused on being a rainbow-wearing, donut-eating art teacher my students loved.”
“In a sense, this was excellent, because it helped my career. I came out of it with a few important grants, including the inaugural InstaGrant from the Indiana Arts Commission, I presented at national conferences, and was named the 2018 Indiana Art Educator of the Year. My mental and physical health suffered, though.”
This time, Chapin took a different route back to fitness.
“In the spring of 2018, I began taking weekly hot yoga classes and going on backpacking trips with DNK Presents, a women-owned adventure company, which led into a summer of camping road trips. Coupled with a focus on intermittent fasting, I finally felt like me again. In addition to now working for the Indiana Arts Commission (IAC), I’m training to be a guide with DNK Presents.”
Instead of an intense, regimented workout schedule, Chapin’s fitness life is more organic.
“I focus on yoga and hiking, and natural movement in general,” Chapin relates. “Along with metabolic conditioning. If I have an upcoming hike, I’m preparing for it. I’m usually just focused on trying to get 30 minutes of activity, whether it’s weights, kettlebell exercises, or whatever. Today I did double unders..it varies.”
Another shot in the arm for Chapin’s fitness life has been Camp GORGO.
“I had been following Val Solomon on social media, along with Christie NIx, about six years ago, when it came up on FB that they were going to do a lifting workshop, and it was at my parents' gym. I was so excited to see it happening, and then after that they announced that Camp GORGO was happening in the same area. I’ve gone to every single camp since.”
“It’s not even so much the workout experience for me, anymore...I came out of the first camp with friendships and more of a holistic view of fitness. Every summer since has been about catching up with these women, setting new goals...I literally can’t imagine my year without a Camp GORGO in it.”
Chapin gives yoga a lot of credit for bringing her back into the fitness fold.
“For about six months,” Chapin explains, “After the accident, I did nothing aside from the occasional walk. Yoga was what brought me back to the point of being able to get active again.”
Yoga is deceptively simple, and good exercise for someone who needs a gentle fitness beginning...but it’s also a very intense workout that can level up as your strength and ability increases. Studies have shown that there are several reasons why it has such a positive impact on the people who practice it, but Chapin has her own opinion.
“The reason I think it appealed to me so much--after having basically destroyed my shoulder in this car accident--was the notion that it’s infinitely accessible. People following the same flow can have very different abilities. I may not be able to do this intense version someone else is, but I can do it where I am, and get benefit.”
In addition to its gentle on ramp for beginners, yoga has the potential to build incredible strength, and Chapin has seen that, too.
“For the last two summers of Camp GORGO,” she says, “I’d only done yoga and hiking, going in, but was keeping up with everyone. I hadn’t picked up a weight for two years. It blew my mind.”
The mind/body connection can be experienced with any activity, but yoga’s origins give it a leg up, since it was designed with that symbiosis in mind.
“I always come out feeling relaxed,” Chapin says. “I prefer hot yoga and one of the reasons is that I just feel cleansed. It’s about more than the activity. Being into yoga for the last couple of years has gotten me into understanding chakras and things like Reiki. I always thought Reiki was crazy stuff, and now I participate in Reiki massage. It’s opened my eyes to more.”
Chapin’s love for hiking developed out of necessity, and is fed by the meditative quality of having the great outdoors as your gym.
“The hiking focus came about when I was prepping for some camping trips,” Chapin shares.
“I knew we were going to be carrying 60lb backpacks, so I got into it. I’d avoided the outdoors for a while, but this got me back outside. As with yoga, I feel renewed afterwards. Now I’m an assistant backpacking guide for a women’s outdoors company. In October we’re going to Tennessee, we’ll have a bunch of beginner backpackers --women--and we’ll teach them about no trace ethics, safety, and how to poop in the woods!”
“I had always felt like, coming out of being a competitive athlete, that I need to keep up with running, I need to keep up with lifting, but I don’t feel the stress of needing to have a certain type of movement any more. I’m trying to honor my body, and if I feel like moving my body a certain way, I do. I don’t feel the need to have a certain structure with having to have four lifting workouts that last a minimum of an hour...my only focus is four days with 30 minutes of activity.”
When you look at the pattern of Chapin’s activity, going from the highly competitive mindset of organized sports, to the Zen end of the spectrum, with hiking and yoga, you might wonder if a part of her misses the competition. She wondered about that, herself, and the answer might not be what you’d expect.
“I thought I would feel lost, not having competitions coming up. When I had the wreck, I was training for a powerlifting competition. That hasn’t interested me since. And it’s freeing in a way. I spent probably 25 ish years always trying to focus on being the best at some pursuit, or supporting other team members, and now I just feel like...I’m just trying to be good to my body.”
And as far as the team aspect of sports being gone, Chapin says that she’s found the fix for that in Camp GORGO, with even more of the support, and none of the competition.
“I feel like a lot of folks coming to Camp Gorgo believe it’s going to be the opposite of what it is. They think, “Oh, it’s a fitness camp with all of these influencer types...everyone’s going to be catty...it’s going to be competitive, focused on looks...it’s the opposite. I actually feel so relaxed at Camp GORGO. We’re all trying to be the healthiest versions of ourselves. It’s freeing to be around women who have similar goals.”
The ability to listen to what your body needs and honor it as life changes those needs is the big message that Chapin believes her story holds. And that adaptability has served her well in finding happiness and contentment with the changes she’s had to navigate.
“I spent more than 25 years thinking being a mother was the one thing I was certain I was meant to be,” Chapin says.
“But as I close in on 34, I am happily content with my handsome hubby and our three furry boys, my goal of 30-min. of movement most days of the week, and supporting fellow artists and arts organizations in Indiana through my position at the IAC.”