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Bernadette Schimnowski-Rosen (My 10 YEAR TRI-FITNESS JOURNEY)

By Bernadette Schimnowski-Rosen

Photography by:  Ed Johnston, Greg VanderWel, Marianne Johnston, Sarah J. Porreca, R. Schaff,  Anne S. Boyko

My mom’s nickname was Sunshine as she always made each day of my life seem brighter.  In 1998, I read an article in Oxygen Magazine about a Fitness Challenge which included an obstacle course.  Wow, how cool would that be, I thought.  Unfortunately, I was in marriage at the time where there was no support.  As my mom became sicker with cancer, she made me promise I would do this competition, the Tri-Fitness Challenge.   She believed in overcoming obstacles, but unfortunately, she couldn’t overcome her cancer-ridden body, no matter how hard she tried.  I promised her I would one day make it to Las Vegas to challenge myself in this event.

The only thing we had in Winnipeg, Manitoba was a fitness organization that included a figure round, as well as a fitness routine.  As I was competing in this organization, the president  told me that if I went to the States and competed I would be barred.  In 2004 I contacted Al Rosen, Tri-Fitness president, via email about competing and about the barring that other organizations impose on other competitors and he laughed.  He explained Tri-Fitness welcomes everyone and doesn’t care if one competes in anything else.  I started thinking:  I am being controlled in my marriage and even the organization where I have been competing is also trying to control me;  wow, I finally found someone who doesn’t want to control me.  I really needed to do this! Since it was in Las Vegas and my ex was a gambler, he informed me that if I did away with protein and the internet then he  would allow me to compete.  It was July 2004 and little did I know at that point my whole life was about to change.

“little did I know at that point my whole life was about to change.”

When I boarded my flight to Las Vegas, Bob Kennedy and Tosca Reno were on the plane as they too were headed to the Tri-Fitness event.  The Tri-Fitness event was held at the Monte Carlo, but I was told I had to stay at the Luxor about a mile down the strip.  When I went to the registration, I was made to feel very welcome and couldn’t believe how all the athletes (more than 200 of them) were so friendly!  At the athletes’ meeting, Al Rosen addressed the entire group and I was able to see how passionate he was about the event.   I thought to myself, how proud my mom would be of me.  There I was, an elementary school teacher of 45 kindergarten children from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada sitting in a room with such great fitness athletes.


The next morning, I walked, by myself, down the strip to the Grace & Physique event; I was awed by how the stage at the Lance Burton Theater looked so elegant and large.  I made it through the Grace & Physique event as I thought of Sunshine and I couldn’t wait until we went out to the Obstacle Course on that Friday night (even though my total training preparation was only my school’s monkey bars and running through some tires).   The first obstacle on the course was the 10 foot wall and I took a penalty since I couldn’t get over it; the next major obstacle was the incline- decline monkey bars with 16 rungs.  I dedicated each rung to one of my 13 siblings plus my  mom and dad and saved number 16 for me.  I made it through, but slow isn’t the word as I double grabbed each bar (with a smile on my face).


Next I climbed up the cargo net and stepped over it (most people flipped over) but it didn’t matter (I was over it).  I made it through the course, ok so I knocked over the under bar and over bar but I did made it through!  My time: One minute and fifty four seconds!  I was in the bottom 10% but it didn’t really matter, because I crossed the finish line!  My ex then said, let’s go, you embarrassed me. I said but I can run it again, yet he wouldn’t let me. The next day, I competed in the bench press, shuttle run and box jumps (oh well, I got last place in box jumps despite being a good jumper since my days as a high school point guard in basketball).


In my heart, I knew I had to escape my dysfunctional marriage of 17 years.  I had found a new home in Tri-Fitness.  I competed the following year (2005) in Tampa and went back to Vegas in 2006.  By the fall of 2006, I was separated and decided to do a camp in Tampa to actually learn the Tri-Fitness the correct way from the expert himself, Al Rosen.  Little did I know,  October 6, 2006 would be a special day.  Within one hour and 20 minutes of practice, I was able to fly over the wall, flip over the net, and actually learn how to run hurdles.  The following weekend was the Fall Challenge and I did the Obstacle Course in one minute twelve seconds.  In addition, I found someone (Al Rosen), who truly believed in me. A friendship/relationship followed and on October 10, 2010 (10-10-10) we were married!


My passion for Tri-Fitness grew even more as our lives evolved around all the athletes.  Each time a new girl or guy starts, I tell them of where I started in 2004 – dead last on box jumps!  On November 16, the Tri-Fitness held it’s Sunshine State Challenge in Tampa.  Despite the threat of rain, the event went on as scheduled.  The first event became the Box Jumps (in 2004 my time was 1 minute and 46 seconds) and I accomplished them (50 jumps) in 36.3 seconds (perfect score is 37.5).  As it was raining (forecast of 80% chance of rain all day) my brother James, sister Anne, texted me and said “Sunshine will stop the rain, everyone will run the course.” As soon as the last competitor did their box jumps, Coach  Al declared: “Everyone on the field, it has stopped raining and we will go for it (the Obstacle Course)!”  After I ran (did a 53.6 seconds), I was able to cheer on all the new athletes and tell them my story.


My time held up for first place as did my time in the True Grit.  Some of the new people asked me when was the last time I won this event.  Never…the last time I won an event was a 3rd grade spelling bee!  But, to be honest, the smile on my face was the same as it was in 2004 when I was last.  When I was last, I still felt the Power of Accomplishment, as I did now being first.


What is Tri-Fitness?  It is an event which empowers people.  It makes people believe that they can do anything they put their heart and mind to.  Al Rosen convinces 60 year old women to flip over nets, jump on boxes, and dive roll over 40 inch bars.  Why….because he knows they can.  It is an event which has changed my life and it can change anyone’s life.   During the past 10 years of competing I have encountered many obstacles including:  vicious divorce, immigration problems due to my ex husband’s control, my dad’s death, diverticulitis prior to an event, shingles, lump in breast (surgery) and being diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease.  But, I keep telling myself that life is just like the obstacle course – keep on attacking each one and stay positive.   I have every intention of improving my performance despite any obstacle which might stand in my way and I encourage others to do the same!


I will continue training with intensity and use clean eating (stay away from foods with hormones, antibiotics, etc) and using my Advocare Sports Performance Supplements.  I’ve learned that you can’t control the wind, only the direction of your sails. I think, how did I, a 45 year old woman from the prairies of Winnipeg accomplish the Tri-Fitness Challenge?  The answer is:  Believe you can, fear no obstacles and have some Sunshine looking down on you!


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