Photo by Sincerely Gone Photography

Natalie Brock has lead a healthy and active lifestyle since she was a child, and she did not let a breast cancer diagnosis at age 35 stop her! She continued to run throughout her 20 chemotherapy treatments and 11 surgeries, and now that she is cancer free, she is working on building her strength back up, with her family at her side.

How do you live a 360life?

Staying active and eating healthy are extremely important to me. It is a lifestyle to me, not simply a diet or exercise plan. Exercise is how I relieve stress and it makes me happier in general. I often run and hike with my children. It bonds us together in a special way. After going through chemo for over a year and getting through over 10 operations in that year due to my battle with breast cancer, I truly know what a blessing being active is. I do not take it for granted. Every time I run, every time I bike, it feels like a victory over cancer.

What is your wellness mantra?

My wellness mantra is to get out and do something consistently. Fall in love with it; look forward to it. I try to challenge myself in some way each time I go out. Also, I realize and fully embrace how powerful the mind is. I believe positive thoughts are just as important to my wellness as my weekly runs and exercise routines.

 How long have you been active/competing?

I have always enjoyed being active. Whether it is playing sports, running, hiking, biking, or all of the above. I cannot think of a time when I was not involved with something physical in some way. I started running 5Ks and half marathons when I was in college at the University of Florida. That is also when I fell in love with lifting weights. I was part of a weight lifting team in college and placed in several competitions. I continued after college and became a fitness instructor at Gold’s Gym in Atlanta, Georgia. I taught there for five years until I moved back to Gainesville. Once I was back in Gainesville, I taught fitness for another six years with a company called Stretch and Grow. With that job, I was able to teach children about proper nutrition and make exercise fun for them. Now I try to lead my children and my students at Lawton Chiles Elementary by example. I love seeing my students as I run in races throughout town. They often tell me in class when they see me out running or see me riding my bike the day before. Running, hiking and biking with my family will always be one of my favorite pastimes and ways to stay active.

Please share your favorite competition/event, in detail and what it meant to you.

My favorite run to date was completing the Making Strides for Breast Cancer run through downtown Gainesville last year after beating cancer. It gave it a whole new meaning to me. I ran it with my then 15-year-old son, Justin. I will never forget crossing that finish line! We had done it together — the run and cancer. We crossed the finish hand in hand with tears streaming down my face. Funny thing was that I had actually signed up for the Dog Daze Run through Westside Park that same day. I did not want to choose between the two runs so I ran them back to back. It felt like an honor to have the ability and energy to complete them both after going through the year I had just been through.

We are so happy to hear that you are now cancer free. Can you tell us how your cancer diagnosis affected your training?

When I was first diagnosed with cancer, they told me that exercise was my biggest defense against my cancer returning. This became my goal, even more so than it already was. I chose to not let cancer, surgeries or chemotherapy be an excuse to give up or stop exercising. A goal of mine was to run at least two miles the day after each one of my chemotherapy treatments and get back to my weekly runs as soon as I could possibly manage. Sometimes it felt impossible, and it was never easy at all, but I accomplished my goal. I would run through my neighborhood bald and proud.

In December of 2016, when I was almost done with my chemotherapy regimen, I had a fellow breast cancer survivor friend invite me to join her team for a 200+ road bike ride starting in Orlando and ending all the way in Jupiter Beach. It was to benefit the Young Survival Coalition, which had helped me so much during my cancer journey. I had never been on a road bike before, but loved the idea and was excited for a new challenge. In April, alongside my team, Pretty in Pink, we completed the Tour de Pink 2017. It was a powerful experience and has given me a new love for biking. I now try to add biking into my weekly workouts as often as I can. My husband, Todd, even bought a road bike and rides with me often.  

Do you have races/ competition/events that you would like to complete on your bucket list?

My main goal is to continue to keep cancer at bay by making staying active every day a priority. I plan on riding in the YSC Tour de Pink each year. The next run I have signed up for is the Ft. De Soto 15K. My family will all camp and run the race together. My husband and daughter, Hannah, will run the 5K and my son and I will run the 15K. Again, it is a lifestyle for me, and I love how it brings the people who are most important to me all together.

What are you training for right now?

I am gradually adding in more strength training to build back up my muscle mass I lost during the past two years. Weight training is one thing that I could not continue as much as I wanted to during my treatments and surgeries. I look forward to building back up my strength as it helps me both physically and mentally with everything else I do.

What is your go-to diet?

I believe moderation is key. I eat a large amount and variety of vegetables. I drink lots of water. The more active I am, the more protein I eat. I do not restrict myself from enjoying a treat every now and then. I believe that most things in moderation are fine. I love food and cooking, and I tell my children all the time that your exercise and diet should be well balanced.

How would you encourage others to start living a 360life?

I would encourage people to find something they love to do that keeps them coming back for more. Anything that gets you outside breaking a sweat. Try to find something your family loves to do together and use it to make everyone healthier while bringing your whole family closer together.

What is your daily workout routine?

I typically run at least two times a week and bike at least 15­–20 miles a week, depending on how much time I have. I have also slowly started adding back weight and resistance training and have included at least 20 minutes of that three times a week. Rest days are important for me as well. They help me balance staying active with my family’s busy schedule.

What is the most important lesson being active has taught you?

It has taught me to never give up; to push through pain to make it to the finish line with a smile on my face. It has given me the determination I needed to overcome chemo.

What is one thing you wouldn’t compete without?

Water and positivity. I can see a drastic difference in how I feel on the days when I don’t drink enough water. When I am training, it is a must to have lots of it close at hand. Positive self-talk is one of my strengths, and it helps me achieve things that I never thought I could. Always tell yourself you can do it!

Anything else you would like to share?

I am starting a new cancer support group in Gainesville for young women going through cancer. When I was going through my journey, the closest young women’s support group was in Ocala. I drove down for it as much as I could, but the traveling made it hard with all that I was trying to juggle. Nevertheless, the group gave me continuous support. It was so powerful for me to have people that truly understood what I was going through at a young age and give me encouragement through it all.

I want to give Gainesville that opportunity. If you or someone you know has been diagnosed under the age of 40, please visit our support group’s Facebook page and message me for more information. Facebook.com/groups/GainesvilleOcalaF2F/

Favorite way to wind down from a busy week?

Movie night with the family or cuddling up with a good book.

Favorite book?

One of the most powerful and revealing books I’ve ever read was “How We Love” by Kay and Milan Yerkovich. I also love the classic “To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee. “Number the Stars” by Lois Lowry and “Charlotte’s Web” by E.B. White are two of my favorites to read to my students as well. It is so hard to pick just one!

Favorite ways to relax?

Running and then a hot Epsom salt bath.

Go-to meal/restaurant in Gainesville?

I love Loosey’s. Their fish tacos are amazing. I also crave their salads with salmon on top.