Sweat Equity

Meet a few Miami fitness warriors balancing the duties of everyday life with the joys of participating in the sports they love.
Words by Bianca Sproul | Photos by Edward Leal | June 26, 2024 | People

Good Sport

When he was a kid, Thomas Shrader was involved in just about every sport under the sun. Today, he focuses his physical fitness on a mix of strength training, distance running and basketball. “My workout schedule is pretty stacked,” he says. After graduating college, he relocated to Miami to launch his career and quickly embraced the city’s opportunities to stay active. Now, after several marathons and events like the Dopey Challenge at Disney (consisting of 4 races in 4 days totaling 48.6 miles), he anticipates pushing his limits in other tropical locales, including the Hawaii Marathon later this year. “The best tip I could offer someone just starting out in their fitness journey is to be as consistent as possible,” he says. “You’ll soon notice a difference in how you feel that will propel you forward and keep you motivated to continue improving and reaching the next level of your fitness goals.”

Going The Distance

An active member of Brickell Run Club since its inception, Verena Koefler has not only completed the Miami Marathon an impressive 14 consecutive times and participated in other local races, she also takes a whopping 5.5 million steps a year! “I just turned 50 and being active keeps me young and healthy,” she says.” I want to continue running in the Miami Marathon until I clinch First Place in my age group!” As a personal trainer and fitness instructor leading around 10 classes weekly, Koefler actively participates in each session. “It keeps me mentally and emotionally strong, slows down aging and keeps me active in the community,” she says. Beyond her teaching commitments, she advocates for trying diverse fitness formats and finding joy in group activities to maintain accountability. “Consistency is paramount for achieving lasting lifestyle changes,” she says.

Passionate Pursuits

A jack-of-all trades when it comes to testing limits, Gustavo Medina believes that his passion for physical and mental self-discipline fuels his energy to master new skateboard tricks, explore snowboarding terrain and excel in freestyle motocross. Balancing his active lifestyle with his work as a tattoo artist at Inked South Beach and as the founder of the action sports eyewear brand Switch Optics never feels like a chore. “Do it for fun and it will never feel like work,” he says. A true believer of the magic in movement, Medina sponsors after-school sports youth programs, instilling the values of nurturing the body and spirit to the next generation. “Developing your self-respect and sense of discipline comes with maintaining your physical appearance,” he says. “Enjoy the process of becoming a new and improved version of yourself.”

Community Effect

Rising and shining every morning at 5 a.m., Jennifer Heegaard begins each day pumping iron and sweating bullets alongside her super squadron of fellow workout aficionados. A member of a CrossFit gym and a body sculpting group, she advises the fitness-curious to start their journey by seeking a support team and focusing on proper nutrition. While the intense environment might seem intimidating, Heegaard points out the addictive feeling of community. “The camaraderie you experience with fellow competitors makes it all worthwhile,” she says. She takes it a step further with Sereniti Foundation, a nonprofit she and her husband, Andres Franco, launched to help individuals empower themselves with health, wellness and spirituality. She hopes to encourage others, as her team has supported her, to pursue their personal and mental goals to yield a more enriched life.

Intuitive Mindset

After exploring the world from China to Mexico, Barbara Boller arrived in Miami ready to embark on the next chapter of her life. As a child, she participated in every sport offered at school — from gymnastics and dance to basketball, track and volleyball. She struggled with low self-esteem, which worsened when she landed in the modeling world. After years of extreme diets and excess exercise, she adopted an intuitive approach. “As kids, we learn what’s healthy, but not specifically why we need protein or carbs,” she says. Today, she uses a workout app to customize her daily routine each morning, playing her favorite playlists to stay motivated. She encourages others to find what works best for them. “The greatest part of being fit is the endorphins you experience after a great workout, and the strength you have for daily activities,” she says. “There’s endless options you can choose from to make your wellness journey enjoyable.”