Sunday, April 15, 2012

There's something about Julie

There is a quote that is attributed to Ghandi:

"Strength is not only physical capacity, it is also having an indomitable will"

I have to say whilst I liked this quote I had never seen an example of it, until yesterday.  I was privileged to witness one of the greatest acts of pure determination & pure guts. It was so inspiring & also very moving to witness this achievement.

I was in Melbourne to watch my friend Julie Hoffmann attempt 2 world records for burpee's and in the process raise much needed money for Heartkids. The records to be attempted were:

1. Most number of burpees in 1 Minute
2. 1500 Burpees in an hour

Just for her to get to this point is a remarkable story in itself.  2 years ago she was overweight, had given up on life. She was smoking, eating & drinking herself into an early grave.  She had suffered immeasurable tragedy in her life, losing her young niece to a heart condition, her father and also her best friend in close succession.  She just couldn't take anymore.

Physically she was very much out of shape. Couldn't even walk to her mailbox which is up a slight hill.  One of her famous quotes was 'why walk when you can drive'

Then one day it all changed. She saw a photo her young daughter had taken of her and she didn't recognise the person she saw. She was horrified and decided she need to do something about it.  She registered for the Michelle Bridges 12 Week Body Transformation Program & then walked into the training gym that would change her life, Fitlife & trainer Tommy Hopkins.

She began the process of transforming not only her body but also her mind.  She has a fierce determination like no one else I have ever met.  Once she sets her sights on a goal she will not be swayed.  Over the last 2 years I have known her I have seen her smash goal after goal. Set her sights on something and then go after it. Her first 500 burpees, last May her first 1000, her weight loss goals. Time and time again she steps up and does what has to be done.

So for the last several months she has been training intensely for her latest challenge.  She put in hours in the gym with Tommy, getting her mind & body ready to perform.  She also spent hours & hours pounding the pavement looking for sponsors and donations to raise money for Heartkids.  At the end of that day that was what it was about for her.

A bit over 3 weeks ago the worst thing happened.  She got sick.  Thought it was just a cold but she took precautions and tried to slow down a little. But she kept getting sicker. Turned out she had a massive viral infection, along with an infection on her chest & sinus. She could barely move around each day let alone do any training.

But she was determined to push ahead with the challenge. There is no other person I know of that has the ability for her mind to overide her body.  I have seen it time and time again when most people would stop she just keeps pushing through

Most people would have cancelled the challenge based on how unwell they had been. But not Julie. She wanted to do it and give it everything she had.

So there we were, hundreds of people gathered in a room waiting for the moment. She arrived on stage to a rock star like reception, people clapping, cheering & yelling her name.

The siren sounded and away she went.  First goal was the most burpees in one minute. She just banged them out one after the other. Minute up and World Record 1 in the bag. 40 completed burpees in the minute. Amazing.  Short rest and back into in for the rest of the challenge.

She moved through in sets of 10/20 before taking short breaks.  Quickly the first 100 was done and she looked to be powering.  Another hundred on the board and the crowd was going nuts.  But then things started to change.

She seemed to be getting unsteady on her feet and every break was holding onto Tommy's arm.  She looked to be excessively tired.  Her rest breaks were getting longer.  The crowd continued to call her name & urge her on.

I knew that there was no way that Julie would quit, they would have to drag her off that stage for that to happen.  I knew regardless of the result she was going to keep going as hard as she could for that entire hour.  At one point the paramedic came on stage during one of her rest breaks and she wasn't looking well.

But each time she got back up and kept going. Everyone in the crowd could see she was hurting. Could see how much effort it took for her just to stand up let alone keep throwing her body onto the ground and getting up again. Over and over. The crowd started with the Hoffy, Hoffy, Hoffy chant , getting louder the more they saw her struggle.

She was having trouble focusing her eyes and you could see her looking at the huge poster of her niece Stacey and trying to draw strength.  Her family stepped up to the front of the stage and stood there encouraging her.  At one point her kids were alongside her and did 100 Burpees with her. It was amazing to watch.

The more she hurt the more she fought.  It became apparent after 30mins she wasn't going to crack the 1500 she wanted but nobody in that room cared about that. They just wanted her to keep fighting.  And fight she did.

As I stood in the crowd I must admit I had tears in my eyes, watching my good friend endure so much pain but keep fighting.  To say it was inspiring does not do it justice to the impact watching her yesterday had on me.  To see someone in that much pain, barely able to stand and focus yet keep going was incredible.  I already knew how strong, determined & outright stubborn she is but yesterday I saw a whole new level.

As the clock ticked down the final moments she seemed to lift a bit and really cranked out some fast burpees and we thought that she was a chance to get to her 1300 goal for the record.  But each time she rested it you could see the toll it was taking on her body.  But the fight never left her eyes and I know it didn't leave her heart.

When the final siren sounded she had completed 959 burpees which is no mean feat by anyone's standards.  But not what she wanted and I knew on some level she would be disappointed, regardless of the circumstances.  But not one single person in that crowd, or on facebook or twitter cared about that.  All they saw was the magnificent achievement.

She was taken straight off stage and back to her prep room for treatment.  She had IV Fluids, and oxygen. Apparently her BP was so low she should have been unconscious.  Amazing how she can defy even science to keep pushing.

After about 10mins or so she came back out to another rapturous welcome from the crowd.  The energy was incredible and totally what she deserved.

She hadn't mentioned much about her illness prior to the challenge. She didn't want people to feel sorry for her or make excuses for her. I knew how sick she had been and to see her even make the stage for that event was a miracle.  She never slowed down in the last week.  Getting last minute sponsors and all the arrangements ready for the day.  Amazing

After the event I tweeted: Some days you experience things that have the power to change the way you think and today was one such day.

And it did change the way I thought about things and what i am capable of. What it takes to achieve goals and be more than I ever thought I could.  I will use yesterday's experience to push beyond when I think I am tired or can't do more.  Because I know that my mind is stronger than I believe and I need to work on training it to work harder.

So even when Julie's physical capacity had diminished it was her indomitable will that kept her going right until the end.  I can think of no better illustration of that quote.

Thank you Julie for being the incredible person you are and for showing us all what can be achieved when you put your mind to it.  I'm lucky to count you as a friend & have you in my corner.

As a footnote her original fundraising goal was $18,000.  As at the time of writing the final tally was over $50,000. Bloody amazing and there are so many kids that will benefit from her incredible efforts.  


  1. thank you for taking the time to write this. and thank you to Julie for giving us such amazing inspiration.

  2. Inspirational! An amazing woman! xx

  3. i struggle with one burpee not 500 and so
    you rock SUPERWOMEN

  4. So much guts, so much determination. You're a legend, Julie Hoffman!

  5. This story put a tear in my eye and inspiration in my heart. Julie Hoffman - you are amazing and you have a great friend here who did a fantastic job writing this story. xx