Former Entertainment Exec. Finds New Path as Triathlon Instagram Influencer
Christina Ekonomi shares her story of how triathlon training helped her conquer anxiety and create a new career path
Christina Ekonomi isn’t afraid to put it all out there. As an Insta-celebrity, triathlete, mom, wife, and influencer, she shares her personal and triathlon journey daily with her 35K+ followers. Christina told us it wasn’t always this way. Before triathlon, she spent 10 years in the entertainment industry, working unsustainable hours in a high-pressure environment. The demands were too great and they weighed heavily on her – she burned out in 2010.
Riddled with anxiety and panic attacks, Christina took up running as a way to improve her mental health. It helped so much that she began running every day with a friend. After entering a few races purely for fun, Christina ran her first half marathon, and upon finishing, knew that this was the beginning of a long journey with endurance sports. She was hooked. Her husband, a cyclist, encouraged her to get a triathlon bike and in 2011 she completed her first triathlon.
Combating Anxiety with Triathlon Training
Christina fully credits the improvement of her mental health to the structured training that the sport provides.
“Prioritizing yourself is its own skill,” she said. “No one is going to tell you to take less time at work or carve out time to exercise. It’s up to you to create that for yourself.”
She is still pulled in a dozen directions but has since learned how to balance it all. Establishing clear communication with her husband, as well as checks and balances to prevent her from overworking have been instrumental.
“Awareness of training time in comparison to other parts of life is key,” Christina said. “You can’t be all about just one thing.”
She has designated Sunday as her official day off. That’s right, no training on Sundays. Ever.
An Accidental Triathlon Influencer
Christina began sharing her fitness journey on Instagram in 2016 as a means to meet and interact with other athletes. What started as a fun way to connect with others has now become a regular part of her daily routine.
Her honest, open and consistent online presence resonated with her audience, particularly other mothers. She also soon discovered that posting every day created a layer of accountability for her training. If she didn’t train, she couldn’t share.
Around this time, Christina had also joined a national triathlon team with a large social media following. The group provided her with a sense of community and extended her reach to other athletes. She would regularly meet other members at races, exchange training tips, and attend group events.
Christina has since grown her social media presence to almost 40,000 followers on Instagram. She now dedicates a set amount of time each day to create inspiring social media content that encourages others to get active.
Building Mental Strength
Exercise and yoga have helped align her mind, body and spirit. This mental strength cultivated through her yoga practice has been instrumental in her success in endurance sports. It has taught her how to maintain a long-term perspective when things get tough.
“It’s all about connecting your mind and body together, recognizing your thoughts for what they are, and being able to let it go and get past negativity,” Christina said.
While it may seem counterintuitive, Christina also believes in the power of stopping.
When struggling to get through a workout she’ll give herself the option to stop… yes you heard right, she gives herself the opportunity to quit.
Christina will tell herself, “You only have to do 15 minutes then, if you want to get off you can,” or “Let me get to that stop sign, then I’ll reassess.” 9 times out of 10 the option to stop has the opposite effect, allowing her to take on the workout in chunks and keeps her going.
“I’ve done six-hour trainer rides where I did not want to get on at the start but eventually got myself there by giving myself the option to stop,” she said.
Accountability has also helped Christina build the mental stamina to compete in triathlons. Posting on social media every day helps Christina feel accountable to her followers. The encouragement of her husband and kids also helps her find the motivation to train each day.
Debunking Triathlon Myths
Completing a triathlon may seem like an insurmountable challenge to a lot of people. Christina believes that part of the reason so many people think triathlons are unattainable is because of their association with the the long course races like Ironman. The full Ironman is an intimidating 140.6 miles, whereas the half, Olympic and sprint distances are much more achievable. (see more in our guide to triathlon distances)
Christina readily admits that it took her a long time to work up to the 70.3 distance. She spent a lot of time running in local races and recommends joining a local triathlon community to learn the ropes.
In her early days, Christina trained with the Santa Barbara Tri Club. Starting small, she says, is key to positive assimilation into the sport. Starting with a sprint is a great way to gain triathlon experience.
Once you’ve learned how to train and have a greater appreciation for the physical demands of the sport you can slowly increase distance.
Today, Christina has her sights set on her first full Ironman in 2022.
Christina’s AG Tips & Lessons Learned:
- Triathlon, like many things in life, can become all consuming if you let it. It’s important to have balance across the full spectrum of your life.
- Start small and work your way up. You don’t need to jump into the deep end and immediately train for a full Ironman. Getting your, er, feet wet with shorter races is the best way to have a positive experience entering the sport.
- Mental strength can come from the power of choice. Doing something because you “choose to” do it instead of “have to” do it. Giving yourself the option to stop can open more potential than you think.