Ambassador Spotlight: Lani Woods
Name: Lani Woods
Location: Compton, CA
How long have you been an ambassador? Since July 2021
Favorite Athletic beer: Upside Dawn
Black With Endurance podcast: @blackwithendurance and www.blackwithendurance.com
Lani Woods sees opportunity everywhere.
As an urban adventurer based out of Los Angeles, the city is her playground. A flight of stairs, a long stretch of sidewalk, a tree branch -- these are things many people overlook, but for Lani, it’s an opportunity to train.
“Not a lot of people do a lot of adventurous things out here. I see people in different states going hiking and rafting and mountain biking and mountain climbing, and people out here don’t do that. We don’t have a lot of access to those things, but we kind of do -- in different ways. So I’ll take my kids hiking and on little adventures. Because for one, it’s free. I see it as a good way of bonding with the kids. And it’s another way of challenging myself, I’ll do random pull-ups on a tree or on a street sign, climbing crazy things. Just finding ways to just be active in the city.”
Lani is a natural at obstacle course racing, or OCR, but a leg injury recently kept her off the course. Through that process, though, she’s discovered her love of endurance sports like triathlon and cycling. She completed her first century ride in August and is looking forward to many more.
She’s also the founder of the Black with Endurance podcast, a show that shares the accomplishments of BIPOC endurance athletes.
“I created Black with Endurance in 2019 during the pandemic when I was searching for sports without so much impact and learned about triathlon and everything. I saw the lack of diversity and realized I really didn’t know about these sports that much because where I live, basketball, football and track are the big things, that’s what they push you toward. I was like: I would really love to do this. Running, swimming and cycling ... Why is this not more known about?”
Through competing in multiple sports, accomplishing an ever-growing list of achievements and inspiring her community across the world with her podcast, Lani's influence continues to grow. Read on to learn more about her story and how she lives, trains and competes without compromise.
Tell me a little bit about your background in sports/activities, what are some of your favorite ways to stay active?
My background in sports and activities is odd, because as a kid I didn’t play sports in school. I started running as a teenager because that’s what was available to me. And I realized it made me feel good as I was going through things, so I kind of used it as a coping mechanism. I’ve always maintained a gym membership but never played a sport.
I got introduced to Spartan, or OCR [obstacle course racing] in 2019. From there, I did some expo series events and a couple of races, and then I broke my leg at a race, which took me about 15 months to recover from because I had 3 surgeries.
During that time, I learned about triathlon and other endurance sports that are low impact on your knees, like cycling. This year I have been exploring those sports. I completed my first triathlon in July, and I completed two century rides in August. And that’s about where we’re at.
I’ve heard you refer to yourself as an urban adventurer. Can you tell me about how and why that came about?
I live in the city, and I’ve always lived in Los Angeles or southern California. Not a lot of people do a lot of adventurous things out here. I see people in different states going hiking and rafting and mountain biking and mountain climbing, and people out here don’t do that. We don’t have a lot of access to those things, but we kind of do -- in different ways.
So I’ll take my kids hiking and on little adventures. Because for one, it’s free. I see it as a good way of bonding with the kids. And another way of challenging myself, I’ll do random pull-ups on a tree or on a street sign, climbing crazy things. Just finding ways to just be active in the city.
It’s got to be a little bit harder, right, because you have to be a little bit more creative with it.
Yeah, because before, when I first moved to this area, I didn’t have a car, so we would have to take the train. I found different stairs in the city, and we would go run the stairs and just make a day of it. Then we Started going to the beach where they have ropes and rings to climb, so I started playing on those. That’s kind of where I got the interest in obstacle course racing.
Tell me about your podcast, Black with Endurance.
I created Black with Endurance in 2019 during the pandemic when I was searching for sports without so much impact and learned about triathlon and everything. I saw the lack of diversity and realized I really didn’t know about these sports that much, didn't hear about them because where I live, basketball, football and track are the big things, that’s what they push you toward. I was like, I would really love to do this. Running, swimming and cycling ... Why is this not more known about?
I realized there are a lot of athletes in that space that are black that don’t get highlighted or we that don’t know about because there are other athletes that are being highlighted that might be better. So I figured I'd create a platform to highlight these athletes that don’t get that. Not the top A list or professional athletes, just the person that’s just starting out, or the person that’s been doing it for years, or just decides to run 45 miles for their 45th birthday. These endurance athletes that don’t quite get that shine. It’s not like I have a huge platform but it’s something.
We just started doing interviews on Instagram live to be more consistent and get more people’s stories out there. It’s growing, and the Instagram page is growing. And we are trying to expand into other parts as well, like creating endurance wear for athletes.
How did you find Athletic Brewing?
I’ve seen it a lot of places online and at events. I’m not really a beer drinker. But during my [injury] recovery in the pandemic, I fell into a depression, and I started drinking more than I would have liked to. I had a friendship that seemed to be based on a kind of trauma bond. We would get together and drink, then we would argue. I wanted to stop that cycle.
I reached out to Mike Shipp [Athletic Brewing's Maryland and Washington, D.C. territory manager] who I know off of Instagram who interviewed me for his podcast [Perfect Timing Multisport] and asked him about it. He sent me two cases [of beer]. Then I started supplementing it, and instead of drinking what I was drinking, I started drinking one of those when I would hang out with my friend and when I was training. I just felt better that way. I liked not having the hangover, and not going to the gym hungover. I'm not a person that just stopped drinking, but I have cut down significantly.
Why did you apply to become an ambassador? What was it about the program or the company that made you want to apply?
There are so many companies that are doing so many things. I really like what Athletic Brewing was about and what they bring to athletes in general. When I go to an event and I don’t want to drink, my friends look at me crazy sometimes. And it shouldn’t be like that but it is. To have another option, have something in your hand, or instead of having to say no -- I like that. And I like the fact that you are giving back -- when I see you guys at all these different events and introducing people to this option, I liked it, and I wanted to be a part of that community and meet more people, more athletes that were in the same boat.
So what are some of your proudest achievements (athletic or not)?
Two of my proudest achievements are my kids. I love them to death. I completed my bachelor’s in March. Competing on Ninja Warrior was a good one. It was a dream come true. I did not get to be on the actual show but just the experience was great. Completing my first century ride was big for me. To go from crutches to riding 100 miles on a bike was something that was one of my best athletic achievements to date.
What is a bucket list event or race that you’d love to compete in?
A lot! I want to do the World’s Toughest Race. It’s an adventure race, another thing I’m trying to get into. I want to eventually try an IRONMAN or half IRONMAN. And then I just learned of an event called World’s Toughest Mudder as well, so, I was like um, that’s down the line but I will definitely do it. And then I promised [my friend] Amy that I would do a [Spartan] Death Race, so I have to do that. It’s scary to think about it! But it is a challenge. So it scares me, so now I have to do it.
How has the ambassador program helped you in your professional, personal or athletic endeavors?
I really like the #AthleticCheckIn on Monday. To be able to share what you did for the week and have a supportive community. It encourages me to do more and to share more in that way. It keeps us engaged. And the different challenges. There’s accountability there.
What does living without compromise mean to you?
It means never settling for being less than my best self, or as good as I can be. Like when I was drinking more and going to the gym hungover, I wouldn’t get a good workout or I was risking harming myself, and I knew I could do better than that. And not compromising my fitness for a party or hanging out because it’s important to me to be able to be active and present and not injure myself. Because then you’re stuck sitting at home.
What’s your favorite recovery food?
I am a hamburger connoisseur. I really like build-your-own burger-type places where I can go pick the meat and pick the toppings. But I also don’t mind going to a restaurant and trying their bacon cheeseburger or whatever they’ve got.
What do you like to do on your rest days?
Hiking with the kids is rest day for me. Or relaxing by the beach. I love to just lounge and watch the sunset. That’s something I’ve been doing a lot this year.
What gets you up and out of bed every day?
Other than my kids … honestly, my goals. The past few weeks when I was training for the century ride, I was excited to get up and jump on the bike. Right now I’ve done that and I’m in between goals, I’m not as excited as I was a few weeks ago, but I do have another goal I have to work toward, so I have to work on that. My next goal is to ride from San Francisco to San Diego.
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