#ThisIsActive Interview with Inspiring Plus Size Triathlete Olivette Oliver

Our #ThisIsActive Q+As are part of an ongoing series to show how plus size women live their active lives. Share your active life with us on social media by using #ThisIsActive.

When she’s not in the pool or gym, Olivette Oliver has worked in Program and Project Management in the media and non-profit sectors. She has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show, 20/20 and The Charles Perez Show. She is now focusing exclusively on championing the concept of a plus size, active lifestyle. She is available for interviews, writing, content help, reporting, public and corporate speaking and brand ambassadorship, and can be reached via her website.

1. What inspired you to start participating in triathlons?

In the fall of 2013, I was laid off from my job. I found myself over 50, divorced, out of work and in ill health. One day my doctor told me I would die young if I didn’t get back to being active. So, I began doing the one sport I loved all my life – swimming. I swam to regain my health and to get strong enough to ride a bike. Some of my swim mates were triathletes and I thought how much I would love to say one day that “I am a triathlete.” The only problem was, I hated running. Seriously hated running. Hated running so much that even though I was on the Track and Field team in high school and college, I only participated and excelled in the field part – shotput and discus. I added “Being a Triathlete” to my bucket list of life and wondered if there were women out there who looked like me and were active athletes. I found support groups on Facebook through my swim mates and began participating in Virtual Iron(wo)man challenges. You have a full month to complete the challenge consisting of 2.4 miles’ swim, 112 miles’ bike and 26.2 miles run/walk. It took four months of practice but the day I swam 3 miles without stopping, in one day is the day I knew I could be a triathlete. The months I swam over 90 miles in 22 days and received First Place in swim medals was the day I decided to participate in triathlons.

2. Why is living an active lifestyle important to you?

Being active daily has saved my life on more than one occasion. The day I swam my first mile without stopping, I was hit by a driver who ran a red light. My injuries were severe and my recovery took over 18 months. I know in my heart if I was not active and in great shape before the accident I would have been dead. Last year after a 10-mile training ride, I had a stroke in my sleep. The left side of my body did not work and I thought my active life would be over. I had to enter onsite rehabilitation and I was told it could take 6 months to 1 year to recover. I recovered in 30 days. I entered rehabilitation with three men and a wheelchair and walked out 30 days later on my own two feet! Being strong and healthy no matter what your size is insurance against adversity.

Olivette Oliver playing basketball in high school.
Olivette scoring a basket at one of her many high school games.

3. What advice do you have for plus size/curvy women who want to start being active but don’t quite know where to begin?

Remember that you are being active for the joy of movement and to make yourself happy. You are doing this for you and no one else. Look for support groups on Facebook and within your local community. You are not alone in your quest. A supportive group dynamic can work wonders on your outlook and give you the motivation you need to reach your goals. Set a few rules to live by while you are active. These are mine:

  • See failure as a beginning—not an end.
  • If you don’t go after it, you won’t have it.
  • Always do more than is expected of you.
  • Assume nothing and question everything.
  • Make peace with the past, begin enjoying the present, and the future will take care of itself.
  • Never, ever compare yourself to others.
  • Teach others what you know.

4. What’s your greatest accomplishment in your active lifestyle?

Surviving a near fatal car accident, surviving a crippling stroke and losing 200 pounds without gastric bypass surgery, bands, staples, balloons, or any other body altering mechanism. I have 100 pounds left to go and I can see myself running for miles once I hit my goal weight and peak of health. Maintaining an active lifestyle makes me feel invincible and able to survive and accomplish anything!

5. How did you feel after committing to training for a triathlon and beginning an active lifestyle in general?

Mentally, I feel more focused and my days of procrastination are over. It takes excellent time management skills to commit to a training schedule, eat better and have a personal life. Physically, I enjoy pushing myself to limits I never dreamed of. I never thought I could leg press 100 pounds, but I am working my way back to my personal best record of 556 pounds. I like the expression on the faces of individuals when they watch me work out and whisper that this “big girl” can lift/swim/spike/bike/score.” Most of all, this baby boomer wants to spread the word through speaking engagements that women over 50 are active, vibrant, and full of life. Also, I have given up on the “Rat Race of Life.” No more 14-16 hour workdays in sedentary career positions. I truly believe I can sustain myself and make a living in the active lifestyle. First step is getting a sponsor for my first Sprint Triathlon in 2018!

6. What is your favorite JunoActive piece to wear while exercising?

I ALWAYS wear the Juno QuikEnergy™ Plus Size Front Zip Aquatard for competition. The quality of the suits is amazing and they are truly chlorine and drag resistant. I also like the color blocking with colors other than black!  It is great to find a quality competition suit in a size 5x and 6x. For training I always wear either the Aqua Sport Easy Zip Swimsuit or the AquaSport Crossback Tank Suit. The colors are great and they make my curves stand out in a crowd. I hope (and pray) Junonia will make a full-length triathlon suit for outdoor water swimming. I HATE having to evaluate men suits because I am 6’3” tall and wear a size 6X. Also, PLEASE bring back your motivational tee shirts with LIVE, LOVE, LAUGH on the back and your full-length tank top leotard in sizes up to 6X. I brought two of each piece and wore out one shirt and one leotard. They were just perfect for volleyball and biking and the tee-shirts were inspirational and motivational. I know these pieces are what you would call “vintage” (lol), but they were one-of-a-kind and even today you can’t find the quality in activewear for women who are my size.