Wonder Woman at Heart: Leslie Barber’s Fit After Fifty Story

by Alison McIrvin
Leslie Silver biking in a Wonder Woman costume

Although she may look like your typical American woman, Leslie Barber is anything but! In fact, word on the street is that she is secretly Wonder Woman incognito. Her story will convince you that the rumor is true.

A former high school and collegiate athlete with school records to her name in basketball and track and field, Leslie stayed active and strong until a college knee injury sidelined her. After that point, she was less active physically and began to gain weight. Soon, graduate school, her career, marriage, and then children began to push out time for activities.

Finally, at age 37, her sister dared her to complete a triathlon. It was only a few months away, but Leslie took up the challenge and began training for the Danskin women’s sprint triathlon.

She realized that she loved cross-training and was a natural at swimming, running, and cycling. None of her old injuries bothered her and the weight began to melt off due to the training and Weight Watchers. Leslie was hooked and true to her secret Wonder Woman alter ego. She completed four triathlons that year alone!

[Related: Guide to Weight Loss for Baby Boomers]

Leslie biking with Mount Rainier in the background
Leslie realized how much she enjoyed biking after beginning to train for a triathlon at 37.

Over the next few years, Leslie completed dozens of triathlons, 10Ks, and half marathons. Some of her accomplishments include Olympic Distance Triathlons and half Ironman Triathlons, as well as two 25K trail running events. Leslie has also completed endurance cycling rides such as the Ride Around Mount Rainier in One Day (RAMROD) and the Seattle to Portland (STP) bike rides. In other words, Leslie seems to be attracted to events at the Wonder Woman level.

Of all the associations she’s involved in, Leslie is proudest of her role as an ambassador for the LUNA Chix organization, for which she teaches other women how to train for complete triathlons. Given the accomplishments that Leslie has under her belt, we imagine that she’s a pretty successful ambassador.

Reading her list of successes, it would be easy to assume that Leslie hasn’t experienced any bumps along the way. However, her list of challenges almost competes with her list of accomplishments:

  • A serious bike accident resulting in cervical spine surgery
  • Torn ankle ligaments
  • Sprained shoulders, ankles, wrists, and other key body parts
  • Metabolic syndrome

Clearly, one of these lists has come out the winner. Being fit is the only possible outcome!

“Exercise is what keeps me mentally stable.”

Of all her challenges, metabolic syndrome has been the toughest. Leslie’s weight began to creep up despite her incredible training level and a solid approach to nutrition. It took years to diagnose, but with the help of Seattle Performance Medicine, Leslie was able to figure it out and come up with a treatment plan that is addressing the issue, albeit more slowly than she would like.

Leslie smiling and holding a metal from a race
Leslie holds herself accountable by signing up and paying for races in advance.

“Exercise is what keeps me mentally stable, so there is never a question as to whether I will get back at it,” Leslie explains. Sometimes it is adapting what I do while I am down — while going through the metabolic treatment I have to keep my heart rate low — so I have done a lot more hiking and yoga, for example. I look forward to the day when I am back to my usual high-intensity workouts all day, every day. I am getting closer!”

Hacks that work for Leslie:

Leslie credits her dad (a quadriplegic as a result of a ski racing accident in the ‘80s) as one of her motivators when things get tough: “When I am suffering on a long ride or climbing a long, steep hill, I know he would give anything to be suffering alongside me, and it keeps me going.”  

Leslie posing and flexing while hiking
Hiking provides a great lower-impact alternative to Leslie’s more intense workouts.

Currently, Leslie has her sights on longer endurance bike events as well as endurance trail running such as the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim. The longer, slower events seem to be calling her more than the super competitive races at this time.

Being fit has transformed Leslie’s life in that she has met countless people in sports and various race events in the greater Seattle area. Her high energy attracts her to friends who also love getting outside and being active. This community is a driving force in her life.  

[Related: The Power of Social Fitness Communities: Be Social!]

Going forward, Leslie is living fearlessly, trying new things, and fully embracing life — and she’s doing so with the healthiest body possible. She is clearly a Wonder Woman in all she pursues. How do you embrace the wonderful in your life?

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