By Perry Lefko
Meet Tania Facer, the Wilderness Woman at Battle Arts Academy.
This married mother of three children who is about to turn 40 – normally I wouldn’t mention a woman’s age but in the context of what she’s done in her life it’s relevant – and is a competitive trail runner, former rock climber (with a desire to do it again) and has quite a fascinating story.
She grew up in Caledon East in a family that participated in outdoor activities, and Tania took it to extremes in high school with cross-country and endurance bike riding. In her early 20s, she spent five years off and on as a rock-climber in the United States. It began when she took a four-month certification course at the Wilderness Medicine Institute in Colorado, learning aspects of paramedic training in the bush where there’s no help or aid.
She had an affinity for first aid in high school, working as a lifeguard and doing ski patrol, but wanted to pursue a post-secondary education in wilderness training, specifically outward-bound education programs to enhance training and learning in outdoor activities.
“My parents were scared for me, but it was like I have to do it. I have to go to Colorado and I have to take this course. I fought for it tooth and nail,” she told me last Saturday following Steven J. Wong’s two-hour, strength-and-conditioning class at Battle Arts.
After graduation from the Wilderness Medicine program, Tania planned to return home after a year. But that stretched into five, during which she experienced cycling (because she didn’t use a car), rock climbing and mountaineering. She climbed three 14,000 foot peaks.
“I loved it. I wanted it to be my job,” she said.
Tania remembered one experience climbing in a Colorado and needing to take a bathroom break and finding herself surrounded by rattlesnakes, including one right between her feet. It was a moment she can laugh about now, but back then it wasn’t so funny.
To make money, she’d do odds jobs such as picking flowers in a farm in Boulder, where she lived for a few years, sewed rock-climbing gear and worked as a nanny.
During her wilderness sojourn, she became engaged. It lasted for two years before ending. She had a chance to become a full-time wilderness survival guide in the Yukon, but the job offered little more than room and board.
“You pretty well work to eat, which I was ecstatic about,” she said.
But she was draining a hole in her parents’ wallet and it was time to come home.
“One part of my life was over now, what do I do?” she recalled.”I’m back in Ontario, it totally sucks, there’s nothing to do. It was tough. That was a hard time.”
She began working as a manager for a health food chain for 10 years, then married and started a family, which includes two boys and a girl ages three, six and eight. She also studied for certification as a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, which is a huge part of her life.
“Teaching my kids to eat real, naturally-based foods at least 80% of the time is important,” she said. “I deal with clients that range from young to old, chronic illnesses to athletes. Health and nutrition is my passion.”
She teaches Pilates at One Health in Mississauga and is hoping to begin working for a new club called SWAT, where she currently trains. She also has a business, Natural Health and Fitness.
Three years ago, Tania became involved in cross-fit training and continued with it when she became pregnant with her third child two months later. She continued with cross-fit training for two years until suffering a shoulder injury.
She heard about Battle Arts, which opened last September, and recently joined the Saturday morning strength and conditioning class instructed by Steven Jay Wong. Tania immediately fell in love with the apparatus and programs at Battle Arts.
“It’s a playground,” she said. “There’s ropes, monkey bars, I get to run. This is my type of gym. I love it. The first class was good. I’m competitive. I like to push myself and I like to challenge myself. I’m not the typical gym rat that would go and do a regular workout. I need to feel like I’m moving and it’s a natural movement.”
Similar to many people who have gone through the workout, which has four phases, she has experienced the feeling of throwing up because the classes push your physical and mental barriers, even if you are in great shape. It’s the functionality training that challenges you even if you have form. In other words, it’s pushing your cardio with strength and conditioning without weight lifting, so having muscle mass developed through pumping iron won’t help. The more times you do the class, the easier – and I say loosely – it will become.
“I love that,” she said. “You push yourself past that (fatigue factor). It’s mental.”
Tania is also into trail racing, trekking 45-50 kilometres on rugged terrain.
“My past only explains my thrill for adventure,” she said. “I’m always trying to get my friends to sign up for adventure races or the Tough Mudder and Warrior Dash Races, all of which I have done and incorporate elements of fun and fitness that I enjoy. For now my wilderness is confined to Milton and cottage country. That is hard enough for me now. I hope to compete in the Canadian Death Race in Alberta one year and run the Grand Canyon Rim to Rim trail. Call it my bucket list.”
Tania is what you’d call an extremist, and she’s in great shape. Age is not an issue for this wonderful Wilderness Woman.
“I’m not that interesting,” she says modestly.
I disagree. She is an inspiration to anyone who wants to begin physical fitness or already incorporates that into their lifestyle.
Perry Lefko is an award-winning journalist and best-selling author living in Mississauga. He has worked in the media for more than 30 years, including 21 for the Toronto Sun, in which he was a runnerup twice for the Dunlop Award for outstanding sports writing in the Sun Media Newspaper chain, and voted writer of the year by the Ontario Curling Association. He has also had articles published in The Toronto Star, Trot Magazine and is currently a frequently contributor to Goodlife Mississauga Magazine and Goodlife Brampton Magazine. He is also a contributor to Sportsnet.ca. He writes about sports, health and fitness, business, entertainment, arts and politics. He has had seven books published, including two that were national bestsellers: Sandra Schmirler, The Queen of Curling; and Bret Hart: The Best There Is, The Best There Was, The Best There Ever Will Be. He has also written books about Doug Flutie, Michael (Pinball) Clemons and Sandy Hawley. He has been contracted by Penguin Publishing to help broadcaster/athlete Colleen Jones write her life story. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.