Interview with Darcy Lucas
Bryan Haggerty, a writer and contributor to SportsDegreesOnline.org interviewed Darcy Lucas, who is the co-manager of Mission Fitness in Glastonbury, Connecticut. They discuss her transition into the Sports Industry, her current self-care habits, and her development as a professional, accomplishments in her professional career, and her current goals (among other topics).
About Darcy Lucas
Darcy’s passion growing up was basketball, and by high school she was starring for Connecticut AAU and soon after playing her way to the Eastern Connecticut State University Hall of Fame on a full scholarship. She has since had an amazing career as a competitive trail runner and endurance athlete who competes in adventure racing and ultra marathons, winning or placing at dozens of top-level events around the country. Darcy is a CT-certified Personal Trainer and Group Fitness Instructor with a Bachelors Degree in Physical Education and Health. She has been teaching classes and personal training at Mission Fitness in Glastonbury, CT since its opening in 2009, and she enjoys helping everyone – from beginners to elite athletes – discover a passion for fitness and wellness.
Bryan: So I’m here with Darcy Lucas. Darcy is the co-manager of Mission Fitness in Glastonbury, Connecticut. Darcy, thanks for joining us today.
Darcy: You’re welcome. My pleasure.
Bryan: I know you have quite a history as an athlete, I guess first tell me about going from being an athlete to a professional person. How have those experiences helped you as you built your professional career?
Darcy: I would say not accepting average. I felt like throughout my whole career as an athlete, you know, you’re always trying to make the team, you’re always trying to get the starting position, you’re always trying to be captain, trying to get a scholarship. You are always pushing to be the best and that’s kind of instilled in your brain from an early age and I think in a good way. I am working on the little bits of negative that come with that too. But in a positive way, it certainly made me never want to be average, professionally. So I think it just created a mindset of just working hard. There was no other option other than just try and be the best at what I did because that’s my whole life and what I grew up doing. In my case it was mostly basketball. So when it went into my professional career, whether it was trying to get a raise or become a manager, whatever it was, it just came naturally to always do what I needed to do; repetition, practice, hard work and to just be the best at whatever I did in my career.
Bryan: You mentioned there has been some negatives of that. Tell us a little about what you’ve encountered along the way in trying to get that mentality and what that translates to in the professional world. What have you been through and how have you coped.
Darcy: So what I’ve been dealing with as I’ve gotten older and kind of in tuned with my mental game is a lot of ego. So, trying to diminish ego. And I’ve realized, sitting with myself and meditating, being real with myself, that was developed at an early age with sports. It was kind of an ‘Ah-Ha’ moment when I went back to my parents one time, now being forty years old and seeing my dad had brought out a clipping that he found in the cupboard somewhere, one of my newspaper clippings in high school. It was a basketball stat thing. It automatically hit me, those moments every single day waking up wanting your name to be on the headlines, you want to score more than the person you were going up against, blah blah blah. So I realized that my whole childhood was kind of developing my ego in a really good way I think. But I also think that as I’ve gotten older, partly professionally, it would be perfectionism. You know, if I hear one negative comment or just constructive criticism, whether it’s my brother giving me feedback, I get defensive right away because God forbid, you know I’m not perfect at what I do. Because that is what I was striving for. You wanted to go ten for ten from the free throw line. You always wanted to be perfect at everything you did, and I realized professionally, that’s not possible. You need to make mistakes and failure is a good thing. Really the only way you are going to learn is through failures and the only way you are going progress is to push yourself . Competitively, I’ve gone into ultra running. I was kind of going down a path of trying to become one of the top ultra runners and I realized that I was kind of not enjoying it as much as I should. I would see other people around me running these races and really having a blast. And not to say it wasn’t fun, it was. I just feel like I was creating way too much pressure on myself trying to be the best instead of just relaxing and realizing that you’re actually probably going to be more successful and have more fun if you stop stressing out so much about it. So ego I would say. I’ve read a lot of (Eckhart Tolle) and listened to a lot of stuff to try and diminish ego and try and undo some of the stuff that happened during my athletic career.
Bryan: Good for you. It sounds like you’re well on your way, you know. You mentioned yoga and meditation. Tell me more about the routine that you’ve developed as part of your self care to live your best life.
Darcy: Sure. So it’s always a work in progress so everything I say is my best self and it I definitely don’t come through with it every day. I did about, six years ago, learn transcendental meditation and so I do put that into practice as much as I can. When I do, I definitely see a lot of positive results but like everything, yoga included, for some reason as good at is feels and as great of a response you get from it, you tend to stop doing it. And I’m trying to figure that one out too, why I do that. Because if I said I don’t have enough time, that’s just an excuse because I do. So transcendental meditation was something that I started doing. I started reading a lot self help books. I mentioned Eckhart Tolle, A New Earth, you know that type of stuff, The Untethered Soul. I’m looking at The Four Agreements right now. Stuff like that. I still read some fun books but I also try to always have another self-help type book/ self discovery book that I’m doing. Journaling is something that I’ve done a ton of, a lot a lot. I have journals that date back eighteen years. I started that a long time ago. That’s probably the first thing I did in my kind of self discovery, was the journaling part. And a lot of YouTube videos, a lot of, when I’m folding laundry, doing dishes; anything that I can just kind of listen to. I’m not a big podcaster yet. I have listened to some. I just listened to Jordan Peterson. Mostly Jordan Peterson actually but I do listen to some other stuff. But when I can, I’m just trying to feed my brain with positive stuff, that I’m always learning, and like I said I don’t do it all the time or as much as I should but I certainly have done it a lot more than most probably in the last five, ten years.
Bryan: Great, thanks for sharing. Going back, going from being an athlete to the professional world, that transition. When did you decide you wanted to pursue a career in sports and fitness?
Darcy: As far as I can remember, and I’ve been asked this a few times. My memory of it was, I was literally at the point where I needed to make a decision, what my major was going to be in college. I really didn’t know. And my guidance councilor, actually because I think I was playing on the sports team, we had a sports specific councilor at our school, she called me in and said, “You have two weeks to make your decision.” So honestly the most I can remember of it was, what do I like doing? What did I like in high school and my schooling? And it was Physical Education. I really enjoyed sports. So it was kind of what I had experienced in my life up until that point. It was sports. So I decided to be a PE teacher. So that’s what I chose. It was health and PE. That was kind of the most I remember of it. I feel like my whole life in college was playing on the basketball team and I didn’t really care about anything else but basketball. That’s not a great thing, but I just chose PE teacher because that’s all I knew at that point.
Bryan: And then you get your degree, you’re in the professional world, now tell us about your journey from that point.
Darcy: Sure. I became a PE major and went into student teaching. I did my student teaching but didn’t really have a great experience with it. I had one teacher I worked with that I really liked. I had another that was very negative about the job and it really didn’t make me feel like it was something that I wanted to go into. And I will say at this time it was probably 2002-2003, every place that I applied for had like 70 applicants. It was a really tough time to get a job in that profession. So I applied to a bunch of jobs after my student teaching and I got a full time sub position. So I started doing that and really started questioning at that point during my student teaching if this was what I wanted to do. I feel like right away I was very unsure. I think a lot of it was because I was a student teacher/ sub so I didn’t have my own classroom. I realized I spent my whole life trying to get out of school and then I was going to be in school for the rest of my life going by a bell ringing. And I’m not a routine person. I don’t like routine. So right away I started to realize, I may have made a mistake so I applied for a couple jobs, didn’t get it. Got a long term sub position, started doing that. Then ironically I got an internship at ESPN Radio and I ended up leaving the long term sub position to go and do that for a little bit. I thought maybe ESPN was an avenue I wanted to go because again, sports, it was kind of just something I was into but the internship didn’t really lead to anything. So then at the time I was working at a golf course throughout my whole high school years, mostly college I should say. So I ended up going back to the golf course and working there in the food and beverage area for a while. And there I kept getting asked by adults when I was going to get a real job, which to this day I still resent because the job I had at the golf course was amazing and I made great money. I’m happy where I’m at now but whenever anyone says “real job” it still kind of triggers me, because really what is “real job”. So I ended up getting a real job and I worked in the mortgage and banking industry for about five years. I started at mortgage company and then moved to a bank for two or three years and sat at desk. I literally would have strangers that didn’t even know my background walk in and be like, “you don’t belong here, what are you doing at this desk?” Like, “I don’t know.” So I started going down the rabbit hole of getting raises, moving up the ladder. And it’s hard to get out of because you see the money and you see the possibilities. Luckily my brother at the time was working as a personal trainer at kind of a corporation and reached out to me and said, “Hey I don’t want to work the corporate world, what do you think about opening up our own fitness business together?” So I was sitting at a desk, miserable, working my way up the corporate ladder and realizing that it was very secure and it paid good money but I was not happy. You know, I was young enough and had no kids, married but living a very simple life that I could take the leap, so I did. I quit the job right after they offered me a twelve percent raise. The next week I told them I was quitting and started Mission Fitness with my brother and we literally didn’t even have a building. We had his truck and a bunch of equipment in the back of the truck and we just found local parks. But I just knew that’s what I needed to do. I knew that it was where I was meant to be. So it was kind of full circle. I was still kind of a PE teacher but I was teaching people that wanted to be there and I was doing it alongside my brother. I was outside, not sitting at a desk and that was about twelve years ago and here I am now. I worked for the Connecticut PGA for a couple years, part-time while I was still at Mission Fitness. I moved to Florida for a couple years and left Mission but it always goes back to Mission and it really is the best thing that’s happened to me and a lot of us. That’s where I am now, full time.
Bryan: Awesome. I guess looking at making that transition. Having done the journey you’ve done, how important would you say it is to be passionate about what you’re doing for your work?
Darcy: I’d say not just passion, but finding a purpose and believing in it is the number one thing. I think at the end of the day to find fulfillment, I truly believe that you have to be passionate about it. You have to believe in it and feel like you have a purpose doing it. And I wasn’t getting that opening up bank accounts. It just wasn’t doing it for me. And not to say that can’t be satisfying for somebody else’s purpose. It definitely can. There are jobs out there for everybody, but for me, I didn’t believe in it. I didn’t feel fulfilled. I was going down a dark path, I gained twenty pounds and I didn’t feel…I guess the word is ‘alive’. One of my favorite quotes is, “Don’t ask what the world needs, ask what makes you come alive, because the world needs more people that come alive.” And I think that’s so true, you have to do what makes you feel alive and when I’m teaching a class, or I’m outside given the circumstances with COVID, and It’s sunset or sunrise and I have a group of people in front of me working their butts off wanting to be nowhere else but right there in front of me, I feel so alive. This is my job and I’ve never felt that anywhere else. And again I’m not saying that’s what everybody’s job should be. Some people feel alive building airplanes, but this is what makes me feel life. So I think it’s so important.
Bryan: So tell me a little more about the community. Who are the people that you are working with, what do you think you are doing for them, and what is Mission Fitness doing for them?
Darcy: So we work with a common misconception which we are trying to get away from in the past few years because we do have a lot of elite athletes that come, people that are climbing Mt. Everest, running 240 miles races and doing not only Iron Mans, but triple Iron Mans. So because we were spotlighting those people we were actually not realizing we were intimidating other people. We weren’t letting them realize that their 5k may be their Mt. Everest and it doesn’t need to e Mt. Everest but whatever you’re doing to push yourself outside your comfort zone. So I’d say in the last five years we’ve actively tried to recruit, letting people know that it is for everybody. My mom was doing it when she was 72 years old, she was coming to Mission Fitness. It’s really just a community of like-minded people, of positive people. Someone bought this sign at Mission that you see when you walk in and it’s so true and so many people say this, “This is my happy place.” And it’s not one of those ‘sunshine and rainbows’ happy places, it’s just real. For example we also have a book club where we just did The Four Agreements and we can sit around with all walks of life, a twenty year old next to me and a fifty-five year old and we can all come together and talk about what’s going on in the world right now and do things outside of working out. And that’s the big thing, we all feel comfortable talking about The Four Agreements, working our butts off in the class, climbing Mt. Washington together, or going to the local winery on Sunday and sometimes fifty people will show up. And it’s our little hashtag that I don’t know if we created or somebody else that comes to Mission, “A family not a franchise.” And we kind of refer to it as a family, and it is. It’s everyone’s happy place. No matter what’s going on in the world, we come there and that is all left at the door. Whether it’s actually going on actually in the world or what’s going on in your world, at your job that day, you walk to the door and that’s all gone. From then on for the next hour, we’re working hard and staying positive. It’s funny because I’ve always believed in energy and I’ve always believed in like attracts like. And at Mission it totally made me realize how true it is because if somebody walks through the door and they’re a Negative Nelly and right away they are complaining, we know they are going to last maybe two weeks, because we always say misery loves company and you’re not going to find anyone at Mission that’s going to latch onto you and be like, “You’re right, this sucks.” Everything is just so positive there and people that walk in negative don’t last long there, that’s not the energy we have there. And again we’re realists, we understand that not everything is great. My brother started a page on Facebook “Opportunities From Obstacles”, there’s always opportunities in every obstacle. Yes, a lot of stuff is going to happen that is negative especially right now with what’s going on in the world but where are the opportunities in that, where can you grow? So it’s really just a mindset, and it’s awesome.
Bryan: That sounds amazing. You guys are obviously goal orientated people so where do you go from here? What’s next for Mission Fitness and what’s next for Darcy Lucas? Where do you go from here?
Darcy: So obviously given the circumstances right now, the fitness industry has taken a huge blow. We’ve been doing our classes outside and we’ve been doing Zoom classes. We’ve kind of had to shift and it’s been terrifying but at the same time really awesome to just challenge us. From the day that we closed, within hours we were on the phone saying, “Here’s what we’re going to do.” We found opportunities from obstacles, we’ve started doing Zoom classes, some mornings there are more people doing Zoom than there are people in person. And before all this started, before March, my brother (who now has sole ownership because I sold my ownership to him when I moved to Florida, thinking I was leaving) had this goal to turn this into a wellness facility, a holistic wellness facility. He went to Integrated School of Nutrition and got his Integrated Nutrition license. We just took over the space next door, which is office space, and we put in two (three person) infra red saunas, we have a massage therapist coming in and we have someone that does organic facials. So his goal has always been to be an all around center. He’s always said that fitness is just a small spoke on the wheel of wellness and if we just do fitness, there are so many other areas that we’d be missing. So the goal is to encompass everything. We certainly have already done that with trail running, Mission Adventures which involves a lot of hikes in nature, we’ve done Yoga, the book club and the emotional side of things. So really being more than just a fitness facility and being a whole overall holistic wellness facility is kind of where we’re going right now. Some would say that with the pandemic, that we’ve been de railed but this could be the best plan ever because people need wellness and community right now more than ever. Yes there have been a ton of challenges and we’ve worked our way through those and I do think if we can make it through this, we can come out so much stronger on the other end.
Bryan: That’s such an amazing way to approach such a difficult time. So you mentioned Matt getting his certification in Integrated Nutrition, what are some certifications that you are current on, have done or would like to do? What are some other areas that you can tell us about?
Darcy: My certification is through AFPA (American Fitness Professionals Associates) and every two years I have to get a continuing education. So every two years I choose a different class. It’s all online for the most part so I’ve done stuff from group fitness to sports nutrition and young athlete classes. So I’ve done this for ten years now, a new certification every two years, so five different certifications. It’s more like continuing education rather than certification though. My certification is with the AFPA. As I mentioned before I work with the PGA and I worked at a golf course so since high school I’ve been dabbling in golf and in my early 20’s coming out of college basketball I’ve become more competitive with golf with myself, not really in competitions or anything. I started working at the PGA and was doing both at the same time, twenty hours at Connecticut PGA and twenty hours at Mission a week so I ended up getting my certification called TPI which is Titleist Performance Institute where work specifically with golfers. There are three type of people that get their TPI certification. It’s golf professionals, physical therapists and personal trainers. So the three of us work together with the golfers to develop the best game that they can have, with the body that they have. I’m on the personal trained end of that, so I went to Boston and got my certification through Titleist Performance Institute where I work a lot with golfers. I have also gotten certifications which I was supposed to re-up but it got canceled, like with wilderness first aid. We also offer like I said, Mt. Washington trips, Mt. Monadnack, Graylag, we do a lot of outdoors stuff. So the wilderness first aid is the one thing I have to re-up. I’ve thought about getting my run coach license because I lead a lot of trail runs through Mission Fitness and I’ve had a lot of people approach me to ask if I could coach them. So I’ve thought about that but haven’t done that one yet.
Bryan: Great, and what an amazing foundation you have and what an amazing story. You’ve been involved in a lot things and it’s so awesome to see what you’ve created after all that so thanks so much for sharing your story. One more question I have for you. For all the people out there, the young people, active people, sports fans or people that are really into health and fitness, what advice do you have for the people following in your footsteps?
Darcy: Well I think what I talked about in my story, which was, I could have easily gone down that rabbit hole of the corporate world, but for me it wasn’t what I wanted and I knew deep down it wasn’t what I wanted to do. I would say, don’t settle, especially when you’re young and you don’t have many responsibilities, where it might be easier to switch jobs. So if something doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t. You know, just try and use your intuition, don’t settle, and don’t listen to what other people think you should be doing. I think that’s so hard because you assume they are older than you (maybe if it’s your parents and they supported you for so long that you do owe it to them because you went to school for this) whatever it is, it’s hard not to listen to other people sometimes, try to just trust your gut and don’t follow the dollar sign. I train a lot of well of people are very miserable. Yes they make a lot of money but they aren’t passionate about what they do. Money doesn’t always mean happiness, and I think with that understanding, you don’t need a lot of money to be happy either. I think that’s the biggest think I have realized in my life. Working with athletes, hiking is free, trail running is free, playing basketball is free. So don’t follow the dollar sign, because I promise you that if you find what you love and you are passionate about it, the money will come because it’s not worth it to live a life where you’re unhappy. Because at the end of the day if you are unhappy, none of that matters. I would also say, get out and shadow some people. I think that’s what I didn’t do enough. Like I said I was a little too focused on my collegiate basketball career that I didn’t put enough time exploring what I might be interested in during my summers. I thought ESPN would be an amazing job, then I did the internship and realized you’re just sitting at a desk like any other job. All the other glitz and glamour doesn’t come for a lot of years. Sometimes the job that seemed great might not be, so I would suggest to go out and shadow a little bit or do some internships before you commit to anything.
Bryan: I think that’s great advice. Darcy Lucas, you can find her at Mission Fitness, the website is www.missionfitnessLLC.com. If you are in Eastern Connecticut and you are looking for an amazing community check them out for sure. Darcy thanks for your time.
Darcy: Thank you Bryan.