Daynelle Sanner headshot colorIt takes a brave person to face a giant obstacle with fear and yet refuse to give in. Meet Daynelle Sanner, a Hotel Manager and Fitness Instructor, who powers through challenges with grit and grace.

The Reebok Spartan Sprint Race she competed in this summer tested her metal. Held at the Blue Mountain Ski Resort in eastern PA, competitors faced 15-20 obstacles to complete in tough terrain over the course of three hours.

Just getting there proved to be the first obstacle Daynelle and her husband, Chris, would have to get through.

After training for months, the couple set out on the five hour trip, but with one hour left on the journey, their truck, which was pulling a camper, broke down. Daynelle commented, “We left the vehicle at a truck stop, took a taxi to a hotel and spent the night. The next morning we woke, took another taxi to a nearby car rental company and drove another hour to the race.”

They arrived two and a half hours late, but still in time to compete. This was all just a bump in the road compared to what came next.

We Can Do This!

Daynelle commented, “My first challenge was to jump over a 5 foot wall to the starting line. I was terrified of the obstacles ahead and was freaking out. My husband said, ‘We can do this’, Then came the cheers from the crowd of competitors, chanting, ‘We are Spartans!’”

Overcome with emotion, she now wanted it more than she feared it. Climbing up and over the wall, she thought, “I just finished the first obstacle-let’s do this!”

I had no idea what to expect, so I was very nervous. As I was swimming through muddy water, climbing high obstacles, carrying heavy sandbags and rocks up steep hills, I was saying to myself, ‘I just killed that hill! I just climbed those boulders!”

Frame of Mind

She added, “The high obstacles were most scary. Being 15-18 feet in the air, and climbing up and down on a cargo net, you have nothing holding you in. It comes down to your total frame of mind. You have to tell yourself you are going to be successful at this and breath.

My adrenaline was so pumped. When you’re around other people, the energy is there and keeps you going. Having Chris next to me for support made all the difference. No one should ever need marriage counseling, they just need to do a Spartan together! You have to trust each other, support each other and keep each other going with encouragement!

Daynelle and Chris - Spartan finish lineWhen we jumped the finish line together, I felt this rush of accomplishment- I did it! It was awesome!”

Building Confidence

Daynelle brings that same spirit to her Zumba, Zumba Toning and Belly Dancing Body Fitness classes at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort and at the House of Steel. And it’s contagious.

“After Daynelle’s class, you just feel this inner strength – so capable, empowered, and energized!,” said Lauren Gross.

Another one of her Zumba Toning students, Glenda Groh, remarked, “You walk out of here feeling good about the rest of your life.”

Teaching fitness classes empowers Daynelle too. “It’s built my confidence. You’re a leader for the class. You have to know what you’re teaching as well as making sure the class is doing the moves safely to prevent injury.

Inspiring the Teacher

The students teach me a lot too. They open up to me and they tell their stories. There is the amazing woman in my Belly Dancing Body Fitness class, she has a very busy schedule with her five children but say’s this hour is for her! An eleven year old girl shows up all the time because she wants to learn. And there is the woman going through cancer treatments. She missed coming to classes, and returned, staying for 15 minutes one day. If that isn’t inspiration!”

Daynelle added, “They trust me enough to give me an hour of their time and to spend that hour with me despite their busy schedules. It’s indescribable the bond you start forming that turns to great friendships. I’m thankful for the people that come to my classes and I feel very blessed.

Daynelle Zumba to useMy goal is to make a difference in each of their lives through fitness. It feels great to give back to them and help lift each other up with encouragement. There is a lot of negativity in the world, and if I can help build confidence, make them healthier and bring a smile to their faces for an hour than I am happy to do that!”

Like the Spartan Race, she said her classes are about “overcoming obstacles, bringing smiles to people and just living in the moment.”

The Power of Positivity

What’s next for Daynelle? In August, she’ll be running a Tough Mudder obstacle race with fellow House of Steel instructors and friends and another Spartan race with Chris is in the future. Also in August she’ll be conducting an empowerment workshop called Body & Soul Love with a Holistic Health coach at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort.

She remarked, “I look at things differently because I’m helping people. It’s an awesome feeling. Exercising gets me going, pumps me up, keep’s me positive. I need that positivity. I’m stronger because of it.”

Her students are too.


“Strong Women” is a new series to celebrate the women whose strength of mind, body, and spirit empowers others to live more fully.

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