Athlete and financial advisor Ruth Saunders is an enigma. She is warm, ferocious, vulnerable, fearless, funny and direct. A fighter in every sense of the word, Ruth is no stranger to life’s occasional inadequacies, but she transforms them into fuel and pushes herself to explore the limits of her strength.
“There have been some rocky moments in my life,” Ruth says humbly. “Lifting weights became a natural therapy for me and I think my sports are another huge outlet. You could have the worst day in the world and walk into the gym and you just give it everything you have; leave it in a pile of sweat on the mats and when you walk out, you don’t have the energy to be anything. It’s the very best therapy.”
Ruth’s dedication translates into her day job. She is one of the most proficient financial advisors with Island Savings (a division of First West Credit Union) and attributes her success to her drive and relentless commitment to everything she does.
And as a busy single mother of two boys, she has learned to tackle the throws of life head-on.
“I started wrestling in high school. I really liked the physical aspect of the sport,” she says.
“I’ve always wanted to be treated like one of the boys. I have always said, ‘Don’t hold back, don’t treat me different. Give me 110 per cent like you would any other guy,’” Ruth says with an impressive tenacity in her voice.
Ruth explains that her patience and defensive skills give her an advantage as a fighter.
“I train so much with bigger, stronger, faster guys, I don’t have a ton of opportunity for offence. I’m patient. I look for an opportunity to go for a submission. And I don’t give up. There is absolutely no quit in me.
The athlete divulges proof that hard work pays off with a number of wins in various bodybuilding and MMA competitions. Ruth first discovered her knack for competition in 2010 when she won a round-robin style MMA event.
“That event gave me a thrill for competing, and qualified me for the Western Canadians in 2011, in Vancouver,” she says.
The Western Canadians went extremely well for Ruth; she won all of her divisions in the 2011 competition. With two substantial competition wins under her belt, she set a goal to go to the World Martial Arts Games in Austria.
“I am very goal-oriented. I have always believed in setting a personal goal and going for it.”
Unfortunately, while the tenacious athlete made Team Canada for the World Martial Arts Games, she would never have the opportunity to compete.
“I broke my leg three weeks outside of the competition. I didn’t want to pull out. My trainer modified my training so I could keep going. So I kept training and broke it again,” says Ruth.
While Ruth didn’t make it to the World Martial Arts Games, she was offered a professional contract for an MMA super fight league out of Mumbai, India.
Ruth focussed on her training while waiting for her visa to be processed — but the Indian Consulate misplaced Ruth’s, her coach’s and corner man’s passports for two months.
“Training for fight camps is no joke. I was so burnt out after waiting those two months that I needed to take a break and be nice to my body,” explains Ruth.
|Ruth Saunders with her kite for kite surfing and dog Mila on the Victoria waterfront. Don Denton photography.
Without skipping a beat, she turned her focus back to bodybuilding and discovered the therapeutic benefits of kitesurfing.
“I’ve always been drawn to very aggressive, adrenalin-based sports. I would sit and watch the kite surfers on Dallas Road after I had started surfing and I was like ‘I have to do this,’” she says with a laugh.
Ruth learned the sport at Nitinat Lake on Vancouver Island, where kitesurfing schools are located.
“It’s terrifying learning when you are so vulnerable and trusting something that can hurt you. And yet learning and realizing you are in control and letting go of your fear and anxiety and be under your own power — it’s unbelievably liberating. When taught right, it is great, safe, fun and healing,” she says.
Ruth will be running women’s weekend kitesurf camps with her girlfriend— who is a professional kitesurf athlete — with the intention of helping other women.
“So many women are survivors of emotional, mental and physical abuse in some sense. The one thing that I have found that is so healing, is being out on the water and being under the power of something that is so incredibly strong and freeing, and being able to control that. It is incredible to shift that control.”
She adds: “My passion is to work with women who are survivors.”
With an ever-growing list of goals to pursue and lives to change, the evolution of Ruth Saunders continues. Ruth has yet to find the limit of her strength, and her journey to discover the depth of her power as a human being promises to be an even better story in the years to come.
-Story by Chelsea Forman/Boulevard Magazine