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  • Patti Sponsler

Empowerment: Unconditionally

Updated: May 28


Powerhouse couple Ed and Kaitlin Donner with their two handsome sons, Mikey and Chris (standing).

If you chatted up Indian Harbour Beaches Kaitlin Donner for a bit, the bubbly 34-year-old Doctor of Physical Therapy would probably talk about the summer’s shenanigans with husband, Ed, and sons, four-year-old-Chris and one-year-old Mikey.

 

The humble chatter belies the fact that Donner is a smartly powerful athlete and businesswoman who dreams big dreams, works hard to bring them to fruition and finds joy in empowering others to do the same.

 

“I get fired up when people have big goals and question if they can achieve them,” said the former USA national triathlon team member who represented our country on multiple podiums worldwide. “I believe we can shoot for the stars.”

 

EMPOWERMENT: TEAM APPROACH


Donner's New Wave Performance team includes from left to right: powerhouse swimmer and coach, Taylor Stallings-Pinnick; Kona triathlete, triathlon and strength coach, Rebecca Ash, Donner and run team speedster, clinical dietician and strength coach, Danielle Aran.

Donner opened New Wave Physical Therapy and Sports Rehabilitation as a solopreneur in 2018. As business expanded, Donner built a four-women team of broad breadth talent offering physical therapy, nutrition, general strength and sport-specific coaching including running, triathlon and swimming.

 

“I’ve had many good coaches and other people who have influenced my life, so it was important for me to build a platform of strong women to help others, Donner said.”

 

EMPOWERMENT: STRONG BODIES

The multi-faceted team allows New Wave to return injured clients back to a full life as well as mentor healthy individuals in their pursuit of full athletic potential.

 

“Insurance ends payment when a patient is able perform the basic daily activities of life but still not fully functional for their lifestyle,” said Donner. “We offer a way to bridge the gap for full return to sports and physical activity. Prehab and strength are important to avoid injuries in the first place.”

 

After Indialantic’s Lois Donovan partially tore her hamstring, the 45-year-old principal architect at Meld Studio Architecture thought she would never again run fast or play Ultimate Frisbee competitively.

 

“Other physical therapists would get me walking but what was I supposed to do after that?” asked Donovan, who discovered Donner via word of mouth. “Working with her (Donner) was a relief because she is both a physical therapist and a talented athlete. She gave me back the capability to play competitively with younger athletes again.”

 

At the behest of their coaches, parents or peers, numerous high school and collegiate athletes are also often found in Donner’s gym laughing and trading grunt-punctuated stories as they lift, push, pull and jump under the watchful eyes of New Wave staff. They are learning the importance and joy of discipline to keep their bodies fit and healthy for competition and life.

 

EMPOWERMENT: FITNESS AS FUN


B.J. Graham, far left in green, is one of the pacers under the leadership of Space Coaster Runners run camp head coach, Kaitlin Donner.

Donner is also entering her fourth year as Head Coach of the Space Coast Runners 16-week running camps that prepare both novice and seasoned athletes to do their best at their goal event – normally the Space Coast Half Marathon (13.1 miles) in the fall and a shorter 5K (3.1 miles) race in the spring.

 

“With her experience as a member of TEAM USA's national triathlon team and her prowess as our area's fastest female on the local racing circuit, it was a no brainer to inquire whether she would consider coaching athletes on behalf of SCR,” said Brittany Streufert, Director of Operations for Space Coast Runners.

 

The camps - now attracting about 100 participants from ages 12 to 70+- are the largest in Brevard. Donner divides the throng into groups of similar ability and each group has a pacer to mentor them during the Tuesday night speed sessions and Sunday morning long runs. Each camper receives a personalized schedule to follow on non-camp days.

 

“The results have been impressive from campers securing Boston Marathon qualifying times to getting fit and actually completing their first 5K, half marathon or marathon,” said Streufert. “She makes their journey fun and continues to push them to achieve more than what they ever thought they could.”

 

Indialantic’s David Farley – and most of his family – are now excited about moving farther and faster.

 

The 53-year-old software engineer caught Covid during the breakout and began worrying about long-term lung damage.

 

“I thought running would help,” he said. “For me having structure was important. I needed accountability.”

 

Farley found much more than that.

“I showed up the first time scared to death,” he said. “People were so nice to me. Camp has gone from structure and accountability to friendship and a social network. We push each other and it is the greatest feeling to say ‘look what we’ve accomplished.’.”

 

Farley also got hooked on triathlons and joined the New Wave triathlon camp this past spring with his 12-year-old daughter, Madeline.

 

“To be able to race and train with your child is awesome,” he said. “There is nothing better than running with your kid while the sun is coming up. I’ve learned so much more about her.”

 

Farley’s wife, Audra, also signed on for run camp.

 

“She had never been super athletic but realized her husband and kid would never be home,” Farley said. “She is swimming now and we swim together two days a week. Her goal is to do an Aquabike race (swim/run) while we do a triathlon.”

 

Farley and his wife also joined the New Wave triathlon club that Donner initiated just last year. Because of the numerous group workouts and camaraderie offered, the group just passed the 300-member mark.

 

EMPOWERMENT: BEFRIEND YOUR BODY


Donner's easy-going and trustworthy personality allow her to tackle subjects that have for long been taboo between coaches and athletes.

Donner is not afraid to openly tackle subjects still often considered taboo by many coaches.

 

“The menstrual cycle, hormones and body image weren’t being addressed because they are loaded topics and coaches don’t want to deal with it,” she said. “If athletes aren’t getting their periods due to an energy imbalance- not enough food and/or too much exercise - it needs to be discussed.”

 

“It was never once addressed when I was in college. I don’t want any female to feel like things are ‘in their heads’. I want to empower them and teach them how the hormones affect everything and work with the cycle instead of against it.”

 

Donner’s ‘Let’s Talk About It’ sessions – which include New Wave Registered Dietician, Danielle Aran – offer unfiltered discussions and take-home study materials.

 

The program has been well-received.

 

“My favorite part was how Kaitlin made every female athlete that came feel safe” said 17-year-old Satellite High School senior and Lacrosse athlete, Ivy Knight. “She gave all the girls options to speak openly with the group or privately with her at the end. Kaitlin’s meeting was a game changer for not only me, but many other female athletes that attended.”

 

Donner’s lack of shame about natural bodily functions allows her to talk candidly about some of her own experiences including starting her period on the day of her 2015 New Zealand World Cup triathlon victory.

 

“You can race and train really well when you are on your period,” she said. “Half the population goes through it, but most of the athletic community doesn’t talk about it.”

 

EMPOWERMENT: BALANCING THE LOAD

For Donner, family is her first priority, and she has built her life so that the work she loves, as well as her own training and racing, are integrated almost seamlessly.

 

“It is awesome that I have my own business,” she said. “I can bring my boys to work and since (husband) Ed’s business (Donner Wealth Management) is right next door, we can trade off. We have room for naps and snacks. We also occasionally bring on an assistant to help watch and play with them. The kids love it.”

 

The kids are also loved by the running and triathlon community. Donner often brings the eldest, Chris, to Tuesday night run camps where he yells encouragement, tell campers ‘ready, set, go’ and often zips along at his own exuberant pace.

 

“What is also cool is that New Wave and coaching is so engrained in my training life,” said Donner. “Our New Wave running team does speed work on Wednesday mornings and our run camp does long runs on Sundays. I do strength work with my clients and between clients.”

 

Donner’s husband, a competitive multi-time Ironman triathlete, also trains and races so he and his wife trade off duties and often build family vacations around race events.

“The boys are seeing active, healthy lifestyles,” said Kaitlin Donner. “I don’t care if they ever compete, but I hope they will be motivated to build a healthy lifestyle.”

 

EMPOWERMENT: KEEP DREAMING!


Less than a year after Mikey was born, Donner ran her personal best half marathon time of 1:15:49 which allowed her to compete in her first marathon (26.2 miles), the McKirdy Marathon where she will compete for a time fast enough to qualify for the US Olympic Team Trials in Orlando on Feb. 3, 2024.

Donner is not one to rest on her many laurels.  Her next goal is to tackle the marathon (26.2 miles). Unlike other marathon first-timers, Donner doesn’t want to just finish or even qualify for Boston. She wants to meet the time goal of less than two hours and thirty-seven minutes to qualify to run the U.S. Olympic Marathon Team Trials on Feb. 3 in Orlando.

 

The race she has chosen to help her get there is the McKirdy Marathon in Valley Cottage, NY on Oct. 14.* The multi-loop course is set up specifically to help athletes meet the Olympic Trials qualifying standards by providing dedicated pacers and full course tangent lines. Race entry is based on strict qualifying times which Donner met in June - less than a year after Mikey was born - running her personal best 13.1-mile time of 1:15:49 at the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon in Duluth, MN.

 

“I think the (New York) race will set me up for the best chance of success,” Donner said. “I don’t think I have a chance to make the (Olympic) team but it would be about me celebrating being able to run a full marathon and be able to qualify for the Olympic Trials.”

 

“I encourage others to dream big and go for it. I think I need to practice what I preach.”


*Oct. 14. In her first marathon finish of 2:36:31, Donner did, indeed qualify for the United States Olympic Team Trials Marathon which will take place in Orlando, FL on Feb. 3. See ya there!



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