We had the good fortune of connecting with Maria Shepas and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Maria, have there been any changes in how you think about work-life balance?
My friends often joke that I live in two universes. The first is what people see me doing every day—developing my craft, training, and working. The second is fanciful and wild, filled with adventure, experience, and celebrating people. BALANCE is something that gives me the freedom to do both. The older I get, the more I make decisions to ensure it is always maintained.

But to talk about WHY balance is important to me, I have to go back to the place where recognized it’s value. My family moved to Massillon when I was 8. Standing on the sidelines of an arena that seats 18,000 people is dangerously influential. It seems larger than life, and to many people, it actually is! I wouldn’t change a thing about how I grew up, but there was much I had to learn. I developed an appreciation for WHERE I was and WHAT it represented, but I still understood it’s PLACE in my life. BALANCE.

I pursued a career in Strength and Conditioning. Early mornings, late nights most months of the year. In-Season to Off-season to Summer Sessions. BALANCE.

Each year I would escape to the mountains in Arizona for vacation. The desert is quite the opposite from a weight room. No music or sound of barbells hitting the ground. Just silence and the occasional sound of the wind. BALANCE.

When I was 18, I got called up to hike the Grand Canyon (South Rim to North Rim). That’s when everything changed. I was at the bottom of the Grand Canyon gazing up at more stars than I knew existed. I sat there for hours unwilling to go to sleep—not knowing if I’d ever see it again. I went back home invigorated but sad.

It was then that I realized, I didn’t have to choose one over the other. That I could live a life where I have both. BALANCE helped me to achieve just that. My career path is UNCONVENTIONAL and NON-TRADITIONAL, and that’s what makes my journey beautiful.

Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I help people develop MENTAL TOUGHNESS to navigate seasons of life. I create systems in the areas of LEADERSHIP, PERFORMANCE, and MENTAL HEALTH, where we build physical and mental strength to PERFORM at the highest potential.

Nothing is more REWARDING than working with a young person [in the weight room] from beginning to end of his/her season or athletic career. The “GAINS” that result can be seen physically through body development and athleticism, but it’s much more than that. Most growth that transpires is INTERNAL. It is witnessed in times of ADVERSITY, through performance and daily action.

If I were to remain in the weight room, it would limit the people I serve to mostly athletes. I wanted to create that same ATMOSPHERE I know and love outside the context of a traditional setting! You see, the LESSONS we learn in the weight room and on the football field TRANSCEND sport. They teach us about LIFE, and what’s more is that these lessons apply to everybody.

Most people call me up when times are tough! My life’s work is to PREPARE others to MEET challenges with a WINNING MENTALITY.

Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Make sure you hydrate, cause it’s gonna be a big week!! I’m all about adventure and family, so we’ll be stopping by to meet some of the people (family) who have impacted my life in LA while exploring “enchanted places”.

Let’s set the tone by rising up early to run hills at Valley Ridge. On a clear day, the walk down provides an excellent view of the LA skyline and mountainous landscape. Then we’ll swing downtown to hit “The Last Book Store” and “Bohemian House of Espresso and Chai”. Put your cell phone away, because you’ll savor every sip! The owner, Farah A. Hagar, grinds the spices by hand for each order.

A quick conversation with Doctor Romeo Brooks at Roots Nutrition in Inglewood will both motivate you and lower your metabolic age all at the same time. We’ll put this newly rediscovered youth to the test by going out for a hike off the coast, past Malibu.

In between, we’ll have an active, but restful week. I’m never one to do the touristy things. I’ll introduce you to my friends. We might have an impromptu game of kick ball or street football. And before I send you home, I’ll invite you into my kitchen for my signature dish, Chicken Marsala!

When people visit me, I want them to leave with new experiences that inspire, but I also want to give them a feel for how I live and what I’m about. The biggest honor I can pay somebody is to introduce them to my family, the people who play integral roles in my journey and development.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
My Shoutout is dedicated to my Krewe. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I hardly knew two people. This past year I’ve met lifelong friends who show up for me in ways I’ve never experienced. They encourage me, uplift me, and most importantly tell me the truth! And THAT makes me better!

And while it’s never easy being away from family, my favorite days are when I come home to find notes, cards, and poetry from all the SHEPs shoved through my mail slot. I might have to get a second refrigerator because I am running out of room!

Website: www.thatladymaria.com (coming soon)

Instagram: @thatladymaria

Image Credits
Tayona Brown Marvin Valle Albert Brady

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