By Patricia Danflous
If you are familiar with the race track, you know her as the co-host of Fox Sports’ NASCAR Race Hub and the host of NASCAR Xfinity series pre-race show. If you don’t know racing, tune in and learn something new from a veteran broadcast journalist. You will also see her as a sideline reporter during the NFL and college basketball seasons.
Just a tad over 40, Shannon Spake has reached a high point in her career with a résumé that includes roles with Fox, Nickelodeon, The Early Show, Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel and ESPN.
“Racing was not something I was interested in growing up,” says the south Florida native. “When I was first hired to work for Fox Sports’ Speed show in 2005, I started to learn, got to know racing really quickly and now love sharing the sport with others as a reporter. You know, it’s kind of like I took a nap. I closed my eyes, woke up and here I am. I could not be more excited. The sport is a welcoming one. It’s really been humbling on so many levels.”
Working out and doing things for me makes me better at everything I do. It’s my fuel.
She knows about levels. A dedicated fitness enthusiast, Spake has gained a reputation as the journalist who runs stadium and arena stairs. “When I’m on the road for work, which is quite often, I’ll do stadium stairs. It’s sort of become a tradition for me. For the last several football, basketball, and now, NASCAR seasons, I’ll run stadium stairs wherever I am. I do about an hour which turns out to be about 110 flights. I’ve actually done 34 different stadiums and arenas, and I’ve added Daytona to my list.
“I do stay pretty active. I also do boot camp. Like today, I woke up at 5:30, got my kids up, got them to school, went to my boot camp class, came home, rode my bike for 30 minutes and now I’m going to work.”
While Spake’s work and Charlotte, North Carolina, home schedule are not that different from most who manage a demanding career and family – her kids are seven-year-old twin boys – exercise is a little more special for her. Diagnosed with scoliosis when she was nine years old, Spake was told that physical limitations would most likely be a part of her life. That, however, was unacceptable. Although she is constantly aware of what her body says, she lives without limits.
“I’m always dealing with some kind of arthritis,” she says matter-of-factly. “And I have to be really aware of my body if I’m doing some high-impact exercise because I have rods in my back. Three years after my diagnosis, my scoliosis had advanced so drastically that I had to have surgery. I was in the hospital for a week, out of school for a month and then obviously limited because of the bone graphing and the rods. Scoliosis limited me a little bit when I was in eighth and ninth grade. But since then, it’s been smooth sailing.
“When I talk to young people with scoliosis today, they are concerned about their post-surgery life. I like to think that I am a shining example of the fact that you can do it all even after surgery. Granted, everyone’s situation is different, but I’ve carried twins. I do marathons. I do triathlons. I stay very, very active. There is absolutely hope.”
Staying healthy also means eating healthy, and eating on the road can be more of a challenge than exercising when traveling. Spake has conquered that challenge.
“For me the problem of eating while being on the road is that I eat so healthy, I find myself not eating enough because I won’t grab a bag of chips, or I won’t grab something that isn’t healthy. I’m like one of those people you hate, right? I kind of look at food as fuel and how that food is going to make me feel. If I go and eat a big plate of pasta or a pizza or whatever at noon, I’m junk for the rest of the day. I feel tired. I feel full. I don’t have the energy that I would if I had a salad with chicken and some salmon, some good stuff. Now don’t get me wrong. I’ll down some ice cream at night, and I love my wine. I’m not perfect when it comes to nutrition, but I do try to eat really healthy on the road because it’s very easy not to. I’ll make sure that I have protein bars or enough fruit around me if there is no alternative.”
Acknowledging the juggling and balancing act that is part of her life, Spake points to her health as key. “I don’t know how I do it all,” she admits. “You just do it. I try to fit in as much as I can. But to me, working out and doing things for me makes me better at everything I do. It’s my fuel. It’s what I do for me. I would not be good at anything else if I didn’t do those things for me.
“It always comes to balance,” she continues. “Sometimes something will be 100%, and the other things drop a little bit down. But the next day, you bring the one that was down back up to 100%. Sometimes you might have to tell yourself, ‘You know what? I’m not working today, so I’m going to go volunteer at my kids’ school. I’m going to go to lunch with them and maybe pick them up early so we can spend the rest of the afternoon together. After that, I’m out at dinner with
“It’s kind of like being a duck,” she laughs. “You’re nice and calm on top of the water, but kicking like hell underneath.”
Fox Reporter Shannon Spake Is an Ironman Competitor
When Shannon Spake decided to add an Ironman to her portfolio, she used the experience to help raise scholarship money for men and women living with scoliosis. She completed her first 70.3-mile Ironman event in Raleigh, N.C. in 2016 and continues to pursue the sport. Her comments posted on the Ironman blog give insight to the sport and Spake’s personal commitment to hard work:
“I’ve trained in freezing temperatures, oppressive heat, rain, snow and everything in between. When traveling for work, treadmills and stationary bikes are my best friends, and I’ve probably consumed more protein bars and electrolyte powders in three years than a normal person will in their entire life. I’ve had a herniated disc, tendinitis of the Achilles, and ear infections. I’ve come to rely on acupuncture, anti-inflammatory medications, foam rollers, and heating pads for daily relief just so I can physically and mentally battle my way through tempo runs and brick workouts that can last up to four hours.
“My days are crazy busy, but they are also coordinated and scheduled. My lack of speed leads to many frustrating training sessions, but when the workout is completed, I am full of pride. The daily exhaustion is overwhelming, but when I catch my breath and realize what I’ve accomplished, I feel powerful as hell.
“Anyone who has trained for a race, regardless of the distance, can relate. It’s a sacrifice to get to the finish line, it takes commitment and follow thru that many aren’t interested in tackling. It tests you, and at times, it will break your will—but for many, that sacrifice is worth it because we realize the sport isn’t selfish. It gives back.”