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Athlete of the Month: March 2019

Mary Lubben

Mary Lubben has mastered consistency with a great spirit! Every training session of Mary's is completed with superior feedback and the greatest of detail. Always looking for the best way to move her body efficiently, she is incredibly teachable and curious. She embraces the idea of Live BIG as she takes every opportunity she can to use her fitness in and out of the gym. From celebrating impressive gymnastic strength milestones to her adventurous, biking adventures across the country and the city, Mary is truly driven and a joy to be around.

Full Name: Mary Lubben

Member Since: January 2013

Windy City March 2019 Athlete of the Month

“You must do the thing you think you cannot do.” 
— Eleanor Roosevelt

Growing up in the sixties in Chicago, I liked being active but there was not much opportunity for girls. In the 4th grade, we did a physical fitness challenge that included a 100-yard dash. I came in dead last. I didn’t like that, and it stuck with me. I wanted to be better. In high school, there was a track team. For boys. Girls could only be timers, which I was. Same for the swim team. I graduated in 1972, the year Title IX was passed.

Although I wasn’t a competitor, I did become a good swimmer and managed to lifeguard my way through college. Most days I biked 12 miles to and from the pool and then swam a mile before my shift started. That was probably the beginning of my love of fitness.

After college, I moved into downtown Chicago and observed people running along the lakefront. It was so beautiful! I wanted to do that too. That summer I worked my way up to running a mile. The next spring, while working in Sao Paulo, Brazil, I ran my first 5K. In 1984, I ran my one and only marathon, the America’s Marathon/Chicago, with a time of 4:22. I would have been much faster but developed a stress fracture around mile 20 and only hobbled/jogged the final 6 miles.

Over the ensuing years I continued running regularly, working out on and off at different gyms, and biked to work fairly routinely. Then I started having running injuries – knees and ankles mostly, until I had to stop running completely.

One day, when my daughter Ani was home on Christmas break, we were walking past Windy City and noticed the rowing machines lined up against the windows. She was on the crew team at Georgetown and suggested I take up rowing as a substitute for running. I went in and talked to Meagles. No, you can’t just come here and row, she said. But I don’t do weights!!! I protested. Somehow, she convinced me to come for a trial class – I think they were on Sundays back then. I loved it! I made my husband, Ed Zotti, come the next week, and the two of us were hooked!

What does training here mean to you in your life?

After probably 30-some years of working out in all kinds of ways at all kinds of places, I’ve found my home at Windy City. All the other places kept me from being a slug. But Windy City, while completely exhausting me at every visit, is at the same time wonderfully energizing, both physically and emotionally. The coaches and members are like nowhere else. No matter your ability, everyone celebrates everyone else. We cheer and encourage one another because we all have goals we’re trying to achieve and can all relate on that level. I’m grateful for the expertise and patience of every coach over the past six years, and all my work-out peeps.

All my life, I’ve been an athlete wanna-be. Between classes and my individual programming at Windy City, I feel like I have finally become one. I thought I would have slowed down by age 60, but I’m past that now and stronger than I’ve ever been in my life. This past summer, we took a family bicycling vacation covering 165 miles and over 13,000 feet of elevation gain over 4 days, including riding up to Logan’s Pass on Going-to-the-Sun road. It was one of the hardest things I’ve done, but I loved it! In the fall, again with the family, I completed my first century ride – the Apple Cider Century, in Michigan. I wasn’t even sore!

What does living BIG mean to you?

Enjoying everything about life. The big things like riding up a mountain pass or rafting on a rough river, and the little things like sitting by the firepit in my back yard or eating really good blueberries. And living BIG with my wonderful family is even bigger.

What would you do and where would you go if time / money were not object?

I love active adventuresome travel to new places, I love extensive home renovation projects, and I love to relax with a good book. I have the most wonderful family – my husband Ed, who also works out at Windy City, plus three 20-something kids and a daughter-in-law. They are fun and funny, smart and energetic. We get along amazingly well and always have a fabulous time together. I could see twice-a-year family trips to places like Iceland, New Zealand, Africa, and Southeast Asia, just for starters. We gut-rehabbed our home 25 years ago and it’s starting to look a bit worn; I would redo that. I would work less so I could work out more and spend more time on social justice causes I care about. And read and garden.

What adventures, events, trips, races do you have planned?

I have a sweet new road bike that I’m learning to partially take apart and reassemble so it can travel with me. Later this spring, I’m taking it to San Francisco to ride some beautiful, hilly routes with my son Ryan and his wife Betty. For this summer, Ed and I are planning another family vacation, this time to Athens and some of the Greek islands, where we’ll be exploring ruins, sailing, hiking, and enjoying beaches. I’m also planning to put some serious mileage on my bike just riding locally as soon as the weather improves.

What are your goals:

  • Fitness: Still want that elusive pull-up.
  • Personal: Spend more time with my children, now scattered to New York, Washington, D.C., and San Francisco. Spend more time in nature. Read more.

What is one thing that most people don’t know about you?

My senior year of college, I won the Big Ten pool championship. I once beat Minnesota Fats in an exhibition game, which he did not respond well to.

Words to Live By

Life is short, savor the big and the small. Be kind – to yourself too.


  1. Brenda Brown

    Brenda Brown posted at 10:48am on Mar. 1, 2019

    So well deserved!  Mary, you are a rock star!

  2. John Orwat posted at 9:13am on Mar. 4, 2019

    Congrats Mary!!

  3. John Orwat posted at 9:13am on Mar. 4, 2019

    Congrats Mary!!

  4. Steven Blutter

    Blutter posted at 7:13pm on Mar. 24, 2019

    Fabulously well deserved, bravo!  Ed should be next!

    Love you guys!

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