Chelsea Hollingsworth-Barnhill isn’t one to shrink from a challenge. In October 2022, the
Palm City resident competed in the Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, an experience she says was “the hardest day I have ever experienced as an athlete.”
It’s tough enough to qualify for Kona. The course is hot, hilly, and hard and requires training for around 20 hours a week for at least a year. Never mind the actual competition part, which the 30-year-old triathlete says she is proud simply to have finished.
When you consider her journey before Kona, simply finishing is a very big deal.
Born in Texas, Hollingsworth-Barnhill was raised in North Carolina, where she grew up swimming and playing basketball. Knee injuries ended her hoops career but taught her how to be resilient and overcome physical setbacks. At age 12, she decided she wanted to become a physical therapist to help others do the same.
Still, the competitive fire that made her a force in the pool and on the court didn’t go away. In high school, a doctor cleared her to run cross-country, encouraging her to keep the muscles around her knees strong and wear knee braces as a precaution. She excelled in her new sport and ran competitively in college at East Carolina University, but injuries still troubled her.
“At the end of my college career, my coach told me I still had potential, but it was up to me,” Hollingsworth-Barnhill recalls. “He mentioned that with my swimming and running background, I might consider becoming a triathlete.”
She filed away his advice as she completed physical therapy school, running half-marathons whenever her schedule—and body—permitted. After graduation in 2017, she moved to Stuart, where she began working as a physical therapist and became active in the local running community. Her commitment to training paid off big time in 2020, when she qualified to compete in the trials for the Tokyo Summer Olympics U.S. marathon team. Running also led her to the man she would marry, a local triathlete and chiropractor named Kurt Barnhill.
“Some people I met [through the running community] showed him my Facebook page,” she says. “One day, I was riding my bike over a bridge when he drove by and noticed me. He did a double take and stopped at the bottom of the bridge to introduce himself.”
The couple married in August 2020 and now co-own and operate Precision Chiropractic and Rehab, which is located in Stuart near the gym and pool where Hollingsworth-Barnhill trains early mornings and during lunch hours. The couple swim together in the Intracoastal near Hutchinson Shores and bike along A1A.
Hollingsworth-Barnhill says she tends to go “all in” on her goals, but her hubby helps her keep things in perspective. “He always reminds me that I do this for fun, for the joy of it, and brings me back to a calm state,” she says.
Since the grind of Kona, Hollingsworth- Barnhill has been taking some time to physically and mentally reset, something she believes is important for any athlete. But she is gearing up for her next big athletic challenges in 2023, which will include running a yet-to-be-determined marathon. Her main goal right now,
she says, is to get her marathon time down and perhaps compete in a few half-triathlons.
Considering her goals for the year, she pauses and adds: “It’s still possible I’ll sign up for another Ironman too.”
No matter what she decides, she’s sure to finish strong.