Barbara Kinsey

By Jenna Schifferle

Barbara Kinsey of Tonawanda: ““Find something you like to do, then find people who like to do it, too.”

Barbara Kinsey lives for forward motion. At age 53, the Tonawanda resident says she has always been active with a bit of a competitive streak. 

As a kid, she rode her bike everywhere and kept the habit well into adulthood. Thinking back, though, she attributes a cardio kickboxing class at her martial arts studio to the start of her fitness journey. At the time, she’d been training in aikido, and the class shifted her curiosity to a different form of exercise. 

By day, Kinsey works as a customs and border protection officer — a job that keeps her on her feet. It’s the same job that simultaneously launched her foray into running. When she decided to switch careers following changes at her previous company, she set her sights on law enforcement. With that came the need to pass a physical fitness exam and run a mile and a half within a specified timeframe. She’d run cross-country track in high school for one year and admits that she wasn’t the most talented runner on the team. To prepare for her career shift later in life, she got to work, started running and hasn’t stopped since. 

For the test, she also needed to do pushups, a practice she hasn’t stuck with through the years. It’s all about finding and sticking with the types of fitness that work best for her. “I have no need to do pushups,” she said. “I recognize how good they are for me, but I feel no need to do them.”

These days, Kinsey’s usually training during her down time for an upcoming race or ride. She’s part of multiple run groups and frequently attends bike clubs — not to mention all the hours she logs training on her own time. Whether she’s running, biking or roller skating, her days are filled with everything Buffalo’s fitness community has to offer. Once upon a time, she even played roller derby on a league, stepping into the role of blocker.

If she’s learned anything from all the activities she does, it’s that you have to find exercise that you like doing. From there, start to network, because you’re less likely to quit if you have a system of accountability in place.

“Find something you like to do, then find people who like to do it, too.”

Beyond the friendships and sense of achievement she’s gotten from staying active, Kinsey also tries to use fitness to give back to the community of which she’s part. 

This July, she was planning to take part in Empire State Ride, a weeklong cycling event from Staten Island to Niagara Falls that covers more than 500 miles for cancer research at Roswell Park. After that, she was planning to tackle Bike MS, a ride to benefit the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and Lindsay’s Legacy 5K to benefit the Courage of Carly Fund. 

In June, Kinsey also completed the Ride for Roswell, as well. All of these philanthropic endeavors are her way of enjoying the sports she loves while making an impact.

“My joke is that I’m a freaked-out human trying to do some good in the world,” she said with a smirk. She added, “I’m going to do the fitness stuff anyway. I might as well make it about something bigger than myself.”