Becoming an

UNEXPECTED ATHLETE

A bit of background

Once I got the bug to start running, there was no going back. 1999, Chicago, watching my dad run his first marathon. This was the first time I’d been to an event like this and it was incredible. Newly married, my husband and I looked at each other and said, “If all these people can do it, there’s no reason we can’t too”. In June 2002 I ran my first half marathon in Green Bay, WI, and the following October we went back to Chicago for my debut marathon. I was surprised at how well I'd done and even more surprised by my urge to sign up again, just a few days later. (I now know is a fairly common phenomena. How quickly the pain fades!). We started our family shortly thereafter, so I was caring for babies and running in the mornings. Over the years, the habit became part of my identity. 

 

The more I ran the more I wanted to know about running and its partner hobby, food. For years, we ran to eat and I loved the freedom of indulgence that running (and the metabolism of my 20’s) permitted. For me, running was really where it was at. I read awesomely inspiring and educational books, subscribed to running magazines, and finally found myself with something to talk about when I met new people. It was exciting, fun, and energizing. I had unlocked a new part of myself.

 

We moved to a new city and I joined the board of the local running club. There I was introduced to many of the behind-the-scenes activities of the running world. When I joined, I envisioned myself as a key player in the running club moving forward, helping grow the organization and make our events top notch. It was in that environment though, that my introverted tendencies took over and the excitement and dreams I felt inside me failed to provide enough of a push to override the insecurity and shyness that have always been at the forefront of my personality.

 

I left the running club board after 5 years, mainly because the demands of my young family conflicted with the needs of the club. I continue to help at one of their main annual events, and it’s one of the highlights of my year. 

 

The years went by and our family changed and grew and shrunk and grew and shrunk (we were a foster family) and we traveled and ran and played and learned. With powerfully engrained habits, running stayed a part of my life with minimal effort.

 

I love being a mom but always felt a little bit of incompleteness inside me. I thought fostering would fill the void, and it did to some extent, but that wasn’t the right fit. Eventually, I went back to school and earned my masters in counseling which went a long way to bringing me closer to a feeling of “rightness” in my days. I started working as a professional counselor part time and felt I was finally starting to utilize my full set of gifts.

 

Counseling is an amazing job. When I first started, I remember talking to my supervisor about how humbled I felt that people trusted me enough to share their struggles and vulnerabilities with me. I know this is the job, but it was still overwhelming at times when it would happen. Kind of like going to the Grand Canyon: You know it’s going to be big, but you’re still overwhelmed when you see it in person.

 

I’ve learned so much about people and about myself through my work as a counselor. One of the big things I learned is how important and helpful it is to have somebody in your corner as you’re trying to do big things with your life. That big thing might be starting a business or leaving your marriage, or it might be learning how to stay present with your child when your emotions are overwhelming, or learning to stick up for yourself to your adult siblings or your boss. Big is relative, fear is universal, but success is possible. As a counselor, I’ve been privileged to see people succeed and grow in so many different areas once they had the courage to reach out for support. It makes me wish I’d been as brave as they are years ago.

 

Which is the WHY behind Unexpected Athlete.

 

The majority of my counseling clients come for help untangling the past and working to feel more okay with their present. There is a lot of bad stuff that happens to people that messes with their ability to cope with regular life. We work on identifying and coping with emotions. We sort through repetitive thoughts. We deal with sleep and eating issues. We analyze relationships and strategize new game plans for handling complicated situations so my clients can come away feeling empowered, confident, and connected (either to the other person or to their own true self) more often. These are important life skills and it’s been life changing for me to watch these skills change the lives of my clients.

 

Once in a while I get a client who is okay in their present and is looking for help distilling and crystalizing their future. This is a whole new ball game.

 

These are the people who have taken the ambitious and courageous step to seek help in getting to where they want to go, rather than fumbling around with a vague sense of direction like I did for so many years. 

 

These are the people who recognize that they have knowledge and skills, but they know they don’t have all the answers. They come looking for “someone to bounce things off of”, “someone to help me make sense of all these different thoughts”, “someone to be honest with me, to tell me like it is”. A lot of times these people have a great support system (not always, but sometimes) but they realize that they need someone outside their circle of support to help them sort through their emotions and thoughts so they can make wise decisions about the next steps toward whatever they envision.

 

With these clients, I get to use my counseling skills to help these people overcome the fears and insecurities that they usually deal with pretty well, but that are holding them back from reaching their full potential. We work on recognizing thought patterns that spark emotions that erode confidence. We pick apart their daily habits and find new ways to build in the activities and behaviors that will be most effective in helping them stay energized and progressing toward their goals. We figure out how to navigate relationships that may be affected by the changes they make to their life so that those important people can come along for the ride rather than being left in the dust.

 

I look back at the last 20 years and think how things may have been different if I’d had the courage to ask for help in reaching my goals. If I had worked with a coach when I first started running when I was 23 years old, maybe I would have been able to see even greater success in my physical abilities than what I was able to produce on my own through trial and error (and lots of excuses). If I’d had the self-awareness enough to ask for help when we were fostering, maybe I would have developed the skills and patience I needed in order to bring those children in as a permanent part of my family. If I’d known that the skills to overcome shyness and insecurities could be taught, maybe I would have been able to be that mover-and-shaker in our local running scene and had a blast sharing my passion with people throughout my area.

 

I’m done being a passive observer of my life. Counseling others and practicing the skills throughout my own life has shown me a new way. A way of courage. A way of optimism. A way of flexible thinking and intentional behavior. Let me tell you, this way is a ton more fun and infinitely more satisfying.

 

Unexpected Athlete Lifestyle Coaching is about helping people change their way of thinking so they can gain confidence, manage emotions, feel more successful, and be happier in all areas of their life. I hesitate to use the word “happy” a lot of the time, because it can be so fleeting. I prefer content, satisfied, or even joy, because these words reflect the mindset and choice of outlook and behavior that is within a person’s control. Happy resonates with people though, and it is achievable, so we work toward that too.

 

Unexpectedbecause life is full of surprises and people who are happiest in life pay attention to the unexpected gifts (people, places, things) that show up as they travel along.Athletebecause there is work involved and you need to cultivate discipline and stamina in order to see results. Lifestylebecause it’s about the choices you make on a daily basis. It’s not really about the athletics, though I’m a huge proponent of some sort of athletics being a part of everyone’s life. It’s about what you do from the minute you wake up until bedtime each day. It’s how you spend your time, who you interact with, how you treat yourself, and how you think about what goes on within your world. And coachingis because everyone needs someone in their corner. Everyone needs someone who believes in them, who can help them set the course and navigate roadblocks along the way.