Wednesday, April 27, 2016

No athletic talent, no problem

I saw this picture on Facebook and it got me thinking. This statement is "I wasn't born a runner, I became a runner" is true for me. I'm not a natural athlete. In fact it took me years to call myself a triathlete because it seemed ridiculous saying those words.
This rings true for me. Does it for you?

Now you may not believe me but let me share a couple of stories. In high school I tried out for tennis. I made the team but only because there were just enough people that tried out to make a team. I often wished there was just one more person so I'd been cut because not once - not one time - did I EVER hit that wretched tennis ball! Not in practice and certainly not in matches. Yeah...

Here's another story. I tried out for volleyball six years in a row and never made the team. Think about that. Six. Years. In. A. Row. and that includes after the two years I spent at volleyball camp. Hahaha!

One more, I'll keep it brief. Never having been able to do a cartwheel, handstand or anything other than a somersault in my life = not the best of ideas trying out for cheer leading team. 

Ah, the memories! I actually get a good chuckle now.

What I didn't realize at the time was my 'thing' wasn't team sports (and certainly nothing that had a ball, oh my goodness). That whole time I was trying out for these teams I was also running on my own just for fun. I didn't think of being in track or cross country because I didn't think I was fast enough. 

But I kept trying, put myself out there and finally figured things out. If I'd let those failures define me life would be very different now. If I'd never done my first 5k (nervous & feeling like I would be last) I'd never had known I loved it. If I hadn't decided to try my first triathlon...I can't even imagine what life would be like.
Me with team OnTrack Fitness at last week's GOTR Spring 5k

Still, running doesn't come easy to me. Triathlon isn't easy. I'm not fast, my body takes a long time to adapt. I'm not a natural. But I've found what I love, my sport. I'm not a tennis or volleyball player, I'm not a cheer leader. I am a triathlete. And it doesn't matter how fast, slow or non talented I am because there's no try outs. Nothing depends on how well I do in a race. It's all for fun!

If you've tried and failed at something it's ok. It happens, it's part of life. Keep trying, do something new, find what you have passion about and go after it. You don't have to be great at it, you just have to enjoy it.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

From the coach: I believe in your dreams

I've been thinking a lot about the few months ahead of me. I'll be going to the Big Island to watch my husband participate in his first Ironman 70.3 in June. So much has changed in the past few years, and this is where it's led us. I never dreamed this would be happening.

I remember how it started. We'd been doing sprint triathlons for a few years when we started coaching a group of beginners in Indiana. I hired my own coach, Mary, to help us with the swim portion. She's an amazing women, friend & mentor to me and I wanted our group to experience her training first hand. Even though Mary told me I knew more than I thought I did & I was capable of training the swim leg, I didn't believe it. At the time I had very little confidence in my swim coaching so having her guidance was an enormous benefit. 

One night after a swim session we were talking about an Olympic distance event I had been interested in. I flat out didn't believe that distance was ever in my future. Too long. Too scary. Too fatigued. Too much pain. No way.
Matt & I at the Honolulu Triathlon

Mary begged to differ. She looked at me and told me I could do that race, this year, and be perfectly fine. She then told my husband Matt he should do an Ironman 70.3. We chuckled, not believing in our abilities to do something seemingly out of reach.

But Mary believed in us. She told me something that changed my life. She said that I can't see it now because I've never done it, but I am capable of it. That I can trust her belief in me until I see for myself.

I don't know exactly why but that hit me right where I needed it, and I started believing I could do it.

You know what, I did do it. That year. I did it and was perfectly fine. More than fine, I loved it! 

My confidence grew simply because I had someone believe in me. She encouraged me to go for a goal that seemed ridiculous and out of reach. But it wasn't out of reach, I just thought it was. 

Since then I've taken on the swim coaching & have gotten really confident in it - it's actually my favorite piece of coaching. I've done many more triathlons (yes the longer distances along with shorter ones), added an IRONMAN Certified Coach (who'da thought that?!) to my credentials, Matt is finally getting to do his 70.3 after prepping & relocating before he could race twice and I'm going to do mine next season. 

Oh, and we've since done marathons, moved from Midwest to Arizona then to Hawaii, transitioned to swimming from pools to oceans (a transition I NEVER thought I'd accomplish). Yeah, things would be very different if we hadn't taken a few leaps of faith.

Matt after running his 1st marathon,
the Honolulu Marathon

My point here is not to gloat. My point is this: YOU can reach your goals too. Big goals - maybe that are just dreams now. HUGE giant, fluffy, crazy sounding dreams. 

Your dream might be to complete a 5k, lose weight, do a half/full marathon or complete your first triathlon. Whatever your dream looks like, don't allow the simple fact that you haven't done it before make you think you can never do it.

You CAN do it. I believe in you. No one else might believe you can, you might not believe you can, but that doesn't mean it's true. You may not see it, but I see it looking here from the other side. I know that if you focus your attention and start working toward that goal you will reach it. Yeah, you'll have to work for it (did I mention that?) but trust me, looking from the other side, it's worth every second. --Emily Collins

Monday, April 11, 2016

Chronic pain, fitness & triathlons

I have chronic pain, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, thyroid disease, a mysterious "floating virus" (whatever that means!), scoliosis among other things. Docs tell me 60% of my energy goes toward dealing with health issues. I gain weight easily, I don't gain muscle & I can get sick if I spend too much time standing, sitting or walking around (weird..) No one quite knows what's going on even after 10 plus years. I've come to accept that no one is going to truly know. 

But that doesn't define the whole me. I'm also a triathlon coach, personal trainer, yoga instructor, triathlete, marathon runner. 
You're looking at a VERY happy me
coming out of my 1st ocean swim triathlon

By the way, no I don't have health issues because I do these sports. I do these sports to STAY as healthy & strong as possible to fight illness. 

Yes, sometimes I ask why me. Sometimes I get discouraged. Sometimes I can't sleep because of pain. Some days I pray that this will all go away, even for a day so I can feel what it's like to be "normal." But my reality right now is this. Yours might be too.

If I could choose I would take optimal health in a heart beat of course. But I've come to realize blessings can come out of pain. 

Let me explain. Because I have pain I have empathy for others in pain. Because I have fatigue I understand how it feels when just getting out of bed is enough for the day. Because I swim bike & run while I have these issues I understand the frustrations others have when they feel like they'll never be able to become a runner, or the bike doesn't seem like a friend. Or when they want to quit because they're not seeing results they think they should be seeing. I get it! I've been there, which means I'm further along my journey & I can say "Stay hopeful because you're going to be ok!" 
This is me at my first marathon, something I never thought would happen.
Don't set limits!

If you're reading this & suffering, you are going to be ok! Here's a few things I've learned along the way that I'd like to share with you.

  • No matter where you're at now you can always have better health. Forget comparing yourself to others or to what you think you should or could've been. Strive for a little bit better health, whether that's regular doctor visits, massages, eating better, exercising etc etc (or all of those). 
  • Learn to love your body. After all, it's trying SO hard for you. Your body is not fighting against you even when it feels like it is. Your body is fighting for you so give it a break, love it as it is & take this time to take exceptional care of it.
  • Along those same lines, learn what your body needs. Exercise regularly. Keep it gentle at first until Dr's ok it (I spent several months doing close to nothing then eased back into light exercise then slowly went back to swim bike run). Sleep as much as you need PLEASE, learn to say no, learn your body's cues & heed them, eat as healthy as possible, drink lots of water, be around positive friends that don't make you feel bad about being sick (yeah it happens & it sucks big time).
  • Find doctors that are positive & encouraging. Don't settle for meanies, negative nellies or docs that act like you're crazy (yeah that happens too & it super sucks)! Do. Not. Settle.
  • Never give up on your health. That may mean redefining a few things you thought your life would be like - but that's ok!
  • But don't set limits. Just be smart about things & give yourself time. I didn't go from a diagnosis to running marathons. I spent a lot of time sleeping & gaining a very long drawn out process of building myself up. Then for me, I simply say I'll do this until my body says no. You may not be interested in triathlon or marathons & that's fine. But find something active that you love, that gives you energy back & brings you a little further toward better health. 
  • Don't lose joy. Pray. Praise. Worship & be grateful for what you have. Stop thinking about what you don't have. Celebrate God's involvement in your life & know He has good things planned for you.
  • Never ever ever give up on yourself. It's going to be ok! (did I mention that already?)  -- Emily Collins