The freedom that we strive for, that we long for, is within us. The Ultimate Achievement is Accessing it.
There’s an Undiscovered Winner in the world. And that winner is YOU.
I am Kathy Underwood. I am that woman. That woman, who once pushed herself so hard, she almost lost her identity in the process. And today, I am free. Free from that strive. Free from the pain and free from the self-defeating beliefs. Those beliefs that told me, I was not cut out to be an athlete or anything else.
Today, I stand behind athletes. I am ready to assist you in breaking the chains that hold you back, to help you challenge the norms, achieve your ultimate success so you will be unstoppable. Are you READY?
Do you feel chained by contradictive thoughts about being an athlete? Are you sidelined by more injuries than you care to count? Or maybe you feel yourself pulling back from joining practices or lacking determination? Maybe, worst of all, you doubt in your heart and soul that you are the athlete you once were or once knew you could be?
If you hear yourself, even silently say YES to any of the above, I want to assure you that you are not alone. And I get it. At this point, this may not help you much, I am sure. At this point, you’re probably so tired that you’re not even sure you want to hear about training. And guess what? I am NOT here to talk about training.
I want to assure you that, if you are about to push yourself one extra mile, chances are, you will not find the satisfaction and success you are looking for. But you already know this. You’ve done it before. Over and over again. So have I. Yep, over and over and over again.
So, I invite you to read my story. And even though, you’re probably thinking: “What’s your story got to do with me?” It has to do with you because I’ve been there. I know without a doubt, that you want to cross that finish line. My question to you is: “at what cost”?
My story starts with me growing up on a farm. Although we lived out in the country, I always felt trapped, confined, caged. I remember one particular morning. I walk out the back door, put on my boots and start running through the fields behind the farm. Wow. That feeling. My body feels something. I love it. I want more of it. Initially, I am unable to fully grasp what I feel, but by the end of the run I realize, I feel free. Totally free. I decide that day that running is freedom. And every day as I run, I solidify the belief that my freedom can be achieved by not facing difficulties, but rather escaping them. As I run, I cultivate the understanding that, if I am excellent at running, I am free. I deserve freedom. I venture into my school years, pushing myself harder and harder to excel at running. Running is my tool to be good, to be enough and to be free.
Have you ever felt this way? That the next win will change your life? Until it doesn’t?
I believed that making that next marathon, or winning that next race was the sure way to feel completely free and good about myself. Years go by and after long hours of training, pushing and exhausting my body, I end up finishing 9th out of 250 participants in a state cross-country race. I can see it now so vividly - in that second of crossing the finishing line, in the second of looking at my finish, I felt triumphant and jump from excitement. Because I believe this, this was the day I believed I was finally free.
I turn to the people, who have come to watch me. To support me. To cheer for me. Instead of cheers, I hear “9th? That’s it?That’s the best you can do? You could have done better. You should have trained harder.” My heart breaks in two. The child inside me hears: “You can never be good enough.” The adult in me hears: “I have to find a way to be free!” The athlete in me hears: “Push harder, train longer, run farther, bigger races.”
With somewhat broken self-esteem, injured soul and tired body, I begin. This time, training and practicing harder than ever before. This time, I will achieve that ultimate freedom. At all cost. Injuries? I can push through. Exhaustion? I’m a warrior. That was the plan anyway. What happens in reality is, I start losing motivation, and I nurse more injuries than ever before. I start losing myself completely. I push until I am exhausted.
I start losing trust in myself. I believe, I am failing. I am physically and mentally exhausted. Depleted. Defeated. And yet, in order to mask the pain and humiliation, I am prepared to do anything. Maybe even give up. The ultimate failure.
I was in battle. A battle with myself. I struggled to understand how I would ever be free. I couldn’t understand how I failed. And just as I was on the verge of giving up, and accepting that I will never be free or the athlete I aspired to be, a personal coach says to me: “You can run, you can run as fast as you want, and as long as you want, but only if this is YOUR choice”.
And right there. At that very moment. Something changed within me. And in that moment, I realized I can choose. That I can choose freedom for myself. I have nothing to prove to anyone anymore. What a relief.
I realized in one moment that any challenges I thought I had experienced, were only nested in my mind.
For years,I had convinced myself every day that running was about deserving. That running was my only escape. That running was my ticket to freedom. That when I ran far enough and fast enough – I would BE free. That I would BE enough.
Yet, what I understood in that moment, was that every circumstance, every upset that I tried to avoid, only stayed with me. It was when I was ready to seek inside, to look deep within myself and grant myself the permission to choose, then I not only felt free, but I was indeed totally free.
And as you’re reading this, I know that you too believe that you have to push yourself hard. I know that your injuries and failures are defining the abilities that you have as an athlete. I know that you are at a point, where you may doubt everything about yourself and your place in this world of athletes. You may be feeling so lost, that you’ve forgotten why you started at the first place. And what I also know is that, that reason, that nudge, that motivation is still inside of you. And I also know that you can access the passion, the inner strength, that inner fire and be the athlete you know you can be and aspire to be.
You have a choice. You can continue the battle, the struggle, punishing yourself physically and mentally, depleting your energy and your joy of life. Or you can choose to make a stand today, for yourself, for what matters and for what you know you can be. What do you choose?