An active athlete and sports enthusiast from an early age. In order to play structured sports, even in elementary school, I had to be consistent and persistent enough to overcome chronic bronchitis. I believe this made me a lifelong learner of the human condition.
After receiving my bachelor’s degree, my first career was in retail management. The sometimes disruptive and inconsistent schedule made it difficult to plan my exercise routine, or at least that’s what I told myself until I was diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse due to a viral infection at 28 years young. I was referred to a cardiologist and told I had two leaky valves and needed to pay closer attention to being “heart-healthy”. I began learning all I could about my condition and was determined to never have to take medication – and even in my 50s, I still don’t. Two of the important things I learned were to add more cardio to my fitness and to pay close attention to sodium and saturated fat intake. These are two habits I continue to practice today.
In 1998, I decided to go back to school to earn an MBA with a focus on Healthcare Administration. I chose this focus because it combined my business acumen with my curiosity about health and healthcare. I really hadn’t done a very good job of saving during my retail career, so I had to continue working full-time while taking classes at night. My mother soon noticed my fatigue, weight loss, and hair loss. She suggested I have my thyroid checked, and of course, she was correct. I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism. So again, I went on a learning journey. I cut back on my workload and moved home with my parents so I could afford to complete my degree. In my final year of Graduate School, I was awarded a scholarship for participants in the Healthcare program and earned a graduate assistantship on a project studying Access Barriers to Healthcare. This project earned me my first position at a Healthcare Foundation. Although I wasn’t following through on my career goal of Healthcare Administration, there was something much more rewarding about helping communities and nonprofit organizations “do what they do – better” with the support of a local Foundation.
I spent the next 20 years in the Healthcare Foundation field, and I always carried with me an awareness of my own health. How could I help coach organizations on being healthier if I wasn’t healthy myself? I searched for an activity I could do on my own. At the time, my now-husband had taken an interest in Triathlons, he even bought a book on training. I read it and decided it was “doable” if I were realistic about my goals. I was never much of a runner, so I decided to start there. I asked a friend who was a runner to give me a few tips. I listened closely and did my own research. I signed up for my first 5K at the age of 40. At the completion of the run, I felt strong and empowered. I had even beat my own goal. 3 months later, I completed a “mini” triathlon. A friend of my husband was impressed with my accomplishments and asked if I had a training partner. I did not, so he invited me to join his run group. I now had a community to train with, this led me to complete many more 5 & 10k races as well as multiple half-marathons, two full marathons, and a sprint triathlon. In my 50th year, I set out to and completed a goal of running 5 half-marathons in that calendar year. It was in that year I was offered a Foundation CEO position in a different state halfway across the country from my friends and family.
Because I felt this was an amazing opportunity, I accepted the position. While I managed to continue an exercise routine, it wasn’t the same. I told myself all I needed was to get established in my new place, and eventually, I would be able to get back on course. About a year into our new home, I ran a half-marathon, but it was one of my most miserable races. I really needed to train more, but my new lifestyle didn’t allow the schedule, at least that is what I told myself. A few years later, along with the onset of the COVID pandemic, I began to have additional health issues. I had been suffering through an awful battle with menopause, and my hormones were – let’s just say- not in sync. I was experiencing some bleeding and had had a D and C procedure. At this point, my thyroid medication also needed adjusting. It didn’t help that my travel was limited, and I was a thousand miles from home. Time for a little self-care!! After lots of discussions and thought about what we needed most in our world, my husband and I decided it was time to move home to be near family and community. I also decided after 20 years in the Foundation world, I needed to create my own path.
My husband and I have moved back to our home state. Our path includes spending lots of time with friends and family, learning and researching what it means to be a good coach, and most of all, giving myself space and grace to live by my own design. To top it all off, I have started a new professional career with another healthcare organization. My focus is on helping people move up their career ladder to practice to the full extent of what is possible for them. I think this is the perfect parallel to wellness coaching and my mission of empowering people to live their best life.