I’m Sorry, What Did You Just Call Me? (An Introduction to Coach Alison)

Hi everyone! I wanted to take a minute to introduce myself since you’ll be hearing from me with some frequency going forward. I’m Coach Alison and my primary role here is to provide you with three things: motivation, encouragement, and inspiration. I’m a very enthusiastic and passionate fitness trainer and coach (to put it mildly) but I have to tell you that it’s still very odd for me to hear others call me “Coach”, sometimes it’s as if I’m being called by someone else’s name.

Sure, I’ve coached and trained my fair share of athletes and I’ve got the required certifications so I suppose I (technically) qualify but it really doesn’t seem all that long ago that I was just beginning to get comfortable with calling myself an athlete, so the “Coach” hat still feels a bit strange to me. It was only yesterday that I was just an everyday, mild-mannered contracts administrator for a global corporation. So why do I do I coach if it feels so unnatural? Excellent question. To really understand my response though, you’d first have to know a little bit about me.

Truth be told, I was never particularly athletic. To anyone who didn’t know me eight years ago, this is unbelievable; however, while I dabbled in sports in my younger days and through college, I was really just mediocre (at best). That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy sports because I did but, sadly, I showed no signs of any actual athleticism, talent or skill. So eventually I stopped playing sports (or doing anything physical for that matter) and by age 23, I was 5’2”, over 200 pounds and very sick. I really wish I could tell you that this was enough to make me turn my life around, but it was not.

Well, it turns out that being an adult is stressful…like SUPER stressful! I know, shocker! But in all seriousness, I felt that I’d been duped; I mean, can I get a warning or something?? By age 26, I was really in the thick of it, working obscene hours at a DC law firm, dealing with some very intense family stuff, and buried under a crushing landslide of stress. On one particularly bad evening, I went out for a walk to blow off steam (which is really just a nicer way of saying that I was giving my significant other a break from all the complaining). When walking didn’t do the job and the pressure in my head continued to build, I spontaneously broke into a run and, let me tell you, it was magical…for ¼ mile, which was all my poor neglected body could take. It drained me from the inside, stripped me down, and ignited every nerve in my body; in other words, those 400 meters were the most exhilaratingly exhausting steps of my life. My body was spent but my mind and soul craved more so I went out again the next night, and the next, and the rest (as they say) is history. An athlete was born that day. She emerged from the depths of the darkest days of my young life and has never looked back.

And it didn’t stop there. Having been someone of the mindset that “running is hard”, “running is miserable torture” and “I’m not a runner” for so many years, it’s an interesting experience to wake up one day and realize just how wrong you’ve been. That’s precisely what happened to me: running actually wasn’t hard, or miserable, or torture, and by all accounts I was in fact a runner. PHEW!! Mind. Blown.

So I started to wonder what else I’d gotten wrong? Just how deep does this rabbit-hole go? What other unfounded, preconceived notions were lurking in my head? These questions led me to start systematically sifting through and identifying all the boxes I’d put myself into and take a good long look at whether or not I actually belonged in that box or if it was easier to just assign myself to it. It was during this process that I realized why I’d been clinging to these beliefs about myself for so long: (1) it was safe and (2) I was afraid.

It was far easier and safer for me to say “I’m short so I can’t jump that high” and “I’m not a swimmer” than it would’ve been to actually do the work to test those theories. It’s far less stressful to turn around when you run into a wall or “find the path of least resistance” than it is to actually try to find a way over, around or through it. I believed that I was happier living in my self-imposed box and it provided the added bonus of conveniently giving me an “out” when challenges presented themselves. Why try to do a box jump or train for a triathlon when you can just rattle off a few excuses?

Which brings me to the fear stuff. I was equal parts afraid of both failing at my attempts to break out of the box (proving myself right) and succeeding at these attempts (proving myself wrong). I know, I know…it sounds COMPLETELY ridiculous, especially now that I see it on paper, but the reality is that this thinking isn’t all that uncommon. As long as I hid behind the labels I’d assigned myself, I wouldn’t have to risk looking like an idiot or- horror of horrors- failing at something AND I wouldn’t have to embrace the “unknown”. I had, what I believed to be, a very clear view of the world and my place in it and I was not necessarily looking to shake that up, if you catch my drift. But comfort zones are so-named because they are comfortable; if they were reality they’d be called “reality zones”…just sayin’.

So there I was, in my newly-enlightened state, testing all sorts of theories about myself and you know what I figured out? I don’t belong in a box. While my roots were and probably always will be in running, I also practice yoga, strength train, cycle, swim, go adventure running (it’s trail running without a map, a.k.a. getting lost in the woods with friends or, as we’ve come to call it, just another Sunday morning), compete in obstacle course races, and the list goes on. The running joke (haha…seewhatididthere) among my athletes is that Coach Alison will try anything and they’re right of course but it wasn’t always this way. Through fitness and athletics, I’ve shed my crippling self-doubt, fear of failure, fear of looking ridiculous and a laundry list of really destructive habits and replaced them with the best friends a gal could ever ask for, a ton of super awesome memories, a daily sense of accomplishment, a feeling of continuous progress, the ability to stop taking myself so seriously and more laughs than some people will have in their entire lives. What’s not to love?

So, circling back to the initial question, why do I coach? It’s simple: to pass these effects onto as many people as possible in my lifetime. I want to show people (just like you) that:

(A) no matter what box you’ve tossed yourself into, fitness and physical activity will enhance your life in ways you can’t possibly imagine; and

(B) fitness is fun- think of it as recess for adults- and if you disagree with me, you’re not doing it right!

If I had my way, we’d all be playing and having adventures daily, living life to the absolute fullest, not bound by the limitations we’ve placed on ourselves. This was the driving force behind establishing my personal blog, Life, Running and the Pursuit of Awesome. It’s a shame for anyone to spend one year, one month, or even one day believing that they are anything less than unbelievably awesome. A single moment lived in that mindset is a waste but an entire lifetime, now that’s a travesty.

This is why I do what I do. Fitness changed my life and I don’t mean just in the physical sense or by losing 70 pounds; most notably, it changed my soul and opened my eyes to the seemingly-endless potential inside me that I never knew existed. Its effects transcend the world of sports and extend far beyond the four walls of any gym. Because of fitness, I’m a better professional, daughter, sister, wife, friend, and human being. And this is something I simply feel compelled to sprinkle around everywhere by guiding folks on their path to find the most awesome and courageous version of themselves.

We’re all truly remarkable and the only thing preventing us from seeing that truth is our clouded self-image. It’s time to change our perspective, time to bust out of the box. Don’t waste another second of your life telling yourself that you are something you’re not. Open your mind to the possibility that anything is possible and watch how your life changes.