Being An Athlete for Life

So many of us have just given up. I can’t tell you how many women I talk to who say they are just too busy to fit in exercise. They get a faraway look in their eyes as they think back to a time in high school or college when they were active, maybe even a highly competitive athlete. Or maybe they recall a time in their lives just before kids came along, when they could fit in that workout after work, no sweat. The conversation typically ends with, but I could never do that now.

I’d argue that we are all lifelong athletes and it’s imperative that we find ways to stay active throughout our lives. I recently attended a Twin Cities StartUp Week session hosted by Kristin Shane of Fly Feet Running titled Being an Athlete at Work. Read her blog here and see the Harvard 2001 study, which Kristin references, on the Corporate Athlete. The study talks in-depth about the spiritual, mental, emotional, physical pyramid (listed here from top to base). It’s a model that demonstrates the long-term positive effects of being physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually fit and most importantly, how they all correlate.

“Put simply, the best long-term performers tap into positive energy at all levels of the performance pyramid.” – The Making of a Corporate Athlete.

I love the examples they include in the study. I bet we can all relate. To build on the idea of living a life according to the pyramid, I’ll touch on some of life’s transition stages where the pivotal points of maintaining a life-long fitness journey come into play.

The first step is to accept that physical activity looks different in varying life stages. The fitness options individuals have at any given time in their life are influenced by work, caregiver roles, relationships, income, physical health, accessibility, support systems and more. If you can work through the transitions with intention, you can continue to make activity a priority.

Where are you at with your physical activity? If you are in a transition period now, let me offer some of my transition experiences, ideas for a healthy mindset and steps you can take to continue to evolve your activities and your support system to get it done.


That far away look I mentioned earlier? That can also be accompanied with that’s when I was in the best shape of my life. You can still have it all and can be in best shape possible for this time and point in your life. Chances are if you don’t have as much accessible time to workout, you’re blessed with work that provides financial peace of mind and purpose (if you’re fortunate) and other blessings like relationships and children. So, no mourning, seek only the new.

New parents out there: the years when my kids were 0-4 were definitely the most challenging, but this time period was also when the workouts and time for myself were the most necessary and rewarding. Six weeks after my firstborn (who is now 14) arrived in this world, my prior schedule of 4-5 one-hour workouts weekly went by the wayside. I started 22-minute runs outdoors 5-6 times a week. Despite incredible sleep-deprivation, I could psyche myself up for 22 minutes. I thought this was a bare minimum workout, but at six months post Ava, I was at the lowest weight I’d been since high school. Most importantly, I felt healthy. This new seemingly sub-standard routine turned out to be the absolute best thing for me during that time.


When your old or current routine is being phased out for whatever reason, new routines require new effort and mindsets. Assess your options along with your values to determine your best option. Be open to completely new concepts from types of activities to timing. As we grow up and we’re pulled in many directions it takes additional cleverness and efficiency-based ideas to make it work.

When Ava was three months old, I went back to work full time. I allowed myself three months of way paired down activity. I went back to workouts after work 5:30-6:30, but I was miserable. Clearly, that previous lifestyle was not going to be a doable option for me. I also knew that I wasn’t willing to head to the gym prior to work and miss out on morning time with Ava. I also didn’t have the option of working from home in the evenings (Circa 2005, I didn’t have a laptop!). This left my noon-hour. I found a gym within a two-minute walk from my office and got in 2-3 intense one-hour long workouts weekly for the ten years I was with one organization. It was challenging culture-wise, but I chose to be unapologetic about it. My productivity soared in the afternoons as a result. I also counteracted the sleep-deprivation from two kids and had time in the morning and evenings with them.


A balanced pyramid doesn’t happen in a silo. Cuing people in that can support and help you is key to your success. Ask for help and be sure you don’t just share the what, but you share the WHY. See our team’s Wellness Why’s here.

In my story I’ve shared here to date, it’s worth mentioning that I had to reiterate my commitment to my 22-minute runs to my husband. I sometimes had to leave a screaming infant to be able to get this precious window for a workout. As I continued to give him a glimpse into why it made me a better mom, he planned accordingly and made his commitments to support me accordingly. When it came to sharing my why with my coworkers in the workplace, I didn’t do this to the fullest extent for several reasons so even though I was unapologetic, I certainly could have lifted some of the guilt with some conversations around the why.


Setting goals is great, but doing the hard things daily to make them reality is challenging work. Find support in an accountability partner to help you consistently stick to your daily tasks and meet your goals. These partners can be incredibly helpful during transition times, so consider pairing up with someone else who shares your particular situation. It can definitely tip the emotional, mental and spiritual portions of the pyramid to the positive. Read up on our accountability partner insight here.

Understanding that we’re on a lifelong journey of wellness is something near and dear to us at Empowering All. Let us know how we can support you as your strive for your pyramid. It IS possible! — Jen Gilhoi