Over the years in sport as I carve out athletic progress in ways that make sense for me I’ve also navigated through seas of opinions.  I have heard,  “You take the sport too seriously.”  “It is not like you are going to the Olympics,”  Or on the flip-side, “You don’t take this sport seriously enough,”  “You won’t progress unless you (insert limiting or boring inaccurate advice).” 

Too Serious?  Not Serious enough?
Ever get that kind of feedback?  

Those statements are baseless unless you are not being true to your own heart’s desires.
I am a highly sensitive person.  I’m conscientious and I care about people a lot.  Years ago I would battle criticism about how much effort I did or did not put into the sport. I would become frustrated about letting people down as I paved my way in sport.  It was not just acquaintances.  It also came from friends and even coaches.  That was harder to dismiss.  I used to take it all to heart.  It would break me and stall my progress.  I used to question myself.  Now, I trust myself.

Who has authority to define how much effort you chose to put into a sport?  Who gets to define what is fun for you?  For me, the answer is that I am the one that decides.
I race, train and live “Kelly Style!”  It works for me.

If I had one piece of advice to sensitive athletes like me, it would be to achieve sports success as you define it and have fun in sports in ways you enjoy regardless of other people’s opinions.  Know who you are, what you want and find your style.

I now know that “heart and soul” is a strength.  Sensitive people have talents and abilities specifically resulting from this temperament and I know how to channel it.  I become confident through that passion and I like to share it with others.  Guess what?  You can too.

Friends or coaches who say you aren’t serious enough or that you are too serious are often actually trying to help.  Often people commenting mean well but are coming from a limited way of thinking and are not considering your priorities.  Perhaps they are battling their own internal struggles and projecting those onto you.  Recognize if they are misguided and tune out the noise if the opinions are not in line with your heart.  If you hire a coach or join a group make sure they are willing to accept your definition of success, drop their own agendas and help you get to your goals (not their goals for you) in a manner that you find enjoyable.  Surround yourself with those who have a capacity to understand your passions and priorities.

Simply follow your own athletic path and you will be successful.

If you want to run a 5K as  fast as you can give yourself permission to do it.  If you want to run that 5K with your friends chatting instead let yourself  If you want to run a 5K as fast as you can but you hang back instead to avoid a lecture about being “too serious” for wanting to get more out of yourself you are selling yourself short.  You’d likely have more fun pursuing your path.

Stay true to your personal definition of success and your idea of enjoyment in sports!  

Yesterday I qualified for the Boston Marathon for the first time.  It was a goal I had written off years ago as being unobtainable.  Years ago I was told I should just be happy with my health and the finish time that had left me feeling disappointed.  I should just “have fun.”  Well, for me “fun” is performing to my best ability and chasing goals.  This is not my race report but I will say that yesterday I pushed myself hard enough to achieve my goal of qualifying with a 60 minute PR.  I took pictures of gorgeous views because I wanted to and it was fun in the moment.  I made videos to share the joy.  I now realize making videos during a marathon is worse than doing so in a bar when intoxicated.  Mine made no sense and did not convey the feelings of being in the race!   I met people on the course and made friends.  I made my legs hurt.  A lot.  I poured myself fully into the marathon and I enjoyed every instant of that race.  Taking the opportunity to try a standalone marathon again years later and achieving a BQ, “Kelly Style” has me feeling accomplished, happy and wanting to share the passion and excitement with the world.

Was I too serious?  Not serious enough?  To me, it doesn’t matter because I am happy!

When you sign up for your next race…remember:

  It is YOUR journey.  Embrace it.  Find your own Style!