For most of my adult life I’ve had a sport to train for. Motivation was easy: On the days I wasn’t too enthused about working out, I could just think of volleyball. Imagining my opponents sweating and groveling their way to greatness was enough to get me moving. But this year, the women’s beach volleyball’s doubles and four-person tours were canceled for financial and orgarnizational reasons. For the first time in six years, I found myself without a summer tour.
Suddenly I faced a new challenge: making the most of this change. I thought about all the people I knew who had participated in sports in college. What did they do when it was over, when they had to get a “real” job and find the inspiration to stay fit? What could I do to stay positive and motivated?
I went through a two-month period in which I couldn’t train with the same focus. In April, I shot a health-club commercial and felt like the least fit person there. I started having small meltdowns: “Look at my body; I’m not as hard as I used to be. Maybe I’ll never get into that ultimate shape again.” I kept asking my husband, Laird, “Honey, does my butt look big?” “It looks the same,” he kept answering. (Men aren’t as good as women at torturing themselves.)
But this wasn’t just about “Gee, how am I going to stay motivated to work out?” Beach volleyball is my job. If I didn’t play ball, what could I do? This represented a transition, a crossroads, and to be honest, the unknown makes me uncomfortable. Still, it’s something life makes us go through many times over. Change: We fight it, we’re afraid of it. Yet often it’s the best thing that can happen to us.
So how have I dealt with change? The first thing I did was to identify all I was feeling: my insecurities, fears, yearnings, everything. Then I unloaded on Laird, who always tells me straight up what he thinks. His No. 1 suggestion was “Stay busy.” That way the insecurities wouldn’t have as many opportunities to creep into my mind.
Now I have time to take voice lessons and focus on my TV career. (I’m doing some segments for ESPN.) I’ve been reading inspiring material, especially travel books, because they remind me how big the world is and what possibilities it, holds. While I’m not competing, I’m staying connected to the sport by playing in mixed-doubles exhibitions with top players from the men’s tour. I usually play on a four-person team, so the doubles format is forcing me to work on my weaknesses. Ironically, change is making me a better player.
These tests aren’t unique to me; we all go through them. What can you do? Avoid the “poor me” trip; self-pity just delays change. If you have someone who is willing to listen, unload. Do new things you’ve always wanted to try. Eat properly. Sounds silly, but when you feel edgy, you may just need some food.
When all else fails and I just want to lock myself in the house and stuff chocolate into my mouth, I remember that I live on a planet that is part of a galaxy that is in an infinite universe. Gives you some perspective. How serious are my problems? Will I live? Is working out that hard? Do I have my health? Is there a roof over my head and food in my stomach? I just have to have the faith and keep busting butt. Wonderful new things can come out of the most difficult times.