THE BACK STORY:
I have friends who have secrets. They look all regular yet their hidden skills, when known, add so much depth and personality to them. It’s one of my favorite things to get to know these types of inner workings. We are layered beings, where the longer we mesh and the longer we trust each other, the more the layers are peeled back and we find out how to love, admire, appreciate, and accept each other. If we get to this point, we probably know what could hurt each other too. As friends we protect each other’s vulnerabilities and forgive our shortcomings. As a whole package deal, we become privileged to each other’s privacy and heart-thoughts.
Sierra is one of those friends for me.
When I found out about Sierra’s swim coaching, I was intrigued. As I talked with her, she took me to coaching, to mothering, to loving your body, and moving forward from where you are right now. She is real, she is a mother, she’s a swim coach, and she’s the friend you want to have.
Sierra’s story is part of Dynamo, a series of posts dedicated to showing real people, real power-houses, who inspire me and the people around them in their healthy living. They might not always think they do, but I believe that we each influence others more than we realize or recognize. That inspiration is empowering for others and themselves. I believe in the good of every person and I believe that this and stories to follow can change our outlook, our dedication, and our perception of the people around us. Up next in the Dynamo community, I introduce Dynamo: Sierra.
Who are you?
I think in life and in general we are many things. We aren’t just one thing. With stereotypes we get categorized as one thing but we are so much more than that. I always think about when I was in high school and college and I was into soccer a lot, the only people who asked me out were people who I played soccer with. And I was like, “did they ask me out because I’m good at soccer, is that the only reason? I’m so much more than just a soccer player!” Now I think, like everyone else, there’s so many things that we all do and we’re so much more than just one thing.
You’re a swim coach right now, have you been a swim coach before?
I coached in college. Right after high school I moved to Logan, UT and I started coaching for the summer for a club, the Bronze team. I coached all through college. I also coached a year of high school swim team as the head coach after I got home from my mission.
Who has influenced your active lifestyle?
There were lots of people along the way. My dad worked for the forest service and we always went on hikes and were outside and went camping. I remember starting to swim and my sister-in-law taught lessons to me. I was 4.
I think I’ve had some amazing women mentors in my life. Which is actually kinda rare in coaching, you just see more men in general in a lot of things. My sister-in-law Shari Skabelund coached me from the time that I knew her, my brother and her were married before I was born, so she’s been coaching forever. And at a higher level too.
And Yoland Bates who I went to coach with in Logan after high school, she coached club for a long long time and has been very successful. Her and my sister-in-law swam together at BYU and she is actually from Mexico. She was on the Mexico National Swim Team. She now coaches at BYU.
Having and seeing those people in those positions, it’s something that I took for granted. Looking through my eyes now, that’s actually a rarity in having those two very strong women that were close to me to observe.
Do you love your body?
I do. But I feel like I’ve been lucky due to the fact that I’ve always been active, so I’ve always had a semi-fit body so it was easy to love. In high school I don’t feel like I really had any bad body images. In swimming or in any sport, there’s going to be people who have eating disorders and issues, but I never felt like I fell in those lines.
In swimming you’re in a swimsuit all the time. You see yourself in your swimsuit all the time. You have to be somewhat comfortable with your body. If you’re not, you’re wearing a towel around and you just don’t do that. There’s people that will, but in general, you have to be comfortable with your body to some extent to walk around.
And then I feel like it goes beyond your body to being okay with yourself too. I think it’s emotional, mental, and spiritual. You have to be okay with who you are, like you see me with really beautiful legs all the time [think hair]. I can explain to people that I’m lazy or I don’t care, and that’s partly because I am lazy and don’t care and partly because I grew up swimming and you shave three times a year, bad habits, but I don’t care. This is me. Sometimes I like to shave my legs and look good every once in a while, but in general if I’m just doing it for other people, that’s not why I should be doing it. It should be for me to feel good about myself. If I want to shave my legs every once in a while, that’s fine.
How about your body after 3 children?
It’s been more difficult definitely. Especially because it’s harder to find time for me to figure out how to workout more. I feel like I’m having a harder time in this house than I was in the other house because we were walking to the library, we would walk around that area, ride bikes around that area, go running, it was just an easy and safe environment for my kids to do whatever. I felt like I was constantly walking there. We would walk to a lot of different places because it’s a little more close to some places. Here, it’s not as easy as it was there, partly because I have another kid.
How do you teach your children to love their bodies?
By talking well about your own. I noticed if I talked not good about my body they pick that up and they’ve made comments before. Especially since having my 3rd, my body isn’t where it used to be. And then also when they’ve made comments, they’ve said, “Mom, you’re having another baby!” You just have to take things in stride and not be offended by things that you would usually take offense to. They don’t know, they’re just stating an observation unfortunately. But at the same time we have to teach them to be polite to others to. There’s this balance of teaching them how to be kind and polite and respectful to other’s bodies, but also being able to look at their own body and love it.
I read something on a blog a long time ago about someone who was talking about body image with their daughters and how they teach their daughters to love themselves and they did this dance.
I have a tendency to be free loving naked person in front of my kids, I know there’s lots of things about people not having clothes on when your kids get to a certain age. Anyways, as far as now, they still see me naked. So (laughs)!
At a time period when I was about 9 months postpartum and had been making not good comments about myself just in the mirror before a shower, cause that’s when I’d see myself naked. “I don’t like the way this looks,” you know and making comments. The kids were picking up on it and saying things about their own bodies and I was like, “Whoa! I got to step back here. This is not okay.” I had that body image article in the back of my head and said, “We are going to do a dance.” We look in the mirror, do a little dance, sing a little song, “I love my body, I’m a girl and I love my body!” with my girls (3 and 1-year-olds). We just started to do that and the kids loved it and it was fun and Eli wanted to join in too, since it was just the girls, he’d say “I want to do the naked dance to!” It’s just been a little thing.
If my husband makes comments about himself and I say, “Joe, stop it, they listen and hear you. Anyone looking at your body on the outside would never make any of those rude comments. You can’t make those comments about yourself.”
How have your friends helped you have a positive body image?
I had a friend in college. With her roommates, if you said something bad about yourself they’d say, “You owe me a quarter!”
If we say something disparaging about ourselves (now) I say, “You owe me a quarter.” The kids started picking it up. It’s not necessarily something body related like, “I’m so stupid, why did I do that?” My oldest will then say, “you owe me a quarter!” He’ll call ya out on it, which is really cool because he’s thinking about, “Oh, that’s not okay and I shouldn’t be doing that.” So I can do the same thing to him.
One time it was really funny, I can’t even remember what Joe said, but we were talking (and we don’t always think about quarters, but my oldest does) and across the room he said, “Dad, you owe me a quarter!” Both of us were like, “He was listening!” And we burst out laughing. “Yep, you’re right, dad definitely owes you a quarter.” And then the next day at the library he had to tell the librarian that, “My dad owes me a quarter because my dad said something bad about himself.” (laughs) I just think it’s a good little thing. He gets it. We shouldn’t be saying mean things about ourselves and not just disparaging things. It’s okay to critique yourself and say, “I don’t know if I like the way I did this, I think maybe next time I’ll do this.” That’s okay.
When have you been in the best shape of your life?
Probably in high school because I was swimming and playing soccer. I was swimming twice a day and playing soccer. I was in really good shape then. And I would think that the first two years I was in college I was in pretty good shape because I…I don’t tell people this…but my sophomore year I tried out for Utah State Soccer and walked on for a year. We lifted weights and ran a lot, but I still felt like I was more in shape in high school. I think swimming is a sport that keeps you…it’s a lifetime sport. Not everyone is going to run like Dixie until they’re 75, but most people can get in a pool no matter what their physical issues are. You can work out every part of your body and endurance wise, like if you’re actually having intense training, like I could work out swimming, be in shape swimming wise, and then go run and I was a fast runner. I’d use my muscles different and my muscles would be sore but I wouldn’t be out of breath.
You walked on a college soccer team? How was that?
I love soccer, so it was sad to quit. It was good to play but it was different than I expected. It wasn’t a team unity experience I thought it would be because you don’t realize you have a whole bunch of girls that are coming from 1) being used to being the best person on their team in high school and they’re coming together with all these girls who are the same way and 2) all these girls being used to starting to play and play for the whole game. You very much have this competition. It’s very competitive. It was less team-like than I imagined it was going to be. It was neat because I was at the bottom obviously because I was a walk-on, so it was good new perspective for me because I hadn’t been in that position before. At the same time it was the same as anything, you just work hard and that’s all you can do.
What’s fun about being a swim coach?
I feel like having communication with other adults and not feeling like I’m talking down, not that I talk down to my kids, just adult conversation.
Do you have a coaching philosophy?
It depends on who I’m coaching.
For Eli’s (5-year-old son) soccer team I want these kids to learn to love the game. I want them to have fun first and foremost, then I want them to learn something new and exercise, then I want them to learn how to respect themselves and others. I want them to be confident in themselves.
For the Masters swim team, I want them to…I guess it’s kinda the same, I want them to enjoy themselves. Most of them come because they want to workout and they want a good exercise, so hopefully that’s there for them. And some of them want to improve and get better, so I give them feedback and pointers to critique their strokes.
What do you feel like you get by coaching?
I feel like anytime you teach or are in a teaching position you learn things about yourself. How to improve, how to make something better, how to make your workouts better, or how to improve the way you communicate or improve the way you structure stuff. Just in various aspects you learn how to improve yourself, that’s something you get back. Anytime you give you get, if you’re really giving out of your heart, not just because you feel like you have to but because you want to, in return you get a sense of satisfaction and joy.
Where do you find the most peace in your life?
At home. I find the most peace in my life when I’m doing things that I don’t regret that I’m doing them. I feel peace when I’m doing everything I feel like I should be doing. Whether it’s in choice of action, choice of words, choice of any of those choices that I have power in.
How do you help your kids be active?
We just like to do things, be active. I try to limit screen time with them. I’d rather have them learn to love being active so hopefully when I can no longer force them, their choice will be to go outside and play rather than sit in front of a screen. I think that’s going to be evolution for kids and I think it’s evolution for everyone. Sometimes I’d rather sit on the couch and do nothing, you know what I mean. But I think it’s actually a head start if they enjoy doing some of those things versus if they’ve never been exposed to it.
What’s one thing you feel like you do particularly well in regards to health right now?
I feel like I try to make meals at home all the time and make them from scratch. I use food that usually is not processed and I feel like that’s a healthy thing. I think it helps my whole family and not just me. Something I’d want to do is exercise more, but that would be something more for me alone. Actually it would be for everyone to because when I exercise I’m happier and I feel better about myself. I can see it in my day and the way it affects my day, but I just need to figure out when.
What advice would you give to anyone feeling hopeless about their health?
Start small and pick something you can feel successful at. I think I find that I compare myself to when I was in the best shape, which is really bad because I’m not anywhere near that right now and probably will never get to that point again. I need to compare myself to right now and move from where I’m at now and just go small and do one thing at a time. There’s so many aspects and I have a tendency to make unrealistic goals and I feel overwhelmed and don’t do any of them, so I think just picking one that I can accomplish.
Be okay with yourself and don’t be too hard on yourself. Don’t compare yourself. No matter who you are you have a tendency to do that. It’s hard to be positive if you’re doing those things too much, especially in this blogosphere. It’s easy to get caught up in everyone else’s life rather than being who you are.