A podcast fueled by professionals bridging the gap between Sports and Business. Enjoy as guests share stories & experiences from the playing field to the board room.
012 - Rowing out of athletic burnout and into professional confidence with Emily Coffman
Meet Emily Coffman
Emily was a Division 1 Rower at the University of Oklahoma who found that the lifestyle she was living to be unhealthy. Emily believed she was healthy because she was constantly active and could eat whatever she wanted without gaining weight, but realized that she didn’t know how to train without overworking herself or how to fuel her body properly. Emily decided to start the Girls Gone Healthy Podcast when she realized how many girls just like her were struggling when it came to working out, eating right, and feeling confident in your body. The Girls Gone Healthy Podcast is her way of bringing affordable (it’s free!) and accessible health and fitness information to listeners. Hear from Emily as she goes through her journey and is joined by certified fitness and nutrition professionals that provides girls in Emily’s situation with advice on their bodies which are constantly changing and fluctuating. The link to her podcast is at the bottom of the show notes.
So your position in rowing is a Coxswain, what is that? How does someone become a Coxswain?
Yeah, so lots of people don't even know that there are multiple positions in rowing. But I did not have an oar, I did not actually row, I sat at the back and I had a microphone so I'm instructing, I'm steering, and I'm coaching them. So I'm a little bit more of a coach than an athlete, but I'm in the boat with them. Physically what they're looking for is you got to be small enough to fit in that spot and you have to be 110 pounds and then you know to be a good Coxswain you just have to kind of know the most about the sport because you're the one critiquing everyone else's rowing style. You have to know a little bit more than they do to be improving your team and just being confident with it too is what they look for.
Talk us through how that part of your position developed the leadership and the ability to talk to your fellow teammates, not in a way where you seem like a coach because I would imagine that that would be difficult.
Yeah, it's like a weird identity to be in. You do need to have some leadership over the team, but at the same time when I came in as a freshman, I was instructing people that had been there longer than me. It's that fine line where you're communicating between the coaches and the athletes and also back from the athletes to the coaches, but you also do want to be that friendly figure, you want to be their teammate. So I think that you just kinda have to balance that really well. Especially when, you know, I picked it up at 14 in high school. I'm like, I don't even know what this means. Like, it's a lot of pressure that I just would talk whatever came out of my mouth.
What does that pressure like to feel responsible for ultimately staying on a straight line and providing the right you know, the right tools for your team to be successful?
Yeah, there's a lot of trust that goes into me, all these people can't see what's going on with the racing field, they don't see what's coming up next. So they have to be able to trust me where what I'm gonna make that decision is the best possible one at that moment. That’s a lot of pressure sometimes because I have nine people's opinions, and I'm the only one voicing them. But I think that at the end of the day, they are my teammates, and some of them make mistakes, too. So I just had to realize that even though I do have more leadership than other positions, we're all still learning together, all competing together.
When you're on your site, and you read about your story, this is really kind of where it seems like your story starts at this point in your college career where you felt like you had consistently been able to maintain that 110 pounds, and then all of a sudden one summer you bumped up to 120 and then you spent the rest of your college career trying to almost be your former self in a way. What was it about that struggle that that really stands out to you now, and that motivated you to ultimately want to be a voice in this community for young girls or young women who might be going through the same struggles?
Yeah, so for me, you know, I jumped up that 120, I needed to get back down. I always thought it was going to be easy for me because I'm an athlete and I should know how to do this. But as an athlete, you're not taught weight loss, because usually that's not really needed, maybe if you're a wrestler, but besides that, not really. So all the ways that I kept going about it were just super unhealthy ways. But in my mind, I was like, "But I'm an athlete, so I must be healthy, right?" I keep thinking about my body, so I must be healthy, I'm losing weight, so I must be healthy. In actuality, it was just unhealthy, I was draining myself mentally, I wasn't well physically. So once I removed myself from that, and I was no longer an athlete and was no longer striving to hit a certain weight, I could start incorporating healthier habits. I was like, "There are so many people that are still stuck on that struggle of dieting, dieting, trying to drop weight, when that might not be the healthiest thing." That's why I wanted to start sharing my story of, you know, I was an athlete, and I was struggling with it, and just because you work out a bunch doesn't mean your nutrition is healthy and just because your nutrition is healthy, doesn't mean you're healthy in other areas. I think that a lot of time, we do focus so much on just one thing.
What do you think maybe could have been a differentiator for you during your time in college, that maybe could have allowed for you to get out of this slump a little bit quicker? Is there anything that sticks out?
I think it's just the pressure that I was putting on myself and the expectations of, you know, I thought it was my first time ever trying to lose weight, and it was 10 pounds, I thought it was gonna be like so much easier. Then I had 10 different coaches telling me different things of how to get there, and when I still wasn't seeing the results, it's really hard to go to the people that are so certified and so qualified to give you advice and be like, "Actually, it's not working for me," because it wasn't. Not because their advice was bad, but because I was just in the wrong mindset of thinking this isn't working for me. If I had taken some of that pressure off myself of you know, I need to hit one specific number and I have one specific goal, then that would have brought back the love of the sport that would have encouraged me to lose the weight instead of just doing it because I hated myself and I was putting this pressure on. It would have come more from the love of the sport and that's how I started it and really enjoyed rowing, to begin with.
What advice would you give to someone who's a current athlete, who is facing similar struggles of trying to stay on the team, trying to make the starting lineup, or trying to cut weight, but they don't realize the mental side of it yet? Are there triggers, or things that you can point to that would help athletes in similar situations?
I think everyone could kind of benefit from taking a bigger approach towards their mental health even before it starts to spiral, right? For me, once I started to spiral, it's easier to be like, "Okay, clearly, this isn't working." But I think that you just have to check in with yourself because being an athlete at any level, you have so many outside influences telling you what you should be doing, how you should be acting, and how you should be performing. That's not always realistic and even as you go on throughout your career, you change and your goals change. So I think that if I had taken the time to reevaluate, like maybe if I didn't beat myself up over five pounds, and I just was in a lesser boat, I think I would have saved myself two years of stress. But in the moment, it's like, "I promised high school Emily, that I was gonna go all the way." And it's like, well, everyone kind of ends sports at some point. Anyways, I wish I enjoyed it more. As athletes, you put so much pressure on yourself. Even former athletes in different areas of their life put so much pressure on themselves. Like I know so many people that then they go on and get jobs, and they're like, "Oh, I can't quit this job, I'm not a quitter." Like, I've had that mindset, you know, I'm like, I'm not a quitter, I never quit anything, because you're used to just training yourself and building yourself up. That might not be the best mentality to have there, either. So I think, kind of training yourself to think that even though we might have been athletes then, maybe we should learn some healthier ways now because we’re not going to be athletes forever.
You spoke that you really want to cover four major categories inside of your podcast. So talk us through what those four categories are, that you would that you highlight throughout your shows, and interviews with your guests.
Yeah, so we start with mindset because that's how I started my transition. I had all the resources with fitness nutrition, but without having that mindset of where I should be with my health, I was never going to get there. 2 is balanced nutrition. So you know, there's no set meal plans or diets that will make you healthier or won't. It's just having a balance of it all. Number 3 is movement. I'm no longer going to the gym and being like "I have to do this amount of workout or burn this many calories for it to count." I just include every movement as part of my exercise even just going for a walk with my dog or my mom, those count as being active. 4 is habits. When you are transitioning into this new period, it's really easy to be like, "I'll just work out like once in a while," but just having that consistency in the habits is how you'll be living a healthier lifestyle versus just kind of like a health kick.
And so much more!
Check out Emily’s Podcast: https://girlsgonehealthypodcast.com/home