Health Warrior: Casey

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I just met Casey when Nathaniel and I moved to Colorado in February (2018). She and I both do contract work with Body By Design in Cortez, CO. She is a Licensed Massage Therapist and avid fitness enthusiast. I honestly never expected to meet someone like her from the little town of just 9,000 people, nowhere near a big city.  She is a former professional volleyball player and a powerhouse in (and out of) our fitness classes at the gym. She welcomed me right off the bat. Not only has she helped me feel more connected to this new community, she is always upbeat, working hard, and ready for a fun challenge!

“When I’m doing something physical… I constantly tell myself that I am not average and I should be doing more than expected.” I mean, seriously, isn’t that the coolest mindset!?

I know that if you’re reading this, you want that mindset too. Read Casey’s interview and let her focus and mentality to get stronger every day rub off on you!

1. Casey, let's start from the beginning. Can you tell us a little bit about how you got started in health and fitness? What prompted you to pursue competing professionally as a volleyball player?

Honestly, I don’t think I really got started in health and fitness consciously. My parents are both healthy and active people and so I grew up in an environment where we did a lot of active things, as well as never having things in our house like soda and food with preservatives. It seemed normal of course until I started having friends and going to their houses and seeing that they had candy and sweets available, as well as watching a lot of TV (we were only allowed 30 minutes of TV a day). I went through my freshman year of college eating a lot of junk that I couldn’t ever have at home (Lucky Charms, Little Debbies sweets, fast food), but it didn’t “catch up” with me because I was playing volleyball at Colorado State University and we were working out in a way I never had before. 

Playing volleyball professionally was something that I feel like I sort of lucked out in being able to do. Obviously I started playing volleyball as a little kid, but I didn’t fall in love with it until I was 14. When I became passionate about the game, it was all I wanted to do. Back then, our coach opened the gym for us anytime we wanted, and along with a group of other girls, we took advantage of that. Christmas day we played. The day of Prom. All summer, every time we could get four people or more, we were playing. From that time until after I stopped playing volleyball, I never really thought about fitness or being fit. I was thinking about how my body could become more powerful, more explosive, more functional for the game. Playing at CSU, working out took my game to a whole new level. Also, playing volleyball with all very tall, strong and confident women, I was even more focused on the output of my body, rather than what it looked like. Food became a part of that focus. After college, I had the opportunity to go play overseas, and I made the choice to do so just to continue to get to play, as well as travel and see the world.

2. How has your journey evolved: Can you share with us how you approach health and fitness currently? How you consciously steward and take care of your body on a regular basis? 

Working with my body and on other people’s bodies every day feels so much healthier to me personally than sitting in an office. My job (as a massage therapist) gives me freedom to make my own schedule and also be active basically all day. I also work at a gym (Body By Design) and have access to working out and doing classes during breaks. It also helps to work somewhere where there isn’t a snack machine and coworkers bringing in fast food! The temptation isn’t in my face.
I also go to yoga classes in town, and try to be as active as I can outside. I have a group of girls who I hike with. I play golf (very poorly) with my husband. I play volleyball very rarely, but I love to if I have the opportunity. My husband and I also really love going to hot springs together which I think is very restorative. I get massages and also go to acupuncture regularly.

3. What is one non-negotiable part of your health routine each week? Something you protect or put in place to take care of yourself.
 

This is one thing I’d say I don’t really do well. When I was playing volleyball I has a lot more regimen and schedule to my fitness and health. Now, my daily schedule is always different. Summer I am outside more, winters I’m in the gym more. I do stay active, and rarely sit around. I try not to be hard on myself as these cycles and my body changes. One thing that is nonnegotiable for me is my work ethic. When I am doing something physical, I expect a lot from myself. I constantly tell myself that I am not average, and I should be doing more than what is expected. I really credit that to my college coaches and staff. I really learned to push myself through more than ever thought I was capable of, which has bled into my adult life.

4. How do you set health and fitness goals for yourself? Do you measure them? If so, how often? What are some goals you are currently working on?
 

Again, when I was playing volleyball, this was a huge part of my life. I was constantly setting and measuring goals. It was a big change for me to not be a part of a team and not be constantly focused on an objective goal. Now, I don’t compete competitively in anything. My goals are more subjective. My main goal is to feel good in my body. I want to be able to do my job well, as well as be able to hike Machu Picchu (did that- 2015!). I want to play volleyball all day and not be too sore, and go to the lake the next day and wakeboard. I want to be able live a busy active life and not be tired or get sick. That requires eating right and staying fit and healthy.

5. How do you stay on track and motivated toward those goals? Does working at a gym make it easier to stay so consistent? And what sort of tools or tips do you have that help you keep a positive mindset for prioritizing your health (what barriers have you faced? Did you ever experience burnout after competing?)?

I honestly am not always “on track”. Sometimes I eat waffles and have pizza for dinner. Sometimes I will go days without working out. But I always get back on it within a few days. I just feel better when I eat healthy and exercise. If I have a few days off or a week of vacation, I am excited to get back in the gym. The motivation is the outcome. Of course, it’s nice to look good in your clothes, but for me, the reward of feeling good is way more important and valuable to me.

What I tell myself when I don’t want to workout:

“You won’t regret working out. You never do.” (I tell myself this with travelling as well!)

What I tell myself when I want to quit, drop weight or slow down:

“You are not average. You are capable of more than a normal person.”

“If you had to, could you keep going?”  If the answer is yes, which it always is, I keep going.

I also KNOW that the human body is capable of much more than we ourselves can understand. It is the mind that keeps us safe, and holds us back. Think about all of the records being broken every year! We aren’t physically stronger, humans. We are mentally stronger. We learn, we grow and we adapt. Humans are doing things now no one ever thought was possible, and fifty years from now, I believe we still be breaking records and climbing mountains and crushing PRs. I can because I know I can, even if I think I can’t. Does that make sense?!

The biggest challenge I have now is eating right. I think we all struggle with that, because tasty and easy food is so available. Its also socially more acceptable to eat like shit in most social settings in America. Sporting events have hot dogs and nachos. Barbeques have chips and dip. Restaurants have fries and deep fried everything. AND then there is alcohol. Sometimes I am better than others, and I try not to be too hard on myself. I don’t think beating yourself up over what you did will help at all. I try to look forward to the next moment, and the next choice- so I can make a better one. 

Of course I felt burnt out at times with volleyball. I am lucky that I never had a major injury. Starting very young I was getting massages and going to physical therapy (eleven I think). Emotionally, I did have times I didn’t want to do it anymore. I just wanted to be me, and not be weighing in and testing my maxes and vertical. I loved that I was pushed every day, and that someone was either right in front or right behind me. There wasn’t a day I felt like I could rest easy, because it was so competitive, I could be passed up by another player dying for a spot the moment I thought I had it. What an amazing experience, to be pushed to the max mentally and physically. But yes, sometimes I wanted to just be. 

6. What do you believe is the most important part of a healthy lifestyle, a sort of non-negotiable? Would you please walk us through your typical nutrition & exercise routine… maybe include some of your go-to ways of staying physically active, a favorite workout or a favorite meal?

The most important thing to me when it comes to living a healthy lifestyle is to be well rounded. It doesn’t need to be extreme. Find something you can fall in love with, and do some that and then of course some of the stuff you don’t like so much. Push yourself into discomfort and that’s when you will see the most improvement. Staying active for me isn’t hard. I work at a gym, and I live in Colorado. I also have surrounded myself with active people who want to join in or invite me to go do workouts or activities. 

7. What's the best advice you could give someone just beginning his or her own health journey? A key takeaway you could share with us?

The best advice I can give someone who is just getting started is to find a plan that will be sustainable. Extreme workouts and diets aren’t going to be maintainable for your life. I think it’s important to expect more from yourself, but not berate yourself if you don’t do what you set out to do. Keep positive with your self-talk. Also, the more you do healthy and active things, the more of those people will be introduced into your life. You can gain an amazing support system just by making friends and asking questions. 

Carly CooleyComment