I never thought it would come down to this, but I’m the first one in my family to play college volleyball. It was nothing more than an afterthought for me; my parents were more focused on getting me into the right schools. I didn’t know much about the sport before I started, but after one summer college course, I just knew it was for me.

The term “Coach” is being tossed around in all types of athletic endeavors, from serious track and field to the recreational game of softball. As a coach, that’s what you are for; to lead others and help them achieve a goal. But the word has a much deeper meaning. It is a way of life. A philosophy. A way to live that is based on the teachings of a higher being. And the person you are today is the result of your past and your future.

I work with them on a daily basis, so I am well aware of how fantastic their instructors are.

One of them, Kate Solovieva, will be introduced to you today. This way, you’ll be able to find out as well.

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“Every year has a theme, a focus, a word,” says the multi-talented and vivacious Kate Solovieva. You can’t force the theme to work. Like a pet name, it develops, appears, and comes naturally.”

Perhaps like her own moniker: SOLO.

For the sake of her surname, she is alone. As an immigrant child from Siberia who moved schools more times than she could count, she had to demonstrate independence early in life. Solo, for her obstacle-racing sport and her contemplative yoga practice. She prefers to travel alone since that is how she like to travel. Solo, since she needs the isolation to support her dual passions of reading and writing, as well as the contemplation that helps her develop as a person.

“What is my life mission?”

She chuckles as she says, “I strive to be like a fairy godmother.” “I won’t clean the floor FOR you, but I’ll come up and sprinkle some magic when you need it the most.”

“I want to assist others in becoming more amazing. Whatever it entails for them, whatever that entails for them. This occurs one-on-one in coaching. It’s one-to-many in the classroom. And it’s one-to-the-world in writing.”

She takes a breath and smiles mischievously. She continues, “Perhaps even one-to-infinity.”

In other words, her life’s work is all about assisting people in discovering their own talents, their own light, and their own path.

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Yet, before she could connect honestly with others and help others do the same, she needed to connect authentically with herself.

“People come into your life for a purpose, for a season, or for a lifetime, according to legend. I’m not sure I believe that. After all, no one stays in your life for the rest of your life. At some time, we may meet a life mate. Friendships ebb and flow.”

She cocks her head carefully and says, “Well, no one but… YOU.” “The connection you have with yourself is the only one you will have for the rest of your life. So let’s make it a nice one.”

Kate’s adventure started when she was born in the former Soviet Union.

She was born and raised in Siberia. The winters began in November and lasted until the end of March.

Kate’s mother, an English teacher by profession, raised Kate and her younger brother at home. Kate began studying English at the age of six.

Kate chuckles as she says, “I loathed it.” “I’ve had normal schoolwork and English homework from my mother for as long as I can remember. So unjust!”

Those hours of study, in hindsight, proved to be a godsend, providing Kate with the language foundation she’d need in her future home.

In 1998, her family moved to Canada. The atmosphere in Russia was bleak, with huge financial and political problems looming and inflation out of control. “There were a lot of people wanting to get out,” Kate recalls. “We literally sold everything for peanuts and flew out. My father went two weeks early to look for a place for us to reside, and we followed him.”

When Kate’s family immigrated to Canada, she was fifteen years old.

The process of acclimatization was difficult. She yearned for her old pals. She had to change schools since her family relocated.

“In Russia, students usually remain in the same building from kindergarten through high school,” she explains. “What was occurring to me was completely different from what I had expected.”

It was perplexing and off-putting. She shrugs and says, “High schools can be so cliquey.” “It seemed as though everyone had already become friends by the time I arrived. There were no openings.”

Being on the outside, on the other hand, taught Kate self-reliance.

Perhaps it was here that she sowed the seeds for her subsequent graduate study in psychology, which focused on themes like resilience and proactive coping.

Why do some individuals break down when confronted with stresses, while others manage to find something good even in the most difficult of circumstances? What circumstances make it feasible for individuals to better their lives, or make it easier for them to do so? What can individuals do to guarantee that growth and progress continue?

These were the issues Kate pondered while she pursued her education, first at the University of Waterloo and later at York University in Toronto, where she received her master’s degree.

She was bright, motivated, and ambitious, and she overcame the numerous hurdles in her path with hard work – cultural boundaries, loneliness, and frequent traveling.

In reality, she rose to prominence in academia, becoming a psychology professor and instructor.

She even taught in the same classroom where she was a student at the University of Waterloo at one time.

She exclaims, “Talk about going full circle!” She observed the same tables, chalkboards, windows, and view as before, but she was now standing at the front of the class rather than sitting and taking notes. This was a dream come true for an educated, inquisitive, and book-loving individual.

However, she realized that it wasn’t enough on its own. Because, although her years of hardship had taken their toll, they’d also instilled in her a desire for challenge and adventure. And a career in academics may have hindered that in the long run.

Kate’s adventurous spirit led her to travel across India for six months in 2011.

She had never traveled widely on her own before at the age of twenty-seven. Her “inner adrenaline addict” flourished on the trip, surrounded by fresh experiences.

“I went on a Himalayan climbing trip and summited three peaks. I was on a motorbike at the time. I skydived and bungee jumped.” She also walked, did yoga, and took in the sights.

She was discovering the thrill of pushing her physical and emotional boundaries. And she was pleased with herself for what she had accomplished.

Meanwhile, she discovered that traveling alone allowed her to get to know individuals in ways that she may not have been able to do in a group.

People like Jojo, a young rickshaw driver in Jaipur, who told Kate that she was his first client in 10 days as they rattled down the dusty street.

Because Jojo didn’t own the car, the majority of his meager earnings went to pay his boss’s rent.

“He had saved 20,000 rupees but needed another 5,000 rupees ($125) to buy it out,” she adds.

A young guy may gain self-sufficiency and liberty for $125 – the price of a nice meal in North America. Could provide him with hope for the future. Kate couldn’t get the idea out of her head.

Despite the fact that she was traveling and far away from everyone she knew, she instantly sought out through the Internet, asking for modest contributions from her large network of friends and acquaintances.

The money Jojo needed was in her hands in less than a day.

“I got money in four different currencies from at least five different nations. It came from some of my closest friends, acquaintances, other travelers, and even strangers.”

And giving it to Jojo was one of the most exhilarating experiences she’d had on a trip full of them.

She continues, “That journey transformed me.” “I was no longer a tourist. “I became a nomad.”

Not only that, but he’s a travel companion. She’d made a tangible difference in another person’s life by assisting him in overcoming adversity.

“It was one of the most gratifying experiences of my life.”

Kate returned to teaching in North America.

She established her first permanent residence. She started devoting more time and effort to her personal connections. She also did something out of the ordinary.

She enrolled in a coaching program.

She wasn’t overweight. She wasn’t even a slender woman. But, when she saw a buddy who had finished the PN coaching program, she realized she didn’t feel good about herself in certain areas — and she wanted to do something about it.

She anticipated to drop a few pounds, as did most of her customers. “It’s true. Tone it down a smidgeon. That’s what I was hoping for.”

As it turned out, she was looking for something more, something deeper.

“I came to drop a few pounds. And maybe to improve my eating habits. “However, the program turned me into an athlete,” she explains.

Her voice has a touch of astonishment and pride in it even now.

“Coaching led me along the road of self-discovery.”

It’s possible that her trip to India was the trigger. She started on a completely different sort of path now, with the help of a great mentor and the support of several loving communities.

“I did something crazy,” begins the first post on Kate’s blog, which she began in mid-2012, halfway through her coaching year.

She’d recently registered for the Spartan Death Race in 2013.

Kate began competing in different endurance sports in 2009. Her pleasure in pushing herself to new heights had only increased over the years, especially on her journey to India.

But now, with the help of her PN coach, teammates, and other friends, she became more serious, committing herself in writing to a very difficult objective – one that only 15% of competitors achieve.

The description on the race website states, “This race is a 48+ hour event designed to destroy you physically, psychologically, and emotionally.”

Participants are put through a series of rigorous mental and physical challenges as they make their way through an unmarked course in the Vermont wilderness. Chopping wood for hours; lugging a 20-pound stump for kilometers; transporting several pounds of boulders; constructing a fire; memorizing lists of American presidents (and repeating them back after ascending a mountain); crawling through muck beneath barbed wire — and cutting a bushel of onions are just a few examples. For the sake of time.

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Training for an event of this magnitude requires meticulous preparation, strategy, and organization.

Kate immersed herself into the process with her usual zeal and zeal, documenting her journey on a blog that became into much more than a basic journal over time.

She had always loved writing, but now she was rekindling her interest in it, trying out poetry, writing a magazine piece, and enrolling in courses. And her blog became into a valuable creative outlet for her: a place to reflect, experiment with words and images, make sense of the changes she was going through, and plan.

It eventually became a venue for her to publicly admit her greatest challenge — and the underlying reason she’d sought counseling — her connection with food.

“Growing up, I never really thought about it,” she adds. “A lot of emphasis was placed on looks, but that was part of the culture. It seemed to be completely normal.”

She continues, “I never felt intimidated if someone labeled me an idiot.” “I didn’t take the criticism personally since I knew it wasn’t true. But if someone made a remark about my appearance… ”

Even a well-intentioned remark might throw her into a tailspin. She admits, “I didn’t wear tank tops or sleeveless blouses for a few years because I was so self-conscious about my arms.”

She started to purge because food helped her feel better, but she was afraid of gaining weight. She’d eat until she was full — and then some — and then force herself to vomit. It seemed to be the ideal answer. Everything was in its place.

How did it make you feel? “It’s a suffocating blackness. “And then there’s this empty emptiness,” she continues.

Every purge had the same effect on me. The coolness of the toilet bowl, her knees protected by a neatly folded towel from the hard floor. Then there’s the profound humiliation.

She didn’t do it very frequently, however. So she convinced herself that it wasn’t a big deal. It wasn’t a “big enough issue.” She regretfully grins as she says, “I felt like I couldn’t even do an eating disorder properly.”

A few months before enrolling in PN coaching, she had a wake-up call. She’d gone to a party — and, as is often the case, she’d eaten “too much.”

She raced home on an icy road, frantically trying not to speed. “I couldn’t wait to get rid of the heaviness in my stomach and replace it with emptiness. To take the place of one suffering with another.”

She took her beloved DSM-IV from the shelf before retiring to bed. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or DSM-IV, is the bible of psychologists. She began by introducing the section on Eating Disorders.

She recognized she now matched the diagnostic criteria for Bulimia Nervosa after skimming the page.

And then it all came together.

This was not an obstacle race that could be completed alone.

She’d been attempting things on her own for far too long. She was running for her life now more than ever. She had to admit that she had a problem and stop denying it. She also need the assistance of a group.

Kate received the skills she needed through PN coaching to confront and conquer her eating issues.

She maintained her exercises and training throughout the year. She went to a therapist. She started to feel more powerful. She also added a hidden objective to her bucket list as a fan of bucket lists: to spend a full year without purging.

Kate achieved her objective a year later.

She admits, “I took a day off work and remained in bed crying my eyes out.”

It was, in some respects, the most difficult task she had ever faced. Tougher than a Tough Mudder, if you ask me. It’s even more difficult than the Spartan Death Race.

In another year, she made it public by “coming out” on her blog about her history of disordered eating.

She adds of this bold move, “I’ve battled with the notion.” “At first, I felt I had to be completely ‘fixed’ before I could speak about it.”

But, in the end, she realized that disordered eating is a spectrum. Many individuals deal with it at various points in their life. And the guilt they feel is a big part of why it has such a strong grip on them.

Coming out was her attempt to rid herself of that humiliation, both for herself and for others.

She may now have a jar of peanut butter in her home without fear. She chuckles and says, “I probably eat peanut butter every day.” It’s a testament to how far she’s gone to be able to eat what was once a trigger meal “normally.”

She is, however, not a fan of buffet tables where you may eat as much as you want. She also doesn’t have any chips in the home.

In a nutshell, her experience is similar to that of many of her customers.

“I’ve been there before. I understand. This is something I’m familiar with.”

And she understands that doing it alone isn’t an option.

Instead, overcoming disordered eating requires recognizing and controlling triggers, practicing self-compassion, and seeking out community and support.

Kate now provides similar assistance to others in her job as a PN coach.

They’re sharing the burden. A light is being shone. And removing the impediments.

She is a competitive racer. I am a writer. A person who travels. She is, however, first and foremost, a coach. A fairy godmother, if you will. And she’s completely on your side.

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