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Kristen Keim: Tackling the Year of Interruption

Talk of the T-Town Podcast Show Art

Episode 8

– Kristen Keim

This week on Talk of the T-Town, Joan sits down with Kristen Keim, Clinical Sport & Performance Psychologist.

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Transcript

Joan Hanscom:

Welcome to the Talk of The T-Town Podcast, where we discuss all things track cycling. Broadcasting from the Valley Preferred Cycling Center, I’m your host and executive director Joan Hanscom, along with my cohost, athletic director Andy Lakatosh. I’m really excited to bring you this episode of the Talk of the T-Town with Dr. Kristen Keim. I will say upfront though that we did have a bit of sound recording issues. So, we ask you to bear with us on the sound quality a little bit this week. The content was really good and Kristen has a lot of interesting things to say, so we didn’t want to lose the episode. We just wanted to be upfront with you that yes, bear with us on sound. We know it wasn’t terrific this week, but the content really is. So, please listen on and enjoy.

Joan Hanscom:

All right, welcome to the Talk of the T-Town Podcast. Broadcasting live from Bryansville, Pennsylvania. Today’s special guest is Kristen Keim of Keim Performance Consulting, otherwise known as a sports psychologist. And I cannot think of a more relevant guest to have in this week of all weeks than somebody who deals with mental health, because it has been incredibly stressful week. Regardless of your political affiliation, I think everybody is feeling the strain of election week. So, I think we could not have asked for a more appropriate guest this week. So, while you may not be listening to this on election week, I’m sure it will bring back some PTSD for you of election week. We’re cuing up right now. You can flashback to the strain of election week when you listen to this podcast.

Joan Hanscom:

But I want to thank Kristen for joining us and sort of tee up for our listeners who Kristen is and what she does. Kristen comes from a remarkably similar to myself background, although perhaps a bit more accomplished than my background. We both share a background in the ballet as well as bike racing, and we actually met through ballet, but we both took divergent paths from our ballet careers. Kristen went on to become a professional bike racer and then pursue her degree in sports psychology, and I left from ballet to become a middle-aged, Cat 3 lady bike racer. And Kristen working on cycling on the other side of things, so we have a similar but divergent background. Kristen has worked with athletes from Olympians and medalists and world champions all the way through middle-aged, Cat 3 bike racer ladies like myself. And so Kristen, welcome to the show.

Kristen Keim:

Thank you so much for having me on. I was excited and I’m really excited about this podcast. I still think that this medium is one of my favorites. Whether you’re into bikes or not, I hope today’s episode is something that you might want to share. Like Joan said, hopefully it might brought up PTSD with the idea that this was taped, but maybe this will be the salve that we all need. Because I think this might take us, no matter what outcome, a few weeks to everyone just kind of get good sleep and stop looking at Twitter all day long.

Joan Hanscom:

Right, or doing what I’ve done, which is the self-imposed media exile. I can’t bring myself to turn on the TV or look at my phone. It’s overwhelming.

Kristen Keim:

No, you’re doing good. That’s probably the healthiest. We don’t like extremes, but that’s probably the better of the extremes.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, I can’t look. I keep you know, “Just look away. Look away.”

Kristen Keim:

Keep looking away. That’s all I’ll say at this point. Just don’t come back yet.

Joan Hanscom:

So, I joked when I asked you to be on the pod that I thought this was going to be a very special afterschool special type episode because-

Kristen Keim:

ABC.

Joan Hanscom:

Because we’ve worked together for a very long time, and so I think sometimes people are not willing to admit that they need a sports psychologist. They’re not willing to talk about those things. Whereas I think that it’s an incredibly useful thing to do and I also think that in the high-performance world where so many of our T-Town athletes play, it’s becoming a much, much bigger tool in the toolbox for folks. And so we sort of said anything goes in this conversation today ,because it’s important to be honest about the need for sports psychologists in your life whether you are a middle-aged maybe Cat 3 or a long team athlete on the Olympics pathway, or a retiring world champion. It doesn’t matter who you are, but there’s a benefit to everybody and I think if we’re honest about that upfront, everybody wins. And so, we may go down some weird paths, we may not. We may keep it all totally upbeat and happy, but we’ll see.

Kristen Keim:

I’m not. Yeah, like I tell people we’re all humans and I think that sometimes we just … Yeah, I mean the true strengt is vulnerability of asking for help. And I think that’s one of the most courageous thing is when I get a new email through my website or in my inbox, and whether if I have time to add on a new client or not, I always make sure that I write that person back and just say, “You know that’s one of the first, most courageous things you might ever do is just ask for help.” But there’s still a lot of obvious stigma and it’s still really hard to be vulnerable and to admit that you are struggling, or to just want to really be the best you can.

Kristen Keim:

You don’t even have to have an acute issue. I mean, no one’s perfect so don’t worry, I will find something we can work on. But, I do like that you don’t have to be super anxious or having issues after a crash, right? Or an eating disorder or any of these things that we look at like, “Well of course they’re working with a sports psychologist or a psychologist.” No, if you just really want to be the best that you can be, whether it’s at your job, being a parent, being a partner, training for just to do your first Fondo, I don’t care. When I talk to someone who’s middle-aged, Cat 3 bike ladies, my conversation with the next person who might be racing the Giro d’Italia is not that different on any given day. Because at the end of the day, we’re human and it’s a lot of things outside of sport that actually might be negatively impacting your optimal performance, is what we call it in psychology, for whatever your goals are.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, I think that’s an incredibly important thing and I think it goes to the name of your business, right? It’s Keim Performance Consulting. It’s how to perform best, right? How to optimize yourself.

Kristen Keim:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joan Hanscom:

And you’re not limited to bike racers. You are working with a host of people across the spectrum, but that is a really important thing to remember. I think it’s a part of that high-performance mindset, right? We just did a pod with Kaarle McCulloch, who is a track racer from Australia. She made me laugh when we were speaking with her because she said that her sports psychologist worked with her on, a happy Kaarle is a fast Kaarle. As soon as she said that I thought, “Oh, wait. Happy racers go faster,” right?

Kristen Keim:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joan Hanscom:

Which is your mantra for your clients, and so there’s something really true about that. If you are happy, you perform at a higher level. How you get to happiness may not be anxiety attacks. It might just be finding a little bit of peace and time-out time, and how do you get the tools to have that kind of calm mind or focused mind, not connected to anything negative? How do you optimize yourself? And that’s such an important thing to think about.

Kristen Keim:

Well, and things are now, I mean I think that’s where we find a lot of that where we can convince ourselves we’re happy. Because I can tell you right now, winning whatever is not going to make you happy. I mean, go watch Lindsey Vonn documentary, go watch Michael Phelps’ one. I mean, both athletes miserable throughout their whole entire careers, and they are now happier than they ever were and they’re not even competing in their sport, and they’re not that identity. But, if they might have had the right help maybe they wouldn’t have been as successful. Maybe they would have, but hopefully they would have been happier through that. And yeah, I mean sometimes you have to sacrifice things. But I don’t believe it’s worth sacrificing it where you don’t even want to go back being in that part of your life.

Kristen Keim:

And then sometimes we have to learn the hard way. We just have to go through really hard things to find our pathway, maybe. So I think that happiness is going to be completely different for everyone. Happy racers go faster actually was not my thing. It was something one of my clients … It was right before the hashtags happened, and he was one of my first professional cyclists. He was a U23 rider, and one day we were just talking about kind of the same thing, like a happy whatever makes them faster. They were checking the boxes and trying to figure it out, and he said that. He wrote it back in the email to me. He said, “Yeah, like happy racers go faster.”

Kristen Keim:

I was like, “Oh, my God. That’s going to be my slogan.” He was like, “It should be.” And then that was right when the hashtags started so I started doing that, and it just stuck. I kind of like it in a way because it is fundamentally very simple. But I’m also very trained to know that as humans we’re very simple but yet complex. So again, it’s not … Some people are just like, “Well, yeah. Happy racers go faster, whatever.” I’m like, “No, really? I’ll argue you down any day, but everyone’s happiness may look different, you know?”

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

Working in the medical field for a long time, in behavioral medicine in hospitals, someone going one day with not as much of a mental health challenge, like severe mental illness, and being able to like themselves a little bit better or not be as depressed, I mean that’s their gold medal and so that is their happiness. But some people, they would think that was their worst day ever, right? So I mean, I kind of say I’m Sherlock Holmes of happiness.

Joan Hanscom:

That’s a great way of framing it. It’s a great way of framing it, because you do have to peel back the layers and figure out that thing underneath it all. Yeah, and I think that’s an ongoing, long work in progress because it changes so much depending on where you are in life. But you mentioned when we started, you and I started working together way back in 2015.

Kristen Keim:

Oh, I remember.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, I had had a terrible bike crash and I rushed my way back into racing after multiple surgeries. I just went right back to racing, and that was a mistake. I think head injury was a big player in that, and I know that’s one of the things that you like to focus on, and we certainly are. We are observant of that here at T-Town with our junior kids, and we want to make sure that they’re well-educated about head injuries.

Kristen Keim:

Awesome.

Joan Hanscom:

But in my case, I’d had a good, strong whack on the head and probably started racing before that TBI was fully resolved, and as a result kind of rewired my brain for anxiety. It was a big leap to admit that, and it was a big leap to say, “Oh, gosh. I’m going to reach out to this person who I really only know through Facebook and say ‘Hey, can you help me?'” But it has been something that I think is really rewarding, working with you, and so I want to make sure that people know that you can come to this through all sorts of different pathways and have it pay off and help you find that sort of process of rewiring your brain a little bit differently, but then also having tools to navigate times like today. Where I have tools in the toolbox that have nothing to do with my life on the bike, but I am applying them in getting through my work life or getting through election week or-

Kristen Keim:

Work life. I mean, when you came to me too it was more about like, “Get me back on the bike.” You were having fear of crashing. I mean, it was like that’s what you thought you were reaching out for, and then it was sort of like tearing back those layers where I was like, “Oh, whoa. We got … Okay, wow. I’ve got lots of work life.” But I had to meet you where you were at. I knew there was a lot more behind there, and I kind of suspected there was a lot more, and then you were very honest. Like when you filled out your paperwork of your mental health challenges, and that work just obviously got exasperated by this. A, because the chemicals in your brain are … Actually my dissertation, so I have a master’s in sports psychology but I also have my doctorate. I’m just a clinical psychologist, so I could just tomorrow work with anyone and not just athletes if I chose to, right?

Kristen Keim:

And I do. I mean, I work with a lot of people that some don’t even compete anymore. They don’t really even do sport anymore, but again when they reached out it was sort of like that was sport, and then realized that the sport was actually making them miserable, or whatever kind of stuff came out for them. I still work them; anesthesiologists, I mean some of the best engineers in bike companies. I mean, it’s crazy. I’m just very privileged and honored that a lot of these amazing human beings like yourself would even want me to be a part of y’all’s story. But it was interesting, because you came with this thing that you thought you needed to fix, and when you fix that everything’s going to work out. And then over time it was like, “Whoa. Okay, there’s a lot more to it,” but I had to meet you where you were at still.

Kristen Keim:

But then it got to the point where you started to trust me and we had rapport. Then you just got more comfortable sharing when you did. You were able to get past that in a way, but it also made you realize that maybe there’s other parts of your life that you weren’t happy with, or that you would like to change. Because yeah, we’ve been on a lot of journeys since 2015.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. Yes, we have. We absolutely have, and yeah, I’m thankful for that. I think for me, speaking very personally, it’s been super-helpful to work with a person like you because you do understand the broader ecosystem in which I function. I think it’s not just my hobby. I’m not just a bike racer for fun, but it’s also the universe that I inhabit and it is useful to have a person who understands the whole ecosystem and-

Kristen Keim:

The culture, and just the ballet piece, like understanding what you brought. I mean, that’s a whole nother culture people don’t understand, very few. It was interesting because I was actually talking to one of my clients about this yesterday. When I was a dancer I was, I don’t know how to say it, but like a higher level than the small little town I grew up in. I went on and I got a scholarship to University of Georgia, and I thought I was going to work at Dance Magazine and dance on Broadway. That was my whole envisioning when I was 18 years old. So dance was a big part of my life, but I was very athletic too, so it wasn’t my whole thing. So I’ve always been kind of like, a lot of different dimensions. For me, that was normal. But then I knew, I saw people that were like, “Eh,” just didn’t take it as serious as me, but then the other extreme of like, it was their whole world. There was nothing else. There was just dance, right?

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah.

Kristen Keim:

And maybe that’s a good and bad thing about me, because maybe, well if I’d only stuck really hard with dance, or really hard with cycling, what would have happened? But in looking back it’s like, “No, no.” I like to be kind of in a lot of things, which I think is why I ended up being a psychologist. But I never, ever envisioned it, but I was very type A, like very type A and perfectionistic. I tell people to this day, “I’m a recovering perfectionist.” So having known the era that you grew up in, and we had that dialogue and I understood the importance of dance, it taught me a lot about more of the world and the culture, with even body image and discipline and rigidity that I don’t care if you … You’re not doing ballet if it doesn’t have that rigidity. I mean, that’s just literally what the whole art form is.

Joan Hanscom:

Correct, yes. And I think that is one of the ways that ballet and cycling at least in my mind overlap so much, right?

Kristen Keim:

Mm-hmm (affirmative). Oh, totally. I agree with that.

Joan Hanscom:

That sort of quest for perfection in the ballet studio may be reflected in the image in the ballet studio, right? Because it’s all mirror-driven, and it’s so … I don’t know. It’s that repetition, right? It’s the absolute act of repetition every day for hours until you are perfect. It could be a finger placement or a wrist bend or whatever, how you lift your chin up, but it’s just so much perfection in the details. But then you transition over to cycling and it can go the same pathway, right?

Kristen Keim:

Oh, yeah.

Joan Hanscom:

It’s the perfect weight per kilogram, or watts per kilogram. It’s the, hitting the right power range. It’s that same addiction to perfection. The perfection has just shifted to be a different thing. It’s, “I’ve held 250 watts for three minutes,” right? It’s perfection in a different way but it’s-

Kristen Keim:

That’s the five fouettes that you just did, or whatever.

Joan Hanscom:

Exactly, exactly. It’s the same thing, right.

Kristen Keim:

Well, it’s the same chemical base that we get.

Joan Hanscom:

It is super amazing to me that you go from one just perfectionist pursuit to another perfectionist pursuit.

Kristen Keim:

There was a few dancers in the early 2000s that I remember were professional that had been ballet dancers. I think I met two or three. I mean not that I would say every dancer is going to go on to be an amazing cyclist, but it wasn’t like I was the only person that I remember that had a prominent dance background. I mean, you included as one of those people. I tell people, I’m like, “Yeah, but dancers are like, ‘Oh, my God. The endurance that we have to have.'” I mean I always think of, “Well, how the hell did I do five eight-hour days and four-hour ballet performances?” You have to have stamina, so-

Joan Hanscom:

On three apples a day.

Kristen Keim:

Exactly, yeah, on a rice cake. And your era was probably even worse than what I grew up in, because I didn’t really see it until … Like I saw it, but it was just like it was a little bit more micro, because I had a lot more people who had eating disorders. They may not have looked even like it. They might have actually looked like a healthy athlete, but they were probably doing the binging, you know?

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah.

Kristen Keim:

They were probably, like this was before that was even like a real eating disorder. So I started to see more girls when I was in college who obviously had something going on. Because when I went to institutes and things like that, the culture was … I mean, it didn’t impact me as much. I’d heard about it, but it was just maybe just being naïve a little bit. But I luckily grew up, in my studio it wasn’t as much. There was a lot of different body types because I wasn’t brought up in an institute from that beginning. I just happened to be good at dance, and I was in the right place at the right time. Someone saw something in me, right? It wasn’t like I was brought up in that place of like, “Your body has to be a certain way,” like a lot of people are, and that impacts you.

Kristen Keim:

I mean, cycling was way worse, and male cycling. So when I got into cycling I was like, “Whoa, flaming eating disorders and disordered eating,” which is different. You have clinically eating disordered, and I think that was 99.9 of us. You have to have disordered eating, because most humans are not tracking what they’re eating, or their micros of, “Well, I’ve got so much cals. I’ve got so much protein.” I mean, I’ve got people that text message me because they were anxious because they weren’t going to hit whatever protein max because their flight was delayed or something. I’m just like, “Okay, that is a disordered lens on it,” right?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

But they do not have a clinical eating disorder, which is very different. But I mean, that’s it. It’s like you said, overlap. And a lot of athletes, whether you’re a high-level soccer … I mean we see a lot of people, even if you become Cat 3 or whatever, I think at certain times you have done something where in your … Like you said, ecosystem’s really good. It was this goal, and you liked to have goals. Because you’re motivated for change and you like to see change. I feel like there’s just a population of humans that we just think everyone thinks like this. I’m like, “No. You know, a lot of people are just okay sitting on the couch all day and playing video games or whatever.”

Kristen Keim:

And so that’s why I became a sports psychologist was that it was really hard for me to sit there. And believe me, I could do it. But I was like, “I cannot see for the next 20 years, sitting with people who don’t want to be here, and do not want to change.” I was sitting there. I was telling them how to do it, and they don’t want my advice. They don’t want to be here. They’ve just settled. They’re complacent. Because even, I have depressed people that want to get better. I know how to work with them because that’s not their character. This is a difference than your mental illness, you know?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

So it’s like there is a piece that, “We can get there. We might need medication. We might need to talk every week or whatever it is.” But I just think, sometimes I feel like we don’t allow ourselves to be whole humans, where like you said the gold standard is that you just really want to crush this week at work even though you’ve only been on three hours of sleep and you’re stressed. But you know, you’ve got to show up. And just like me, I was like, “Yeah, I’m stressed. I’m not going to say I’m not. But that doesn’t mean I still can’t be a good psychologist and therapist,” because that’s just who I am. I’m going to show up and give it my best, and maybe I had an off day, right?

Joan Hanscom:

And so you-

Kristen Keim:

I didn’t hurt that person.

Joan Hanscom:

No permanent damage was done.

Kristen Keim:

No permanent damage. They’ll be okay.

Joan Hanscom:

You mentioned a really interesting thing, which is that a lot of your clients are A, type A, but they’re very goal-driven people. I think that that is obviously, high-performance world, you’re goal-driven. That’s a really interesting question that I sort of want to pivot the conversation around to briefly, because I think it’s applicable to a lot of our listeners, is we’re all goal-driven people and 2020 became the year of the great interruption, right? All the goals did not change. They just were deferred, right? And how have you helped your athletes with that, right? I know speaking personally, right, this was going to be my big return to racing year.

Kristen Keim:

Oh, yeah.

Joan Hanscom:

Because I had [inaudible 00:25:37] and it was going to be great. My legs are going to work, and I was going to get to race. Oh, well, we’ll see about that next year now. But you had people who are ready to go to Tokyo, and how do you go from being selected and qualifying for the Olympics, and just be okay with that and stay focused, and keep your eye on that ultimate goal?

Kristen Keim:

First off, you don’t have to be okay with it.

Joan Hanscom:

Oh, see? That’s great. Coping mechanism number one.

Kristen Keim:

You know what I’m saying?

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah.

Kristen Keim:

It’s okay. You can scream. You can be depressed. You should be depressed, because if you’re not you’re just suppressing it, I’m sorry. And it’s just as bad, because I have a lot of clients who thought they were going to retire after this year. We even saw that with some mountain bikers who did end up … Annika Langvad. I mean, I’m sure she thought, “I’ve got everything together,” which obviously she did finally get healthy, and then what a weird way to go out, right?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

Very kind of anticlimactic for someone who achieved all that she achieved. But again, unfortunately in our sport it’s like if you’re not hot you’re forgot, you know?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

Which I mean, I don’t. The athlete that may not be doing that great for two or three years, they show up. They still do their job. They are there for those sponsors, all that stuff. So that’s kind of what we shifted to was, “All right. This sucks. Marinate it. This is a coronavirus. You need to stay home anyway, so just do what everyone’s doing. Stay inside or whatever your state, and just be like everyone else.” Because one month off and you going out there and training and probably causing more harm to yourself mentally and physically, because you’re going to probably burn yourself out, right?

Kristen Keim:

And then as it became more, each month got kind of like, “Well, we’re not going to do this,” then we just had to restructure it and say, “All right, so you’re stressed.” But it was really challenging, and why? Because everyone was completely different. Unlike if you were an athlete in Spain or France, but I mean I literally would have people like say in California, right? Where they literally could not leave their house or go out, or felt uncomfortable even being out there because they were just very moral people, right? Versus people who lived out in the middle of nowhere and could go and ride their bike and do whatever they wanted really, right?

Kristen Keim:

So then that was something because everyone … At least with people it’s like, “We know these races.” This is my job. I’m sort of like, “All right, we’re going to get into this rhythm where hopefully you’re showing up, not over-burned out, over-trained in your off season, training, whatever. You’re going to potentially hit your peaks,” right? We’re going to race, recover, race, recover. Maybe there’s an injury in there. All right, we get better, we go race. There’s not a chapter that says, “How to be a sports psychologist during a pandemic,” right?

Joan Hanscom:

[inaudible 00:28:47]

Kristen Keim:

So I mean, the only thing I could do was I knew I was going to be the only person, like the devil I guess on your back saying, “Less is more.” Because I was looking big picture where I was like, “I’m a realist.” I also have clients who are in the CDC, so I got background information. I was like, “This shit ain’t going away any time soon in America,” if we just look at … Obviously not to get political, but you can’t not get political talking about it, because it’s within for federation or state. Again, every state’s different. So for me it wasn’t fair because it’s like, “Well, literally you have to get off Instagram or whatever because you cannot compare yourself to other people. Because at this point, yeah, you might have a season but you are not going to be able to train in a way that you can, because you literally cannot, or you might be fined, or you might get the virus and die,” right?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

So it was just me really being that stickler of making sure everyone was more rested, was doing different things, was coming up with other things like rides or benefits, finding meaning and purpose in other ways, spending time with their loved ones and just being more of that human. Just saying, “You know, your sports goals, we’ll worry about it when it gets closer to that,” so really being more present. And I think you can either get like an A, B, C or D of how you … Either A or F for how you’re pandemic-ing, is how I kind of joke about it. But really, and some of the athletes like, “Man, you got solid Bs in pandemic-ing.” Some, maybe not so much. You’ve got to learn lessons sometimes the hard way, but also there’s just … You just don’t ever know.

Kristen Keim:

I think it’s more learning within your body what you can do, and unfortunately as athletes we’re always one degree more of … I mean, rarely are people undertrained as much these days. It’s more that most people are overtrained, and then a pandemic, right? I don’t care if you even think that you’re not stressed. You’re stressed. I always said, “When it happened, imagine that you’re an astronaut out in space and you’re looking down on earth and there’s like a gray cloud around the world.” Because literally, the whole world is stressed and Americans, way more stressed.

Kristen Keim:

And then you know your Olympics might be canceled. But going and training, you’re going to go right back into your season. Everything’s normal. For me, just like a recipe probably for disaster, unfortunately. So it was more of just really teaching people to literally be more present and taking it one day at a time, with the most positive outcome that could happen. So let’s assume until they’re canceled that you’re going to be at least 70% where you would like to be. Yeah, without a pandemic you’d like to be 90%, right?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

But it’s not possible, because again I don’t care if you have [inaudible 00:32:08] and all these little gadgets. There’s nothing that tells you literally how stressed you are mentally.

Joan Hanscom:

Right. Yeah, I know. I hear that, and it’s interesting. So I’m taking a business analytics decision-making course at the moment, which is fascinating. It’s using data, using framing to make decisions and all sorts of things. It’s a fascinating program that I’m in. One of the articles I just read for the program was talking about how people who got through the … Who pandemic-ed well to use your phrase, right?

Kristen Keim:

Right.

Joan Hanscom:

If you pandemic-ed well as a business leader, you were agile. You were able to pivot. You were adaptable, because the circumstances of the pandemic kept changing, right?

Kristen Keim:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joan Hanscom:

And so in an ideal world, at T-Town we would have had a season with the normal Friday-night racing. Everything would have run normally. Couldn’t happen, so we pivoted. We did organized training, COVID restrictions in place. We said, “Oh, we can’t have Masters racing so we’ll have time trials.” We were able to pivot and be very agile, and it was really I think a great season at T-Town for what we had to work with. We kept everybody safe. We had no positive COVID tests. We took a lot of temperatures. We went through three touch-screen thermometers for people’s heads, right?

Kristen Keim:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joan Hanscom:

We did it really well. We did it right. And so in reading all of this post-pandemic literature now for my class, what’s happening is that all of these people, who like our organization was agile and was able to pivot and think creatively. We’re nine months in now-

Kristen Keim:

But you had to do a lot. I mean, that was a lot of work.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, it was a lot of work.

Kristen Keim:

You had to make some sacrifices.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, but the interesting part-

Kristen Keim:

That’s what changed.

Joan Hanscom:

Seeing the psychology of it is that now people are having that agility fatigue, right?

Kristen Keim:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joan Hanscom:

There now are people who were so on it, who were like, “Yes, we’re going to be agile. We’re going to pivot. We’re going to adapt.” There is adaptability fatigue setting in.

Kristen Keim:

Their cortisol levels are here. They’re like, “We’re going to make this work.” But then unlike some people that just were like, “I’m just going to be a couch potato [inaudible 00:34:16] for two or three weeks, and just see y’all later,” right?

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah.

Kristen Keim:

But again I love that, that fatigue from … But it was not not going to happen. I mean, I think that’s what we’re seeing about this virus where it’s like, I think it’s just people … So like my last client just was able to go over and do … I don’t know. It’s crazy what things you’re able to go overseas, but I’m not going to question it, and study abroad in Spain right now as an American. She was just talking about like, “Why is it so bad here?” I think it’s that. Now these people that for six months were nailing it and doing it, they were kind of like on this upper trajectory. But then there was never this time to just, like you know how you do three-week deals, one week off, right?

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah.

Kristen Keim:

There was none off, because even our off right now is stressful.

Joan Hanscom:

Right, right, and I feel like-

Kristen Keim:

Our base just went up a level of cortisol levels, you know what I’m saying?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

I don’t care what your universe looks like, because Instagram, people are like, “Oh, they don’t have life as bad as me.” I’m like, “Let me just pull out my violin,” right?

Joan Hanscom:

Everybody’s afraid to touch the door knob.

Kristen Keim:

Exactly. Everyone’s got their own stuff. It looks different, and we can’t compare their stuff because they’re doing the best that they can with their makeup, you know?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

Just organically, environmentally, right? I mean yeah, I think I would have pandemic-ed better if I’d been stuck back in Washington State where I could just go to the mountains and see this beautiful water and all that. I’m like, “No, I’m stuck in a state that’s really flat.” My back yard is beautiful. I have a chronic illness where I literally cannot go outside. So I can’t go outside. I’m not really in a beautiful space for me, like I love mountains and water, and I’m living back with my parents. Actually, I’m very blessed. It’s not a bad thing. But then I think about it and I’m like, “Well, what’s to say that would be better?” Because you can’t change that. You have to make the most of where you’re at.

Joan Hanscom:

Right. Yeah, that’s it.

Kristen Keim:

But that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t have thrived more. Yeah, maybe. Who’s to say? All you can do is say, “You know, maybe I’m not functioning at the highest level, and maybe my mental health is being impacted. So now, maybe I do need to see about safely going into the mountains.” My sister lives in Charleston. She’s been spending almost every weekend getting up at like 4:00 am to go hike, to make sure in North Carolina she’s not going to hike at high periods. Because yeah, she lives by the water but she’s just like, “I’ve got to get out of Charleston.” There all these tourist people coming down now and she’s just like, “I can’t leave my house on the weekends,” right? Like you, she pandemic-ed all by herself. I’m like, “Yeah, and I didn’t.” I took for granted that I had three dogs and two other humans that I was pandemic-ing with, right?

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, yeah. So now that we’re nine months into pandemic-ing, has the process changed?

Kristen Keim:

Yeah, I was just thinking it was six months.

Joan Hanscom:

No, believe me. March, April, May … Nine months of pandemic-ing. We’ve done nine months of pandemic-ing.

Kristen Keim:

My hair was chin length.

Joan Hanscom:

My hair long.

Kristen Keim:

I really do have COVID hair. No haircut obviously, this hot mess right here.

Joan Hanscom:

Yes, my hair was long when we started the pandemic.

Kristen Keim:

I have way more gray hairs than I ever thought I would ever have. I was like, “I probably would have gone two more years without these grays if it had not …” I am totally blaming the pandemic, COVID grays.

Joan Hanscom:

Right. So has the strategy for your athletes changed, or is it still be present and stay where you are?

Kristen Keim:

Well, it’s funny because I mean I had a lot of athletes who went back to race, whether it be Tour de France for men or world championships. And again, I work with athletes from all over the world but I was … I can’t say to my Americans, “Well, I’m really kind of worried about how this is going to go.” But I was in a way that like, it’s already kind of more of a challenge for Americans because it’s expensive. Even if you have good support from the teams it’s expensive, because usually you want to go over before. Maybe the team’s not going to pay for all that, right? Especially the American female athletes.

Kristen Keim:

I mean, I have some of the best athletes, they still work and they have to take off leave and they have to figure that out. So there’s all these … So you have that, which is usually stressful when there’s not a pandemic and you haven’t been training or racing at all. So I mean, how many times do you go race world championships with maybe never even racing?

Joan Hanscom:

Like zero racing in your legs, right? That’s insane.

Kristen Keim:

Zero, because one world cup for me still equates to zero. Because again, I don’t care how much we can mental it, and yeah, I was like, “They can fire me.” There’s nothing I’m going to do mentally to prepare anyone like that. That’s where I’m very scientific. I’m very evidence-based like, “You have to be physically fit, and you have to have racing in you. But you can minimize the damages, and you have to learn that this may not go the way that I anticipate. But it’s worth it because it’s my job, and I’m going to grow through it, and I’m going to learn lessons, but I’m going to try to do it as safe as I can so I’m not cracked to where I don’t ever want to ever race again,” right?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

Or, you just learn lessons and sometimes we have to just learn lessons the hard way, but it’s never about one season. I know you’ve heard me talk about that. I call it transition seasons, because I hate this idea of like, “2020 season, the 2021 season, the off season.” It’s like, “No, you’re training for three years. You’re training for five years.”

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, that’s really something important for everybody to understand. I mean, I think we have a ton of juniors that race at T-Town, right? A ton, and a lot of them are hypercompetitive. They’re nationally competitive. They aspire to be nationally competitive, and it’s hard for them when you’re a junior athlete, right? And you’re racing, you should have been racing your age 16 year of your 15/16 junior racing season, and you’re not going to get to do that, or you’re not going to get to wear your national champion jersey that you won as a 15-year-old as a 16-year-old, because the next time you get to race you’re going to be 17 and that championship jersey doesn’t apply anymore, or those kind of things. I keep hearing-

Kristen Keim:

Totally. Those are legit upset things. I mean I hear that, too.

Joan Hanscom:

I know, and I think that that’s your point is so good, right?

Kristen Keim:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joan Hanscom:

“Hey, look. You can’t look at this in the sphere of one year,” just like you can’t … The lesson I’m focusing, my personal lesson this year, is not to focus on one workout. It’s to focus on the overarching training versus, “This one workout wasn’t a success so I’m a failure.”

Kristen Keim:

Exactly.

Joan Hanscom:

It’s looking at it in the broader context. I think something so important for our juniors to take away from listening to you is, it doesn’t matter if you’ve lost your age 16 season because it’s a continuum, because this is not … You have to look at the big picture. You have to look at, be forward-facing for 17, not backwards-looking at 16. I think that that’s such an important message for people to have, or for our Masters, right?

Kristen Keim:

Totally.

Joan Hanscom:

We were supposed to have Masters cycles at T-Town this summer. People plan their whole season around this national championship, and it’s deferred. I think as you get to be an older athlete, you start to look down the road and you say, “I have fewer seasons. I was ready for this year.”

Kristen Keim:

Oh gosh, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. “I was ready,” yeah.

Joan Hanscom:

You know, and so I-

Kristen Keim:

That’s a sorrow. I mean, it is.

Joan Hanscom:

It is, right.

Kristen Keim:

Especially if that was going to be their last year of putting that … “My wife will only let me do it this one last time,” or whatever the excuse and things.

Joan Hanscom:

Right, right. But I think your point is so valid, whether it’s the Olympics or Masters National Championships, it’s all-

Kristen Keim:

Oh, and if you go over and you don’t meet your goals, if you don’t learn lessons, then maybe that’s the lesson that you needed that’s going to actually help you achieve the bigger picture. I think that was the biggest thing, was like making sure that everyone was still excited and wanting to race. If you were going into racing and yeah, there was all these unknowns, as long as you were there for the right reasons and you knew that you crossed your Ts and dotted your Is and did the best that you can, yeah, you can be disappointed in the outcome. You should be. I mean, I want you to win, too. But you won’t be disappointed in yourself and the effort, and then you just have to learn lessons and say, “All right. XYZ didn’t happen.”

Kristen Keim:

I have a lot of athletes who, “Oh, my gosh. I need to be winning U23s or juniors 17/18.” I’m like yeah, it’s one thing to hear, “Oh, people don’t ever remember that.” I’m like, “Well yeah, but the people that want to win that, as long as they don’t get burned out by the age of 22 are the ones that are going to go on and actually win world championships one day.” Because again, I can’t train that. The hardest thing for me as a sports psychologist is someone that’s under-motivated. That’s usually they’re depressed, right? Or they just don’t need to be doing their sport anymore, which I had that same athlete that kind of helped me cliché happy racers go faster. One day later down the road that we were working together, and I started building my clientele. Every few top athletes, people would stop their sport.

Kristen Keim:

He’s like, “Yeah, you’re really good at getting people to quit their sports.” I was like, “You know, I don’t think that will become my hashtag.” But again, it is important because I’m not here to make you win medals. I’m here to help make you a healthy, happy human. Because if you’re not a happy, healthy human, I promise you you’re not going to … Or they’re going to be empty gold. It’s just going to be like yeah, a gold medal or whatever, but you were so petrified. I mean, the worst thing I can hear was after, “Oh, I’m so glad that’s over with,” you know?

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah.

Kristen Keim:

I’m like, “You were that stressed? That made you that sick, that panic attack or whatever, that you couldn’t …” The whole European, “You were in Europe for two months at 18. Go meet some … Have your first romance, French romance. Eat lots of gelato. I mean, live life.” So I’m that person, because I might be the only person that’s in their network, unfortunately, of high performance, that’s going to make sure that the human side of sport is touched on. The more that you can fail and still get back up, that famous Japanese proverb of like, “Fall seven times, get back eight up.” That’s awesome. I mean, I love failing because I know at this age, when I fail I know right around the corner is I’m going to surprise myself.

Kristen Keim:

That’s my goal. It’s like, I want … Okay, cool. You want to go to the Olympics. I want you to win the Giro Rosa. I want you to like … What is that crazy thing that you’re like, “There’s no way in hell that will ever happen”? I want to help you surprise yourself. Even if you don’t have a sports psychologist, that would be my goal to any … It doesn’t matter if you’re listening to me and you’re a 15-year-old. What is it about your sport that you love and enjoy? Why are you doing it? What’s the why? And, how can you surprise yourself? And dream big. Go put that thing on a piece of paper and nail that thing to your wall, “Go to the Olympics.”

Kristen Keim:

Because if you can’t say, “I want to go to the Olympics,” I don’t care that your parents may be like, “Cute. That’s a cute dream.” No, because I can tell you, you ask Lea Davison, you ask Megan Garnier, I mean Sarah True. I can go on, Emily Batty, anyone that went to the Olympics many times even, that they were that kid that sat there when they were eight and said, “I want to go to the Olympics one day.” It doesn’t mean they have the best physical abilities at first. No, they work their ass off hard for many years. Every once in a while people are just going to be naturally talented, but-

Joan Hanscom:

Like the phenoms, but those are the exception, not the rule.

Kristen Keim:

Those people are usually like … But think about it. The phenoms, if we look at even European athletes it’s like, “Well, they’re not really phenoms. They’ve been riding and racing their bikes since they were two years old,” right?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

The Marianne Vos, I don’t think that she … Obviously, she’s not any better than a lot of the other women. It was more like she had the mental edge. She had the support. There was just a lot of other things about her. It wasn’t just that she was a pure phenom, you know?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

But there are people that like they ride a bike one day, the next day they’re winning some race in Europe. But let’s see how long they stay in the sport, or how much joy they get out of it. Because the longer that you’re working at something, the more you’re going to enjoy it. But the minute it’s not fun, then the more that you set yourself up for not optimum performance. It’s not going to be like sprinkles and unicorns every day, but there’s days I wake up where I’m like, “You know, I really could go without talking to anyone.” Five minutes within my first client, I’m not even thinking about that, right?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

It’s because I love what I do. I don’t take that for granted, but sport is really hard and it’s really unique, unlike anything else. You can’t compare it with being a surgeon, because most likely it’s something that you had to have cultivated for a long time. I mean, even the Michael Jordans, look at it. He was a really good athlete in baseball. I mean, pick out anyone, a Michael Phelps. I mean, he was a rigid … I mean, look at what age we let him go to the Olympics and expected him to win everything at that age.

Joan Hanscom:

Right, and carry that.

Kristen Keim:

Most people, kids … Oh, my God. The burden of the United States of America on his shoulders. But then you know, you mess up one time and it’s like, “Oh, you’re tainted” or whatever. So trying to be the best is not going to be all glory days. But that’s why you should want to do it, because if it doesn’t make you scared then we only get one shot at life. I truly believe in setting big goals, but not everyone’s goals are going to be the same. Going to the Olympics, you don’t have to do that. It can just be winning your next race, or making an A in that class that at the beginning of the semester you didn’t think you were going to do well in. The mind over matter is a really true thing, and that’s part of what you and I have worked on in your professional life, previous challenge that came up because of TV shows or triggers in life and things.

Joan Hanscom:

Right. So yes, we can say, everybody, I had to call Kristen on a Saturday night because the Gilmore Girls gave me an anxiety attack, and I don’t know why [crosstalk 00:50:45].

Kristen Keim:

And that’s why I am dedicated.

Joan Hanscom:

I said, “I can’t breathe.” She’s like, “Why not?” I said, “The Gilmore Girls.” Yeah, it’s true. I don’t know why. I couldn’t say what it was about that episode, but it wasn’t a good one and I haven’t watched it since.

Kristen Keim:

Well, but you know, go back to where you were at that time in life. You were trying to figure out a lot of things, and that’s it. I always laugh. It’s like, “We’re all one degree of separation away from craziness,” or whatever you want to call it, right? I mean I think I’ve seen it. No one is immune from depression, anxiety. Everyone has anxiety and depression. They’re just words. There’s a difference between a clinical, right?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

Where it’s like, “Okay, my activities of daily living are being … I can’t work. I’m not eating. I’m not sleeping. I’m not engaged. I’ve shut the world out. I’m not contacting my friends anymore,” whatever those symptoms are. And life is hard, and right now it’s hard. For you teenagers, kids listening, man, we aren’t talking enough about that generation. We just assumed, “Yeah, they’re kids. Y’all got it.” Think of yourself. I was like, “I don’t even know what I would be going through right now if I was in college or high school,” with how they’re adapting and just rolling with the punches.

Kristen Keim:

I have a lot of … As a world, I think we’re in good hands, honestly. Because I think again, hopefully more people than not will be evolving during this time, because they were spending more time with family. They were realizing what’s really important. Maybe they were excited to make new goals, or finally went back to school or took those risks as long as they’re safe, right? Because that’s kind of the beauty of life. Every day is a new opportunity to change whatever way that you want the story, is how I kind of look at it. Own your story, right?

Joan Hanscom:

Right.

Kristen Keim:

We all can start a new chapter.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah. I think it’s super interesting, and I think there is an opportunity in this year of interruption, to sort of reset and to refocus and sort of figure out, reprioritize. And I know for me personally I’ve been trying to figure out, “Hey, do I still enjoy this process, the discipline? Do I still enjoy the rigidity?” I think you and I joke about that a lot, like I enjoy the structure. I enjoy the rigidity. There was a few weeks where I was like oh, questioning, “Do I still actually enjoy this? Because, am I just making myself nervous about it?”

Joan Hanscom:

I think it was a good time for reflection on that, and ultimately come out on the other side. You say, “Yes,” or, “No, I don’t.” In my case I came out saying, “You know, actually I do think that this is something I still enjoy.” But there was definitely a time of reflection on that, coming through this whole period. I think that’s not unique to high performance. It’s not unique to one particular age group. I think that the high school kids can do that, too. The Masters or my age people certainly can do that and say, “Hey, I’m focusing on this.”

Kristen Keim:

100%.

Joan Hanscom:

“This is an opportunity to reflect,” and do that thing that you were just talking about, the goal-setting. Maybe that goal-setting has changed in this time.

Kristen Keim:

Exactly. There is no going back to normal. I’m sorry, bike racing, even T-Town, all that is never going to look like it did before.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, it’s true. And so you either reframe that thing or you do a different thing. But I think that it’s been an interesting year for a lot of athletes in that regard, and certainly humans in general, right? Not just athletes, but everybody. But it is a time where I think it is a good opportunity to do goal-setting and to reevaluate where you are and how you prioritize things and really ask yourselves those questions about the enjoyment. “Do I enjoy two and a half hours on the bike doing VOs, yes or no?”

Kristen Keim:

Yeah.

Joan Hanscom:

And if the answer is yes, then keeping doing your two and a half hours on the bike doing VOs, right? Or whatever the case may be.

Kristen Keim:

Yeah, I think some people are afraid like, “If I step away and I take a break that I’m not going to reclaim my happiness, or I’m not going to be as dedicated.”

Joan Hanscom:

Or they’ll lose their identity, and I think that’s a big piece is I identify [crosstalk 00:55:20]-

Kristen Keim:

Whoa, that’s a whole nother live podcast call.

Joan Hanscom:

Right, but I think it’s true. I think-

Kristen Keim:

To be continued.

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, exactly.

Kristen Keim:

We can talk concussions. We can talk athletic identity. We can talk about what it’s like to be a female athlete.

Joan Hanscom:

Yes, to be continued. I like it. We’ll have a running string of these conversations. I’ve taken up a lot of your time and I’m incredibly thankful for it, but I do have one … We always do silly questions at the end.

Kristen Keim:

Oh, yay. Oh, gosh.

Joan Hanscom:

Well, so the question-

Kristen Keim:

Performance anxiety.

Joan Hanscom:

Yours is not super silly. It’s one I’m really curious, but we’ve got questions like, “Thoughts on Crocs?” We’re not going to give you the Thoughts on Crocs question. We’re going to make you answer spontaneously quick, snap, snap. Next tattoo?

Kristen Keim:

Oh, it’s already created. It’s going to be a place up on my upper arm. I’ve actually had to postpone it twice because of our current affairs, but you know it’s permanent. So it’s going to be related to my rare disease that I was diagnosed with two years ago, and it’s a piece that my tattoo artist … I can’t share it, because it’s her rights … She created. We came up together, and she has it up on the wall. Every time, like we’re on social media friends, she says she can’t even remember how many times people are like, they want that tattoo. They’re like, “That is the raddest picture ever.”

Joan Hanscom:

Oh, that’s amazing.

Kristen Keim:

Yeah, so it’s a pretty big piece. Again, we’re kind of the idea if I’m going to keep it black and white, but since then I’ve come up with three or four other ones that I want to get, as long as when it gets … I feel safe and everything to do that. Also, just physically allowing myself to be in a space where I can heal and all that stuff too, so good question. More to come.

Joan Hanscom:

I know I can’t wait to see. Because I thought so long about mine and then I thought I knew what I wanted to get my next one to be. And then I was like, “You know what? I think I’m never going to get a picture.” I’ve decided I’m only going to have words.

Kristen Keim:

Oh, I love that. Well, I definitely have another … I actually have other words and stuff that I want to get too, so yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

Joan Hanscom:

So I think all the words for me-

Kristen Keim:

Sometimes just thinking up that stuff is half the fun of actually getting it. I do feel like, I think it’s like the opposite maybe where I’m like, when I was younger I was more like it had to be something really important because I’m going to have it on me. And now as I’m aging I’m just like, “Whatever.”

Joan Hanscom:

Yeah, because it’s so, “Fine.”

Kristen Keim:

And it’s for me. It’s like, “It’s mine.”

Joan Hanscom:

I look at mine and the words just make me happy every time I see it.

Kristen Keim:

Me, too.

Joan Hanscom:

I’m just like, “Oh, the words make me happy,” and I love the words, and I’m trying to live the words.

Kristen Keim:

And they should, exactly.

Joan Hanscom:

But then I was like, “Oh, pictures.” And I’m like, “I don’t think a picture would ever make me feel as good as the words.” But I’m a word person. I was an English major, and so I think-

Kristen Keim:

That makes sense. That makes sense.

Joan Hanscom:

You know?

Kristen Keim:

I could see that. I love that.

Joan Hanscom:

But I can’t wait to see yours. Oh, I can’t wait to see yours. That will be exciting.

Kristen Keim:

I mean, in 2021, maybe.

Joan Hanscom:

On episode five of our very special podcast series, we’ll unveil the tattoo.

Kristen Keim:

Yeah, exactly.

Joan Hanscom:

So before we let you go, tell people where they can follow you on the socials. Because you’re posting all sorts of good things, and we want folks to be able to follow along with you where you post. So let folks know, where can they follow along with you?

Kristen Keim:

Oh, well I am basically @thek2. I’m that at Twitter, so @thek2. That is my Instagram, and then I don’t really do as much on Facebook but there is a Keim Performance Consulting page on Facebook. And then yeah, and if you ever have any questions or you might even want to potentially work together in the future, right now I’m not really taking any new clients but I always tell people to reach out. You just never know. I might have an opening. I don’t say, “I have openings now.” I just kind of let life happen. But my website is keimperformanceconsulting.com, which has all my following information as well.

Joan Hanscom:

Cool.

Kristen Keim:

And yeah, and I love what you’ve done at T-Town. Obviously I have [inaudible 00:59:45] and I’ve always heard only positive things from the athletes, and especially since certain management has changed. Even this summer, I mean just how you did it was just like … I mean it doesn’t surprise me, but yeah, y’all knocked it out of the park. I think that we can let things … We have to open up and we can do it, but it’s just going to take compromise from athletes compromising, and then just a good city and town and infrastructure working together. So keep it up, and as long as we play by the rules we can have nice things.

Joan Hanscom:

Yes, yes. Well, thank you for joining us, and everybody follow Kristen on Instagram because she drops in the inspirational quote of the day with great regularity, and I find it to be tremendously helpful. So on that note, we shall let you go. Thank you.

Joan Hanscom:

This has been the Talk of the T-Town Podcast, with hosts Joan Hanscom and Andy Lakatosh. Thanks for joining us for this week’s episode, brought to you by B Braun Medical Inc. Head on over to our website, thevelodrome.com, where you can check out the show notes and subscribe so you’ll never miss an episode. (silence)