‘I am not here to win Olympic medals, it’s something cool I got to do along the way. But I am here to pay my rent by serving others.’ Katherine Adamek – Olympic athletes interviewed Episode 51

Christian: Today I’m joined by Katherine Adamek. Katherine has competed as a short track speed skater and for the US. Her major achievements include a silver medal in the 1000-meters and bronze medal in the 3000-meter relay at the 2010 Olympics, World Champion 2011, and has accumulated eight medals at the World Championships.

Katherine has moved on and is now a performance mindset specialist, keynote speaker, and last but not least, a fellow S & C coach.

Welcome, Katherine.

Katherine: Thank you. Thanks for having me.

Her passion for mindset coaching and fixing the mindset

Christian: Katherine, your passion for mindset coaching and fixing the mindset, where does it come from?

Katherine: It comes from my own weaknesses in terms of mindset. As an athlete, what was good about my mindset was that I took a lot of responsibility to control as many variables as possible.

As my career went on, I started to attempt to control things that were outside of my control, which can really only lead to disappointment and anxiety.

I started to attempt to control things that were outside of my control, which can really only lead to disappointment and anxiety.

If you practice that long enough you get yourself into a pretty unhappy place, where you’re always unhappy with the outcome because you’ve always tried to control every single variable. If something out of control happens, all of a sudden it feels like I wasn’t good enough. I wasn’t ready enough or I didn’t control the variables well enough. I was taking too much responsibility for things.

When it’s done on the healthy side of the line, it can really improve performance. When you’re aware of what you can control and you actually do something about it, that’s a key to high performance. But when you start to control or you think that you control things that are uncontrollable, you just create an anxious, terrible mental space.

So it was my journey into and out of that, that helped give me the perspective that now allows me to help others and that’s really what it’s all about. When I was done skating, I thought about how I could take everything that I had learned and use it in a way that’s going to help others. That was mental skills coaching. It is just really the number one way that I feel like I’ve been able to make an impact after I’ve been done with my sport.

Her darkest moment

Christian: If you looked back at your career, what was your darkest moment?

Katherine: My darkest moment was probably after the 2011 World Championships. I had actually fallen in my best distance in the 1000-meters and so it’s kind of a long story. You can imagine after 2010, I’ve got a silver and a bronze medal and you have to live through the letdown after that, because every time you have an up moment, you have equally down moment and vice versa. The good thing is, every time that you’re down, you know there’s an up coming.

Every time you have an up moment, you have equally down moment.

But winning an Olympic medal was an extremely up moment and so it had an extremely low feeling that followed it a couple months later. In the middle of that low, that’s when I found out that I needed hip surgery.

So I stepped back from skating, and I got surgery. I think I was out for 16 weeks. Battling the depression that came the injury was very challenging, but it really motivated me to come back better than before to prove myself.

So 2011 World Championships was less than a year after my surgery. I was hell-bent on proving myself. Going into the last day, I was tied for first place and I fell in my best distance.

Now it was twofold. On the one hand, I didn’t get the points, so now, I was in trouble from a point leader perspective, but I also I my back. I hurt it so much that I never skated at that elite level ever again.

I hurt my back so much that I never skated at that elite level ever again.

We had 20 minutes between the thousand meter and the 3,000 meters and I’ll never forget going to the locker room, and asking my trainer for help. She literally said she did not know what to do, but suggested that I put some ice on it and take some Ibuprofen.

There was nothing we could have done in that short of timeframe that was going to help. The amount of pain that my coaches helped me push through in the 3,000-meters, was beyond significant.

It was the type of pain that kept me from ever competing at that level ever again. It was a 27 lap race and whoever won, won the World Championship and I had now fallen back far enough in points. Anyone could beat me and take that away. I went out too hard, I was too anxious and I was too afraid.

I was in too much pain to think clearly and I went out way too early. I tried to lead with 9 laps to go. At 4 laps to go, a Korean girl went on the outside. She must have been fresh because she just took off. She crushed me. She beat me by a full half a lap and luckily, no one was super close behind me in third, so I had second wrapped up for overall points.

But that, to me, was a really dark moment to have worked so hard to come back and to be within minutes of achieving, not just this year’s goal, but a life goal, a life athletic goal and to be an overall World Champion. To fight that hard through that much pain and to still lose it, I was depressed for months after that.

To have worked so hard to come back and to be within minutes of achieving a life goal, to be an overall World Champion and to still lose it, I was depressed for months after that.

That led into more injuries, more surgeries and more depression. It was a really hard journey that spiraled out of control for a little while. But again, that mental struggle is the reason why I have enough perspective to help others now. So even though it was the hardest time in my life athletically, it’s also a time that’s given me the opportunity to be who I am now.

Christian: How did you recover from that moment?

Katherine: Not well. I’ll be super honest. I did not handle it well. I felt like a total and complete failure. I really judged myself personally thinking that if only I had been good enough, I could have made it go differently or I could have done something better.

I got very resentful of my coaches. I pushed through all that pain and I still didn’t achieve the goal. I had so much injury to recover from and I was resentful that I had been encouraged to push through pain like that and then not even achieve the goal. Looking back, I can see that that wasn’t the right emotion.

Of course, I’m happy that they pushed me in that moment. They gave me the opportunity to do something that I didn’t think that I could. I think that’s really important when we talk about mental toughness. The more opportunities you can practice doing something that you don’t think you can do, whether you actually win or not, you will have the perspective of knowing that you can do more than you thought in the first place.

The more opportunities you can practice doing something that you don’t think you can do, whether you actually win or not, you will have the perspective of knowing that you can do more than you thought in the first place.

So I am grateful that they pushed me now. But yes, like I said, I was in a dark place for a long time. I needed two more surgeries. I never came back to my sport at a World Championship level. It was really hard to deal with and I don’t think that I truly moved on from that heartache until I made a comeback for the 2018 Olympic Games.

Really, the biggest reason why I made a comeback was because I needed to finish my sport on my terms. I needed to get out of this depressed funk that I was in and even if I never won another race, I needed to finish feeling like me. When I got the chance to do that, even though I didn’t make another Olympic team, just being able to finish letting my true colors shine, as opposed to letting an external situation decide the outcome for me, that’s really what I needed in order to get back on track.

Christian: I actually listened this week to a podcast from a former tennis champion professional, and he had one close final in 1988 where he was leading and he lost the final. He said every time he steps into the stadium now as a commentator, he still feels the pain of losing that final. So based on that, are you okay with it now?

Katherine: Honestly, I don’t feel any kind of pain anymore. I didn’t have this perspective back then, but there’s a quote that I like. It says that ‘service to others is the rent you pay for your time here on earth.’ That saying really helps me believe that I’m not here to win Olympic medals. That’s something cool I got to do along the way, but I’m here to pay my rent by serving others.

I’m not here to win Olympic medals. That’s something cool I got to do along the way,  I’m here to pay my rent by serving others.

My experience, as hard as it was, has let me serve others in more powerful ways than just winning ever could. I get a lot of purpose and meaning out of that and of knowing that my failures are a more powerful way to help others, than my successes.

Her best moment as an athlete

Christian: Okay, that’s good. Well, what’s your best moment?

Katherine: Athletically or ever?

Christian: Both, let’s start with your best moment athletically.

Katherine: Athletically, it was a race in Dresden, Germany, which has always been my favourite place to race. It’s my favorite city to visit, it’s my favorite crowd to skate in front of, it has the best food, like everything. It’s my favourite place to go for skating.

It was a 1000-meter final and there were three Koreans and two Americans in the race. So, in speed skating, team skating is kind of a thing. It’s not normally done in a malicious way. It’s just if you skate with the same group over and over again on your team, you know how they skate. So then when you get with skaters from other teams, it’s easy to block them.

It’s just when you get comfortable with each other, it turns into team skating with no malicious plan. So, I’m with 3 Koreans and I know that they’re going to get 3 together and they’re going to try to keep my teammate and I from getting to the front of the pack. So I decided that I was going to play the role of splitting up the Koreans.

So my job was to be in front and ideally, to always stay in second position. If I could keep the first 2 Koreans apart, my teammate could try to keep 2 and 3 apart and maybe we could both get a medal. I remember I go to the front, one Korean goes. I go to the front; a second Korean goes. I go to the front; a third Korean goes.

We do this for 6 laps. Every half lap, maybe every lap is a pass, and one of the Koreans get’s so tired, she falls down. She’s just exhausted and there are 2 others. One falls back and starts fighting with my teammate. The other one, Eun-ju Jung, she and I fought all the way, until the very finish. I’m telling you, every half lap, we were battling the entire time.

It’s the most fun I’ve ever had in a race and just not worried about the outcome at all. I was just responding from that athletic place of knowing that I could do this. It was so fun and on the last lap, I had an amazing pass set up. I got the timing done perfectly.

The most fun I’ve ever had in a race and just not worried about the outcome at all. I was just responding from that athletic place of knowing that I could do this.

I was coming up the inside lane to the finish line, and Eun-ju, could hear me coming. So she leaned over to the left to try to close that lane and she leaned so hard that she fell down and I fell with her. We’d battled so hard. We fell ten feet from the finish line. My teammate, who was still back struggling with the other Korean got to cross the line in first, and I was happy for her.

Eun-ju and I got up and we got silver and bronze, because the other skater got disqualified. But that was my most fun moment as an athlete. Again, like I’ll just go back to this idea, that I learned the most about myself in a moment of failure, where that was my best effort, but I didn’t achieve the goal. It didn’t win the race, and yet, looking back, it’s the most fun I ever had racing.

I learned the most about myself in a moment of failure, where that was my best effort, but I didn’t achieve the goal.

If she would have to choose between her Olympic silver medal and her Olympic bronze medal, which one is the sweeter one

Christian: There’s something I wanted to ask you. There’s a TED talk out there about happiness and this person quotes the research where they looked at Olympic medalists. They found that silver medalists are not as happy with a medal because they lost the top spot, whilst bronze medalists are happier because they just made it.

You have a silver medal and a bronze medal in the same event. Which one is the sweeter one?

Katherine: The silver medal for sure, 100%, because my bronze medal, and I’m nothing but grateful for my opportunity, but I’ll be honest. My team got fourth. We did not earn a bronze medal. Another team got disqualified and we were gifted a bronze medal.

I’ve looked at the tape over and over again, and I don’t believe that the other team, the Korean team, deserved the disqualification. As an athlete, I, truly think, that was a bad call. They had a gold medal robbed from them. I’m grateful that I got to experience that with my team, that I got to raise my flag up and fist pump for my country.

But again, respecting athletes and respecting what they can do, whether they win or lose, that Korean team did not deserve to get disqualified. So having won the silver, yes, that was sweeter for sure. I certainly replay the last half lap. I wonder what else could I have done. But I also replay Meng Wang, the girl who won, last lap and I think to myself that we both did everything we could have done.

I was setting up to pass as hard as I could and she was setting up to block me as hard as she could and so I don’t feel that I did anything wrong that day. I just feel that I did everything that I could and so did she, and that’s why we watch sport, to figure out who’s going to have it today.

Check out the Women’s 1000-meter Short Track Speed Skating Olympic final 2010 (from minute 01:46 look out for Katherine Reutter)

Again, maybe I didn’t achieve the goal, and yet it’s so much fun to know that you put the best version of yourself out there. We cannot possibly be unhappy with the result.

Her best moment ever

Christian: And I’m curious what you said, in the beginning, the best moment ever, what was it then?

Katherine: It was getting married to my husband. I’ll just expand on that. When I was a kid, I really thought that winning an Olympic medal was going to be the best day of my life. Fast forward to now, and I have so much more perspective. I can tell you that just walking into the room on my wedding day and seeing my 100 favorite people, just the way they look at you, no one looks at you like that when you win a medal.

Just walking into the room on my wedding day and seeing my 100 favorite people, just the way they look at you, no one looks at you like that when you win a medal.

They’re proud of you, they’re happy and they’re clapping. They know what it took to get there. But no one looks at you with that pure love and joy and best wishes for you and your life ahead, like they do you on your wedding day. That was just the best day of my life so far.

Her advice to a younger Katherine Adamek 

Christian: If you could go back in time, 10/15, maybe 20 years, what advice would you give a younger Katherine?

Katherine: I would teach a younger version of myself that there’s a bigger picture playing out that has nothing to do with me. I tend to take a lot of things personal. I’m better now, so I don’t do this so much anymore, but I used to.

When someone’s running late, they were disrespecting my time. Well, actually, they’re stuck in traffic. It’s not a big deal. Or they’re having a bad day and they’re struggling to get out of the house. It has nothing to do with me. It’s not a big deal.

So I would explain to myself that I should have more compassion for the way that the bigger picture is playing out, and not worry so much how it affects me. I’m in charge of me and no one else is.

I’m in charge of me and no one else is.

So I think when I learned how to stop taking other peoples actions personally, it actually helped me take more responsibility for my actions. I wish I’d learned that much younger.

Her success habits

Christian: What are the success habits of Katherine Adamek?

Katherine: Success habits? That’s a great question. I think that the number one thing I try to do every day is to learn. Finding your why is a big thing right now. The practice that I’ve always done with that is I just ask, why is something important to you five times.

Finding your why is a big thing right now. The practice that I’ve always done,I just ask, why is something important to you five times.

So if we do this right now, why is success important to me? That would be because I enjoy putting forth my best effort and seeing the reward in that.

Why is that important to me? Because I know that I’m capable of more than I think I can. I’ve learned that in my athletics, I know that I can do more than I think I can.

Why is doing more than I think I can, important? Because I think that’s really how you help people. I think that you got to go a little deeper than you’re comfortable with to help people. That’s important to me because I care about being kind. I care about paying my service to others.

When I can break down, not just what’s the goal, but why am I motivated to achieve that goal, I can always bring it back to something about bettering myself in a hope to better the world and others. I’d say that probably requires a lot of learning; it really does. It requires you to be constantly aware of what other people need and how you can help them.

When I can break down, not just what’s the goal, but why am I motivated to achieve that goal, I can always bring it back to something about bettering myself in a hope to better the world and others.

It has very little to do with how smart you are. This is my favorite part that people don’t need me to be the smartest person in the room. People need me to be aware and to pay attention. That’s what I hope that I do that sets me apart. At the moment, I’m in process. So, 5 to 10 years from now I can let you know, if that’s going well.

Christian: Were these also the habits that make you a successful athlete at such an early age?

Katherine: No. Being a successful athlete at such an early age was just grit, determination and willpower. I visualized a lot and I would say that’s another thing that I still use now that I would call a significant success habit.

Being a successful athlete at such an early age was just grit, determination and willpower.

When I was tired as an athlete, I would visualize what it felt like to win a race when you’re tired. Or I would visualize what it would feel like to win an Olympic medal one day.

All of a sudden you’re not tired anymore or you at least understand that your tired is helpful for you right now and you can embrace it and use it to make it better. I still use that trick right now, where if I’m really stressed and really anxious, I visualize myself having a slow, calm day. Or if I’m having conflict with someone, I visualize myself taking a deep breath every time that I start to feel anxious.

Also check out the interviews with

Who explain the importance of visualization.

If you wait for the moment that you need to do the right thing, to think about what the right thing is, you’re not going to think of it. There’s too much going on. But if I can predict that I always get stressed when this happens, and visualize that and breathe through it, I’m way more effective at managing whatever it is that’s going wrong. I did the same thing as an athlete.

Her morning routine

Christian: Do you have a morning routine?

Katherine: I do. It fluctuates, but my favorite thing to do in the morning is yoga. I try to wake up early and I like to have a cup of coffee. I like to sit outside when I drink my cup of coffee and just enjoy nature. We live in town, so it’s really just the birds in my backyard or the squirrels eating my bird food out of the feeder.

It’s like silly things, but I enjoy doing that for about half an hour. I love getting in an hour of yoga. Then after that, the first think I usually do is make a list of the things that I want to do that day. This helps me get all the things that I’m stressed about, off of my mind. Then I go through and decide on the most important things to be done. That’s where I start. My main focus for the day is to get my starred items done.

I make a list of the things that I want to do that day. This helps me get all the things that I’m stressed about, off of my mind. Then I go through and decide on the most important things to be done. That’s where I start. My main focus for the day is to get my starred items done.

Any extra time I have, I get the other things done. The to-do list never ends. So if I can just get the important ones done, then what didn’t get done today will be the important ones tomorrow. Giving myself that space, I don’t have to get everything done every day. I have to prioritize and do a good job. That really helps me from getting overwhelmed.

Christian: Yes, I also found that the to-do list never ends. I think one answer I found for myself is to consider what you put on your to-do list. Sometimes if you take a step back, you realize that you don’t need to do somethings or that they don’t matter. Then the to-do list becomes less extensive and you’re less stressed if you look at it.

Katherine: Absolutely. I’ve definitely done that too, where I’ll go through a second time through my list and I’ll star some. But then I look at others and I realize that I’m stressed about them, but I don’t actually need to do them. Then it can come off and you can relieve some stress that way too.

How to prepare for important moments

Christian: How do you prepare for important moments?

Katherine: My biggest thing when I prepare for important moments is to remember that perfect isn’t real. To me, that takes so much pressure off. I trust myself to do the best that I can in each moment. Questioning whether or not I will make the right choices beforehand, doesn’t help. It’s the same thing as an athlete.

I prepare for important moments by remembering that perfect isn’t real. I trust myself to do the best that I can in each moment.

If I were to make a plan and think about it for an hour leading up to the race, I would just make myself nervous. But if I make a plan one time and then remind myself that I know what to do, I trust my ability to learn and react properly in the moment. That lets my preparation shine through.

I think that’s a big part of it because even if you fail in big moments, you’ve traded your time for experience. Nobody likes to fail. It doesn’t feel good, but sometimes it’s really the only way to gain the perspective that you need to do better next time. That’s what I try to remember in regards to big moments.

Even if you fail in big moments, you’ve traded your time for experience.

If I really think I’ve done everything I can to prepare, I’m either going to get what I prepared for or I’m going to get more knowledge that will help me prepare next time. Stressing myself out and hyping myself up does not work for me. I very much need to calm down and cut myself a break to relieve some pressure. That’s how I deal with those really big important moments.

Christian: So, for example when you stepped into the ring at the Olympic final, what did you do?

Katherine: Breathe, big breaths. That’s all you can do. If you soak up the moment, you get too into it. If you get too excited and you can’t focus. If you cut yourself off entirely, that’s a lot of pressure. You’re not your best you under pressure. So, all I could really do is just breathe and relax.

You’re not your best you under pressure. So, all I could really do is just breathe and relax.

To me, it’s really helpful to look at things as I’m breathing. I can look on the cone on the track or the blocks that mark our track. Or I can focus on my coach and take a big breath. Or I can look at my mom in the stands and take a deep breath. I could look at the starter as he’s about to start the race and take a big breath.  I could also focus on the start line as I’m skating up to it and take another big breath.

So it’s so difficult and so important to notice the tiny little moments and to breathe through that. Oxygen is the building block of life, you can’t survive more than two minutes without it. The entire planet, Earth, is special because of its oxygen. I wish that people as a whole noticed the magic in that more often, because it really is quite magical.

Usually when we’re stressed our shoulders come up, our lungs compress down and you hyperventilate. You take these really short breaths and you’re not feeding your body the energy that it needs to be ready in that moment. So to combine breath with present mindedness, really helped me stay focused in the moments when it was most necessary.

How to overcome setbacks

Christian: How do you overcome setbacks? We touched on that a little bit before, but what’s the thought process or action process?

Katherine: It’s twofold, so step one is forgiveness. You have to forgive yourself for having messed up. If you’re like me or if anyone listening is like me, what’s unbearable about messing up is how mad you are at yourself afterwards and what you’re afraid that other people think of you afterwards. So step one is realizing if you could have done a better job in the moment, you would have because failing sucks.

You would have done better if it was available to you. So forgive yourself for not having had that option at the time. Then now that you’re feeling better that you messed up, you can learn from it. If you’re too busy hating yourself for making mistakes, it’s really hard to learn the lesson from your mistakes.

If you’re too busy hating yourself for making mistakes, it’s really hard to learn the lesson from your mistakes.

So once you’ve practiced that little bit of forgiveness, you can try and figure out what you can do better next time. I’ll go back to my race with the Korean girl. I probably didn’t need to pass every single lap. I probably could have let one or two chances go and that way, when it was the last half lap, maybe I would have had more energy. I wouldn’t have been so tired and when she fell, I could have stayed on my feet. So noted.

Okay, next time, even though that was fun and that was great, I can conserve more energy and I’ll get a better result. But if you’re sitting there thinking that it was the perfect race, but you still lost and you hate myself for it. You do that, if you self-talk like that, you can’t learn the lesson. So forgiveness and then evaluate and take action. Just do something better next time.

Her role model

Christian: Who’s your role model and why?

Katherine: I actually don’t have a role model and I’ll tell you why. Because I spent a lot of my early life, especially my young athlete life, copying athletes who were better than me and I learned a lot that way. I learned a lot from a lot of people. If I had just chosen one person to role model, I don’t think I would have learned so much.

I also believe that role models can show you what ‘not it’ looks like. So I consider everything. Every person that I interact with, you’re either going to show me ‘it’, I’m going to admire something you’ve done and I’m going to take action to do more of ‘it’ in my life. Or you’re showing me ‘not it’. You’re showing me an example of how not to be or how not to get things done. I take a note that that’s what ‘not it’ looks like.

So there’s really no one person that I idolize. I really try to look at everything and embrace the qualities that I enjoy and then learn from the qualities that I don’t enjoy. Literally everyone in the world can teach you that.

I believe that role models can show you what ‘not it’ looks like. I embrace the qualities that I enjoy and then learn from the qualities that I don’t enjoy.

The lowliest person that you passed on the street may have the most kindness and the most humility of anyone you’ve ever met. If you don’t idolize them for even a moment, if you don’t even consider that they have something to teach you, you’ll miss the opportunity to learn.

At the same time, you might have someone who’s got 500 million dollars and is clearly a huge success. If clearly they’re doing some things right, but they treat the waiter or the guy that parks their car poorly, then sometimes that’s ‘not it’.

Sometimes you need to find those people and maybe they don’t have the tangible successes, but they have that x-factor that makes something or someone really, really good. I want to take that away from everyone no matter who they are or how we eat.

The best advice she has received

Christian: What’s the best advice you received and who gave it to you?

Katherine: The best advice I ever received was from a coach named Adam Reedy and he told me two different things. One time he told me that ‘Feeling good is looking good.’ So I’m nervous and I’m at my second ever international race and I’m really self-conscious and I keep going up to my coach and asking him how I look and if I look good.

Finally, he got so tired of me asking. He called my name and asked me if I feel good. I told him that I felt fine. It was then that he told me that ‘Feeling good is looking good’. So he really encouraged me to not need other people to tell me I’m good, but to just go with whether I am feeling good or not.

He also told me that ‘There’s a difference between leading and pulling’. In speed skating, if you get in front, you want to control the pack if you’re leading, but you don’t want to pull the pack along because then you just get tired. I feel the same in life, where there’s a difference between being a leader and being someone that people want to follow and being someone who pulls other people along.

There’s a difference between being a leader and being someone that people want to follow and being someone who pulls other people along.

People don’t want to be pulled along. Again, that goes back to that overly controlling tendency. You can’t control everything, so being a leader is somewhat effortless, whereas being a puller, it’s too much. So I’ve always used both of those pieces of advice in my sport, but also in my life as just a way to manage myself better.

Christian: How do you do that? How do you do that? It’s an interesting concept. How would you do that? How would you lead rather than pull?

Katherine: Yes, kindness is the way that I have found. For example, I coach now and athletes tend to be resistant, probably people in general too. I’ll use an example of an athlete I coached the other day. His shoulder and elbow hurts and I speculated that he felt a little self-conscious because he’s a phenomenal athlete. He can do anything you ask him to do, but today he’s hurt.

He’s feeling a little self-conscious and he can’t do what I want him to do. If I insist on pulling, I’m going to urge him on and tell him to push through it because he can. I am going to insist that he does as much as possible. But if I’m leading, I would acknowledge that he looks uncomfortable. I would find out if he is hurting or ask him what was happening.

Based on his response about his shoulder, elbow, or wherever, I would modify what he has to do. I can give him something equally as challenging that doesn’t cause him to hurt. So in one way I can pull him through that pain and I can convince him to push himself harder, but in the other way, I can lead him to this idea that you don’t have to be perfect to work hard.

We can always modify. We can do something just a little bit different and you still get to be the best version of you today, without going against what’s right for your body. It’s really subtle and it requires a lot of present mindedness and awareness.

We can do something just a little bit different and you still get to be the best version of you today, without going against what’s right for your body. It’s really subtle and it requires a lot of present mindedness and awareness.

Like I said before, people don’t need me to be the smartest one in the room. People need me to be there for them and to hear them and to speak to them and tell them what they need. This may or may not be what I would do, but that doesn’t matter. I’m not here for me, I’m here for them. Again, I’m a little bit in-process, so check-in in five years and I’ll tell you how it goes, but so far so good. It’s the way that I really found to best communicate with people.

A typical training day in a life of an Olympic Short Track Speed Skater

Christian: Back in the days, how did the typical training day look like?

Katherine:  I’ll go back to my early days, training in Marquette, Michigan with Jeroen Otter, actually, who I know has been on your podcast.

He actually wasn’t my coach. He left maybe 1 or 2 years before I got there. But that’s why Marquette was a cool place to go because of the coach, which is who had been there before.

So we would wake up at 5:25, be at the rink by 6:00 and on ice at 7:00. You’re on ice from 7:00 to 9:00 and then we would have a little break, maybe 15 minutes. Then we do off-ice training until ten. Then you had to hurry to the cafeteria because breakfast ended at 10:00. So you’d sprint over the cafeteria eat as much food as you could really.

We would wake up at 5:25, be at the ice rink by 6:00 and on ice at 7:00.

You can usually be home napping by 11:30 or 12:00, but we’re back on at one. So jog to the rink, we’re usually back on the ice in the afternoon for about an hour and a half. After that we would do one of three things for our second dryland workout. We’d either do more skating specific work off the ice, we’d do some really hard running or biking intervals or we would hit the weight room.

But either way, they were super intense training days. Being up that early and then getting legitimately four different training sessions in two four-hour bouts and then still having to go eat your food and see the athletic trainer and take a shower, it was a really grueling schedule that we went through for about two years. School was in there too. It was a lot.

Why she chose to become a strength & conditioning coach

Christian: You are now partly strength and conditioning coach. Why did you choose strength and conditioning and not becoming a skating coach?

Katherine: Yes. So I actually was offered a full-time strength and conditioning coaching job. I still do a lot of public speaking, which I greatly enjoy. But why I chose strength and conditioning is because skating is extremely technical. What I found over time was that if you aren’t strong enough to hold a position you have no chance at good technique.

If you aren’t strong enough to hold a position you have no chance at good technique.

The kids will beat their heads on the wall trying to sit low enough or get their knee in the right position or control their shoulders around the corner. We can fix that. We can fix that with strength and conditioning exercises. So now, what you know how to do conceptually when you are strong enough to actually do it, all the pieces fit together and you’re a better athlete for it.

So that’s why I love the weight room more than even being on the ice. But then the job that I took was at the hockey team. So to me, this is ideal because I get to teach them how to be strong, but I also get to teach them how to skate faster.

In speed skating, it’s so detail-oriented, which is something that I love about it. So it’s taking what I learned from that and then transitioning it over to a sport that maybe hasn’t embraced all there is to learn about the extremely fine-tuned technique of skating. It’s a really great mix for me to do both, and I know I’m answering really long here.

But one more reason I really love the weight room is because you can see athletes when the wheels fall off, mentally. You can see them going through that anxiety of saying that they don’t think they can do it. Or it’s easier to get distracted than to do five more reps.

I really love the weight room is because you can see athletes when the wheels fall off, mentally.

From a mental perspective, I have to step in at that moment. I need to know what they are going through or if they feel they’re getting distracted or if they are able to come back to this present moment and keep working hard.

Again, if you wait to the moment in the game that you have to do that, you’ve waited too long. You have to be able to see that coming and visualize it and practice pushing through that moment. I can do that in real-time in the weight room and that’s what I love about it.

Christian: That’s interesting point of view. Now I extend the question even a bit more. Something that really interests me. For example, in strength and conditioning we look at certain sports that require a change of direction such as basketball, handball, whatever it might be. Very often you see track and field coaches going in looking at running techniques. These athletes are not always good runners, but the change of direction requires a bit of different running technique than straight-line running.

Now my question is how is it with skating? You short track speed skaters skate straight or in a circle, but ice hockey is also about changing directions. So how does that relate? How much of the skating technique as you know it as a speed skater is similar, and how different is the actually ice hockey skating technique?

Katherine: That’s a great question. It’s the combination of all the things that I enjoy about hockey. That goes back to the idea of always learning, always finding new ideas to study that is intriguing. I love doing that.

So combining my own training and running my own training in strength and conditioning program for skating, when you’re changing direction, you need the same type of core and glute control as you need to hit a pivot going around a corner at top speed in speed skating. So a pivot is the highest amount of pressure you have on your body when you’re going around the track, so you need to know how to be compact and absorb that pressure while speeding through it.

That’s the philosophy that I take into the change of direction, even though we’re adding this element of deceleration and acceleration. Controlling your body as physics is acting on it to try to mess it up, that feeling is the same. Then again, going into this idea of if you don’t have a strong core, you can’t change direction quickly, if every time your leg stops, your shoulders keep going, you have no chance.

So maybe an athlete has perfect skating form, but their core can’t shock absorb. So we need to be hitting planks and anti-rotation lunges and Paloff Presses. Like I said, if I can just make them stronger in the right position, the technique will start to come together easily. I hope I answered your question.

Christian: You did, thank you.

Katherine: Okay good.

Her interview nomination

Christian: Yes, thanks. Do you want to nominate someone to be interviewed?

Katherine: I do. I have two people that I think would be phenomenal. One, his name is Joey Cheek. He’s a long track speed skater. He’s got two gold medals and just a rock star of a person. My second one would be Travis Jaynor who is a short track speed skater, Olympic bronze medalist.

The reason both these guys would be great fits is just because I would imagine you want people on your show that have good stories to tell. It always stands out to me when you have a phenomenal athlete who’s also a phenomenal person.

It always stands out to me when you have a phenomenal athlete who’s also a phenomenal person.

Those are the kind of people that I try to put into my corner and those are the kind of people that I would like to nominate for you to put into your corner.

Where can you find Katherine Adamek

Christian: Thank you. Where can people find you?

Katherine: So I can be found online. I’m probably most active on Facebook and Instagram and so my Facebook name is Katherine Reutter Adamek and then my Instagram is Kat Adamek. I try to post encouraging mindset things and all the things I’m learning.

I’m learning about how to skate faster and how to build strength in new ways. Anybody that has questions or wants to share a story, you can always direct message me. I love hearing from people. So yes, please check me out.

Christian: Your website is fixyourmindset.com, right?

Katherine: Yes, and so anyone could shoot me an email or learn more about the type of mental skills training that I use with athletes. Go into that website, you can learn a lot there, and again, find my email address and reach out.

Katherine Adamek’s social profiles

Instagram

Facebook athlete page

LinkedIn

Twitter

Website

Christian: I saw you offer a broad range of services. Who’s eligible to that?

Katherine: People who want to learn. People who want to get better and also people who understand that I’m not the magic sauce. Being on the phone with me once a week is not going to solve your problems. You have to solve your problems. I’m going to help share the perspective that you need in order to get there and so anyone who’s encouraged by that and excited by that, that’s who I work with.

Christian: Katherine, thanks for your time. That was awesome.

Katherine: Thanks for having me. Thank you.

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