The Bold & Courageous Leader Podcast: Episode 10
Rhonda: Welcome to the Bold & Courageous Leader Podcast from rhondapeterson.com. This is Rhonda Peterson, your Bold & Courageous Leader coach, along with my co-host Andee Marks. Here's how we got the conversation started today.
Today, we welcome Crystal Ballis from Crystal River Coaching. She is the chief executive there. Crystal is a Christian life and leadership coach, a personal trainer, and group exercise instructor focusing on healthy lifestyles, specializing in female baby boomers who need to practice self-care, time management, work-life balance, and rejuvenate their identity and life as they transition toward the second half.
I have to tell you that one of the reasons why, when I heard about Crystal, she really interested me was because she specializes in female baby boomers and I am one of them. I've been looking for somebody who is a personal trainer and exercise instructor that speaks my language, because a lot of the personal trainers out there are like thirty-somethings and they do not live in the same world I do from a body perspective or from an interest perspective and how I want to do my exercising.
That's not all there is to Crystal. She has a really dynamic story of how she's gotten to where she is now and God is really using her in the things that she is doing. She is a new blogger, she is training to run the Chicago marathon in October with Team World Vision, and that's what started her on the world of blogging. She's also a recent college graduate and she is someone who we need to get to know because her story is a story that I think all of us will resonate with as we are on our own Bold & Courageous Leader journeys. Crystal, welcome. Andee and I are really excited to talk with you this morning.
Crystal: Hi Rhonda. How are you?
Rhonda: I'm great. Good to have you with us today. My first question for you today is what is it you would like to share about your journey?
Crystal: That I'm an overcomer and that others can overcome too.
Rhonda: What does it mean to you to be an overcomer? What part of your story tells you that you're an overcomer?
Crystal: The fact that I have gotten up and... Every time life hits us with a challenge, I've gotten up and not let it keep me down and moved forward, made changes, made improvements. I'm a better me today than I was when I was in my twenties.
Rhonda: Tell me a little bit about that. What does it mean to be a better me today?
Crystal: I have had quite a few challenges in my life and I've had to make decisions in hard places to try to improve the situations that I was in. I think that I'm in a better place today than I've probably been in most of my life. I'm healthier spiritually, emotionally, and physically today.
Rhonda: Absolutely. As the journey has unfolded, you said that you have gotten back up again when those challenges came. What is it that has motivated you? What do you think within you was the thing that made you get back up and keep going as opposed to just kind of folding on the floor and saying, I can't do this thing?
Crystal: I think that I have come to several different times in my life where I realized I just couldn't keep going the way I was going. That my life as it was, was probably not going to be very long if I didn't make some changes. Sometimes we make life decisions or we find ourselves in situations that are just not working and we have to realize... and for me, part of it was I realized that it wasn't just for me, but it was for my kids. What would happen to my kids if I wasn't there for them? Who would take care of my children? Who would raise them? Who would see their life unfold in a good way? Instead of making more negative choices, it was time to make some positive ones, so I've had to pull deep down inside and to be honest with you, I lived my life for me for about ten years of my life.
I was a Christian young in life but I decided that it didn't really matter who I fell in love with, I just wanted to fall in love with somebody who loved me and I did. I got married and all that sounded wonderful but I was living my life for me for a good ten years, and it didn't go well. Some of it was but it didn't end well, let's just put it that way. One day I was in the shower and said, you know God, my life is a mess, I'm a total wreck, I have nothing to offer, I had no hope. I literally was in a hopeless situation. I was being abused physically and emotionally and I was alone.
I had one friend, one family friend and they helped me to escape a very dangerous situation with my kids. I cried out to God and said I've got nothing to give you but if you can take nothing and make something out of it, here I am. That turned around, and that was 1984. I'd like to say that right after that incident, everything got hunky-dory and life was full of roses, but it wasn't that way. There were a lot more difficult things along the way. Through it all, God was there and he provided. He took care of my needs, he took care of me, he took care of my children, he took care of everything. Eventually, I ended up being divorced and then later I thought I would be an old, old grandma, single and who'd want me? I'm all used up at 28 years old, there's nothing left.
Rhonda: It's amazing the perspective we have. Please don't hear that I'm discounting somebody who's in that situation at 28 years old, but when you're 28 and you're in that place you think, what could possibly be? I hear what you're saying, but I just want to say to any 28-year-old who happens to be listening to this, there is life after 28 or 30. Even after 30, there is life. The three of us are witness to that. After you said wow, I'm washed up at 28, continue the story because we kind of jumped in there and had to make a snide comment about a 28-year-old.
Crystal: For me, turning 30 was the most difficult thing in my life because I became a single mom at 28 and had to raise two children and had to fend for ourselves and didn't have the means, didn't have the income, had to completely relocate my life. It was tough to start over, big time. I thought that I'd never be happy again. God took care of every need I had. He put food on the table when I couldn't do it, he gave me a job when all else had failed.
I had sent out over 100 resumes. I'm like, I have all these skills, I have all this knowledge, I was a computer programmer and I thought there's surely going to be jobs for me somewhere. There were, but they were in the big city and I lived a good two-hour drive from the big city and I didn't see myself being able to be a single mom and raise two children and being a two-hour drive back and forth. Or I didn't want to live in the city, I wanted to live near family so I would have that support structure.
I eventually got a job doing something that I had never done before but it was technology oriented and I touched my first desktop computer and became a glorified office clerk, but it put food on my table, it was a good steady income and a good stable situation and in that process I got plugged into a church, it was home. I knew that when I got in that place, I was home. In that church I met my husband and we had a huge singles group and he became part of that. Now we're empty nesters. We've raised four children together. We have grandchildren and it's like ok, life looks good today.
Rhonda: That's wonderful. Your story took a turn and God provided all that you needed. Not only did he provide for your physical needs in the way of a job so that you could have food and there was a roof over your head and there was family to support you. He also provided for your emotional needs by bringing your husband into the picture and he helped you see that there is hope for a new relationship. Not that everyone is going to be in that situation, I'm not saying that you're going to get your prince charming, that's not what I'm saying. I'm saying in your life, the story goes on that God brought someone into your life who has been your partner in life for the last 29 years, which is wonderful. Then you had a second time when everything changed and you had a turning point and that has been what, well I'll let you tell the story.
Crystal: I did. I was working to put my son through school because he's graduated from bible college and he's now a minister in Michigan, just being installed in a new church work up there. While we were working our way through, the job was extremely stressful and I wasn't doing a good job of taking care of me. I was just getting through life. I was work, work, work, it seemed like that's all I did was work. I wasn't feeling good; I just didn't feel good. I had a headache that would never go away and the headache just went on and on and on.
One day that headache just got so bad, I went to the doctor at lunchtime and the doctor said, hmmm your blood pressure is really, really high. I said really? I mean it was outrageously high. They thought I was going to have a stroke right there in the doctor's office. Being away from work, it started to drop. They wanted me to go on blood pressure medication and they wanted me to go to the hospital, and I wouldn't do either. I said I don't like taking pills, I don't want to do that. Is there something I can do to change my life? Can I make a change and focus on that and see if I can't improve that? If I can't do that in about 30 days, then I'd be willing to go on medicine.
The doctor said well ok, how about if you go home for the day and just lay down in your room, lay on your bed and put a washcloth over your eyes and just chill for the rest of the day. Let's get that blood pressure under control. He said, if you can do it with diet and exercise, I'm all for that, but he said, if you can't do this in 30 days, we're going to have to do something drastic. I said okay. My brain instantly said, oh I can't miss another day of work so I went back to work which was not really intelligent but I did it.
Rhonda: No, probably not.
Crystal: No. I went back to work and I told my boss what had happened and he said, are you sure? Maybe you should just go home. I said no, I think if I just sit at my desk and don't answer the phone for a while and just do my job, it'll probably be okay and I'll feel better tomorrow. I'll rest when I get home.
Rhonda: So you really have quite a work ethic don't you?
Rhonda: Okay sorry. I just had to interject that because I couldn't not say it.
Crystal: I sat in my office with the lights off because we thought fluorescent lights, sometimes they have an impact on you, so I turned off the lights and sat in front of my computer and did my job and tried to think really hard. Of course I would stop and I thought, is it really worth it to die for a job? Is it really, really worth that? And I made a decision that day that there really isn’t anything that’s worth dying for on this planet. I might be strong in some ways, but there’s other ways I’m pretty weak, like I don’t like pain, at all. I don’t tolerate pain well. I made the decision that day, I had to make some changes in my life. That’s what put me on the path of focusing on my health so I could see my grandkids grow up. I didn’t even have very many at the time and I didn’t even have all my children married at the time. So I was like, okay, we’ve got to make some changes, so I did that.
I started going to an exercise class called Jazzercise. I had a lot of fun doing that. We were members of a local YMCA so I made a decision to start exercising again and I had lost my exercise partner. I was exercising at the gym one day and the personal trainer name Jim walked up to me and said, hey, I think you could do that one better. I said hey, really? And he goes yeah, hi I’m Jim. He goes I’m a personal trainer here, can I help you out? I said okay. He showed me how to improve my form in what I was doing and it went better and I got better results. I said, hmmm, he has a good personality, I kind of like that. He was interested in me. I never would have sought him out, but he found me. I worked with Jim as a personal trainer for a year and went to Jazzercise for a year, year and a half.
They kept talking in Jazzercise class about oh, we need fitness instructors. You ought to come up and do this. I was like, oh this is fun. I might be able to do that. I looked into becoming an instructor for Jazzercise and decided that wasn’t for me, the way that it was going to work out. Nah, that’s not for me. That thought led to you know, I like what Jim does, maybe I can do what Jim does. I decided to check it out and I ended up becoming a personal trainer. I worked full-time and went to school full-time and six months later I was a personal trainer.
I started personal training at my local Y, same Y I worked with Jim at, and 29 days after I started personal training and working at the Y, I lost my day job. That led me to look into doing… I had heard about Zumba and I looked into becoming a Zumba instructor thinking maybe we could do Zumba at the Y. I became a Zumba instructor and brought Zumba to the YMCA. That led to other classes, I teach Silver Sneakers. Now I’m in the place I really like. I teach seniors how to stay healthy and not just live a healthier life but it’s about fitness, fun, and friends. It’s about building relationships, it’s about getting healthy and having fun together. That keeps people coming back.
Rhonda: I’m sure it does because that community, because that’s what you’re doing, you’re building community with those people that are part of the Silver Sneakers group. If you don’t have the community, they’re not going to keep doing it. Speaking from personal experience on the whole excursive thing, as somebody who has described themselves as exer-phobic in earlier stages of my life. I’m not quite that bad anymore, but it’s still not the center of my being, we’ll just phrase it that way. It was recognizing how much the personal training helped you that caused you… Obviously, though you might not have been saying, gee I really need to find something different to do, God was planting seed in your mind about that and provided somebody who was the model of that for you.
Rhonda: I love the fact that you are a Zumba instructor. I was thinking about this as I was eating breakfast this morning because in my town, the person who’s the Zumba instructor is 35. She looks really different than me, I’m just saying, and she moves really different than I do too. Not only does she look different, but there’s a coordination factor there too. I just think when you are someone who, you’re targeting the boomers, you are not this 30-something waif, and God bless the people who are 30-something waifs and do personal training, that’s wonderful. As somebody who’s a boomer and not a 30-something waif anymore, I was that at one point in my life, but no longer, it’s difficult to see your instructor be that much different than you and really stay engaged, for me personally. I don’t think I’m that different than everyone else. Tell us about what led you to become a coach after you’d started doing personal training.
Crystal: it’s kind of funny because actually coaching was something I was interested in before I started personal training. I decided, oh I think I want to be a coach. I had looked into wellness and fitness coach and I went in that direction. In the training I found out the only way that you can get certified is if you have some kind of a medical background, if you’re a chiropractor, if you’re an MD, if you’re a nurse, if you’re some kind of hospital-related type of industry training. The only other option was to become a personal trainer and that would be your entry or foray into being able to be certified. I was like, I can’t do all those other things because I am not the nurse. I’m not going to go become a nurse in order to coach.
I decided that really was the catalyst, for me to become the trainer, so that I could get the training as a personal trainer and then use that to do coaching. When I went in that direction, it was a lot harder to do both at the same time. I had to put coaching on hold until I got the personal training. Then I realized I’m not ready to do the coaching because I need some experience as a personal trainer. I need to know what this feels like, looks like, sounds like, really living it out. After I had done it for a few years, it was time to go back to the coaching.
I had gone after secular coaching and it just seemed to miss something for me. There’s a lot of New-Agey philosophies out there, especially in psychology, so it just didn’t fit right. I had already known about PCCI and I found Chris before I actually went to, I think it was before he even became independent on his own. I went back and looked him up again and decided yeah, that’s what I want to do. That’s how I got involved with Christian coaching and it’s definitely a better fit for me. There’s always this physical component, then there’s the emotional component, but this takes in the spiritual component. For me it just fit the bill.
Rhonda: Yes, I understand what you’re saying. I completely understand that. Having made all these changes, how is your life better today than it was before you became a personal trainer and coach?
Crystal: I am healthier today. I’m healthier physically. I don’t have any physical health issues. I never had to go on medication at all.
Crystal: Thank you.
Rhonda: That’s really an accomplishment.
Crystal: it’s a big deal. Just because I focused my attention in that direction and committed to doing it, you really have to… you can focus on things but you have to make a commitment, you have to be all in. I like to refer to Texas Hold’em, there’s that game where you think you’re going to win the pot so you put all your chips on the table, you’re all in to whatever it is you’re doing. You really have to commit. You can say it with your tongue, but if you’re not committed with your heart, it’s not going to work. I found that being all in is probably the most critical step to doing anything. It keeps you going when things are tough. Finding something in the fitness arena, I thought it was interesting, you talked before about you being exer-phobic.
Rhonda: Yeah, that’s my word, exer-phobic.
Crystal: I like it. I might borrow that word.
Rhonda: You may use it anytime you want to.
Crystal: I was my P.E. teacher’s worst nightmare in high school. If I didn’t want to get up and do volleyball, I said I don’t feel like it. She would say you have to do a lot of things in life you don’t feel like. I’m like, not today I don’t. Just the fact that I’m even in fitness and actually have an income generated from it, I mean I don’t just do fitness, but I make money doing this stuff, is beyond where I thought… I don’t think this was ever on my radar anywhere, so it’s been a real mind transition, thought changes. It’s a complete change. I’m a completely different person today than I was back then. I think it’s in a good way.
I have no doubt that I can maintain this health for a lifetime. It’s a lifestyle change and it starts with what you think about yourself. I’ll put somebody on a machine and I won’t tell them exactly what we’re going to do, because if you see it with your eyes, for instance if you’re on a machine and you look at the weights, and I’ll tell people, don’t look at the weights, don’t look at the number on that weight stack and they’ll say well why? And I’ll say because if you see the number I put that stack at and you mentally say I can’t do that, and you will, you’ll say I can’t do that. If you think you can’t you won’t. You won’t be able to try and challenge those muscles to try and change, and muscles don’t change unless you challenge them.
I know that when they don’t look, I’ll even say… You can see unbelief on people’s faces, I can anyway. Their faces tell all. Then I start to coach them, I use my coaching in personal training as well. It gets greater results because instead of telling people what to do, I tell them why we’re doing what we’re doing. And tell them if you think you can’t, you won’t be able to, so just don’t look. I’m going to put the weights on a certain number and let’s see what you can do. Right now, just think you can do this and tell yourself I can do that in your head, or even out loud, and then once they’re in the right position, let’s go. They’re always able to do way more than they ever thought they could possibly do. That’s the benefit of working with personal trainers or coaches.
A coach can help you go farther. A coach can help you get to the places that you desire to get to at a faster pace than if you went alone. You might get there alone but it’s much farther, it’s much more enjoyable, and you have somebody who’s, it’s like being an advocate. I consider myself a cheerleader. I am here to cheer you on, to let you get all the things that you really want to get in life, whether it’s a physical need you have to overcome some kind of health issue or it’s an emotional need, because a lot of times you find yourself supporting people emotionally as well until they get to that place where they believe they can.
I tell people all the time, you’re valuable, you are valuable, you can do this. I think that’s my mantra in life, is if I can do it, you can do it. People really like that, they resonate with that. That’s what I received from my personal trainer was you can do it, I know you can, I believe in you. That’s a great gift to be able to share with other people.
Rhonda: Obviously, I love the fact that you said, and this was a little bit ago, you said basically you are making your living by doing the thing that started out being just a way of trying to get healthy because you knew that if you didn’t you were in big trouble. What are some recent breakthrough’s that you’ve had?
Crystal: Recently, I’ve gone through the works of Doctor Cloud, the Boundaries material. If people are not familiar with Doctor Cloud, he’s written many books but Boundaries was his second work and it started with a book called Changes That Heal. He wrote that alone and then he had an encounter and friendship with Doctor Townsend and they wrote Boundaries together. They took his early work and turned it into Boundaries. Boundaries, we’ve been studying it deeply for the last year in a small group. Being connected to a group of people who support me is critical. Being connected is a very critical component in life, it’s a healthy, healthy thing for all of us. We need community, we need connection, that’s the way we’re made.
Studying Doctor Cloud’s work has been life changing and I realized that some of the areas that I have struggled with in my life or weaknesses was because, or much of it was because I didn’t have good personal boundaries. I didn’t take responsibility for my own health when I was younger and that’s how come I got into health issues. I didn’t take good responsibility for my thought-life, the things I think. I didn’t take good responsibility for who I allowed to… Doctor Cloud calls it… A boundary is like having a fence over your property line or around your property line. It defines what belongs to you and what you’re responsible for. It also defines what you’re not responsible for and what belongs to other people.
Over my lifetime I have allowed people to let their tree fall in my fence and hit my house and try to crush it. I have come to understand that those are other people’s issues and I need to give them back their issues and just take responsibility for what belongs to me to take care of. Boundaries has been a life changing work. Now I’m working on boundaries and myself, not just boundaries with your children, boundaries with your spouse, boundaries with your work, boundaries in your family, all those things but right now we’re at boundaries and myself.
Learning how to take self-control, take control over the thoughts that I have of I can’t do this marathon or take control…. Running is a mental game. You really have to have your mind, it’s more of a mental challenge than it is a physical challenge. Again, if you think you can’t, you won’t. I have to work at thinking positively, I have to work at thinking I can, it’s not so bad, go slow, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t really matter how slow you go, you’re passing anybody sitting on the couch.
Rhonda: That is a really good point! That means that my being exer-phobic and saying that I’m not coordinated and that’s why I can’t do Zumba really is just a sorry excuse and I really need to just say… I wish you could see the face that Crystal just made.
Crystal: That is true for all of us. We really have to get to the place where we recognize that we are just making excuses because I can’t is really just an excuse for I won’t. I don’t want to, therefore I think I can’t. You have to start with telling yourself the truth, I can. I can make money doing that, I can avoid taking pills for the rest of my life because I can take better care of myself, I am valuable, I am worth it. I think that having an internal, I am valuable… I love Doctor Brene Brown, she has studied shame for about twelve years. She’s a research psychologist and she has written many great books and I’ve recently gone through DaringGreatly, and she is so motivating and so encouraging and so down-to-earth, ordinary everyday person that I can relate to.
I have come to realize that a lot of what I struggle with is shame. I am ashamed that I allowed myself to gain too much weight. I’m ashamed that I allowed people to cross my boundaries. I’m ashamed that, maybe something happened in my family of origin that I’m ashamed that so-and-so did such-and-such to me. Whatever it is, we all struggle with shame and we don’t even recognize that that’s what we’re struggling with. Bringing it into the light and shining a light on that has helped tremendously. She has a quote in her book, I think it’s by Winston Churchill, and he talks about daring greatly, it goes to the person… This is just a synopsis because it’s not exact. It goes to the person who’s in the battle fighting. It’s not for those sitting on the sidelines or those sitting on the couch whining about how down they are, like I had done again. It’s about those who are daring greatly to get up and try. I love Doctor Brene Brown too.
Rhonda: You have really been impacted by Doctor Henry Cloud and his Boundaries work and Brene Brown’s Daring Greatly, and the other two books that she wrote that also have to do with her research and how that impacts our life as far as shame is concerned. As we wrap up today, first of all I want to thank you for your time in sharing with us about your journey, about the fact that you have come through many challenges in life and come to the place where you have found a way to be a Bold & Courageous leader and live into that next place, making it your way of making an income, which is really awesome. Is there anything, one last thing that you want to leave with people as the final parting thought for our podcast today?
Crystal: I would say that if I can do it, you can do it too. I’m all about leaving people with hope, because if you don’t have hope, you have nothing, and I’ve been there. I’ve been hopeless, but if you have hope, you can do anything. I would say if I can do it, you can do it too. There’s nothing special about me, I’m just an ordinary woman living her life for Jesus and making mistakes and learning from those mistakes and getting up and trying again. So if I can do it, you can do it too, and you’re never, ever too old to start something new. Even if you’re sitting on the couch, it doesn’t matter. I went back to school to become a trainer when I was 54 years old, you know, so what. I went back and got my associate degree when I was 60 years old. I’m 60 years old today and I am healthier today than I was when I was in my mid-thirties. If I can do it, you can do it.
Rhonda: What a great thought to end on. Thank you so much Crystal for your time, for sharing your story, and for putting the message out there for everyone that there is hope, they can do it, and let’s go get it.
To find out more about today’s topic, get downloads of our previous podcasts or to learn how you too can become a Bold & Courageous leader, visit rhondapeterson.com. Our ever-growing community is waiting for you. If you liked today’s show, there are three things you can do. You can subscribe to the podcasts on iTunes or Stitcher. You can give us a rating or a review on iTunes. The subscriptions and ratings help others to find us more easily. And you can help us get the word out by sharing the podcast with your friends. This is Rhonda Peterson, your Bold & Courageous Leader Coach. Thank you for listening. We’ll see you for the next Bold & Courageous Leader Podcast.