How Emotional Intelligence Can Be An Athlete's "Secret Weapon"

How Emotional Intelligence can be an Athlete’s ”Secret Weapon”

By Sarah Kivel, www.sarahkivel.com

“The need to succeed is greater than the need to breathe,”  my 11 year old daughter (at the time) tells me on our way home from her synchronized swimming practice.  I knew she was a committed athlete, but “wow”, I thought to myself.

Many of us are in awe over accomplished athletes like Mia Hamm, Maggie Stephens, and Stephen Curry.  They show their passion for their sport on the court, field and in the pool, respectively. We hear about the countless training hours they put into a day and their dedication, commitment and passion for their sport.  It’s not just in the professional world that we see exceptional athletes. They are everywhere.… on the local soccer fields, in the high school swimming pools and neighborhood basketball courts. But what separates these peak performing athletes from the rest?

As an athlete and parent to highly competitive athletes, I have learned that it takes more than talent and physical fitness to achieve peak performance.  It takes things like focus, drive, and commitment. And, it takes something that we don’t hear often in the athletic world. It takes emotional intelligence.  

Reaching peak athletic performance requires Emotional Self Awareness, Emotional Self Control, and Positive Outlook, which are three of the 12 Competencies Daniel Goleman’s research has determined comprise Emotional Intelligence.  

Here are three reasons why Emotional Intelligence can be an athlete’s secret weapon:

  1. Winning gold depends on self awareness and interoception

An Emotionally self aware athlete has the ability to understand their own emotions and the effects these emotions have on their athletic performance. They know what they are feeling and why and how it might or might not help them in competition.

When emotions are activated, they are often accompanied by changes in the body like breathing rate, heart rate, and muscle tension. In our brain, it is the Insula that detects these bodily changes and transmits the information to the other parts of the brain.  Interoception, the ability of the athlete to sense these sensations in the body, is then key to responding in a way that is advantageous.

Let’s look at synchronized swimmers.   Synchronized swimmers must have the grace of a ballerina, the strength and flexibility of a gymnast, the skills of a speed swimmer and water polo player, the lungs of a pearl diver, and the endurance and stamina of a long distance runner. Add to that the requirement for split-second timing and a dramatic flair for musical interpretation and choreography (Walnut Creek Aquanuts, 2018.  FAQs about Synchro. Viewed November 15, 2018, <https://www.teamunify.com/SubTabGeneric.jsp?team=reczzwca&_stabid_=125965). This sport requires focus, discipline, dedication and passion. Typically, there are 8 athletes working together as a team in competition. What happens when one of the 8 have an anxiety attack and can no longer stay under water? The competition is over. There’s no chance for gold medal.  The 20+ hours per week of physical training all season no longer matters. And, the team is incredibly disappointed.

When a swimmer can recognize and notice what it feels like in the body before an  “anxiety attack” happens, they can better manage what comes next. Maybe they notice that their heart starts to beat faster whenever they get nervous.  By noticing and really paying attention to these sensations in the body, the athlete can learn to respond to the faster heartbeat and, with practice, learn to naturally calm themselves.   They may learn to do things like focusing on the breath or maybe the music tempo instead of allowing the body and mind to be swept away by the faster heartbeat and panic attack that comes with it.  With practice, the self aware synchronized swimmer can learn to respond to the faster heartbeat and maintain control over what happens next instead of mindlessly reacting. This is how gold medals are won.

2.  Emotional Self Control can mean the difference between winning and losing

When an athlete displays emotional self control, they are able to manage their disruptive emotions effectively, staying clear headed and calm.  On the flip side, an athlete lacking emotional self control might get triggered by something and fly off the handle at their teammate or the competition.   Sometimes coaches lack emotional self control. They get triggered by a mistake made by their athlete or a bad call by the referee. In science, this is sometimes referred to as an “amygdala hijack.”    

When the amygdala is triggered, it sends out an alarm. As a result, all sorts of stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol are released into the body to prepare for “fight or flight.”  At the same time, it shuts down the ability for the prefrontal cortex, our rational, decision making part of the brain, to make sense of the trigger and gives us no chance to respond in an effective or meaningful way.  What results then is an inappropriate response to the initial trigger that we might regret when we finally calm down. This can be the difference between winning and losing.

Competitive soccer has been a an influential and important part of my life.  I first started playing in the late 70s-early 80s, when there really weren’t many opportunities for girls in organized sports.  I quickly fell in love with the game and continued playing into my college years at University of California, Davis. One game from my senior year in high school stands out so clearly to me still, over 30 years later!  I was one of the top scoring offensive players on my team. I had played all four years on varsity. Now it’s my senior year and we have a freshman on our team. In the middle of the game as we are out on the field, I remember this freshman, I’ll call her Lucy, directing me and suggesting that I move and get into my position.  Hearing her words, my focus went from playing the game, to directly and sternly telling her, “don’t tell ME what to do.” We ended up losing that game.

How quickly things can change when we get triggered by someone or something someone says.  Our amygdala can take over and it ruins any chance that the outcome of the situation will be favorable.  I reflect on my poor behavior and wish I could find Lucy to apologize, as my ego centered self at the time never did apologize.  I share this story with my own competitive teenage athletes and hope that they can learn from it and understand the importance of developing their own emotional self control.

3.  Having a positive outlook takes the whole team to the next level

Positive outlook is having a glass half full outlook on people, situations and events.  Athletes with positive outlook persist in achieving their goals, despite obstacles and setbacks they encounter along the way.  A coach with positive outlook can inspire the team to work hard and get through tough situations and losses.

There is scientific evidence that shows that people with a positive outlook have more activation on the left side of their prefrontal cortex.  Further research shows that this area of the brain is closely associated with positivity. We also have mirror neurons in our brain that reflect the mood of others around us.  For instance, when someone smiles, we often smile back without thinking about it. Similarly, a leader or coach’s attitude and outlook can be very contagious. When a coach has a positive outlook, there’s a great chance the rest of the team will too.

Maureen O’Toole Purcell, is an Olympic silver medalist, she’s been inducted to the International Aquatics Hall of Fame, and has a sportsmanship award named after her at USA Water Polo’s Champions Cup, to list a few of her athletic accomplishments.  She knows firsthand the benefits of positive outlook. “There are times when things are tough, but just know that good will always come out of it.” Maureen is also a coach. One of her players says, “Mo motivates us to want to work hard. When we make a mistake in a game, she doesn’t criticize us.  Instead, she helps us understand what we could do different next time. “Mo’s coaching led us to win Champion’s Cup and get a silver medal at Junior Olympics.”

A positive outlook not only helps the athlete as an individual get through tough obstacles like injuries and losses, but it helps the team as a whole. It creates an environment of positivity that is contagious for the team.  Positivity inspires an athlete and team to want to work hard. This hard work and motivation brings the athlete and team to the next level of success.

It’s clear then that Emotional Intelligence is a huge factor in athletic performance.  We can all learn to become more emotionally intelligent. Here are three ways:

  • Notice how your body is feeling.  You can take a short body scan.  Close your eyes and bring you attention to the top of your head.  Slowly work your way down to your toes, noticing as you go how each part of the body is feeling.  Repeat daily.

  • Pay attention to what triggers you.  What are those things that come up in daily life that bring up negative emotions?  When, where and with whom do these triggers occur? Take some time to think about these questions and write your answers in a journal.  

  • Practice gratitude.  Keep a gratitude journal.  Write down three things each day you are grateful for.  Write a note or even better, tell your coach or teammate what in them you are grateful for.  This practice is like training the mind to look for the good. The more we practice looking for the good in our lives, the more likely we will develop a positive outlook.









Sarah Kivel
3 Ways Adventuring in an Airstream Trailer Builds Emotional Intelligence

It has been almost three years since I purchased my 2016 Airstream Travel Trailer.  I chose the 25’ Signature International because I loved the retro-modern design. I named my Airstream “Sunny.”  I chose the name because “Sunny” made me think of happy, warm, sunny days. My intention was to create my own living and working space during a difficult time in my life.  It turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

I have traveled over 14,000 miles in the last three years.  I have been to places like Missoula, Montana, Sun Valley, Idaho, San Diego, California and Sedona, Arizona.  I have witnessed many energizing sunrises and calming, colorful sunsets. I have stayed in the middle of the beautiful Sierra Mountains as well as the Sawtooth National Forest. As I write this article, I am at my desk in Sunny, looking off into the Pacific Ocean in Half Moon Bay, California.  I have done and still DO a lot! But what I didn’t expect when I bought my Airstream, was WHO I would become.

My adventures in Sunny have helped me grow as a person and have helped build my Emotional Intelligence.  Emotional Intelligence is the capacity to recognize our own feelings and those of others, and to manage emotions effectively in ourselves and our relationships. According to research, emotional intelligence matters twice as much as technical expertise or IQ.  It accounts for 67% of the abilities necessary for superior performance. And, it determines the quality of our business and personal relationships (Goleman, D. Emotional Intelligence. Why It Can Matter More Than IQ.  Bantam Dell. 2005).

My adventures in Sunny have helped build my Emotional Self Awareness (Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R., Davidson, R., Druskat, V., Kohlrieser, G. Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence: Emotional Self-Awareness: A Primer. Key Step Media. 2017.), Emotional Balance (Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R., Davidson, R., Druskat, V., Kohlrieser, G. Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence: Emotional Self-Control: A Primer. Key Step Media. 2017.), and Adaptability (Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R., Davidson, R., Druskat, V., Kohlrieser, G. Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence: Adaptability: A Primer. Key Step Media. 2017.).  These are three of the 12 competencies that Daniel Goleman’s research has determined comprise Emotional Intelligence

Here are three ways my adventures in Sunny, my Airstream trailer, have helped build my Emotional Intelligence.

1. Self Awareness

Emotional Self Awareness is the ability to understand your own emotions and their effects on your performance.  You know what you are feeling and why-and how it helps or hurts what you are trying to do. A person with strong self awareness is able to describe how their own feeling affect their actions.  They are also able to acknowledge their strengths and weaknesses.

It was October 2017 and I had just arrived at St Francis State Beach in Half Moon Bay.  I reserved site #30, one of the prime oceanfront campsites. Just as I am about to back into it, a friendly 50-something guy walks towards my car.  He asks if I need any help backing into my spot.

Now, I should tell you, as a woman towing an Airstream alone much of the time, I’m frequently offered help. In fact, by the time this stranger asked to help me I’d already traveled over 75 days across 7 states. That’s 11,000 miles in two years, almost 4x across the country!  I know how to back a trailer.

But the other side of this story is that for a long time, my ego got in the way of accepting help. I finally realized that by turning down help, I was denying people the gift they were trying to give me.  I also realized that I was denying myself that good feeling that comes from having been given this gift. And if I was honest, backing in with help was so much easier than doing it on my own!

So, here’s this nice man offering to help me back into my campsite. So, I accept his offer and say “yes.” My window is rolled all the way down.  I put the car in reverse, and, looking over my right shoulder, I start to back in. I’m listening for his guidance on which way to steer the trailer.  

Suddenly, his hands come through the window and he grabs my steering wheel! His hands are just a couple inches away from my body! He’s steering my car in reverse!  I was shocked, petrified….But I was also pissed. I pause and take a few deep breaths. Then I look him straight in the eye and say, “Please, get your hands off my steering wheel.”  He turns and walks away and I’m thinking, “Well, so much for accepting help.”

Expressing myself in this direct way was something new for me.  In the past, I might have actually let this guy steer my car for me!  In the past, I would have been more concerned about being unappreciative or rude and offending him and less concerned about having had my own boundaries crossed.  It was situations like that where I learned to be more self aware.

2.  Emotional Balance

Emotional balance is the ability to keep your disruptive emotions and impulses in check and maintain your effectiveness under stressful or even hostile conditions.  A person with emotional balance acts appropriately even in emotionally charged situations. They remain calm in stressful situations.

During one of my first long trips in the Airstream, I was driving home from Phoenix Arizona.  I had traveled there to watch my youngest daughter compete in a synchronized swim competition.  I was driving on Highway 10, through the Arizona desert and making my way back into California. Suddenly my car started to shake.   I could feel my heart instantly start to race and my body start to shake like the car. I knew I had to calm myself. I finally saw an exit. It was a small exit from the freeway with nothing but a patch of dirt.  No lights, nothing. I pulled off the road and just sat there in the car. I listened to the engine for a while longer and saw that the sun was about to set. Then I noticed a truck driver in a semi-truck looking curiously at me.  We were the only two people at the exit.

I had one bar left on my cell phone. Staying alone at that deserted exit overnight wasn’t smart. I decided to move on, even though my car and my hands were shaking. Within moments of making that decision my breath started to slow and my body started to calm.

Making a decision while under extreme stress and responding so clearly when I felt I was in danger was new for me. And my source of empowerment came from an unexpected place. It came from being mindful, being present and paying attention to what was happening, inside and around me. It came from being emotionally balanced.

I managed to drive to an RV Park I knew in Palm Springs. The owners even greeted me with warm freshly baked cookies.  And the next day my car was fixed by a local mechanic. Had I not kept my emotions in balance during this experience, things could have turned out a lot differently.

3.  Adaptability

Adaptability refers to flexibility in handling change.  People who demonstrate adaptability willingly change their own ideas or approaches based on new information or changing needs.  They adapt overall strategy, goals, or projects to cope with unexpected events.

In the summer of 2017, I was in the Sawtooth National Forest, just outside of Sun Valley Idaho on my way to Montana.  I was winding along the river on a narrow dirt road. The rocks were turning into boulders and there was no place to turn around.  Then, suddenly a sign appeared out of nowhere that read “travel at your own risk”. I knew then that I was really taking a risk. As I continued down that unknown dirt road, I asked myself, “What’s the worse thing that can happen?”  I figured that a boulder could damage the underside of the trailer, I could get stuck on the rocks or I would have to back down the road to get out. I knew I could call for help with the satellite phone that I brought on the trip. And I knew I had the skill to back the trailer up if I had to.  So, I decided to go for it.

I chose the less travelled road, where things were less predictable and I had to adapt to whatever situation would come my way.  This was new for me. I didn’t know what would happen but was willing to find out. I ended up driving in reverse for about an hour to get off that dirt road.  I was grateful for the adventure and grateful it was still full daylight!

Airstream adventuring has helped me develop my Emotional Intelligence.  These skills have helped me in both my personal and professional life. Emotional Intelligence can be learned, just like any skill.  Here are three ways to start building your own Emotional Intelligence:

1.Notice how different emotions feel inside your body.  Do you feel butterflies when you get nervous? Does your heart start to speed up when you are excited?  

2. Learn to pause.  The next time you are in a difficult conversation, pause for just a moment before you speak.

3. Practice being present.  Put your cell phone away. Be present to the people around you and to what is happening around you.










Sarah Kivel
Can Sleeping for 8 Hours Improve Athletic Performance?

It was still dark outside at 4:00 am when my alarm started blaring. The red and blue police lights from the street below swirled through the room of the dingy hotel just off of Lombard Street in San Francisco where I had spent the night. I could hear the sound of cars, horns, people all through the night. On top of it all…I had what some of us triathletes call the “pre-race jitters.” “Did I sleep at all?”, I asked myself as I slowly got out of bed. I prepared my instant oatmeal that I brought and drank a small cup of coffee. I finally got my gear on, put my tri bag on my back and carried my bike down the stairs and outside. I rode past the guy in handcuffs just under my window and headed for the race site. I was feeling both excited and nervous to compete in my first Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon.

In Matthew Walker PhD’s new book, “Why We Sleep: Unlocking the Power of Sleep and Dreams,” He explains why getting 8 hours (not 5, 6 or 7 hours) of sleep is key to athletic performance. Cutting ourselves short of these extra hours can have a huge impact on athletic performance, especially when the difference between winning and losing can come down to hundredths of seconds.

Through his research, Walker reveals that it is not just practice that “makes perfect,’ but rather, “practice, with sleep, that makes perfect.” He explains that the term “muscle memory” is a misnomer. “Muscles themselves have no memory: a memory that is not connected to the brain cannot perform any skilled actions, nor does a muscle store skilled routines. Muscle memory is, in fact, brain memory.” It turns out that when we sleep for 8 hours, our trained physical habits, like bike riding, running , and swimming, become instinctual habits. Sleep helps automate our learned movement (athletic training), making them “…second nature-effortless…” It turns out that the last two hours of an 8 hour night of sleep, are filled with rich sleep spindles that are directly responsible for this motor skill memory and its ability to turn our hard training into effortless performance.

What could have been different for me on that race day if I had actually slept for 8 full hours?

Here are 3 reasons why sleeping less than 8 hours will reduce athletic performance:

1. Physical exhaustion happens 10-30% faster and aerobic output is significantly reduced. Walker’s studies showed that without a full 8 hours of sleep sustained muscle strength is reduced. Cardiovascular, metabolic and respiratory capabilities are reduced. Lactic acid builds up faster and even the ability of the body to cool through sweat is impaired.

The burning in my legs as I “ran” up the sand ladder on Baker Beach was overwhelming. When I got to the top of those stairs, my heart was racing. I had a hard time maintaining my heart rate. What might have been different had I got a full night sleep? Would my legs have been able to recover quicker after that steep climb? Could I have caught my breath fast enough to shave at least one minute off of my time?

2. Higher risk of injury. It seems that sleep is the best way to prevent sports injury. Walkers studies show that adolescent athletes who sleep 6 hours have a 72% chance of getting injured, while those that sleep 8 hours have a 32% chance of injury. Interestingly, those who slept 9 hours had a risk of injury of only 15%. Many professional sports teams pay their athletes millions of dollars. These athletes are given all sorts of medical and nutritional care to prevent possible injuries from happening. It seems that from the research, it would be essential for all teams to prioritize an athlete’s sleep.

Thankfully I did not injury myself during the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon. I have injured my shoulders and hamstrings during training though. What might have been different if I had made sure I had 8 hours of sleep during training? I may not have lost time doing the things I love like biking and swimming. I could have possibly maintained my fitness level. Who knows, maybe I would have been more fit and shaved off a few more minutes off of my final time.

3. Recovery happens faster with 8 hours of sleep. According to Walker, “Post performance sleep accelerates physical recovery from common inflammation, stimulates muscle repair, and helps restock cellular energy in the form of glucose and glycogen.” It makes sense then that getting 8 hours of sleep post race is just as important to athletic performance.

We train hard for events. When we cross the finish line or finish the game, our competition doesn’t exactly end. We can prepare for the next event by taking good care of our bodies and celebrating our wins and completions by getting 8 hours of sleep post event.

Had I known then about sleep what I know now, I may have done things differently at The Escape From Alcatraz Triathlon. Maybe sleeping at home would have been a better choice than sleeping in a hotel, even if it was much closer to the event site. Who knows, I may have taken even 10 minutes off my time. Regardless, it was an adventure of a lifetime.

Walker offers several tips on getting a good night sleep. Here are 3 that could be helpful pre competition:

1. Create a sleep schedule and stick to it. Don’t wait until the day of competition to suddenly start waking up at 5am (or earlier). Calculate what it takes to get 8 hours of sleep and set an alarm for bedtime. Get into a consistent sleep routine so that you wake up on competition day ready to go!

2. Try not to exercise within 2-3 hours of bedtime. It’s harder to get the body’s core temperature down enough to initiate sleep.

3. Create a dark, cool, gadget free bedroom. Eliminating distractions is a great way to set yourself up for solid night sleep.

Sleep Tight!

Sarah Kivel
Be an Effective and Successful Leader. 3 Ways Emotional Intelligence can help.
i Mount Baldy, Breckenridge, Colorado. One of my favorite spots to backcountry ski.

Emotional Intelligence (EQ), what does it have to do with successful leadership? Everything. 

Research shows that the higher the rank of a leader, the more Emotional Intelligence has to do with their effectiveness. And, EQ accounts for 67% of the abilities necessary for superior leadership performance.  

What can you do to improve your Emotional Intelligence and become a more effective and successful leader? Here are three things you can do now:

1.  Own your values.

Values are the things we believe are important in the way we live and work. They determine our priorities.  When the actions we take are in line with our values, life feels good.  On the other hand, when our actions are not in line with our values, things don't feel so good.  

Are you clear on your values?  Are the decisions you make in line with your values? Are you modeling these values in how you lead your organization?

2.  Learn empathy.

Connect with others by putting yourself in their situations. Practicing active listening is one way to become more empathetic.  When you are having a conversation with someone, put your phone on silent or put it away.  Look them in the eyes and really pay attention to what it is they are saying.  Ask questions about what they are telling you. Connecting with clients, employees, and coworkers builds trust and is key to successful leadership.

3.  Pay attention to your emotions.

People who can identify and name their emotions are better able to manage their emotions and not get carried away by them. They are also able to recognize different emotions in other people and can respond appropriately.  

There is also information and gifts in all of our emotions.  When we don't allow ourselves to feel or recognize  a wide range of emotions, we miss the information and the gift of that emotion.  The same goes when we get carried away by our emotions.  We miss the information and we miss the gifts.  Pause to notice and name your emotions and receive all the valuable information and gifts that come along with these emotions.

Be an effective and successful leader. Start building your emotional intelligence today.

Sarah Kivel
3 mindfulness exercises that will improve your Emotional Intelligence
i Valparaiso, Chile. I traveled to Chile to watch my youngest daughter compete for the United States in synchronized swimming at the Pan American games in Santiago, Chile. I spent some time hiking near the coast.

Being aware of our own emotions, understanding other's emotions, and managing our emotions effectively in relationships require emotional intelligence.  According to Daniel Goleman's research, Emotional Intelligence matters twice as much as IQ or technical expertise when it comes to successful leadership.  And, Emotional Intelligence determines the quality of both our personal and professional relationships.  But how do we become emotionally intelligent?  

Improving our Emotional Intelligence requires us to slow down, be present, notice whats happening inside and around you.  In other words, it takes being mindful.

3 mindfulness exercises that will improve your emotional intelligence 

1.  Clean up.  

Studies show that our environment affects our ability to think clearly and creatively. Clean the clothes off the floor, clear the stacks of papers off your desk, clean out the garage.  Put some fresh flowers in your kitchen.  These things help remove distractions so that we can begin to think about our own emotions and the emotions of others.

2.  Get into nature and move. 

Being outside, feeling the sense of awe, that something is bigger than we are, inspires us to want to be our best.  Taking a hike, bike ride, or swim not only helps us to relieve stress but also clears our mind of distraction.  Set an intention or focus for your next adventure outside.  Notice how your body feels physically and also emotionally before, during and after.  By taking the time to get into nature and move,  we can begin to better understand our emotions.

3.    Get some sleep.

We all know what happens when a child gets cranky and tired.  They begin to whine, they stop listening, and they simply aren't very nice.  The same thing happens with adults.  We need our sleep in order to function and get along well with others.  Make sure you are getting 7-8 hours of sleep.  During the day, take a 10-20 minute nap in the car, at your desk, on the couch or wherever you are.  Set your timer and don't press snooze.  Feeling rested and energized is a key to thinking clearly and noticing whats going on emotionally.

Emotional Intelligence can be learned and improved throughout our lives.  Start with these three mindful exercises to being building your own emotional intelligence and live life to the fullest.

 

 

Sarah Kivel
Interview and Filming with Alumination Producer Eric Bricker 
i Point Mugu State Beach, near Malibu California. Producer Eric Bricker and crew met me and my Airstream on the beach for an interview and filming for the upcoming Airstream documentary, Alumination.

Photo by Flash Creative Photography                                                    www.Aluminationmovie.com

It was a beautiful May afternoon.  Sunny, my 25' Airstream travel trailer,  and I had pulled up to Point Mugu State Beach.  Eric and I had planned this meeting date and location last November 2016.  The day couldn’t have been more perfect for an interview and film shooting.  The temperatures were warm, the sky was blue and there were very few people on the beach this Sunday evening.  Producer Eric Bricker, Executive Producer James Heckman and Allison Light, Alumination Behind the Scenes Bad Ass, were arriving soon.  

They were coming to film and interview me as part of the Airstream documentary they have been working on for the past three years, Alumination.  As I waited for their arrival, I felt my heart begin to beat faster and the butterflies in my stomach begin to go crazy. I was getting nervous about the idea of being interviewed in front of a camera for the first time, even though it was around my favorite topic Sunny, my Airstream trailer.  I sat on the couch inside Sunny, facing the ocean.  I could see dolphins playing in the waves.  How lucky I felt to be there, a feeling I often feel in Sunny.  I closed my eyes and just listened to the ocean and began to focus on my breathing.  After ten minutes or so, the nervous feeling moved on and I was left with a feeling of calm and excitement.  Then, I began to hear what sounded like rain hitting the ceiling.  It didn’t seem possible that it could be raining when the sun was shining so bright.  I peeked outside, and there was the perfect grey cloud overhead that poured rain right over the beach.  It only lasted for a few minutes before it moved along.  

Eric and Allison pulled up to the beach behind Sunny and James drove up a couple minutes later.  We said hello with big hugs.  After talking to Eric on the phone a few times over the past seven months, what a pleasure it was to finally meet him in person. He felt like an old friend that I just hadn’t seen in a while. I felt an instant connection with Eric ever since the first time we talked about my story and his project, Alumination.  Suddenly, the rain started again.  This time it was pouring!  After we pulled out the awning on the trailer, and then decided to put it back in, the rain had stopped.  It was time to start the interview and filming.  

The filming began on my mountain bike.  One of my favorite activities at the end of the day is riding my mountain bike on the wet sand at sunset.  The rain had finally completely cleared and we had the perfect sunset.  The sand at the ocean’s edge was covered with round, soft rocks that had washed up on the shore.  As the ocean waves rolled over the rocks, the most beautiful melody could be heard.  It sounded like the ocean’s song.  Unfortunately, my bike wouldn’t easily roll over these rocks.  Wearing a long dress and flip flops didn't help either.  Instead, I rode along the fence that separated the beach from highway 1.  This was my first experience in front of a real movie camera!

The filming moved from my bike to the beach and the interviewing began.  At first, the red light indicating that the camera was “on” set my nerves in motion.  But Eric’s gentle way eventually put me at ease in front of the camera. He asked me many questions about what I love to do and how I feel when I am out adventuring with Sunny. We talked about how I enjoy working and Coaching from Sunny.  Clients always get a huge smile on their face when they come in to my office on wheels.  Mountain biking on newly discovered trails is another favorite activity I enjoy with Sunny. I also love that I can share experiences with my kids, whether it’s spending time with them on the beach or in the mountains or being able to watch them compete in their favorite sports that take them across the country.  I have learned so much about towing a trailer, including dealing with flat tires and breaking down in the middle of the California desert.  When I am out adventuring in Sunny, I find myself in flow, that place of optimal experience.  I am in my zone, my element. I feel present, mindful and completely alive.  

After several hours of filming and interviewing, the sun finally set into the ocean around the point.  While James had to get back a little earlier, Eric and Allison joined me for a relaxing dinner. We spend hours around the table continuing the Airstream conversation, talking about our kids, our values, and laughing, a lot.  I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to share my Airstream story and to have made these amazing new friends.  I am very much looking forward to all the adventures ahead!

Sarah Kivel