Finding My Inspiration

For me there was one thing… one thing I really wanted to accomplish just to prove to myself that I was still alive. Sure I was married, I had kids, and I had a company, but I wanted to work toward something for me. Just for me.

It was 2003 and the conversation with my husband went like this, “Hey, Aaron. If you buy me an iPod, I’ll run a marathon.” (Silence)
“Are you serious?” he asked.
“Yeah. Why not?” I answered.

Within a matter of days I came home and found a brand new iPod on our bed. He took the bait… and I had something to shoot for, plus I had a promise to fulfill.

I need motivation. I do. I need deadlines, and registration fees, and pressure. I need accountability. I ran a 10K once, but other than that, when I started training for that marathon I had never participated in any other sporting or racing event, by choice, in my entire life. I don’t even have one of those soccer trophies that seem to come with a good American childhood.

As a kid, I hated physical education. I thought it was torturous. Really? Can’t we just skip my turn at bat, or do I have to go through striking out and total humiliation in front of my peers?

In Physical Education at school they had this miserable idea of “treating” us to a different sport each month. (Oh, joy!) So, shortly after discovering I was especially terrible at softball, I was able to discover that I was equally as bad at volleyball. After volleyball, there was basketball, and I was miserable at that too.

Now, may I pause here and ask why anyone thinks it is a good idea to play dodge ball in junior high school? Really! Do we need to huck rubber balls at one another? In case you were wondering the person who always gets picked last for the team, is also the one that gets creamed first in dodge ball. It’s a reciprocation thing. Trust me.

I noticed one girl in my PE class who seemed to sit out every single day. I asked her how she got so lucky. She told me that she had a doctors note… she had ringworm. I wondered how I could get ringworm, too.

Never in my life was I called “sporty” or “athletic.” That was not me.

I got married when I was 21 years old. By the time I was 26, I had Leah and Lucy, and all of the surprises that came with them.

And then… in 2004, with my new iPod strapped to my arm, I ran the Inaugural Salt Lake City, Utah Marathon. My finish time was 5:27:22. Within the first 5 miles, my iPod gave up the ghost, but…


I crossed the finish line and hurried home to shower and get dressed, because I had a presentation to give later that afternoon. I was booked to deliver a presentation to parents who have children with special needs. As I was running the race, I kept thinking, “You’d better hurry up if you want to shower, put on make-up and do your hair before speaking this afternoon!”

After that goal was crossed off my list, I didn’t think much more about racing. I did “the big one.” I knew I could do shorter distances if I felt like it…and I never felt like it. Life went on.

Not too long ago I came across Athleta, a company who makes some pretty fabulous women’s athletic clothing. While shopping on their web site, I read that they sponsored female athletes. I thought, “That is AWESOME! That would be amazing!” I continued to read about their sponsorship and then I heard this little voice saying, “Rachel, that is not you. You have never won a race. You’ve taken a yoga class, but you are no Yogini. You ran a half marathon in April, but you didn’t win it. You weren’t even trying to win. You have a couple of finisher’s medals. You are not an athlete.” So, I did not apply.

I bought their clothes and wore their clothes and since I really do love the stuff, there are photos on my blog of me wearing Athleta. My friends started buying clothes from Athleta too and we would chat and shop and tweet about it. We even race together all “matchy-matchy.”

Then, one day I got an email from someone at Athleta’s corporate office. The email said that they had seen my blog and were inspired by my story. They asked if I would apply to be one of their sponsored athletes!

I applied. But, when I spoke with them on the phone I was sure to reiterate how I had never won a race and how I was a mom, doing my best to be strong enough for Lucy… strong enough to be able to tell Lucy, “Yes” when so many other people, roads, and terrain would tell her “No.”

So…last month I signed an endorsement agreement with Athleta. I am one of their 2010 Sponsored Athletes! Most of the time, when I tell people about it I blush. I really do, because that “not sporty” “not athletic” 15 year-old version of myself is just bracing to get smacked with a rubber ball again. I’m waiting for someone to call my “bluff”, even though I ran two half-marathons last year. Even though I’ve hiked through Yellowstone with Lucy on my back, even though I took Lucy to Disneyland and transferred her countless times from her wheelchair to the rides and back to her wheelchair over three days… even though I had been training four times a week with a trainer to become strong enough for my daily life, training for my daughter Lucy and her wheelchair… even though I am 30 lbs lighter than when I ran 26.2 miles in 2004… even with all of that, there is still that little voice that says, “Rachel, you are not an athlete. You are just a mom.”

They said they felt my story was important to share because most women are like me; they are simply trying to find a way to balance their lives. You know what else I found out? Most women do not have a wall of medals either. They have children. They have jobs. They have circumstances that get in the way, too!

I feel really lucky, you know. Every day, my inspiration to be healthy and strong is looking right at me. She’s been living under the same roof for almost ten years. It just took me a while recognize how strong I could be. It feels so good to be able to see it in myself and know that I did it. I became what Lucy needed me to be.

Every time I lift that slippery 9 year-old out of the tub and wrap her in a towel, I feel like I am winning. I’m winning because there’s no concern in her eyes. She’s not worried that I might drop her or hurt my back, and I’m not worried about those things either. She knows that I am strong enough. I know that I’m strong enough. In those moments I smile.

And now I know – it’s one thing to reach for a goal just for me and no one else, and it’s quite another thing to strive for something on behalf of someone you love.

And then…

It was 2009 and the conversation with my husband went like this:

“Hey Aaron, if you buy me a road bike, I’ll do a triathlon…”

This entry was posted in Strong Enough and tagged , , , , , by Rachel Coleman. Bookmark the permalink.

About Rachel Coleman

The opinions and late night musings published on this blog are Rachel de Azevedo Coleman's alone, and are not ever intended to represent the opinions and sentiments of any organization or product that Rachel is, was, or will be associated with. Rachel Coleman is the creator and Emmy-nominated host of Signing Time!, the children's American Sign Language vocabulary building series. She is also the creator and host of Baby Signing Time, Rachel & the TreeSchoolers, and Rachel & Me. Rachel now serves as the Executive Director of the American Society for Deaf Children, a 501c3 nonprofit established in 1967 by parents of deaf children. ASDC is the American Sign Language organization for families who are raising deaf children. Motivated by her child, Leah's deafness, Rachel has spent the last 18 years creating ASL products to help bridge the communication barrier between hearing and signing communities. In 2006 Rachel founded the Signing Time Foundation, a 501c3 non-profit dedicated to putting communication in the hands of all children of all abilities. In 2014, the Signing Time Foundation launched a 50-Lesson online ASL curriculum called "Sign It: ASL Made Easy" that is available free-of-charge to families with deaf or hard of hearing children ages 36 months and under. Apply at For those who do not qualify to receive Sign It ASL for free, they can find it for purchase at very reasonable rates on Rachel and her husband, Aaron, live in Salt Lake City Utah. They are parents to Leah who was born profoundly deaf, and is now a senior in college at NTID/RIT in Rochester, NY. They are also parents to Lucy who has spina bifida and cerebral palsy, and recently graduated high school. In 2010 the Colemans were joyfully reunited with Rachel's daughter Laura. Rachel is proud to be Laura's birth mom. Laura was placed for adoption as an infant in 1992 when Rachel was 17 years-old.

63 thoughts on “Finding My Inspiration

  1. ¡Hola Rachel!

    You inspire me, I really want to get fit. I have never been into the athletic field. I strugle with weight and I’m hoping to lose my extra weight to be healthy for my kids. Since my daughter does not walk I have to carry her everywhere. At home she can crawl but her favorite words are UP FAVOR(please), she wants me to pick her up a lot. I signed up to go to a small gym, they have a couple of exercise machines wish me luck.

    PS. Another of my daughter’s favorite words: SIGNING TIME FAVOR VER(watch). She uses some english and some spanish words

  2. Thank you for the great article! This is my first time at your blog, I cannot wait to read through it :). Our family loves your Signing TIme products. We have five children, ranging from 16 mos.-13 years. Our ten year old has Down syndrome. Thanks for inspiring me!

  3. I like what you had to say. I was looking up your Signing Time videos because I just learned about them. My children have no hearing impairments thus far, but we wanted to learn anyway. That’s when I found your essays. It’s refreshing to hear that just a mom can do what you’ve done. I also want to train for a half-triathlon. We’ll see. I won’t begin my training for a year and a half yet…cause we’re expecting in June. But she’s our last and that’s why I think I can do it. Thanks for your inspiration.

  4. Rachel, ever since you mentioned the SLC 1/2, I’ve been thinking about it. A lot.

    I’ve got some flight coupons just begging to be used. Would you mind shooting me an email so that we can discuss further?

  5. Rachel,

    I am profoundly moved by you and your work. In the past 2 months we found out our 15 month old has Auditory Neuropathy. Your story about daughter reads like a mirror to us. We knew something was wrong but didn’t know what to do. It took a brain stem test to find out what we thought was true. In Alabama there is only around 10 cases of AN so the information is very limited. As a stay at home dad, I find the pleasure in the silence with my son but cry because we don’t know what he can or can’t hear . He has hearing aids but at that young age , what does he hear.
    Like you said about Leah , Carter is above average and healthy in every way but can’t hear anything less than an airliner.
    We got your boxed set for Christmas and haven’t stopped watching it. He knows about 5 signs but it slow. It is such an uphill battle for us because I can’t imagine learning every sign. We know we are headed toward implants but hope there will be a sign somehow that he can hear, anything.
    We also start a support group for AN because the information is so limited and parents need more support in their cities. I thank you from my soul for what you do and what you will do. With our son , it feels like the first day after being married and looking toward a long road head. We are happy , but it very scarey.
    If your ever in Alabama, I would be honored to meet you and hug your neck for what you do.

    Thank you
    Lee King

  6. Missy: Athleta also have a great return policy, so if the stuff you order does not work out, you can return it easily! …even if you have worn it.

    Stretch Mark Mama: OK, I too the fonts back to grey. The white was killing me.

    Hema: Thank you. I just try to live my life like I am never “done” there are always more layers to uncover and areas of my self where I can push, play and be surprised.

    Heather A.: There are some fabulous women that they featured this year and like I said my athletic accolades are few and far between but they don’t give medals out for some of the best things I have accomplished… you know? It has been crazy uncovering my physical strengths and discovering just how much a body can do.

    S Club Mama: I bought a beginning marathon book and followed the training. I would take a look at The Galloway Method. I wish I had started there. Also, your first marathon, don’t set a time goal, set a goal to finish.

    Amy: We are registered for The Spudman Triathlon in Idaho! It takes place on July 30. EEEEK!

    Kim: I had to giggle at the “Wonder Woman” comment, because “Super Hero” material I am not. Making a difference in the lives of others makes mere mortals into heroes. But, I did start writing a song called, “Super Mom” about how we all do amazing things for our kids. I will have to debut it here.

    Cat: That’s great that he is learning to read and write. I have been so surprised at what kids have been able to learn from Signing Time… here I was thinking we were just teaching ASL vocabulary.

    Elizabeth: I heard a similar story from another family whose child has Autism, I almost didn’t believe it when they said RIGHT after viewing Signing Time their child started signing. No better words… “What a blessing!”

    Nicole: Just know that I too will be hanging on to the side of the pool gasping very soon! The triathlon that we are doing has a swim, in a river, WITH the current! I CAN swim, but not with my face down and my head turning from side to side. So, I will be taking some lessons as well. Took my first Spin class yesterday morning. I still have only been on my road like once… Oh well! We only live once. Good luck and let me know how it goes.

    Stacey: The pack I am using in the above photo was purchased from BabyHawk they built it custom for us. Contact them directly if your kiddo is not a baby or a toddler. I also received an ErgoBaby carrier this week, compliments of the folks at I will be letting you all know how that one works for us too.

    Jennifer Lavender: I have been thinking a lot about that lately. We have to remind ourselves of our inspiration. Trying to get “skinny,” never inspired me. But, even today at the gym I was thinking of Lucy as I was working out. I think I am the only one in the gym who is working out and grinning.

    Ellen Stumbo: I have a few friends who did the Couch to 5K Program. It worked great for them. I am going to put together a 5K as a fundraiser for The Signing Time Foundation (in my spare time) Aaron and I are fighting over who gets to carry Lucy in the race.

    Sandy: Sweet

    Laura: Thank you. I share my triumphs (and not so triumphant moments) in hopes of inspiring others to conquer whatever it is they are up against in life. We all have circumstances… don’t let your circumstances have you.

    Veronica: Thanks. I will do my best.

    Laura Buzianis: How about if we come to Maui? It’s been WAY too long. What sponsors do you suggest? (GRINNING)

    Carissa: Your year old said that? Whoa! Priceless! LOLOLOL Seriously, that is classic! Yes, my face and belly are smaller on Baby Signing Time days and pretty much anything shot after 2007. Had to share that with Aaron and we are sitting here cracking up!

    Jackile: Truth be told we eat really clean food. We don’t drive-thru anymore and we refer to MOST fast food as “junk food.” Typically we eat 6 small meals of a protein and carb, plus we had veggies as much as possible. I actually started my weight loss journey with a 9-Day Nutritional Cleanse and I let go of 12 pounds? Fueled by THAT success I felt like I could finally do it. Something really shifted and I was ready to go. Shall I do a blog and show you what we eat?

    Rocio: A lot of it IS nutrition. No soda. Very limited snacks and processed food. We are not just feeding out bodies we are fueling them. I have a protein shake after working out to feed and repair my muscles. What I’ve noticed is once you get the process going, it’s easy to keep going. Now, eating healthy is a habit, not a chore.
    P.S. SIGNING TIME FAVOR VER is adorable!

    Kristi from NC: Glad you found us! I hope you stick around.

    Katie Knudsen: Sounds like you have plenty of time to get the gear together and figure out what training you want to use. Best of luck on your pregnancy (which is a lot like running a marathon) and you triathlon afterwards.

    Chrystal: Shooting an email now. Are you running? I have been tweeting our Run Club schedule, if you are on Coleman also come to the Signing Time Live Chat on Wednesday nights form 7-9pm MST. A lot of the SLC ½ Marathon runners are there and you can talk about where they are all staying and stuff like that.

    Lee King: So true, we knew it would be a long time before Leah could give us useful feedback on what she could hear with her hearing aids, that’s why we immediately started signing. Her eyes worked perfectly and so did her hands. Signing is SO important. I have been working on a blog about deaf education, but it makes me want to cry every time I think about posting it… Honestly, I am SO happy that we have successfully negotiated the waters of deaf education with Leah. There is hope. There is a lot of world. But, parents of deaf children are the ones who make the difference. You CAN learn the language. You CAN.

    Tammee: Thanks.

  7. Okay Rachel, the hat is finally in the mail as of today, and it only took me a month to finally get it done, or for my husband to get it done for me. Hope you like it!

  8. Wow Rachel, you completely amaze me and always, in a wonderful way, bring tears to my eyes! My daughter Lucy is almost 3 and weighs 30 lbs. I have never been the “athlete” and struggle with my weight. I think about Lucy all the time and how she is still pushing to learn to walk and how often I am picking her up, moving her around, taking her slippery body out of the tub! No one can tell me when/if Lucy will walk and I need to be strong for her, inside & out. I appreciate your honesty and openness. You completely inspire me (and make me cry! – in a good way!)

  9. Rachel, I love this post. What you are afflicted with is “adult onset athleticism.” It is the condition of assuming that because you weren’t sporty in your younger years, that you cannot be sporty past 20. I’m glad that the people at Athleta are helping you treat it.
    For everyone else who says, “I’ve never been an athlete,” I challenge you all to reword that to “in the past, I was not an athlete.” No one is born an athlete, it comes with training and perseverance and dedication. Let me be the next to chime in with, Rachel, you and your family are inspirations to us all.

  10. Your account of your PE classes and being picked for Dodge Ball last and hit first with the ball, sadly reminds me of my experience in PE and at recess as a kid in elementary school.


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