Emotional Awareness and Resilience Coach, Author, and Speaker

Lou’s Bio

As an Emotional Awareness coach, author, and speaker, Lou’s mission is to help people of all ages understand and gain ownership over their emotions, so they can live the life they choose.

Through his personal experience, having successfully completed a multitude of endurance athletic events over the past decade, including the Boston Marathon, Ironman, and ultramarathons, as well his study of eastern medicine and philosophy Lou has developed tools for building mental and emotional tools that have the ability to benefit anyone looking to bring their best selves to every situation.

Beyond his own practice, Lou transformed his knowledge into an accessible methods and tools that anyone can use in their own life. Through his presentations, workshops, as well as individual and group coaching Lou helps students, parents, mentors, caregivers, teachers, athletes and leaders gain ownership of their choices by knowing how to use their emotions in a way that serves their goals.

Walking the Walk: Adjusting Your Goals to Persevere!

I’m waking up with my head in a fog and my legs feeling like they’ve been tasered.  It’s been a while since I’ve had to mentally and physically show up so strongly for a race.  Yesterday was that day. From severe disappointment when the race started 45 minutes late due to thunderstorms (I’m always hoping for cooler temps), to having my foot give out at mile 10, I had a series of challenges early on in the race that led me to question whether I was even going to ‘finish’ let alone catch a time I could be proud of.  I try to keep a mindset that ‘it will be what it will be, focus on the effort not the outcome.’ It turns out holding to that mindset (basically walking the walk) is a completely different animal than merely understanding it, saying it, and hopefully never ever having to see it show up at your front door.

Now in all honesty I know this.  I have walked the walk in many races, as well as in my daily life.  I also know the golden rule: you never really know when your resilience is going to be tested.  I’ve had very difficult races before (difficult meaning longer distances I haven’t done before, difficult terrain I never faced before, terrible weather I’ve never seen before).  I have had races where I thought there was a great possibility I wouldn’t finish. The thing about this race, it was a marathon!

It’s not that marathons are easy; they are certainly not.  Probably the least favorite distance of mine for sure (it’s where trying to get a pace, meets real distance), and if you push in them and miss, they can be grueling.  But I had a good deal of familiarity with them. I had done plenty of them, and, only once, back in 1995 (my first marathon in Boston) did I ever think that not finishing was a real possibility.

After the late start at the Burlington Marathon yesterday (a delay that was very annoying because it meant a longer time in the heat of the day), the horn went off and I was flying on my first few miles, relatively effortlessly (meaning my heart rate was in good shape) trying to catch mile times that I could ‘bank’ and have for a cushion in my later miles when it would be warmer. When I was turning the corner on mile 10, high fiving a child handing me water from his stand, a searing pain shot from the bottom of my foot half-way up my leg!  I actually stopped for a moment and quickly took off my shoe. I had to have stepped on something!

Nothing there.  Maybe if I just ran with the pain for a few miles it would right itself (it had happened in more than a few ultras). Well, for the next three miles I looked more like a man stepping on a hot coal every other step than an actual runner.  But I was able to get to the 1/2 marathon point at a relatively decent time (I had banked all that time in the earlier miles).

I watched the 3:15 pacer with all his runners fade out of sight.  I felt this huge disappointment and goal-lessness start to creep in.  Yes, I had a pyramid goal. I had written it down. My race pyramid goals always start with me just finishing.  But then they build. This time the top of my pyramid was to qualify for the Boston Marathon. In truth, if I was really honest with myself, that was all I could ‘see’ when I looked the pyramid goals I had written down.  It sat there at the top all tantalizing and full of promise. I wanted to qualify for Boston, that’s what my sights were set on. Yes, if I missed, I would be disappointed, but, in my mind’s eye, missing it meant maybe 5 -10 minutes.

This was something way different.  I was 13.2 miles away from even finishing!  My foot felt like it was on fire, and running had turned into an Igor sort of movement.  I really didn’t know what was going on with my body. The emotional gremlins surged in the moment I took a time out on the curb to adjust my shoe, and offered their unsolicited suggestions…

Gremlin: You’ve missed qualifying for Boston, that was what you were looking for. why don’t you just call it a day and get your foot checked out before you cause real damage?

Me: I can’t believe this is happening at mile 10!

Gremlin: Right?  You’ve done plenty of these, many brilliantly.  We both know you were out here to qualify, there’s no other reason for you to do a marathon.

Me: I have other goals within this race –

Gremlin: Come on… where’s the challenge?  You’ve done the distance many times.  This is just walking and running in pain for what could be hours, for what?

Me: Maybe I can set another goal while I –

Gremlin: It’s another 13 miles on that foot and you don’t even know what’s wrong.  Who is this for anyway?

Then it hit me.  It’s why I set pyramid goals in the first place!

Me: It’s for me. And if it’s for me, then there was a boat load of goals I had for this race that I could turn to.  To learn perseverance. To practice resilience regardless of the outcome. To deal with setbacks, learn and move forward.  To practice detachment from the outcome and allow the effort to be what it would be.

Gremlin: I don’t think that’s what I –

Me: I can refocus and bank a lot of knowledge on how to persevere in my next race.  As for time, I can set a goal to not break the four-hour mark.

Gremlin: You’re going to be uncomfortable the whole –

Me:  …and I’m really not looking forward to the pain.  You are more than welcome to come along. Bring Uncertainty, Doubt, and Fear along if you want.  You’re always welcome, because you are part of me. But KNOW you don’t get a vote. This IS getting done.

I got up from the curb. It wasn’t pretty, but I got up.  I’d like to tell you that I had this new, amazingly positive take on the whole situation.  That I was full tilt and brimming with excitement to take on this new challenge of finishing in under 4 hours.  That Rocky music belted out while I was about to undertake my grueling hike/run. None of those things happened.  What I did feel was a solidified resolve and pain-heightened focus to giving all of my energy to the task at hand. The outcome would be what it would be.  My satisfaction and pride would come from my effort as I walked the walk (literally 😉).

Inner Critic or Internal Coach… It’s Up to You

The sign reads 11th Mountain. I’m deep in the Adirondacks. This is friggin’ awesome! There are very few things I like better than finding a new trail, and this one promises, by the looks of it, to be severely challenging. I like that it’s difficult. I have a really hard time getting out for a run if I don’t think it’s gonna’ be hard. I like the stimulation and challenge.

I throw on my running shoes, put on my running vest, lock up the car, and head out! I only have about an hour and a half at most before I have to get back on the road. While not as long as I’d like, with a new trail in my sights, I know I’ll feel accomplished and confident that I got in the hours of training today.

I would give it maybe 200 yards before the trail turns slightly muddy and the footing rocky. I feel my entire body breathe heavy. What usually is excitement is suddenly fatigue. Full body fatigue. I literally feel like I just don’t want go. I begin to hear a little voice inside my head. Actually… it’s a booming voice and one I know well. Say hello to my inner critic, and he’s on a rampage…

“What do you mean you don’t want to go?! What’s wrong with you? You know I’m going to shame you HUGELY for this later… now to hell with your fatigue and get out there!

I don’t hear this voice a lot when I’m out in the woods running, but when I do it fills me with all kinds of uncomfortable emotions. Guilt for not wanting to go faster, uncertain that I will be able to go longer, fear to try and go further, and at this point I don’t wanna’ go at all! I’ve had moments like this before. It comes from a training regime that for many years consisted of just going as hard as I could for as many days as I could. If I didn’t feel up to running full intensity, or if I was physically and mentally exhausted, I would do one of two things. One – hang my head, call it a day, and feel crappy until my next training session. Or two – fight through the immense fatigue, get the training in, feel good about myself for about an hour afterwards, then be dead to world for a couple days and end up taking days off of training anyway.

But there is another voice I’ve developed over the years. A voice that is not easier on me. Rather, it’s a voice that allows me to gain perspective and continue making an effort, even if it’s not the hardest effort that I’ve ever given. My internal coach. She allows me to give what I would call a productive, consistent effort. Her voice became important when I decided that, to train for longer races I would change my regime and begin to put more focus on time on my feet.

I sign up for these incredibly long challenging races that required many hours of running, and, instead I would substitute the amount of time I had to put in with an incredibly hard effort for shorter miles. I would pat myself on the back for the monster effort that I would give, while I was sacrificing miles. Anybody could go long and slow, where was the challenge in that?

Well that was just it: long and slow didn’t have the stimulation that hard and fast did.

Everyone has a propensity to be good under certain conditions. Resilience is finding the conditions where you’re not as good and improving those. I was good at running full out, but If I didn’t feel the stimulation, I didn’t feel like I was gaining anything. I got bored and didn’t want to keep running. The real challenge for me was taking a more measured approach. An approach that required patience and follow-through even when my heart rate wasn’t blowing up in immense effort! My internal coach, the one I’ve been developing over the past several years, did its job and gave me the talk that I needed to hear:

“You need time on your feet for bigger races. You have been averaging 15 to 20 miles more a week than you ever have before any event ever. Many successful long-distance runners are incredible hikers and spend much more time in the woods at a low heart rate than they do pushing themselves to the limit for half the time. You are getting the hard running in that you need, and you are getting more time and find your feet.”

It’s true. If I want to get different results, then I have to take different actions. Those actions require me to spend more time on my feet and lower heart rates, so my legs are less tired and more familiar with going the distances I want to race.

Uncomfortable emotions like doubt, fear, and anxiety are bound to rear their heads when we decide to change the way we are going to go about achieving a goal. But if we want to get better results, or we want different results, then we need to take different actions. We can soothe our uncomfortable emotions by accepting them. Listening to them, but not acting on them. Remembering that they are only doing their job. They are not twisting and evil mustache, but instead are trying to warn us that something different is happening and that change “could” be dangerous for us.

It’s your internal coach that reminds you of why you’ve chosen a new way to approach your goal. She gives you the ‘big picture’ view of why you might be feeling the way you are during a change. She stays firm with you, and gives you productive feedback on your process. She rally’s you with excitement in your new approach, and fills you with confidence that you are making the right decisions by choosing to change your approach.

My internal coach continued with something like this:

“You have run three days in a row with great elevation, great speed work just yesterday, and each day you’ve added at least one hour of being on your feet either through hiking or even just walking. Your legs are feeling stronger than they ever have and you’ve lost none of your strength with your heart rate. You are losing the weight you wanna’ lose, and you are still able to function in other aspects of your life that are really important to you right now. I know this way of training is new to us, and that can be scary as crap, but we are having great success with it. Embrace the new challenge of not being stimulated by huge effort to the point of exhaustion and having the mental fortitude to do the work required.”

My internal courage made some sense. She usually does. I begin to break into a strong hike. She’s right. I pushed for three days in a row and, on top of that, I’ve had at least three hours in the last three days that were not running. I promised myself that I won’t go over a heart rate of 120. Anytime I do I switch up and start hiking. If I stay under, I run.

My energy begins to come back. It’s no coincidence that it’s return comes as I’m starting to feel better about my training and how I’m approaching it for today. Later tonight I’m sure I’ll take a good walk after picking my son up from college. I won’t be exhausted, I will have gotten more hours in this week, and I’ve gotten closer to my goal by listening to my internal coach, quelling my fears, and being open to change. I’m sure the practice will continue tomorrow… As long as my internal coach shows up, I’m sure I’ll do the work required.

If You Want Resilience, Be Vulnerable

It’s time for me to watch something inspirational. I’ve just finished some work on an upcoming talk I will be presenting at Longwood University, and now I’m feeling dogged. Watching inspirational videos is something I do every day, not just when I need a little “lift up.” I learn a lot from other speakers who have walked the walk. I did my work for the day, but it’s been a low energy afternoon, so for an energetic boost, I’ve gone on to watch Brene Brown. She is speaking on vulnerability.

While I’m watching, I can’t help to think about all the emotional exposure that she’s going through, standing up there on stage, willing to be herself in front of others. How uncomfortable that must be. I start to think about all the emotional resilience that she’s built over her career. I mean, come on, she’s on stage, completely unclear how people are going to take what she has to say. She’s being authentic to herself talking about a subject matter nobody likes to talk about, let alone admit that they ever are…vulnerable that is.

I’m past my 10-minute quota of listening and now I’m in a curiosity phase. I wonder who else has something to say on building resilience through vulnerability. I jump on Google and search ‘how to build resilience’, and all of these things come up: how to build resilience in children; how to build resilience for parents; how to build resilience in Paris; how to build a cat full of resilience; resilience and your horse. I add the word ‘through’ to my search. Now I’ve got: how to build resilience through meditation; through psychotherapy; through eating a low-carb diet… Finally, I type in the ‘vulnerability.’ Nothing. Nada. My cursor is left alone blinking in the Google search. I can’t be the only one who’s ever searched for this, can I?

Maybe.  Because honestly vulnerability sucks to feel, and I can’t imagine ever intentionally searching for it. Unfortunately, the only way to be creative, to have love and joy in our lives, to feel happiness, and belonging, is to embrace vulnerability. To be fully ourselves. And that is some scary crap right there, but it doesn’t make it less true. Think about it. The only way to build our physical resilience is to withstand more weight, more stress, to endure. To literally bring ourselves to a point of physical stress that will make us exceptionally uncomfortable. But we are willing to do it because we want to get bigger, we want to get stronger, and we want to endure longer and become more physically resilient. In the same fashion, if we want to become more emotionally resilient, the quickest and most effective way of doing this – I believe the only way of doing this, is to allow for emotional stress, to allow ourselves to feel our uncomfortable emotions. Allow ourselves to be vulnerable. 

This means we need to love others without knowing we will be loved back. To try for that job that there is no guarantee we will get and know that we may feel like we failed if we don’t get it! To hope for an outcome in a situation that we can put effort in but have no guarantee that it will turn out the way we want. Every single time we say it’s OK to be ourselves, every time we allow our emotional door to open to feel joy, happiness, and confidence, but we also leave it open for feelings of sadness, anger, fear and anxiety. 

Brene said that being vulnerable is like walking into the arena. It’s showing up. If you’re in the arena long enough, a hard truth is that you’re going to get bloodied. As true as this is, I would suggest an alternate truth. A scarier truth that might lead you to vulnerability as a first choice instead of a last resort: 

You are already in the arena whether you like it or not. 

If you are breathing, have a pulse, and can feel. If you try to hide away or stifle your feelings from time to time, express them openly at other times, and even occasionally slam the emotional exposure door shut on others, you are in the arena. Even if you repress, run from, or ignore your uncomfortable feelings, it doesn’t really make them less uncomfortable does it? The truth is the world is filled with external stimuli that can have enormous direct effect on your feelings. The more you shrink away from ‘unwanted’ feelings, avoiding the situations in which you feel them or the people that bring them out in you, the more you try to avoid being vulnerable, the more emotional atrophy sets in, and thus the more uncomfortable you are. 

Emotional atrophy doesn’t mean that you feel less, it means that smaller and smaller things in the external world (people, events, etc.) have a greater and greater effect on you, leaving you feeling ever more uncomfortable. Because you are not building your tolerance, your resilience to feeling uncomfortable gets less and less and you recede from confrontations, altercations, uncomfortable discussions, as you stop ‘showing up.’ The act of showing up, of being present, of taking the risk to be equally available for happiness and disappointment is being vulnerable. And that vulnerability, that act of showing up fully, and practicing how to center yourself after every emotion, is the only way to build resilience.

What people are saying

  • “I was having real difficulty, not just creating a relationship with my son and daughter,
    but being able to
    parent him without getting caught in my anger all the time.
    After being in Lou’s workshop, I definitely feel more in control
    of my emotions and actions at work, with my kids, everywhere.“

    – Educator and mother of two

  • “Lou is able to take things that most of us feel and have difficulty expressing and give words to them. He makes what we’re feeling accessible to us through humor and great story telling.”

    – Social Worker, mother of three

  • “Lou is one of those special peopl who gets kids AND adults.  You see it in his coaching cross-country as well as his books and workshops.  His compassionate treatment of children and adults alike as we learn to help each other grow in emotional awareness and skills is so needed today, so centering and enlivening.  Thank you Lou for all you are and what you do with it!”

    Sally Kendall, MT and Intructor