Adam Hill- From Couch to Ironman Championships

Adam and I are alike in that we both suffered from anxiety and feelings of inadequacy. When Adam hit bottom, he turned to athletics to pull himself up. He went from being out of shape to competing in a 2-mile swim, 100-mile bike ride, 26 miles run in the Ironman championship in Kona, HI Adam Hill is the author of the book, Shifting Gears: From Anxiety and Addiction to a Triathlon World Championship, which chronicles his harrowing, inspiring, and sometimes-clumsy story of transformation, from the origins of a debilitating anxiety disorder to his battle with alcoholism to his rise to the top of the triathlon world stage.

He is an elite amateur triathlete with multiple podium finishes and has earned the distinctions of USA Triathlon All-American and Ironman All World Athlete. He was featured in the NBC Sports series Ironman: Quest for Kona (2017), which chronicled his successful attempt to qualify for the Ironman World Championship. Today, Adam is a business executive, coach, speaker, and author. Through his triathlon platform, Extra Life Fitness, he provides coaching, guidance, and resources to triathletes of all levels.

You’ll often find him speaking about personal transformation and overcoming anxiety at company events, on podcasts, and in other media.

Adam’s Website is: ℹ️

We talked about:

  • Adam’s level of fitness and state of mind before becoming a triathlete
  • What it is like growing up with an anxiety disorder
  • Recovering from alcoholism
  • What it means to be an “anxiety superhero”
  • Saying goodbye to cheeseburgers


Brian Smith 0:01
Now that you’re here at Grief 2 Growth, I’d like to ask you to do three things. The first thing is to make sure that you like click Notifications, and subscribe to make sure you get updates for my YouTube channel. Also, if you’d like to support me financially, you can support me through my tip jar at grief to growth, calm, it’s grief, the number two jar or look for tip jar at the very top of the page, or buy me a coffee at the very bottom of the page and you can make a small financial contribution. The third thing I’d like to ask is to make sure you share this with a friend through all your social media, Facebook, Instagram, whatever. Thanks for being here. Close your eyes and imagine what if the things in life to cause us the greatest pain, the things that bring us grief, or challenges, challenges designed to help us grow to ultimately become what we were always meant to be. We feel like we’ve been buried. But what if like a seed we’ve been planted and having been planted, who grow to become a mighty tree. Now, open your eyes. Open your eyes to this way of viewing life. Come with me as we explore your true infinite, eternal nature. This is brief to growth. And I am your host, Brian Smith. All right. Hey there everybody. This is Brian back with another episode of grief to growth and I’ve got with me today Adam Hill. And Adam is author of a new book called shifting gears from anxiety and addiction to a triathlon World Championship. And it chronicles is harrowing, inspiring and sometimes clumsy Stuart story of transformation from the origins of a debilitating anxiety disorder to his battle with alcoholism, to his rise to the top of the triathlon world stage. Adam is an elite amateur athlete with modius multiple podium finishes, and has earned distinctions of USA Triathlon all American, and Ironman all world athlete. He was featured in the NBC series, NBC series Ironman quest for Kona 2017, which chronicles his successful attempt to qualify for the Ironman World Championship. Today, Adam is a business executive, a coach, a speaker and an author. And through his triathlon platform Extra Life Fitness. He provides coaching guidance and resources to try athletes of all levels, you’ll often find him speaking about personal transformation and overcoming anxiety company events on podcasts, such as this one, and another media. So with that, I want to welcome Adam Hill.

Adam Hill 2:37
Thank you. Thank you for having me. I’m very honored to be here. Right, thanks.

Brian Smith 2:40
Yeah, and I can’t wait to get into the interview I have so much I like to talk to you about I think I was gonna say we have some things in common, but not the act, not the triathlon thing. But I can relate to the to the anxiety disorder. So maybe we can start with that. What was what was your anxiety disorder, like? And how did that affect your life?

Adam Hill 3:00
Yeah, it was certainly pretty dramatic in my life, and it started out. And I know, it starts out different for everyone. So I’m not sure how it started out for you. But when we grow up, when I grew up, you know, we didn’t talk a lot about mental health. And I’m sure you know, maybe you went through a lot of the same experience with growing up in, in a world where mental health wasn’t at the forefront. And it’s starting to get a little better today. But, but when I grew up there, it it wasn’t really apparent that I had an anxiety disorder, when I was much younger, it was more of this kind of bubbling up worry that I would have or that or it came out as this social awkwardness, or what I would call myself, I would just call myself a spazzy kid who was a weirdo, who didn’t have a lot of friends, which would now pretty much be called something like a social anxiety, just I, I was always worried about what other kids thought of me and things like that. But I never really knew what that was. And so I just kind of went through the motions of growing up and had a really had a really good childhood otherwise, I mean, I was raised by great parents had, you know, a very privileged life growing up. And, you know, I recognize that, you know, I was very fortunate to have the parents I had the life growing up with a roof over my head and plenty of food to eat. So I had really nothing to worry about. But it was always there. Anyway, it was always this, this this festering worry. And it really continue to, to come about as I as I moved into high school in college. And when I got into college, I discovered alcohol very quickly. I began drinking, you know, I think the first drink i have i I’ve described it, and I remember it so vividly that it was an immediate solution to that worry and that social anxiety that I always had. And I was immediately able to talk to people and I immediately felt connection with people and it was It was clear that alcohol for me was something that was definitely going to be a part of my life. Because it just made, at least in that perception, that immediate moment, it made everything better for me at that moment. And it was sometime later, you know, within the next couple of years that I had my first panic attack. And, again, not knowing what this was, that was going on inside of me just having this kind of like, low level worry, or, or, you know, social awkwardness, I had this extremely,

extremely strong panic attack, where I felt like I was over, I was just overcome with this certainty that I had this, this, this, this disease, and for me, it just came about is, you know, I had a, I had a girlfriend at the time, and, and I thought, for some reason that I was HIV positive, I had no reason to believe that. But it came on as this intense feeling of certainty. And even more so than it should have been this, this, this realization that I was, I was, you know, gonna succumb to this. And I just fell on the floor and was just paralyzed with fear. And, you know, I went to the doctor, and they, you know, checked me out and told me that there was nothing wrong with me had nothing to worry about. And it was made immediate sense of relief that came over me at that point, but it was replaced very quickly, later, by something else, you know, next it was it was this feeling of cancer, or then it was that I was going to be arrested. And I say all this because it was all very irrational. I mean, it was there was nothing rational about it, because I no reason to believe that, you know, but, but it was so overpowering. And I very quickly realized that, that my solution, the alcohol that I was, that I had, had come to, to help with my, you know, social awkwardness, and that made me feel so good, was my solution for this as well, it immediately took that away, it immediately gave me a sense of, I have nothing to worry about, it was like this really, really close friend that just made everything okay. And for a while that I say it worked. But it was a perception of working because it was a short term solution that, you know, I’d wake up or come to the next morning and I would be anxiety would be intensified. So, so it started out as fun became fun with problems, I began getting, you know, more in trouble with the, you know, with the law, like, I would, I would be out walking with maybe a beer in my hand, and I would get stopped by the, by the police and, and get ticketed, or, and, and things small things like that, that would just become problematic. And over time, it became worse I became I started to black out. And you know, by that time, I would start to realize that this was probably a problem, but I it was, it was the way that I could manage my anxiety. And, and so it became this endless cycle of, of, you know, waking up with the paralyzing fear, you know, going throughout my day white knuckling it, and then, you know, getting to my next drink, which which was my life for about 10 years. For a decade.

Brian Smith 8:13
Yeah. So I have heard of her anxiety in quite that way before manifests that way because I have to get heard you say you had some social anxiety about being around other people. And I suffered from panic attacks as well. And mine was like, usually in social situations, but it was more of a just a generalized thing where like, my heart would start racing and my palms sweat, stuff like that. Did you have those types of symptoms as well? Or was it just the or not just but was it the hypochondria?

Adam Hill 8:43
I did, yes. So I had a lot of the that that anxiety that was just kind of, I would call it festering this this, this like, low level like the sweating the in social situations, my hands are always kind of moving. I’m always kind of doing this and, and don’t really know what to say or feeling that social awkwardness. i It was always overshadowed by that, that panic that I would have that that. And I would even define that is is this, this dread it was either this intense fear debilitating and paralyzing, where I just couldn’t, I couldn’t move. Or it was just this feeling of dread that somehow everything was falling apart, or I couldn’t keep it everything together. And, and certainly, you know, for me, for me, while I while I felt like alcohol was the solution that immediately took it away. It was it was causing more problems. It was intensifying that. And I you know, didn’t I it was the only way that I knew to really manage that at the time.

Brian Smith 9:44
Yeah. So have you ever thought about like, what, what do you think maybe was the source of this anxiety? I think the thing is that we all have it to a certain extent. Most of us don’t realize it. We’re a little bit uncomfortable in social situations. I think I think most people are But for some of us, it just becomes almost debilitating.

Adam Hill 10:05
Yeah, it, it, I think it it did come about, it’s hard to, it’s hard to figure out where the chicken or the egg comes from there. I mean, I think, you know, genetically I have this, this, you know, the anxiety that’s gonna, that’s going to be with me it just it just is it’s, it’s there. And again, I, I don’t really have a traumatic experience to pin it to from my early childhood or anything like I like I say, I feel like I had a really good, a really good childhood in and it at least from the standpoint of, you know, good parents good experiences and all of that. But when I started getting into, you know, drinking, and you know, smoking and those kinds of unhealthy habits, I know that I was I know, I knew internally that I was compromising my values. And that I was that I was not the person that I wanted to be. But it was the only way I could go to manage that. So I was almost intensifying the anxiety there that that was making it worse through this, through this alcohol through through drinking alcohol and the blacking out the intense shame that I would feel there was a lot of shame associated with it. And so it’s just a constant feeling that I would have to numb or subdue this this thing. And, and so with the anxiety, the the shame came in, I would have to subdue that I would have to push that down. So ultimately, I think I was just I was digging myself deeper into a hole of anxiety without really, while I was trying to end it. By the time I figured that out, it was almost too late I became an addict, I became, you know, I became dependent on that solution.

Brian Smith 11:47
Yeah, I’m just kind of wondering, I’m thinking about people that are that I know, that are anxious, it seems like a lot of times, they’re very, like high functioning people, the people that really put that pressure that we put on ourselves that we think other people are putting in us, especially in these social situations where it’s like everybody we think is judging us. So we just start judging ourselves, and then it just spirals down.

Adam Hill 12:10
Right? Right. Yeah, it’s, it was that feeling for me, I, I definitely was trying to be a high functioning person. Because that was really one of my rules that I’d set up for myself to convince myself that I didn’t, or at least subconsciously convinced myself that I didn’t have a problem, which was to make sure that I was functioning and doing everything that I could, you know, at a at a high level and, and when I was growing up, I, I knew that I had an obsessive personality, that’s one of the you know, what I would eventually come to know, as a superpower of my anxiety was that I, I, you know, I was an obsessive person, I got into music, I started playing the cello early on, and I would practice for three hours a day, because I wanted it to be perfect. And I wanted to do really well at it. And I wanted to get into college with that. And I knew that was my only the only way that I could get into college because I couldn’t get it on my grades. But you know, when I when I put my mind on something like that, it would, I would always, you know, do it too high, I would try to do it at a high level. And, you know, but over time that became, you know, I became I put that obsession onto drinking, and that became my obsession. And notability took me a long time to come to that realization that that some of these things that I had, inherently due to the anxiety that I have are, you know, can be used in a positive way by you know, obsessive focus. And ultimately, that would be what would you know, help me out after I would get sober and, and get into triathlon as well? Yeah. So

Brian Smith 13:43
what was it that that broke the cycle for you? What was it? What was it, you decided that this, this is not working for me anymore?

Adam Hill 13:51
Well, as I mentioned, I, I had I, I was having, you know, I set these rules for myself, as I kind of mentioned, and, you know, certainly a few of those rules were to convince me that, that I didn’t have a problem, including like, I wouldn’t drink before 5pm Or I wouldn’t drink on the weekdays or on a work night because I wanted to be okay for work the next day. And it was kind of like I was this weird alcoholic Gremlin, you know, that you didn’t want to get get wet or anything like that. But I I, you know, notoriously I would, of course, break all of those rules because I didn’t have control. And but the one rule I would never break because I hated these people so much. was drinking and driving. I’d never wanted to cross that line. Because and I just felt like it was so disconnected from the person that I was the person that I wanted to be. And I mentioned earlier that, you know, part of the shame I’d felt over the course of my drinking and part of the part of the reason and I was feeling so anxious was because I was compromising my values. A lot of times by breaking these smaller rules well, at one point I did start to drink and drive. And, and it came to a head when I when I got in a DUI accident. And by grace, you know, fortunately, nobody was hurt, nobody was killed. And but I still did the damage. And I sat in the back of a police car coming out of a blackout where I didn’t know it was happening. And I realized at that moment that I that I had absolutely no control over my life, I had no control, because I wasn’t just a wasn’t just a danger to myself, but I was a danger to others. And that wasn’t tolerable to me that that was so far beyond what my value system was that I knew I only had two choices at that moment, I had one choice, I could end end my life and just do away with myself from this earth altogether, because I was a danger of myself and others. Or I could, I could go 100% in to getting help. And I had that seed planted years earlier where, you know, I knew that there was places like Alcoholics Anonymous, I’d gone into those rooms, because you know, my wife had given me the ultimatum of, you know, you’ve got to go to this or, you know, I’m going to leave, and so I would go to get the heat off. But I would do it for her. And internally, I would be thinking to myself that I can’t, I can’t go into treatment and what they’re demanding of me and treatment is it would be selfish for me to do that. Because I have work, I have to take care of my family, I have to do this, when in reality by by doing that I was not I was no good to anybody. And so is that moment in jail, that it’s like, okay, well, well, I need to, I need to go get that help. Because if I’m not doing that, I’m no good to anybody. And I have to make that first in my life above work above family above anything. And that was really the, you know, that that’s just, it was a process of I needed to be broken to that extent to be able to get that help, because I needed that. To have that choice in front of me of of, you know, this, this is my life. This is life or death. This is, you know, otherwise, i i And that’s what I needed to get that help I needed.

Brian Smith 17:19
Yeah, I think that’s a pretty big part of being human. I experienced that all the time that we all have different things that is the catalyst for us to change. But it seems like there’s something about the human condition, we’ll just keep doing something as long as it’s quote, working right? Until the point where it is just not working anymore. And whatever that whatever that is for different people, it’s different things that flips that switch where we start to make that change.

Adam Hill 17:45
Mm hmm. Yeah, it was it was leaning into, it was like I was leaning into comfort. And and what I what I find interesting about the idea of being comfortable, is it’s a yin and yang kind of kind of thing, because we can be comfortable in the moment. But in in most situations, and I’m not saying all but in most situations, if we choose comfort right now, we are choosing discomfort in the long term. You know, and that’s especially true for something that when I was treating my anxiety through alcohol, I was choosing a comfort in the immediate term, but extreme discomfort in the long term. And so by flipping that, by choosing discomfort, you know, immediately by something that’s, I would call discomfort uncomfortable in a healthy way. You can choose comfort in the long term, something like something like going to an a meeting or going or, or doing the work now that I have to get done to be healthy in the long term. Those are the types of discomfort we have to lean into now because they increase our our elasticity to be to be to be more comfortable, long term to be able to tolerate what life dishes out to us. And you know, I’ll say that, my experience and being sober over the last decade, I’ve had more challenging, more heartbreaking more difficult things that I’ve had to face than I ever did when I was drinking, but I’ve done them sober, because I was able to choose that discomfort in the moment to be more resilient over time.

Brian Smith 19:16
Well, you know, that’s an interesting point. As you were saying, I was thinking about a lot of things in life that were kind of like that, you know, it’s forming any new habit right? So anything I’m taking a coaching thing right now a life coaching thing, and it’s like seven weeks it’s really intense in the first couple of weeks we’re in week five now, first five few weeks are just like brutal as you’re really starting to look inside yourself and figuring out the things that you’re that you don’t like about yourself etc. And it’s very uncomfortable to do that. But once we do it as you said, then we can start to build comfort more in the long term.

Adam Hill 19:49
Yeah, yeah. It’s it’s, it’s an amazingly transformative thing. And I would say that that was kind of the first transformation I had it the first transformation obviously was was required Prior to breaking point, I mean, obviously, it was it was, it was such that I had to completely let go of, you know, that that person that was drinking every day and, and, and lean into the ideas that I thought were uncomfortable because I was I was forced into that. I mean, I was gonna face these legal troubles, I was gonna have to go to court and face what I did. And and, you know, it’s it’s interesting, I don’t know if you experience anxiety this way, but it’s how I do. I’m more fearful about the unknown, or the things that are in the future that I don’t know are gonna happen than I am about dealing with things in the exact moment. So things like if I’m facing this certain legal battle, it’s like, okay, well, let’s just do it and keep keep going. But, but if it’s, if it’s something that I don’t know, where that’s uncertain in the future, that’s where I, I my anxiety lives. And so just kind of dealing with that, that once it was really taken out of my hands on what I needed to do, and I was just follow the advice of people that in, in the rooms of recovery, and all this that knew what they were doing, and just just do every step one day at a time, then it just became, you know, obvious and it almost it was, it was that sense of serenity that that that I would say peace and grace that I was able to feel, you know, that the shame still existed in there. And I’ll if I’m being honest, I mean, of course, about that, about that circumstance that the DUI, the accident, I still feel shame about that. It’s it’s a shameful circumstance. But it’s, it’s also one that, you know, I’m extremely grateful I was able to learn the lessons I was from it. And, and grow out of it the way I have.

Brian Smith 21:49
Yeah, yeah, exactly. And that, and that’s the thing, you know, about situations like that we can we can choose to take that and transform it and use it to as a catalyst to to move forward. So you talk about being an anxiety superhero? What does that actually what do you mean by that term?

Adam Hill 22:07
So one thing I discovered within, you know, sobriety after, after being in there a while was that a lot of those steps, you know, that that I took, and I went through Alcoholics Anonymous, and that’s not to try and promote anything, it’s just the way I, I went through it. But I learned that a lot of those steps, you know, helped me to elevate above and essentially transcend the person that I was and transcend anxiety in particular, it didn’t mean that it went away. And I think that that was an empowering part of of that discovery was, there were a few manifestations of that, first, I discovered that I had an anxiety disorder, and I wanted to suppress it, I wanted to push it down, I wanted to get rid of it, I hated it, I wanted it out of my head. And I couldn’t do that. And then, you know, through sobriety, I learned all of these steps that were, you know, again, difficult putting me in difficult situations in the now so I could be more productive more, you know, stronger later. And I realized that, accepting that as part of who I was, you know, that that I have this anxiety, and that I live with it is, you know, that’s a part of it. That was kind of the second manifestation and then later learning well, how can I? What are the good things about anxiety? Where can fear and anxiety be my friend, and then like, really exploring that, you know, you realize that that fear, it’s, it’s not necessarily good or bad. I mean, at times, of course, it can be bad, it sucks to have that feeling. It’s terrible. But it’s also telling us something good. I mean, we’re in the same room as a giant grizzly bear fears, a good thing tells us that we should probably get out of there if we weren’t afraid, we would probably be psychopaths in that sense. But, but it’s good in those scenarios. So looking at the attributes of, of where anxieties exist in my life that had been good, well, remembering back to when I started playing the cello, and I would could practice for three hours a day. Sure, there could be unhealthy things about that. But that obsessive focus led me to grow in my experience in that and become very proficient. You know, certainly there were other things like the obsessive focus of actually going to an AA meeting every single day helped me to do, you know, learn to be a sober alcoholic, and, and that was a superpower. So, so being able to redefine it that way, you know, empowered it, it made anxiety, my friend, and I still feel anxiety to say I had a panic attack a couple of weeks ago. And those things still exist with me. But I can now having known what what they are unknown how they come about and being able to name it. You know, it’s something that I get through now, when it’s something that I could work through and I could be stronger for it.

Brian Smith 24:58
Yeah, it’s so essential for us. to really realize that in some of these things that we have with us and as you said earlier, I think you said you thought part of yours is probably genetic. And I think part of mine is genetic as well. We can, we can fight them. And that’s I found that the worst thing to do is try to fat fight a panic attack. By the way, if anybody’s ever had one, fighting, it just makes it worse, where we can learn to lean into it, right? And we can learn to how do I deal with this, I love what you said about you know, using this as your superpower, your your, your, your ability to focus on things, the ability to take your fear, instead of saying it’s gonna make it’s gonna lead me to inaction what I’m going to use this for, to create some action in my life. So So we’ve you’ve got the anxiety disorder, you’re getting, you know, the kind of numbing out the alcohol and then so we’ve now we’re overcoming alcoholism. So tell me about what’s your state of health here at this point? When you’re overcoming alcoholism, and you decide you want to become a triathlete?

Adam Hill 25:57
Well, I’d say it’s, you know, I think the seed seed for Ironman in particular was planted many, many years earlier, I had been watching TV maybe 15 years ago. So I was still in the midst of being an alcoholic and active alcoholic. And, and, you know, having that that anxiety, I was watching television one afternoon, and this, this show came on where you know, this empowering music and you see the island of Hawaii. And that, of course, gave me a Pavlovian response, because I love everything away. And I, I saw I was tuned in. And then I saw these people doing like, you know, running and cycling and swimming. And the announcer came on and started talking about these distances said, swimming, 2.4 miles, biking, 112 miles, running 26.2 miles. So these amazing distances, I’m like, wow, how many days? Is it take those people to do that? And, you know, announcer says, this is all in one day. And I’m like, wow. So it was just incredible. And I’m like, how do people do that? That’s insane. It’s crazy. And then I watched these people crossing the finish line, many of them in the dark, many of them would after, you know, way into the night, and they were crossing, they had smiles on their faces, you know, they were in their 50s, their 60s, one of them was even in their 80s. And I was just like, oh, my gosh, these people are finishing something amazing. They’ve got this smile on their face, there must be something to that. And after seeing that, after witnessing that my mind went to this idea of like, how cool would it be if I could do something like that. But in that mental state that I was in, you know, the first that there is a twinge of fear in my mind that pops up, like you know, when you when you really get excited about something. And when you think of something like that you really want to go toward you have that little twinge of fear and that pit of your stomach and, and it just pops up. And at that point, I had these, you know that those two choices, I could lean into comfort now or I could lean into that idea. But my mind immediately shot it down. That’s self doubt that, that, that fear just said, No, you can’t do that. You’re an alcoholic, you’re up you, you’re drinking all day long. You’re, you’re smoking cigarettes, you’re completely unhealthy. And you’re not a traveler, you can’t do that. And I listened to it. And I said, Okay, so you know, so I didn’t think about it again, for you know, quite a few years until, until I was sober. And there was there was always something that was said in the rooms of recovery that resonated with me in a particular way. And I think it hit my anxiety in the right place, hit my anxiety superpower in the right place. Because they know, people with a lot of sobriety had always said, don’t make any major, major life changes until you within the first year of sobriety. And the reason they say that is because you need to focus 100% on sobriety in order to make sure you know it’s working. And major life changes can throw a wrench into that. But the way that I interpreted that was once you hit a year of sobriety make a major life change.

And that’s like that was kind of the obsessive nature of it. And so I was I had a year sober. And I was actually recovering from a shoulder surgery from from an injury that I’d had doing some something some stupid workout program that I’d done. That just didn’t make sense. And, and I, I was thinking to myself of you know, the fact that I had a year of sobriety and really, really grateful for the fact that I could do this thing that I never thought that I could do which was get sober. I mean, I never thought that I could get sober. It was just something that was I was so dependent on it. And but here I was sober and able to deal with life and able to move and function on I’d moved past all of the legal issues that I’d had and, and, and, and started to, you know, be productive again. That was good. I was engaging with my family and things were great. And I was just sitting there what can what can change what can a major life change be. And I started thinking about my physical health because I focus so much on my spiritual and mental health, but I hadn’t focused on my physical health yet. It that’s just something I neglected. And so I decided, well, maybe that’s something that would, you know, round out the circle, maybe that’s something that would really help my overall health would be to focus on physical health. And so I started kind of thinking about that. And I remembered back on that time when I watched the Ironman on television for the first time. And those same feelings started coming up, I started remembering the people across the finish line, I started remembering all of these scenes of Hawaii and and then that thought entered my mind again, well, how cool would it be if I could do that? And then that twinge of fear came back, that that little point of you know, that pit in the stomach, and I had those two choices again. But this time, my brain told me something different and told me what if I said, What if you got a new frame of mind that new mindset that I’d had of, of working on my spiritual and mental recovery, you know, gave me this different mindset. And that’s when the snowball started turning. I started researching Ironman and looking into how to get there. And and my first thought was, you know, I want to do that one in Hawaii, because that’s the one that I want to do that, that looks like fun. And so I started so I typed into Google, how can I? How can I sign up for Ironman Hawaii, and I quickly found out that you can’t just sign up for Ironman Hawaii, you have to qualify, you have to be one of the top people in the sport. And so then I just started asking, Okay, well, how can I just do an Ironman, and I, so I started looking into that, and I found a race that I could I could do, you know, to happen in about a year, I signed up for it without ever having, you know, trained for triathlon in the past or anything. And I signed up for and I decided to kind of build the parachute on the way down. And that’s kind of how, how that started.

Brian Smith 31:50
Wow. Okay, so you just said, I’m going to sign up for this before he started training. Right?

Adam Hill 31:57
Yeah, it became, it just immediately became the passion that I wanted to do. And the doctor, my doctor who had done the surgery, you know, told me you can’t run, you know, bike or swim for this this long, you know, and and, and so, what it forced me to do, and one thing I’m very grateful for, in retrospect, at the time, it was very frustrating, because I wanted to go out and run, I wanted to go out and train for this thing. But what it forced me to do is it forced me into patients, you know, forced me into this idea of accepting my limitations at that time, so that I could begin to get over them. And so I had the very first step I had to do in training for an Ironman was to walk, I just had to go out and walk. And that was it. And, and gradually, over time, you know, as I healed, I could start to swim, you know, some laps, and then I could start to bike and I could start to maybe jog a little bit. But each of those things were progressive, and they started off easy. They started off slowly. And that was a, that was a huge lesson for me at that time was that, you know, when we’re starting anything, it really starts with where we’re at now, you know, we can’t jump right into where we want to be. Because that’s frustration. That’s injury, that’s burnout. But starting with where we’re at now, on anything we want to do is is key and then just leveling up gradually. From there.

Announcer 33:18
We’ll get back to grief to growth in just a few seconds. Did you know that Brian is an author and a life coach. If you’re grieving or know someone who is grieving his book, grief to growth is a best selling easy to read book that might help you or someone you know, people work with Brian as a life coach to break through barriers and live their best lives. You can find out more about Brian and what he offers at WWW dot grief to www dot g ri e f the number two gr o w If you’d like to support this podcast visit to growth ri, E F, the number two gr O W th to make a financial contribution. And now back to grief to growth.

Brian Smith 34:15
Wow, that’s so incredible. I love what you said earlier about kind of like the the what F thing that you that you went through and I’m wondering if you’re and I think you even said it the your your ability to get over or to to become sober. LED you believe like what else can I do? You know? And that’s the thing we do. We put limitations on ourselves. And I watched as Ironman things. I watched people do ultimate, you know, training stuff. And I’m still one of the people says yeah, I can’t do that. I I walk a few miles every day. I hate running, you know. And so for me to say I look at people that run 26 miles just just the running part of it seems beyond the scope of human ability.

Adam Hill 34:57
Mm hmm. Yeah. And that’s what’s so powerful. About that sport, I think is it that sport in particular triathlon in particular, gives us this unique, unique ability to, to safely do things that we think aren’t possible. I mean, our, our first reaction or mind is, I can’t do that that’s three sports at this in the same day. It’s silly, it’s ridiculous. And then you do it. And not only that, but it’s an achievement oriented sport, there’s a finish line, there’s a you know, there’s, there’s a metal that comes with it. So you get to the finish line, and you’ve achieved that thing that you never thought was possible. And that’s what I love about it is, is that idea that, you know, it does kind of give us that ability to it doesn’t have to be triathlon, by the way, mean that there’s, you know, because I can understand people that don’t, don’t like doing that we all have our own tolerances of what we do and don’t like. But I do challenge anybody that has that twinge of, of of excitement that that pops up when they think about something, and then that fear comes up. And then they have those two choices, to just lean into the what ifs, because a lot of times that can really shape our journey into the very positive place and empowering place.

Brian Smith 36:11
Yeah, I love that the peep the fact that people do this, because we’re not going to do Iron Man’s, as you said, but it shows that we can do things that we may not think we can do. And it can be that or something else. But I’m curious, how did your wife react when you said, Mom, I signed up for the Ironman in the year? Yeah,

Adam Hill 36:29
she, she was amazingly supportive. So one of the things was that I was in no condition when I signed up for an Ironman to do an Ironman. And so it was very out of character for me. And so the idea of telling anybody about it was, was out of the question, because I just, I didn’t want to be embarrassed. I didn’t want to be humiliated by people that would laugh at me and say, no, no, why don’t you think of a 5k or something like that? First? Don’t do that. But the one person I did tell was my wife. And then I went to her because she’s, you know, obviously the first one that will she’s been with me through everything. She’s an amazing person, and amazingly supportive, and would be the first person to say, you know, sweetie, maybe you should think of something different. Maybe, maybe this, or, but regardless, I know that it would be coming from a place of love. And so I told her about it. And, you know, her first reaction was, oh, yeah, you should do it. And so then my, my thought was, oh, crap. No, I have to do it. So, so yeah, she was she was incredibly supportive of it. And, and continue to be, until today, she even eventually did to have her own Ironman races over time to Yeah, many, many travels,

Brian Smith 37:45
you know, it’s, it’s really great to have that person to support you like that, to have someone and my wife is the same way. You know, I’ll say I want to do something she’s like, Yeah, why don’t you go ahead and do that, you know, and it’s great to have that person in your corner. Cuz I was gonna ask you about, sometimes people say, Well, when you set a big goal like this, you should make it public. And I don’t know what your feelings are about that. But I think a goal that big, that might be a little, I could see why that would be scary.

Adam Hill 38:11
Yeah, yeah. And I’m torn on that, because, and I think it really depends on the individual’s motivation on how they can handle that. Because some of us, myself included, handle it, maybe. And maybe it comes from the background of the social anxiety and the fear of like being in front of people, we really care what people think of us. I mean, I really care what people think of me. And that’s that to a fault. And so if somebody comes at me and says, Oh, man, you’re crazy. Why would you do that? You’ve never even done this, it would be it would hit me in the wrong places. But for some people, you know, that accountability, maybe they hear that? And they think to themselves? Well, I’m going to show you, that’s motivation for me to go and do it better. So I think it’s important for us to really acknowledge the type of person that we are in the way that we want to receive feedback, because because, and the way that we’re motivated, what, but I also will say that doing that in a safe way. Getting back to the point of sobriety, when I first wanted to a I was very intimidated, because you know, because, you know, again, you have people with a lot, a lot of sobriety, and they’re going to be telling me what I’m doing wrong. And I don’t you know, I don’t like that, but going in and recognizing that that is a community of support. That was the reason that I was able to get sober was that community. So community is hugely important when we’re doing something that is, you know, empowering to us. So, I think I think the best first step for anything like that is really to find the right type of community of support. You know, you don’t it doesn’t have to be the people that don’t understand what you’re trying to do, and don’t understand it, but take Iron Man, for instance, there are plenty of people that came from a background of non athleticism and you know, going from, and they would be 100% ready to support people like that. And I think that that exists in any kind of in any kind of community like that. But finding that community is really important.

Brian Smith 40:16
Yes, absolutely 100% Finding finding community, you know, in the work that I do, work with people in grief, and especially people who’ve had children pass away, I think it’s extremely important to find someone that’s going to support you. And as you were saying that a parallel I was thinking about some times when we have experiences with our children and across the veil after death communications. You want to tell someone about it. But a lot of people you tell will say, well, that’s just your imagination. Poor you, you’re in grief, now you’re hallucinating. And other people will say, Yes, I understand what you’re saying, you know, I’ve had the same type of experience. So it’s important to find a safe community to share this with I think that’s maybe the lesson is, you know, if I’m going to go out and do an Ironman, find someone that’s not going to tell me I’m crazy. Or someone that says, nobody can do that. You have to be an elite athlete, someone that’s gonna say, Yeah, you could do that if you put your mind to it.

Adam Hill 41:11
Yeah, that’s a great point. Yeah, safe community. I really liked that content. That’s it. And that’s, I believe, in that wholeheartedly. Community is one of the first steps towards accountability on these kinds of things.

Brian Smith 41:25
So I, you know, and I know, when you started this journey, you had to change your eating habits. And that’s another thing that’s a challenge for some of us. So you, you had to say goodbye to cheeseburgers. How did that go for you?

Adam Hill 41:37
Yeah, well, I didn’t, I didn’t do very well at saying goodbye to cheeseburgers. 100%. But, but, ya know, I, I think that that was an important part. And, and something that’s constantly evolving, for me is my relationship with nutrition. When I first started out, I did, you know, jump on the bandwagon of diet culture, of the idea of, you know, of, of making sure I was counting calories and doing all of this stuff, but what I quickly learned within the within, you know, endurance sport, calories are super important. You know, eating carbohydrates are very important. And that, that, it wasn’t about restricting, restricting food, it was just about developing a healthy relationship with food. And, you know, it’s one thing that I’m discovering a lot more now. And, and learning a lot more about as I as I have, you know, loved ones who are struggling with eating disorders. And that, you know, our diet culture isn’t doing us many favors right now by by promoting things like restriction or, or, or, you know, making us feel shame about the way our bodies are. But it really is about my, my response to how I, how I, my relationship with nutrition is that I want an abundance of healthy nutrition, and abundance. It’s all about abundance to me and those kinds of areas of life. Because that, you know, just just make sure I can get an abundance of nutrients and a bunch of abundance of, of healthy foods, rather than, you know, trying to say, I’m not going to eat that that doughnut because it’s bad for me or something like that. It’s just, it’s, it’s it’s really shaping the relationship with food into something where it’s a healthy and non toxic relationship.

Brian Smith 43:33
Mm hmm. Yeah, I like that. Because we do we have a weird relationship with food in our society. I mean, it’s, it seems like it’s one extreme or the other. I made the mistake of Facebook the other day, I clicked on an ad for some diet, something. And now my feed is just inundated with all these things about, you know, diet stuff, and all and all that kind of stuff. And, you know, it’s really easy to get caught up in then. And people are like, I gluten is bad now. No, no, go, everything’s gluten free. And it was fat free a few years ago.

Adam Hill 44:04
Yeah, yeah, it’s always, there’s always elements of our diet, where it’s take this thing out. And it’s like, well, you know, when you’re talking about removing fat are removing carbohydrates, you’re removing entire macronutrient from your diet, you have to be careful with that. I mean, that’s not something that can be advertised as a supplement, that’s got to be something you should talk with about your, with your doctor, you know, and maybe even a psychologist or your therapist, because those kinds of things are rooted in our physical and mental health. So I mean, those are things that we really have to think very deeply through rather than just looking at you know, maybe a muffin topper or a lack of six pack abs and saying, you know, I want I want I want this I’m going to do it at all costs, maybe costing our health if we’re developing a toxic relationship with food.

Brian Smith 44:53
Yeah. So I’m curious what’s your what’s your I hesitate to use workout but what is your Exercise. What does it look like for you today? I mean, you’re are you still doing Iron Man’s are training for those are out? Where are you now?

Adam Hill 45:07
Yeah, COVID kind of put a put a damper on a lot of the racing and stuff for a couple of years. So I haven’t raced in a couple of years. But I do have a couple of races on the schedule, though I’ve scaled it back a bit. I’ve focused a little bit more on, on, on the aspect of trying to help others to get into the sport or or you know, with the anxiety part of it. But I’ve, but I’m doing a little I’m mainly just doing it for fun and recreation now, rather than just trying to try to really elevate myself to a higher level. So I think that’s the balance I’m trying to find is to balance that, that ideal that do the absolute best I can in a particular sport, versus you know, having fun with it.

Brian Smith 45:49
Yeah, yeah. So yeah, I’m thinking that was it was telling you before we got started, you know about your story, like, you know, so you went out, you ran an Ironman, you gave up alcohol, and you’ve cut back on the cheeseburgers. I said, that sounds really hard for some of us. We really, we really liked that, that comfort in this moment, I guess it is. So what would you say to someone? How do we get started on doing making these kinds of transformations?

Adam Hill 46:17
Yeah, I would say, you know, the, the first thing I would say is, is is think about what’s really exciting to you think about that, that that really extreme goal that scares you a little bit. You know, again, it doesn’t have to be the Ironman World Championship. But when I first started, I, you know, put that at the top of my pedestal was the Ironman World Championship, I want to qualify for that one day. Yeah. And then I just kind of worked my way backwards to because we have a tendency to, and I have had a tendency, when I was always getting an exercise, I fell into that trap. I was like, I want six pack abs, how do I get six pack abs? Well, this person has them. And he’s telling me to do this program. So I’m going to work out as hard as he does. And then I burn myself out or injure myself, I think we do that in a lot of cases. But whether it’s training for an Ironman, or playing a musical instrument, or starting a business, work your way back from, you know what your dream is, you know, take every step backward until you get to that point where you get to where you’re at right now. And then there’s, there’s a next step, something that you say, Yeah, I could do that, if I push maybe 5%, beyond my comfort zone. And, you know, it could be say, if you’re wanting to do an Ironman Triathlon down the line, that could be just getting in the pool, and floating on your back, I mean, for a lot of people that that’s terrifying, you know, putting your toes in the pool and getting in and, and, and just starting that you don’t have to jump into the deep end, you just have to maybe learn to float. And then once you can master that part of it, then you move on to swimming 25 yards. And once you master that, and you just take those steps until eventually, you’re at that point where you’re right before that, that that dream that you’ve had. And, and that’s the very next step. And so I would just say, start where you’re at, a lot of us miss that very next step, start where you’re at, find the community of support, find that find that safe and supportive community, and then just start doing it and remember to rest and recover. You know, because oftentimes, we’ll push ourselves in those first few weeks until we burn out. But we have to remember that rest is important that whatever we’re doing, make sure we’re resting and recovering and learning to miss it for a day or two or whatever time. So I know that’s a lot of to start with. Those would be the first case.

Brian Smith 48:38
No, I think that’s, that’s very, very important. Because I see so many people starting on a journey of whatever it is, and setting that big goal. And I’m not I’m not opposed to setting big goals. But then when we can’t get there, then we get frustrated and we give up. Or we look at and say well, look at where I am today I’ll never be able to run a marathon but people that run marathons as you said they don’t You don’t start off running 26 miles you can just put on your shoes and run 26 miles. And I have known some people that have trained for marathons and you know, I think I’m not gonna say anybody can do it, but more of us can do it than think can do. It’s just a matter of putting our mind to it and, and taking those those small steps and yeah, and using that using what we have, you know, like, you know, taking the anxiety we have and that actually turning that to our favor that’s that’s a really important thing, whatever it is that we have, we’ve got these unique traits about ourselves all call say it and they can either be hindrances or they can be tools and we can decide to transform I love that’s what I love that about what your Your journey has been saying, Okay, I’m gonna take this anxiety that I’m dealing with this obsessiveness that I have, and I’m going to use it to my advantage.

Adam Hill 49:52
Yeah, yeah. And then I’ll, I’ll say that, you know, it sounds like what I said was or was that I will Want to I signed up for an Ironman and that was like, that was like the focus but the second that I signed up for that Ironman, I look back and I, I worked back to where I was at that moment and again, I started walking but, you know, throughout the course of that year, I started with a, I started with a half marathon, then I moved up to a sprint triathlon, like just a really short, short triathlon, then I moved to an Olympic distance triathlon, then I moved to a half distance. So I had, I built all that experience over the course of that time. And as I did that, and as I had that safe community, the community of people that believed in me was expanding. Because once they saw that I did the sprint triathlon, it’s like, oh, he’s a triathlete now. And then, you know, it expanded then. And then suddenly, it became the way people looked at me. And, and so that that was, that was an important part of it is, and I can’t stress it enough, I think it’s so important, what you say there is, is taking that big goal, and it’s good to have those big goals. But then, then once you have it, you know, start looking down at that very next one, and then put your obsessive focus on that. And make it a SMART goal. Make it something that you know, can be achievable, something is specific, measurable, you know, relatable. I got those out of order smart. So as a first, so achievable, relatable, and then time bound, and then, you know, work up from there.

Brian Smith 51:23
Yeah. Well, I, I’m a big believer that success breeds success. So when I work with people set goals and like, let’s set a goal that you can achieve, you know, if it’s starting a new habit of meditating every day, you know, some people, they’ll sit down, and well, I’ll try meditating half an hour every day. That’s a big goal for most people. What if we start with three minutes? Okay, what if we could meditate three minutes before we get out of bed in the morning. And so what the thing about your what you’re talking about, we can all look at and say, Well, I’m probably not going to do an Ironman, I don’t want to, I don’t have the time I don’t have the inclination. It’s this is not just about doing an Ironman, this is about anything in life that you want to achieve. And using the tools that you have to get there, and breaking it down into steps that you can do and having the belief that you can do it.

Adam Hill 52:13
Yeah, it Yeah. And that’s an important point, too, is is that belief is maintaining that belief in yourself, well, we’re all gonna fall short of that, you know, we’re all gonna, we’re all gonna have days where we experienced that self doubt. And, and those days, maybe more often than not, but but just doing the exercises, to, to help us to shift our mindset. Because a lot of what we do in any regard is 90% mindset. And then the rest is just execution. So, focus on training that mindset first into positive one on one where you believe in yourself, that’s the first step.

Brian Smith 52:53
So I’m curious, how do you how do you work with people today? I know you, you do you do coaching? So how do you how do you do that with people?

Adam Hill 53:00
Yeah, so I have a few different platforms on that I do coach some one on one triathletes and things like that. I also have a a beginner platform that helps Absolute Beginners people who’ve never done a triathlon in their lives, to get to that point where they can do a sprint triathlon, because I know that that I, in my experience, that was one of the more difficult challenges was finding the resources, finding the education, finding the way answering the dumb questions, I had to get me past that hump to get my first triathlon done. And those steps are always the most difficult. So I put a platform together to help people to do that. And, and that’s, that’s something that I have on on my website at Extra Life Fitness comm. It can be found there, too. It’s a simple 12 week course. And, and yeah, I also am available always to talk about anxiety and how we can help rise above it. And, and yeah, those those are the kinds of ways I work with with people, but I’m always able to help on those on those fronts. Cool.

Brian Smith 54:06
Well, I know in your book, you tell your story, mostly in chronological order, but you do intersperse some of your future successes in there. Why did you decide to tell it that way?

Adam Hill 54:16
Well, I what I found was that when I within my races whether so I had these race anecdotes that would start and and stagger each chapter of the chronology of my story. And each of those in an Ironman is a very long race and something will go wrong and something unexpected will happen. So a lot of things that are in our control and out of our control and we’ll we’ll have to adapt and so I found that a lot that an Ironman races a lot like life and a lot like the experiences I had. And so putting those chapters in there the way that I did, which allowed me to share that even in you know, even in this empowered state and and and A healthy way that I was living now, there were still challenges they face. And a lot of them were overlapping with the challenges that I faced when I was drinking or when I was going through those, those early challenges I had, the difference was how my mind shift, my mindset shifted on it, and how I could overcome it. But that we still, regardless of how we can rise above our challenges, we still face challenges, and they help us grow. Yeah, yeah,

Brian Smith 55:27
absolutely. So um, I want to tell people like where they can find you, your website, make sure we get the title of your book on here so people can find your book. And then we’ll we’ll wrap up from there.

Adam Hill 55:40
Sure. Yeah. So shifting gears is the book shifting gears from anxiety and addiction to travel and World Championship, and that’s available on Amazon. And you can also find it on my website, which is Adam Hill, Adam Hill t And there, you’ll also find links to my coaching, book, my, and any kind of engagements that I have going forward.

Brian Smith 56:04
Cool. Um, anything you want to say to the listeners that we haven’t been able to cover today, then just any last thoughts?

Adam Hill 56:12
Yeah, I would just say if you’re struggling, if you’re at any of those points, where hopelessness feels like it’s overwhelming, and that it is that there is no hope for any future. And you’re faced with that, that choice that I, you know, that I had when I was when I was arrested. Please lean into the help. Because I can tell you 100% That regardless of how hopeless it feels, right now, the miracle that exists in this life beyond that, beyond that, if we live if we, if we if we go forward if we lean into the help if we open our mind, and we humble ourselves, that process, that the miracle is so worth it, and it’s so beautiful. So please just stick with that. That’s that’s the message I would have that. There’s hope.

Brian Smith 57:00
Well, that Yeah. I have nothing more to add to that. Adam. It was it was really great getting to know you and helping to share your story. That’s, that’s so inspirational, instructive for all of us. So thank you for being so vulnerable to share this and for being here today.

Adam Hill 57:17
Thank you, Brian. It was it was an honor to be here. I appreciate it so much.

Brian Smith 57:20
All right. Have a good rest of your day.

Adam Hill 57:22
You too. Thanks.

Brian Smith 57:25
Don’t forget to like, hit that big red subscribe button and click the notify Bell. Thanks for being here.

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