Practicing Gratitude at Thanksgiving – and Year-Round

By Chris Carmichael,
Founder and Head Coach of CTS

With Thanksgiving coming up I have been thinking a lot about gratitude and what I’m thankful for. There are, of course, the obvious ones like being grateful for my family and their health and wellbeing. But this year in particular, there’s so much more to be thankful for.

Athlete Community

You never know what you got until it’s gone. When the pandemic hit and an entire season of in-person cycling, running, and triathlon events was cancelled, athletes adapted and found ways to create solo challenges and virtual competitions. The restart of events in 2021 was not just a return to normal, but rather an explosion of enthusiasm and gratitude. Attendance at many events was off the charts, and the atmosphere at events was full of joy. It turns out, absence truly does make the heart grow fonder.

Take action:

Get involved! Sign up for races and rides and runs that pique your interest. Go on that week-long cycling trip you’ve been talking about for years. At home, volunteer at local events when you’re not participating, sign up to coach with a local high school MTB team, and get involved with advocacy groups pushing to make streets and trails safer and more accessible for all.

Modern Medicine

On top of vaccines and the tireless professionalism of doctors and nurses treating COVID patients, my personal journey toward my upcoming knee and hip replacement surgeries reminds me just how fortunate we are to be living in this time in history. A generation ago the prognosis for my arthritic hip and worn-out knee would have been chronic pain and severely limited activity. Instead, if all goes as planned, I will have an increased capacity for pain-free cycling by the summer of 2022! There are still big problems with our healthcare system, including out-of-control costs, inconsistent access to care, and the highest number of overdose deaths in history, but in the big picture there has never been a time when the medical profession has been more capable of saving lives and increasing quality of life.

Take action:

Take care of yourself! Stop ignoring aches and pains that can be addressed. I had pain in my hip for more than 10 years, but figured my leg was sore because I was overcompensating with my left leg for some weakness in my right leg. In the past year the hip pain really ramped up, but I still thought it was based on the knee. As an aside, I have a newfound understanding of how people get hooked on opioids while dealing with chronic pain, particularly if the pain prevents you from getting a good night’s sleep. I’ve been fortunate. I’ve avoided opioids and have found that CBDa from Planetarie helps me sleep through the night.  Athletes are accustomed to normalizing pain and we do it for so long that we fail to realize how much it is actually hindering performance and reducing the enjoyment we get from being active. If your back hurts, or your knees or ankles, get into physical therapy or see a doctor and take the steps necessary to solve – or at least mitigate – the problems.

Changed Perspectives

The pandemic has been devastating to millions of people directly affected by the loss of loved ones, businesses, and careers. It has been one of the most – if not the most – disruptive event in our lifetime, but not all the changes it brought about are negative. The pandemic caused a societal-level shift in perspective and behavior. It changed the way we work, normalizing working from home and accelerating the technologies needed to support remote work. More time at home helped people discover or reset their values and priorities. It encouraged people to strengthen their relationships (or move on from them), take career risks, open new businesses, cook more and order less, get in shape, and get out into nature. When I look at my own life and many of the athletes who work with CTS Coaches, I’m grateful for the disruption that spurred people to make positive changes.

Take action:

Make a change! You only live once, and in the grand scheme of things none of us is around for very long. If you have been doing what is expected of you but not what you want to do, now is the time to flip the script.

Healthy Relationships

It takes a good portion of our lives to learn how to be our best selves in relationships with others. We learn as we go, and although the work of becoming a better father, better partner, better coach, and better leader will never be completed, at 61 years old I believe I am bringing a very good version of myself to the relationships in my life. I have always believed we get what we give, and as I get continue to get better, I draw better circumstances, opportunities, and people to me.

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Take action:

Take a step back and critically examine the way you participate in the relationships across your life. Are you presenting your best self and being fully present in those relationships? Consider how you can improve, but also get ready to ask for what you need from the people in your life, whether that’s more engagement and openness or more clearly defined boundaries.

The Best Job in the World

We recently had a CTS Coaching Summit in Colorado Springs, Colorado. I’m grateful to work with and lead a team of the best endurance coaches in the industry. The passion and commitment to excellence within the coaching and office staffs drive us all to keep learning and growing, which means I have the best job in the world.

Take action:

It’s a myth that doing what you love means you’ll love every day of doing it. Even the best job has its tough times. The key to making it worthwhile is aligning your purpose and your core values with the way you choose to make a living. Not everyone is fortunate enough to achieve that alignment, so be thankful if you have. If you haven’t, or if your purpose and values have changed, put a stake in the ground and create a plan and a timeline for shifting your career within the next 12 months. It will be worth it.

Gratitude is a practice that should be part of our lives every day, just like movement, rest, and nourishment. Thanksgiving provides an annual marker to reflect on what we are thankful for and a reminder to share our gratitude with those around us, and it should also be a catalyst for taking the actions necessary to make the future even brighter.

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Comments 3

  1. Happy Thanksgiving to all CTS coaches and athletes. Good luck Chris with your surgery. Hoping for a speedy recovery. See you in Steamboat!

  2. Hey Chris,
    I struggled for ages with 1 worn out hip until finally a surgeon agreed it was all about lifestyle. That was the right hip about 8 years ago. Two years ago and 96 kg I couldn’t run so started on an exercise bike and then attended spin classes. My left hip was replaced last year and I was back on the bike and in the gym on day 5 after the surgery. I’ve got myself so fit (resting HR 53 during the day) and motivated that I’ve bought a road bike and more recently a mtn bike. I just love it!! At 68 I entered a 60 km road race and did it in 1:50 and was 20th, only 10 minutes behind the winner. I’m down to 80 kg and so motivated to keep fit and healthy!

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