Ep#25 Brenna Kelleher on performance coaching and shifting discomfort zones

In this episode of The Discomfort Zone Podcast, Brenna Keller, a top PSIA ski instructor and guide, dives into the interplay between fear and excitement, highlighting how mindset can help achieve a flow state. .She explains how fear, when managed properly, can enhance performance.

The conversation also examines the discomfort zone beyond skiing, particularly in communication and relationships, where the courage to speak up can be challenging but crucial.

Brenna and Anna talk about the potential dangers of constantly seeking adrenaline in both ski culture and whitewater culture, their shared experience of feeling most comfortable in leadership roles, and the importance of separating self-worth from performance.

They reflect on how their passions for skiing and kayaking have evolved with age, touch on the fear of disappointing others and the necessity of letting go of the need to always do the right thing.

About Brenna

Brenna Kelleher grew up in Big Sky, MT. She started skiing as soon as she could walk and began racing at 5 years old. Developing her career as an outdoor mountain athlete, she continued as an NCAA ski racer for Montana State University and claimed the 2001 Junior World Championship as a freestyle kayaker.

Brenna shares her love and knowledge for the outdoors in the Bozeman/Big Sky area; guiding horseback trips in Yellowstone Park and coaching freestyle kayaking. Brenna traveled to Africa as an educator and mentor for high school girls in a semester abroad program; teaching , travel journalism and outdoor physical education.

Brenna is currently a ski instructor and guide at Big Sky Resort she is the alpine coach for Northern Rocky Mountain and on the current PSIA National Alpine Interski Team. In addition she is holds her Wilderness First Responder certifications, her avalanche education and mountain expertise has aided her in leading advanced women’s and youth specific clinics; training big mountain tactics, steep skiing technique, terrain management and use and understanding of avalanche rescue gear.

Connect with Brenna:

IG: @brennakelleher

FB: https://www.facebook.com/brennakelleher

Anna
My guest today, Brenna Keller is currently a ski instructor and guide at Big Sky Montana and is on the current PSIA-AASI National Alpine Inter-Ski Team. Let me say that. Let me start over one more time. My guest today, Brenna Keller is currently a ski instructor and guide at Big Sky Montana and is on the current PSIA AASI National Alpine Inter-Ski Team. In addition, she holds her Wilderness First Responder certifications, her avalanche education and mountain expertise. Hold on, let me say that again too. In addition, she holds her Wilderness First Responder certifications and her avalanche education and mountain expertise has aided her in leading advanced women’s and youth specific clinics, training big mountain tactics, steep skiing technique, terrain management, and use and understanding of avalanche rescue gear. Brenna has also traveled to Africa as an educator and mentor for high school girls in a semester abroad program, teaching travel, journalism, and outdoor physical education. I’m excited to welcome Brenna to the show. Thanks for being here, Brenna.

Brenna Kelleher
Thank you, Anna. I’m excited.

Anna
Yeah, do you want to just before we jump in, cause usually I jump right into a question about the discomfort zone. Do you want to say anything about the, those acronyms? Cause it is, they just sounded like acronyms that I just read, but for folks who aren’t in the ski world, they, it’s very impressive. The level of ski coaching that you’ve achieved. Can you tell us just a little bit about what PSIA means?

Brenna Kelleher
That’s okay, it’s PSIAASI. Sometimes we just say PSIAAZI because it just, it gets too long. So the first part stands for Professional Ski Instructors of America, and then snowboarding became a thing, and snowboarders wanted to teach skiing as well, and the second part stands for the Snowboarding Organization. But basically what the organization is, is it’s an organization and accreditation program across the country that helps people get certified to teach snow sports activities across the country at a level that’s consistent. So my job in that realm is I’m on the national team, which is the pinnacle of teaching and part of my job is to travel around the country and work with different ski schools and make sure that the education we’re sharing is about motivation and continuing the sport of skiing and that all of their levels are accurate across the country rather than like not being accurate basically. So.

Anna
Yeah. That’s a, that’s a big job. I, you know, I’m involved with the American Canoe Association and I wish, well, we don’t have the resources that PSIA has. Um, but that like your job is, is awesome. I think what a, it’s incredible that PSA PSIA has that and have you, and can you talk about being on the national PSIA inner ski? Is it called inner ski team?

Brenna Kelleher
Yeah, so that’s the best part of being on the national team is every four years there’s a conference and it rotates internationally and anyone who belongs within the Innerski like last two inner skis, I was in Bulgaria and then Finland. Prior to that, they’ve been in Switzerland and Argentina. So it switches every four years and each country that hosts it basically has to host, I would say upwards of 30 different countries. So it’s a pretty big conference and it’s kind of like the meeting of the ski mines of the world, which is really fun. It does end up being a big party as well, as you can imagine.

Anna
That’s really awesome. And if I’ll give you, I know we’re jumping ahead, but you’ll want to check out Brenna’s skiing. She has awesome ski videos and I love carving and she has a lot of carving videos too. I know you do like powder is awesome and love me some good carving turns. So that’s what I’ll say.

Brenna Kelleher
I love that you love carving because most people are like, just show me where the steep stuff is. I’m like, well, there’s another thing, it’s called carving and it’s really fun. And as we lose more snow, we’re gonna want to all carve.

Anna
Right. Yeah. Good point. Well, I don’t know if you know this or remember this, but I, I alpine ski raced as a kid. That was like my first love in Quebec where I grew up or in between Ottawa and Montreal. So I skied in Quebec in the Laurentians. And so my first love was alpine skiing as a kid. So yeah, I know. I know.

Brenna Kelleher
I think I do remember that. That was a long time ago though, Anna. We met almost 20 years ago. Yeah.

Anna
It’s wild, isn’t it? Okay, so thanks for explaining all that to us. Essentially, Brenna is a badass at alpine skiing and instructing and instructor training and instructor trainer training. Excited to have her here. So I’m gonna jump into my first discomfort zone question. When I say discomfort zone, what comes up for you?

Brenna Kelleher
Um, sort of two different things. Fear and excitement.

Anna
Hmm. Say more about that.

Brenna Kelleher
So I would say the fear generally ends up being like, you know, there’s kind of two types of fear. I like to, I really like to talk about fear, especially when I coach people and how to manage fear. Cause when you get people in steep terrain, it’s more about like, how do they react? And then how do you get them to basically level out and perform the way you know they can perform? And fear,

There’s this fear that is kind of like the, ah, like the startled fear, right? That’s not really this deep, deep seated fear. And then there’s the fear that, you know, someone gets to where it’s panic almost, right? And then there’s the fear that if you can harness it, it’s the really good fear that helps aid in performance.

Anna
So say more about that. What is the fear? What does that look like that aids in performance? I love this.

Brenna Kelleher
So the one that aids in performance is the one that you’ve been able to either coach someone to navigate through, whether it’s using techniques like let’s use skiing because that’s my background. Obviously I have a kayaking background too, but I think kayaking is way more scary than skiing. But it’s more about like training the brain to match movement patterns that…

the skier will recognize as successful and start there. And then once that starts to work, the fear kind of goes away and it turns into more of like adrenaline, right? And once they start, and then it’s like, okay, they’ve started the first turn. We’re in this steep couloir. They’ve got the first turn. That’s the hardest turn.

I always tell people like if you can nail the first turn, if you can get through the first turn, you’re going to get the second turn, the third turn, the fourth turn, and it’s just going to build and get better because your confidence is going to build. And then the adrenaline is, it’s going to stay with you, but it’s going to be manageable. So like connecting a movement pattern, I think is really key to helping to control the mind and its, and its fear and not letting it go to the deep seated fear, which is like the outcome, the bad outcome. You can’t mentally picture that, because if you’re picturing that, then you’re probably gonna have that.

Anna
Yeah, well, and it can’t, and also the question is, can you recover from picturing that? Because my brain will often go to worst case scenario and I’ve learned to take a step back and catch myself when that happens. Like for instance, if I’m about to paddle going to a river that I’m nervous about you know, my mind might run through a few worst case scenarios and I have to stop myself and this is what I coach people on as well. Catch that. Like that’s not true for say, you know, you can say something like that’s not true for me. You can take a deep breath and be like, Oh, there’s that worst case scenario popping up. But I think a key too is being able to observe your mind, to observe yourself going there without being wrapped up in the feeling of going there. That makes sense.

Brenna Kelleher
Yeah, I 100% agree with you. And I love that you bring up the river because I think in the days when I paddled a ton and was really pushing myself, I often reference how I would run rapids to how I coach people on snow. Because I feel like running rapids, it’s kind of like skiing, except skiing you can stop.

When you’re running a rapid, you’re going with the flow of the river and you don’t get to stop. And so that’s sort of the management of your brain, right? And that flow state of having to sometimes react and hopefully react in a positive way rather than freeze and not react.

Anna
Yeah, it’s true.

Brenna Kelleher
So I really love that you bring that up because I look back on a lot of my kayaking days and go, Oh, that one was really scary. What did I do to manage that? How did I, uh, make it through that rapid? And sometimes it was total chaos. Like I operated better when I didn’t know. And I didn’t have as much information. And sometimes it was better when I knew every little detail, but I think more often than not, I operated in that, it was better if I didn’t know, because then I didn’t replay those scenarios in my head.

Anna
Yeah, I know there’s something where, to a certain extent, ignorance is bliss. Like, because when I first started kayaking, I didn’t understand all the risks. And then the more you do it, you definitely start to experience more situations, um, and that risk knowledge really grows. And then it, I don’t know, it’s for me. Uh, then there.

is more to be afraid of, you know, and with good reason. And at the same time, just because you want to have a healthy respect for the river, you know that stuff can happen. You still don’t want to let your brain, because as you say, if your brain is going to worst case scenario, and that’s where you live, then that’s probably what’s going to happen. Can you give an example like a

Uh, let’s say you were teaching a beginner cause you’re talking about movement patterns and you were talking about dropping into a couloir, which is super awesome. What about like, is there, cause now I’m really curious, how do you teach that to or coach that with beginner skiers or novice skiers, skiers who aren’t like dropping into big stuff, but are, you know, facing that fear.

Brenna Kelleher (12:56.582)
That’s the number one question, right? Like it’s fascinating because that fear that the first time skier has is the same as that fear that the person who’s dropping into a couloir for the first time has. It’s almost identical, but the danger level, the risk levels are different, right? So with first timers, it’s…

Anna
Yep.

Brenna Kelleher (13:23.95)
about creating positive outcomes, right? And building sensations that they can connect to when they’re on snow. It’s pretty rare that I’ve had beginners where we have not made it into turning within two hours. They’re usually able to make some turns, feel confident, stop and…

Brenna Kelleher
go and manage their speed, not perfectly, but it’s a different type of terrain, right? It’s flat terrain, so we’re able to manage that fear a little bit, but a lot of it is, okay, let’s take one step forward, now two steps back. One step forward, two steps back. So it’s like building on their success. And then they’re gaining confidence as well as repetition.

And I don’t, you know, it’s something that’s interesting because I don’t know if this is real or not. I haven’t done enough research, but I was with one of my clients who is a physical therapist and they were like, oh yeah, the body doesn’t have muscle memory because one day I was talking about muscle memory. And I’m like, okay, so, you know, the more times we do it, the more your leg muscles are gonna remember this. And this was like, I don’t know, I wanna say like five or six years ago. And she was like, no, they’re not. Your brain’s gonna remember it, but your muscles aren’t gonna remember it.

Anna
Right.

Anna
Yeah.

Brenna Kelleher
And I was like, that’s a really good point. I always talk about muscle memory, but really it’s our brain that we’re, we’re training and I mostly train adults and adults are the most challenging because it’s almost like we have to trick them into doing things, um, because they know the fear and the outcome, right? And men typically a little bit easier to coach women harder to coach because women are less of a doer generally, and I’m generalizing, it can be the total opposite sometimes, but mostly women will go to, if I fall learning how to ski this week, who is going to do the laundry, who’s gonna take the kids to school, I could break my leg, I could, you know, every worst case scenario goes through their head, whereas like men, it’s kind of like,

Yeah, let’s do this. What’s the worst outcome I fall?

So, and that’s general. I’m totally generalizing it. It can be the other way around too.

Anna
Yeah, definitely. Because I feel like I’m a doer for sure. Yeah. But I get what you’re saying. What I hear you saying is a lot of your clients, like, yeah, they’re moms. They have a lot of responsibility and as adults, we do have responsibility. I mean, I was thinking even that yesterday, mountain biking, uh, with Andrew went just for a fun mountain bike ride. And of course, like my brain goes to worst case scenarios. I’m like, you better not hurt yourself. Like you’re going into busy season right now, you know, for kayak instructing.

But yeah, so I’m not going to like go all out on my mountain bike. I like to meander anyways, I’m not that type of mountain biker, but I’m definitely thinking about that. And there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a matter of just taking one, knowing your priorities. And I think that it’s okay to have those priorities. Everyone’s different. And then working with those folks to find, like you said, some success.

Uh, of what they’re looking for. And it may not be that much, you know, they might be holding back because they are worried about other things in their lives and that might be okay. It’s like, you can accomplish what you can accomplish.

Brenna Kelleher
Yeah, and then you have the person that doesn’t have a concept of fear, right? And then I’m looking at them going, I’m scared for you right now, and we please manage this. And that kind of takes on a whole other tactic really. It’s kind of like tricking them into doing things and using terrain to aid in that so that it challenges them a little and then creates maybe a little bit of fear that’s like the good kind of fear where they’re like, oh, I should maybe back off here. I’m a little bit scared of this and now I know where my limit is.

Anna
Right. I want to go back to one thing you said right at the beginning that when I said, what do you think of when I say discomfort zone, you said fear and excitement. And you’re talking about like the good fear that helps us progress, that helps us with performance. And also I’ve heard it say that fear and excitement are just two sides of the same coin.

And we can actually, it depends on the lens that we’re looking through. And you see this, right? Because there are some folks who will look at one run and be like, Oh, I’m so excited to do it and someone else the same run. And they’ll be like, that scares the crap out of me. Right. And so, and then I also coach folks on, uh, Oh, the other thing that I’ve heard. And again, I haven’t done like deep research into this is that.

the body experiences fear and excitement kind of in the same way. Like it’s the same response in the body. And really it’s the mind that decides, oh, this is fear or this is excitement. And I think that’s an interesting concept because then I challenge myself and others to if there is fear to question, like is this fear or is excitement? Could I turn it into excitement by

changing my mindset here and, you know, asking myself what could go right, you know, what could really go right here and could it be fun.

Brenna Kelleher
like that you bring up, I think you are correct. I haven’t done a lot of research in this either, but I do know I’ve skied with so many people and it’s so interesting training the mindset and it can even just come from a coach too. Like that coach can change that person’s mindset so quickly.

they can look at something and go, I can never ski that. Or you show up and you read their body language and they’ve got the Elvis leg going on and it’s shaking and you’re like, oh, okay, you’re a little nervous. But if you can give them some words of encouragement and help in changing their mindset, that’s super important. But then like going back to our own mindset and like taking ourselves out of that comfort zone and training it, I often reflect on sensations that I remember that were good sensations. And this goes with kayaking, mountain biking, whatever sport you’re learning, skiing, but I think the bigger part of it is when we’re learning, we draw on sensations, and then when we have a good sensation, it’s so important to keep it and understand it and know where it came from and how you got it because that’s how we get better. And when I’m coaching people in skiing, a lot of times they’ll have these huge plateaus where they’re just like, yep, they learned so much because they’re in a period where there’s a lot to learn. But then when they want to get better technically and it’s a little bit harder to refine that technical knowledge, the learning curve suddenly starts to go like this, right? And that’s when I start to coach people.

Anna
Levels off.

Brenna Kelleher
Yeah, it levels off. And that’s when I start to coach people about the mental side even more than the physical side of like, when you feel something, and that sensation is right, and a coach or someone says that was it, it’s really important to reflect on what that felt like. And it could be like a movement, but it could just also be like our own energy, and what that mindset was.

Anna
Mm-hmm. Yeah. I love that.

It reminds me of when I’m coaching my clients on the water. I often have them do like moves with their eyes closed. And at first they think I’m crazy. I’m like, yeah, we’re gonna practice ferrying. So for those of you who aren’t paddlers listening, a ferry is crossing the current without losing too much ground. So if you see like animals crossing current, they usually go at an angle, right? So we teach that in whitewater kayaking.

And yeah, at first they’re like, you want me to close my eyes? Cause we’re so attached to trying to intellectualize everything and to reading the water, seeing what’s happening. But then if they close their eyes and they start to get the feel for what the current is doing to their kayak. And then they learn how to respond to that feeling. They develop better boat control because sometimes we’re looking at the current and the current is.

going and our eyes will see something that’s like not there. For instance, we’ll get scared because, oh, there’s a boil line or something. But that boil line isn’t actually doing anything to our boats. Like if we actually feel what’s happening in our boats, that boil line or that whatever it is wave isn’t really doing anything to us, but we’re thinking it’s going to that’s again, the mind. Whereas if we learn to feel just like what I’m getting, this is what I’m getting out of what you’re saying anyway.

we learn to feel what’s actually happening and those sensations, then we’re less likely to let our minds go, you know, kind of go crazy. And in kayaking, that feeling actually helps you work with the river way better than if you’re like only trying to intellectualize the river, so to speak. It’s cool.

Brenna Kelleher
Yeah, it’s like connecting to that flow state, right? Like where the river keeps on going and skiing, we can stop, but it is still the same thing. Like you wanna be able to link some turns and have some flow with it. And you know, that I really do believe mindset is one of the more important things.

Anna
Yeah. And also in skiing, in my experience, you know, there’s a, there is a, especially with carving, like there’s a sensation when the ski actually releases from the turn, you know what I mean? And like you’ve actually done a really effective carve. And I’m always trying to get that feeling back. In Western North Carolina, it’s kind of challenging, but it’s, but it happens.

Brenna Kelleher
What’s the vertical there? Like 600 feet? Ah.

They produce a lot of great skiers.

Anna
Do you enjoy putting yourself in your discomfort zone? Is that something you seek out?

Brenna Kelleher
I would say yes and no. And I used to love it way more. And now I think my discomfort zone has actually changed. I think some things are like, this sounds a little bit cheesy, but I feel like I’m pretty, like relationships can be a discomfort zone for me. Where, you know, I would much rather ski a challenging line. That makes way more sense to me than being in my relationship and being like, oh man, how do I talk to him about this? Whereas problem solving on the river or on a steep line is so much easier for me. And I also feel like lately, my discomfort zone has been more for other people.

Anna
Hahaha

Right.

Brenna Kelleher
and getting in, this must be like the past five years, but just getting them into more challenging terrain. I just know so much and I don’t want them to get hurt. I kind of want to protect them, but also coach them and know that they’re on this journey. But I just, I find that my discomfort zone has become more about making sure people are prepared before they enter that kind of train so that the outcome is positive. And then when I get people who just don’t care, I get really uncomfortable. And it’s hard to manage that because I can see the outcome being not so great and I don’t want that for them, but they can’t see it.

Anna
Right. Yeah, well, I think as any type of instructor leader in the outdoors, that is something that we come up against. Folks who have a hard time self-assessing, right? And don’t maybe understand the seriousness or the consequences that, or the risk of the environment.

especially relative to maybe their own skill and preparation, as you said. So what I hear you saying is that communication can be really uncomfortable. And I’m really glad you brought that up because I don’t think I’ve really talked very much about that with anyone else on the podcast so far, so far. And communication is so important and it is so hard for humans.

And it causes so much like suffering and miscommunication and drama when, you know, if we can be courageous and say what needs to be said, I’m not saying like, oh, I just straight, you know, I’m straight talking and I’m just gonna say whatever I want, cause that’s, you know, but actually, actually being thoughtful about what

like the hard things that need to be said, for instance, if you’re coaching a client and they want to run something like in kayaking that is just above their skill level, typically I try and ask a lot of questions and guide them in the self-assessment to where they make the right decision or an effective decision for themselves. So.

But, and communication in relationships is uncomfortable. But I think a lot of us think of, yeah, the discomfort zone as, well, actually a lot of folks on this podcast so far have mentioned other things other than like the adventure sport that they do as being uncomfortable. What is the most uncomfortable thing about communication for you? And how do you manage it?

Brenna Kelleher
I think oftentimes it’s not speaking up when I want to speak up or saying what I want to say when I think it should be said because I’m scared of what people will think. And I think that, oh, who knows where that stems from. It’s hard to say, but when you, I was just at this women’s summit that we hosted in Utah and we had a great team of women there and we had a panel and some of the women from the panel were CEOs of or general managers of ski areas and our organization and NSP etc. And one of the women said something that was really interesting. She said, you know, the question was what advice do you have to other women? She said don’t second guess what you need to say, just say it. Because sometimes it’s a missed opportunity. And I really, I reflected on that because that can be a huge discomfort zone for women in general. I don’t, I’m not gonna generalize men or women, but I don’t think we always say what we want to say and how we want to say it. We…

overanalyze how it should be said 10 times over and then maybe finally say it or maybe don’t say it at all and then wish you said it.

Anna
Yeah. I think that’s great advice and like important reflection because I think, and I’m, I am always, not always, I am surprised in some of the especially volunteer work that I do that how
there are leaders who are leading organizations who have a challenging time with difficult conversations so they don’t have them and then the culture of the organization is breaking down. Because when we don’t say what we want to say then other folks will fill the void, you know, for us or

Um, in our own minds, we fill, fill a void and we’re avoiding, and then we start blaming other people and trying to find evidence for, like, how can we put, we don’t want to say what’s so, so then we’ll make up some crazy story or find evidence of, does that make sense? Find evidence that will, uh, that why we shouldn’t say anything, but then if we just, if we took, if we had the courage, cause it takes courage.

to have difficult conversations and express what we want, express how we’re feeling, it would take less time. And yes, it would be uncomfortable and the conversation might be challenging and someone might even walk away feeling, I don’t know, frustrated at the time. And that took a lot less time than all the drama going on in your head or the culture breakdown. At least that’s what I see.

Brenna Kelleher
Yeah, it’s crazy. And that in and of itself, I can think of a number of times where I didn’t say something and I probably should have, and the result was not a positive result. And it led, when you think about the discomfort zone and it’s different for everyone. Everyone has a little bit…

I don’t know, I live in like the ski culture area. And I think about the discomfort zone a lot because everyone here is here to ski. They work in a ski town for a reason. Generally quite a bit younger, not a lot of people stay in the industry for a long period of time. But there’s been a lot of times where people don’t know how to live outside of the discomfort zone either.

Right? They are perpetually living in this discomfort zone. And I think that’s why it goes back to the first question you asked me is like, or one of the questions you said was, do you feel like you live, live more in the discomfort zone or when’s the last time you were in the discomfort zone? And I feel like I’ve tried to purposely taper off because I, it’s kind of like one of those things that you get addicted to a little bit.

And then when you live in that community and you see everyone around you, and it’s not judging at all, it’s how they wanna live their lives, but it can lead to other things if you don’t step up and say things like drug abuse or alcoholism or maybe a little bit of seasonal depression when the snow goes away and they don’t have it. And it’s a real, that discomfort zone, there’s like this line of

Anna
Right.

Brenna Kelleher
it, you know, and that’s why I say it’s adrenaline too. It’s the sphere and adrenaline. It’s all the combination of all these amazing feelings that when you accomplish something, you run a line or you ski something, you just kind of like feel this relief and all these endorphins kick in. But then the next step is, well, how can I get that again? And

Anna
Right.

Brenna Kelleher
Then it leads to doing it over and over and over again, or going, Oh, I can seek out some drugs or alcohol that can also provide that. So I don’t know. It, it’s, it’s an interesting area, discomfort and fear. And then leading that all into like communication of, you know, where, what is that level of communication that’s acceptable? And anyway, I think I went on a tangent there. You might have to edit that one.

Anna
No, I think it’s good. I think.

because there’s that in raft guide culture too, especially you hear it from like folks who are rafting on the green canyon, like multi-day guides, they’re on these amazing rivers every day for a whole season and then they get off and there’s a lot of seasonal depression and alcohol consumption. And it can definitely lead to mental health problems

mental health issues. So I think it’s something that’s important to talk about. I also think that…

Yeah, there’s so much we could, I mean, there’s so much we could talk about with that. But I think it’s good to bring it up and be aware. And there’s that awareness of, you know, why am I doing this? What’s important to me? And…

Yeah, not sure what else to say about that.

Brenna Kelleher
Yeah, is it the outcome, the feeling, the lifestyle? Because there is a lot of growth from being in that zone, right? There’s a lot of accomplishment and I personally love it. And I feel like almost every day I’m in it, whether I’m physically in it or I’m coaching someone through it, right? And there’s still growth when you’re coaching someone through it as well.

because you’re learning more about that person. And then, and talking about yourself. Yeah. So that can also be an addiction too. Like it’s the constant need for this. It’s like an affirmation really of energy that is constantly coming to you where it’s, it can be good, it can be bad, but it’s always this learning and it’s experiences, right?

Anna
And about yourself. Yeah.

Yeah, I have something where I actually get uncomfortable. I am comfortable leading. If I’m leading a group, it’s easy for me to be with people if I’m in that space. And sometimes if I’m not in a leadership role, I really don’t know what to do with myself sometimes if I’m in a group.

So that’s a really big, like it’s good for me to be aware of that and to put myself in groups where people don’t know my background in kayaking. They don’t, like I’m just another person in the group. And to me, that’s super uncomfortable because then I don’t have that like you know that.

like confidence, so to speak, like it strips away almost like the protective barrier that I can place around myself and around my ego, if that makes sense. So it’s really good to step into that. And I think the other thing that you mentioned about when folks like after skiing and ski season and there’s no more skiing, the other thing is

I’ve definitely done this in the past with my competition, kayak competition is collapsing my self-worth with my kayaking and my kayaking performance. And I think sometimes that is, it’s really important to have other things in your life, to know that your self-worth does not equate your performance on the mountain or on the river.

and that you have other things that you feel good about and that bring you joy.

Brenna Kelleher
It’s a really good way of wording it.

Anna
Yeah.

Brenna Kelleher
I would agree because it, uh, yeah. Knowing that you can walk away at the end, it’s weird. Cause you like the ski season is go, similar to the raft season. And then it just ends one day. Cause all the lifts shut down and it’s kind of like, whoa. And your community suddenly disperses and then you feel very alone and empty.

Anna
Right.

Brenna Kelleher
And it’s an interesting way to live a life, but you have to do so much work, so much work in order to not let that affect you. And then like you said, have other things that you do. And you went to something that you just said was really interesting about you’re really comfortable in the leading zone and I feel the same way and I get when I get into positions where I’m not the leader it’s a very um I don’t know I want I don’t want to say raw but like naked feeling where you’re like oh I don’t know what to do here I feel so uncomfortable my skin’s actually a little crawly uh and I did that I want to say two years ago

Anna
Yeah.

Brenna Kelleher
I decided I was going to try to learn how to kiteboard. And it’s funny to go take lessons from someone when you’re a lesson giver. And I felt so naked and I was hor- I’m still horrible. I’m still trying to learn the sport. And I’m like, wait a second, I’m so good at athletics. I know my body awareness and whatever, but am I overthinking it? But holy moly.

Anna
Oh yeah, for sure. Yeah.

Brenna Kelleher
It’s crazy to take lessons from someone else. And that’s a whole other level of. Comfort zone, discomfort zone.

Anna
Yeah, agreed, for sure. And I try to turn off my instructor mind too and go into the beginner mindset. Yeah, that’s, it’s a good practice. It’s a good practice. Yep.

Brenna Kelleher
It’s so hard, but then you start like comparing other sports and this sport and you’re like, come on, just focus on this sport.

Anna
Right. Just listen and focus and try and be open and find the gems and all that good stuff. Yeah. Yes.

There is one other thing that you said, and now I’ve lost it. Oh, the other thing that I think is really interesting that what we’ve been talking about is that not only is it important to have other things in life besides like the sport or whatever it is that you love so much is because as we age at some point,

it’s going to look different, right? Even like my kayaking, your kayaking or your skiing, I’m sure has shifted over the years. And a lot of the folks, well, I’ve interviewed also younger, like young paddlers and people, but I think that it changes. And that whole idea of growing old and

still like I think I want to be kayaking skiing for a long time and what is that going to look like I might have to give up some things that I really enjoy now or maybe not I don’t know but it’s I might be going on a tangent but that just came to mind.

Brenna Kelleher
I like where you’re going with it though, because it’s kind of like, I don’t know, when you’re younger, I always thought a kayak commander should be like, oh, that person’s old. I mean, they’re in their 30s, they’re old. And now I think about it now and I’m like, well, I’m in my 40s now. I’m going to be 41 in like four days. I’m the old person. And I was sitting next to a fellow ski instructor of mine at the resort. We’ve been teaching together for, I don’t know, like 15 years or whatever. And we were sitting in the chairs just watching the young, young kiddos walk by. And I looked at her, I’m like, we are not the young people anymore, are we? And she’s like, nope, we’re the old people. Like, we just need a gin and tonic here now. We can be the crotchety old instructor ladies. It’s not like 40s old, but it was just hilarious because we were sitting there going…

Anna
Ha ha!

Yeah, totally.

That’s awesome. No, right.

Brenna Kelleher
Wow, if we were younger, we were calling us old, so.

Anna
Oh, for sure. Yeah, yep. Yeah, that’s awesome.

Brenna Kelleher
But I do want to be, it’s like you said, I think it’s so important that discomfort zone, I think is what helps keep us young too. And people who don’t live in that zone ever. I don’t think it does anything to help. I don’t want to say that because I’m not a doctor, but it’s just, and it’s personal opinion, but it keeps your mindset young and your mindset in…

Anna
Agreed.

Brenna Kelleher
pushing your body to continue to push your body to stay healthy and stay fit and be able to do this as long as possible.

Anna
Yep, agreed. I think, and I think the science does show that the discomfort zone is the zone for growth and learning. And that could be growth in a skill and learning of a skill. It can also be growth and learning about yourself, about life, about what’s important to you. And yeah, and about what you’re passionate about, what you love. And I do think that helps to keep us young.

Brenna Kelleher
It’s funny because I was thinking, I think your first question was like, how often do you live in the discomfort zone? I was like, I don’t, I don’t feel like I live much there anymore, but I think it’s actually more than I realize. Um, because like every day I’m like, okay, gotta go get my mountain bike ride in. Okay. Got to go ride my horse. Okay. Got to go run the river. All right. Now I gotta go ski. And that actually turns out that that’s a lot of discomfort zone areas. And there are a lot of the experiences and then you kind of start to wonder when does it not become a discomfort zone, right? Like it’s, it’s okay. So it’s an active sport, it’s experience. You’re out there doing it and anything could go wrong. Like the bike, I could be downhill mountain biking and the, I could hit a rut wrong and flip over the handlebars. And then I’m really going to be in a discomfort zone, um, physically. But then you start to wonder like, but you didn’t hit that rut, you had a great time, and it was endorphins that pushed you through. Um, but when do you, when, when is it, when does that not a discomfort zone? Right? Like you start doing it all the time. Is it, or do you just keep, does that discomfort zone just keep changing and elevating?

Anna
Yeah. Well, I don’t know about elevating, but like things shift, like our mindset shifts, like different priorities. This is just for me. I can, I should just talk, speak for myself, but, and then if you, you know, I don’t want to paddle. I haven’t wanted to paddle class five in several years, but I love class four and I’m still getting that discomfort there. And then if I’m on and even like on the river, like the Gali or the green that I’ve paddled so much.

It’s so fun. Like I wouldn’t kayak if I didn’t get that little adrenaline, if I didn’t have that discomfort, like that’s what keeps drawing me back to it. Cause as you said earlier, it’s fear, it’s excitement, it’s feeling accomplished. It builds confidence. Like there’s so much goodness that comes from the discomfort zone. And a lot of times I’m like, why am I doing this? I’m scared. Why do I keep doing this to myself? And the answer is cause there’s so much goodness at the end of the day.

You know?

Brenna Kelleher
It was funny last year I did a mountain bike race and, uh, I have not ever done a mountain bike race and nor have I ever wanted to, but my friend convinced me to do it and I was like, okay, it was 30 miles and it was something like 4,500 vertical, right? And I was like, okay, I think, you know, that’s like in my head, I was like, okay, that’s like doing two of these rides that I do all the time. And then.

Anna
Yeah.

Brenna Kelleher
Uh, it was, the ride was horrible. It like rained, it was muddy. There were puddles everywhere. So the track became extra hard and that 30 miles felt like 60 miles. And that 4,500 vert felt like 8,000 vert because it felt like you were doing twice the amount of pedaling. And I started thinking to myself on that bike ride, like, this is a discomfort zone. I don’t like doing this. Why am I doing this? Why did I sign up for it?

But that’s like the other side of it is that’s the physical body push, right? Like, and then it goes into the brain where it’s more the mental push to complete it because you don’t wanna not complete it. And that can be an uncomfortable feeling when you’re in the middle of something and going, I just wanna quit right now.

Anna
Right.

Yeah.

Brenna Kelleher
I didn’t quit, but I wanted to really bad.

Anna
Yeah. Well, and then there’s the, yeah, then what there, oh gosh, there’s so much to unpack. Unpack there. Like what keeps us going? Like ego. And I say, like sometimes the ego is great. Like I like that ego keeps pushing me to run certain rapids, to keep up my skills, to be at a certain level, because I want to be someone who paddles at that level. You know, you want to be someone who finished that mountain bike race. Like, you know, that’s important. And you know,

Brenna Kelleher
Yeah.

Anna
I coach folks in that it’s good, like you need to stop. If you really need to stop, it’s to your point about communication. You gotta say what needs to be said. Sometimes you do need to set your ego aside and be like, this is too much for my body, or it’s too much for my nervous system. I’m going to hurt myself and not in a like, oh, I’m just gonna be sore and can’t walk the next day. It’s more like, I know I’m gonna really hurt myself. Right, so there’s that balance of…

You know, empower yourself. It takes courage. It’s like, it takes courage to walk a rapid as much as it takes courage to run a rapid. This is kind of like what we’re talking about, you know? So yeah. I hear you. Okay. Do you have a question? Any questions for me?

Brenna Kelleher
Yeah, that’s exactly it. And there were times where I should have walked a rapid.

Yes, and I forgot them. I had them, I especially had one right at the beginning. I was like, I have to remember to ask that at the end. That would be a really good one. But I guess what would be

Anna
That’s okay.

Brenna Kelleher
what would be the next kind of sport you would want to learn that you’ve been curious about, but you’re also like a little bit scared of, but you’re like, I think I could do this. Or is there, or are you kind of like tapped out on sports?

Anna
No, while I’m in it right now, like a standup paddleboard surfing is that for me? Because I don’t get to, so it’s not a sport that I haven’t done before, but I don’t get to do it often at all. I was on a, and I got introduced to it later in life and I was.

Uh, spending a lot more to, there was a time when I was really in, I still coached standup paddle boarding. Um, but I was really doing a lot more camps. And so I had, I was around breaks more beginner breaks and was doing that a little more, and then for the last five years, five years for the last. Not five years, but anyways, for the last few years, I didn’t get, uh, much standup paddle board surfing in at all. And.

So, actually I booked Andrew and myself into a standup paddleboard camp in January this year in Costa Rica and it was really awesome. And I loved being a client. Like I was a client, I run trips all the time. I rarely go on like trips and it was great. Someone was, we had meals, we had coaches, we had our own coach, they loaded the boards. It was fantastic and it’s really,

Brenna Kelleher
That’s cool.

Anna
I’m like, I’m going to do it.

Cause he would be like, it’s you’re going right. It’s a lefty this time, you know? And it was so great, but that’s how I’m, and I’m starting to recognize and getting better at it. But I love, I love being in the ocean. It’s foreign, right? It’s learning the currents, learning the waves. So I’m, I really love it. And I just love surfing, just like I love freestyle kayaking cause I love surfing waves. There, I love being able to catch waves and.

At some point I’d like to be able to do a really good bottom turn and top turn. Like that would be my goal. I would be like happy in life. So that is, yeah, to answer your question and actually revisiting skiing, we made the choice to spend a winter in Fernie and BC, um, two winters ago, because I hadn’t spent a full winter skiing in a long time and I honestly don’t have a lot of, uh,

experienced skiing powder because I grew up on the East Coast and racing was big. And so yeah, learning how to ski powder and skiing like steeper stuff and like shoot like small shoots like and like traverses on my skis where you’re going fast and it’s terrifying. So that was that was super fun. So it was a sport that I already do and I have quite a bit of

And there is the whole learning curve of like terrain. And I still don’t love tree skiing. I don’t like the idea of tree wells. I’m just, give me a big, a bowl, like an open bowl with nice powder. I’m happy, or even a groomer on my carving skis. You know, so.

Brenna Kelleher
I can help you with those things.

Anna
Yes, I know. I have to come visit you and go skiing with you. But yeah, those are my sports.

Brenna Kelleher
What, okay, I do have another question. What’s something you wish you could let go of?

Anna
Hmm, that’s a good question.

I wish I could let go. There’s two things. One is my fear of disappointing people because it causes me to, that’s, my fear of disappointing people is what causes me to overextend myself and to over schedule myself and to like get myself into things where I’m like, why am I doing this? Why did I agree to this? And I always talk about boundaries and coaching my clients around boundaries. And for the most part, I’m good until it’s like, if I feel like someone is gonna be disappointed in how I show up or something. And I’m not a caregiver to be honest. Like I don’t have to worry. It’s funny because Andrew and I joke, we’re both not caregivers. So if one of us is sick, we know the other one is just gonna be like, deal with it, you know? So I don’t get sucked into caring for people, but I do get sucked in like if, I feel like someone has an expectation of me sometimes.

And the other piece of that is letting go of always trying to do the right thing. Cause there is no right thing, you know? So those, that’s good questions, Brenna. Thanks. I have rapid fire questions for you.

Brenna Kelleher
Yeah.

I think I’m ready. I think. It’s all right.

Anna
Okay. What’s a morning ritual that sets you up for success?

Brenna Kelleher
English breakfast tea with my own honey from MyBees and a little bit of milk.

Anna
Ooh, nice. That sounds awesome.

Brenna Kelleher
I’m a weirdo, I now travel with honey.

Anna
Oh, I love it. Non-negotiable self-care practice. What’s your non-negotiable self-care practice?

Brenna Kelleher
practicing how to say no more often.

Anna
Mmm. Love it. Okay, what’s your favorite motivational book or talk?

Brenna Kelleher
Uh, well, a good friend of mine just gave me the book, Living the Best Day Ever by Henry Cotease. I think that’s how you say his last name and, um, Coatsie. Yeah. And I always knew his story. It was a great story, but Holy smokes, he’s an amazing writer. And it was really cool to read some of the things that he, well, you know, follow his thought process.

It has a lot to do with this discomfort zone, that’s for sure.

and then maybe being like in it too much. So that’s been at the forefront of my mind.

Anna

Gotcha. What do people get wrong about you?

Brenna Kelleher
that I’m actually nice.

Like most people, I have a very like stoic face and a lot of people are pretty scared of me, especially in the locker room. And so I’ll go have a beer with people and be like, oh my god, you’re actually really nice. I was so scared of you. I’m like,

Anna
Okay, so they get wrong about you that you’re not nice. Like they think that you’re not nice or not. They’re intimidating.

Brenna Kelleher
Yeah, yeah, they think I’m just, you know, I have that resting negative looking face that people are intimidated by. And I’m like, well, I’m actually a nice person. I just maybe I’m actually maybe a little bit shy when I’m not the leader or social situations that get a little shy. And I kind of like go into my own self. But I am a nice person.

Anna
Hehe

Anna
Right?

Anna
Yeah, you just don’t know sometimes.

Okay, throughout the course of your life, have you been the underdog or the favored to win?

Brenna Kelleher
I think I’ve been in both. Both. Oh, well, I have a little sister that was on the U.S. ski team, so I don’t know. Maybe I always thought I was the underdog trying to chase her, but I do think I’ve been in both categories at different times.

Anna
Right?

Anna
Yeah. OK, hard moves in easy water or flooding?

Brenna Kelleher
Hmm.

Sometimes I like both. I know I can’t, I would say I like flooding because I enjoy chaos and trying to manage chaos, but I like hard moves and easy water because I also like perfection.

Anna
Yeah.

Anna
That’s scary. Perfection is super scary. I have that because, okay, here’s a great, I know we’re in rapid fire, but I’ve got, one of the best definitions of perfection I’ve heard is perfection is when things are the way they are and are not the way they are not.

Brenna Kelleher
I know. Super scary.

Anna
That’s a good contemplation. Okay, one word that describes what your comfort zone looks like.

Brenna Kelleher (
Yep, it is. I’m thinking about it already.

Brenna Kelleher
I might have to say, uh, chaos. I don’t know why.

Anna
That’s awesome. No, no, you’re not the first person on this podcast that has said that. It’s really interesting.

Brenna Kelleher
I just, when I, and maybe it’s something I need to work on, but I thrive when I have too many things to do, and that’s why I’m still working on trying to say no. And I just feel like when things start to slow down, I don’t feel like as successful or something, I don’t know. So I feel more comfortable when I’m constantly running around doing things. I’m like, all right, Brandon, just sit down and have a cup of tea.

Anna
Yeah, I hear you.

Anna
Yeah. Yeah, that sounds like a good contemplation that you’re on there with that. Okay, freedom through discipline or I do what I want.

Brenna Kelleher
Oh, I really like to do what I want.

Anna
Okay, one word that, in one word, what do you hope your legacy will be?

Brenna Kelleher
Pay it forward.

Anna
Mm. That’s great. It’s yeah, it’s a good one though.

Brenna Kelleher
I don’t know, it’s not one word, but I really want people to be able to, the world to be a better place for people to be able to be motivating each other and take on the same thing that I’ve taken on.

Anna
Hmm. Love it. Is there anything else you want to tell our listeners?

Brenna Kelleher
I don’t know, just think about that book, Live Your Best Day Ever. Every day, like try to just see the good and go outside. You don’t have to go into nature to just like, you don’t have to do something epic, but just go outside. Go listen to the birds, you know.

Anna
Yep, agreed. Let’s get advice. Where can people connect with you, Brenna?

Brenna Kelleher
Well, I have every social media platform except for Snapchat. I’m pretty sure. Oh, and I don’t have whatever it is. X. Um, so if you just look up Brenna Kelleher on Instagram, Facebook, uh, what are they all now threads? Sure. All those meta platforms, right? My email is kelleherbrenna at gmail. Everywhere.

Anna
I’m going to put it in the show notes. Okay. Sweet. I’ll put all that in the show notes. So. I really appreciate you taking the time today, Brenna. It was great conversation. I loved. I will, for me, I hope other folks who are listening loved it. Cause I loved all we we’ve done so many things into this conversation. That actually we haven’t covered. I haven’t covered yet with other guests. So I thought that was super cool. A little deeper. You know, we got into some cool stuff. So thank you for bringing that to this conversation. I really appreciate you.

Brenna Kelleher
Well, you’re welcome, and I’m glad you thought of me.