Posted On:
Tuesday, July 14, 2020
Updated On:
Tuesday, July 18, 2023

Coach Tip Tuesday: It's Only Heavy if You Pick It Up

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A picture of a massive boulder.  It is red and sitting to the right in the picture against a backdrop of desert and clear skies.

It’s Coach Tip Tuesday!

Talk to any human on this planet right now, ask them how they are, and you will probably get some variation of “I’m feeling stressed” or “I’m unmotivated” or “I don’t know what to do.”

Truly, there is a lot of fear and anxiety going around out there.  Some people talk about it more than others do, but most folks have experienced emotions that have caused them to feel at least nervous since the pandemic started.  The most common theme I’ve heard from folks is that they are anxious over the uncertainty about the future.  Anecdotally, I think that anxiety over the future definitely seems to be at an all-time high, or at the very least, the highest it’s ever been in my lifetime.

I recently a story that I’d like to share with all of you:

One day, a monk and two of his disciples were walking through a field when they came across a giant boulder. The monk asked the disciples, “Is this boulder heavy?” Unsure whether they heard the monk correctly, the disciples asked, “What?” “Is this boulder heavy,” the monk asked again. The disciples looked at each other and answered, “Yes, this boulder is very, very heavy.” The monk looked at his disciples, smiled, and said, “Only if you pick it up.”

“Only if you pick it up.”

That one line really resonated with me.  I’ve encouraged a similar thought process without this exact language throughout the pandemic, and truly, throughout any of the relationships I’ve had with athletes over the years.  When I say it, it usually sounds something like, “Aim to control the controllables” or “Just because someone else is nervous doesn’t mean that you have to be” or “Stay in your own lane.”  But “only if you pick it up” might be the best lesson I’ve heard yet.

Right this very moment, COVID-19 and the resulting pandemic/worldwide government response to it represents a massive boulder of uncertainty in each of our lives. However, you don’t need to pick it up. You can just leave it.

Let’s be clear.  I am absolutely not saying that we should “not pick up” the coronavirus and pretend that it doesn’t exist.  The coronavirus does exist.  It is a very real thing, and we should all be taking wise and proper precautions to reduce the risk of transmission, both within our inner circles and then to the community-at-large.  As humans who share the planet with other sentient beings, we do have a social responsibility to show kindness and respect to our fellow humans, even if we will never meet most of them.

However, once we have done what we personally can to reduce our risk and to make responsible preparations, it’s okay to just be. It’s okay to choose not to pick up any additional uncertainty. Attempting to move or change this boulder of uncertainty is very wasted energy. And yes, this does boil down to a choice. We can make a choice about what rents space in our brains, and we, as sentient, intelligent beings (that’s part of our biology! :) ) do actually have a choice as to what weight/boulders will travel with us every day.

Once you’ve done what you can do, it’s okay to do things that bring you joy.  Read a book.  Go for a walk.  Play with your kids.  Call a friend and have a real conversation.  Look to the sky and check out Comet NEOWISE before it departs for the next 6,500 years.  Re-watch a favorite movie.  Make a batch of cookies.  It’s okay if you are not constantly worrying about what is going on in the world-at-large.  You don’t need to pick up the anxiety and fear that others are experiencing and take it on as your own.  If you do, it definitely will feel very heavy.

I encourage you to acknowledge the boulders in your life.  They are there.  It’s even helpful to name them.  But we don’t need to pick them all up.  Sometimes, it’s totally okay to just let them sit and be things that we see, recognize, and either co-exist with or let fade into the background “noise” of all of the other things that we manage on a daily basis.

It’s only heavy if you pick it up, folks.  So be mindful about what you are choosing to pick up. :)


Coach Laura Henry

Laura Henry is a Syracuse, NY-based coach who is a USA Triathlon Level II Long Course and Level II Paratriathlon Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 2 Certified Coach, VFS Certified Bike Fitter, and has successfully completed NASM's Certified Personal Trainer course. Coach Laura is passionate about helping athletes of all ability levels reach their goals and has coached many athletes to success.

She can be reached at

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