"Once we know WHAT we are trying to create and WHY we we are trying to create it, the HOW becomes obvious. And not only that, we are propelled to take action because we feel so inspired and creative. It takes lots of clarity to get to this point and finding clarity is a big part of the work I do."
~ Heidi Shaner
I really only wanted to teach group exercise. It is absolutely what I love to do the most. And because of how I was raised, I believed that I could make a career out of doing what I love. I started teaching in 1997. Now fast forward to 2017 and I still haven’t given up. I’ve always believed that life is about experience, that you should do what you love for work, and that you should challenge all the traditional ways of living.
I have this belief system because of how I was raised. My parents left their traditional Jewish home in Brooklyn, NY and moved to a commune in West VA. That’s where I was born. They both grew their hair long, experimented with lots of things, and lived without plumbing. My mom planned to have me at home with a midwife but when she went into labor, something came out ahead of me and the midwife panicked. She decided it would be best to get my mom to the hospital. Unfortunately, the back up vehicles had been driven away by people who were in some altered states. They shoved my mom into a VW bug and whisked her off to the hospital passing the ambulance on the way. The only doctor at the hospital didn’t speak English but somehow, I was born and thus began my alternative life.
When I was a growing up, my parents would have potluck dinners on Sunday nights with lots of friends and music and I would yell down to them from upstairs to be quiet because I needed to study. Yep it was like that. I did everything: gymnastics, dance, lacrosse, soccer, drama, girl scouts, yearbook, student council…..I was always driven to accomplish goals and no one in my family knew where I got that. But I only saw success. If I set my mind to something, I achieved it because why not?
I think I was like this partly because I grew up with 2 brothers. I was less concerned with socializing and being pretty than I was with being active. We were outside all the time. I was rough like them and not afraid to try new things and get dirty. I also have the exact same sense of humor as a 14 year old boy…..sad but true. Anyway, I was unstoppable.
I decided to go to my hometown college UVA even though I got into William and Mary because I didn’t want to leave my boyfriend at the time and I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I studied Liberal Arts and then decided that I wanted to make movies. I transferred to RISD and studied film. The only exciting part about being in art school and studying film was riding my bike by the river and through the graveyard. Everyone there was super unhealthy, pulling all nighters, drinking Diet Coke, and smoking cigarettes. I just wanted to be outside. I actually dropped out of RISD on a furniture making class in Costa Rica and spent the rest of the time traveling with my friend. See what I mean about not doing things the way you’re “supposed” to?
After that, I moved into a cabin in the woods with a couple of friends and a few dogs and we went camping and hiking a lot. I worked on an estate in the orchard, the vegetable garden, the orchid conservatory, and the Japanese garden. I was so happy to be outside but I couldn’t live on $7/hour and I knew I needed to finish school.
I ended up getting my degree from MBC through the adult degree program in Art History. What do you do with a degree in Art History? Pack up your Toyota truck and your dog, Violet, and move out to Taos, NM. When I got there, I felt landlocked because I had always lived in a coastal state so there was only one thing to do. Go to the water.
So I drove to Malibu, CA and lived in a shed and worked at a coffee shop and a ceramics place and was so happy because I found my people and my climate but I missed home. I moved to Sebastapol with a surfer and then decided I had to get back to the east coast.
This time, I was determined to figure out what to do with my life. I researched the ideal career and ended up thinking that being a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist was perfect for me. I could be active, social, smart, and helpful so I got my Masters Degree at VCU and then discovered the only places that employed CTRS’s were nursing homes and hospitals. No thanks. Back to the drawing board.
Meanwhile, I started teaching group exercise classes and wished that I could do that 8 hours per day. I eventually got into group exercise management and personal training because I wanted to make a full time career working in the fitness industry. Oh and by the way, I had two boys while I was finishing my masters degree….at home….because you know me.
Raising my boys became more important to me than building my career so I put my dreams on hold and stayed home with them until they started school. When they started school, I started working full time and I that I was not cut out for a traditional job. I left my full time job with all the benefits and security to pursue my passion once again. I started my own training business.
When I got into personal training, I discovered that no amount of teaching people about exercise or nutrition was really going to deeply transform someone if they weren’t also working on their emotional health. I started pursuing personal development and trying to gather those types of skills so that I could truly help people on a deeper level. I didn’t know until recently that this career is called Life Coaching. WOW! Finally!
Meanwhile, my family life was hitting the rocks big time. It was abusive but not in the traditional sense. It was mostly like we’d be eating dinner and then my husband would get angry and slam his fist on the table and yell or throw something at the wall. I used to pray that he would hit me and leave a mark so I could prove that the abuse was real and then I could get help. Not a happy time.
We usually fought about my oldest son because he had no regard for authority and my husband took that very personally. When I took him to get tested in 4th grade, he was diagnosed with Aspberger’s and got special education after that. I was in the school every week to take him home for behavior issues through 8th grade. In 8th grade, he bit a teacher’s arm who had him in a head lock restraint and got kicked out of school. He had to be homeschooled for the 2nd half of that year. He ended up in a private school with kids who had been in juvie. So anyway, we got through all that. He’s an incredible kid who amazes me every day with his insight. But just add that to all the other stresses and you get a picture. Anxiety, fear, and drama are the themes for this phase.
We spent a chunk of our marriage completely ignoring each other. He slept on the couch. We were like roommates. Meanwhile, he drank every day. But I didn't recognize the alcoholism because I was raised by people who were often in an altered state. Then I made a decision to make our marriage work no matter what. I didn’t want to break up my family. I didn’t know how I could support us or where we’d live so I got us therapy, I issued ultimatums, we did parenting classes together, I was nice to him for the first time. We started sailing. That was fun except for the dramatic physical blowouts and the hungover Sundays. I loved our boat. But the abuse didn’t stop.
Finally, I decided that I would do whatever it took to have peace at home. After 15 years, I left. We went to live with my dad, then we moved into a 2 bedroom apt, then finally a 3 bedroom. After we left, it was the worst it’s ever been. I lived on fear. I lost my job. I got PTSD. I lost a lot of weight. I couldn’t sleep. I got referred to a trauma therapist.
I didn’t know this girl. I’ve never been afraid or unable to take care of myself. These events left me feeling hollow and broken and desperate. I lost that confident girl who would conquer any challenge and go after what she wanted. So what happened next was that I rebuilt myself almost from scratch because I had to. I went deep into therapy, energy work, life coaching events, self help books, you name it, I tried it. I knew I had to heal myself. I learned to recognize triggers. I learned to set boundaries. I learned some discernment skills and developed some filters.
I connected with people on a deeper level than I ever had before and that’s when I realized that that was the blessing in all of it. I am able to help people in this way because of what I have worked through myself, because I have been in the lowest, most hopeless place. I also experience gratitude like I’ve never experienced before.
For the first time in our lives, we had peace at home. And that was worth everything I ever went through. Meanwhile, I teach my classes, train my clients, facilitate coaching sessions, and raise my boys. Needless to say, I’ve learned a little something about insanity, drama, clarity, narcissism, boundaries, substance abuse, the law, relationships, overcoming obstacles, faith, connection, and pulling myself and my family out of the depths of hell. And it is my life mission to share what I’ve learned to help others.
Heidi Shaner is a Life Coach trained by Robbins Madanes Strategic Intervention Center, the official coach training school of Anthony Robbins with a Master's Degree in Therapeutic Recreation. She discovered life coaching through her work in the fitness industry and her own personal experiences. She has been a group exercise instructor since 1997 which led her to a full time career in fitness. She began personal training in 2008 and quickly realized that she needed more skills than fitness and nutrition to help people transform on a deeper level. She learned about life coaching and discovered that that was truly her calling.
Heidi brings a unique approach to life coaching due to her extensive work with physiology. Her approach is holistic, incorporating mind, body, and soul. Because of her personal experience, she is gifted at helping people uncover their self limiting beliefs and create new empowering ones. She also helps people discover their life mission and sources of creativity and inspiration.
Spend some time one on one with Heidi to learn what she can do specifically for you!