Kristin Hedstrom: On Not Being Normal - From Olympian to Entrepreneur

The Olympian and eight-time National team member, Kristin Hedstrom started a private personal training business in the San Francisco Bay Area. As a member of Team USA, she competed in the 2012 Olympics and won six international medals. When Kristin's not strategizing about business, you can find her working out, traveling the world, or making delicious food in the kitchen.

I had to laugh when the call timer on my phone clicked past the one hour and forty minute mark. I’d been trying to fix a payroll issue with my accounting service and we still hadn’t reached a resolution. As I waded through terms I barely understood and tax processes I didn’t know existed, I couldn’t help but think how the hell did I get here and why don’t people teach you this stuff?! 

Needless to say, I never thought I’d be an entrepreneur (and I swear not all days are like that!). But then again, I never thought I’d be an Olympic athlete, either. In my head, I always liked the idea of a “normal” life: graduate college, get a 9-5, commute to the office, and settle down. But in practice, I could never convince myself to do it. 

In many ways, my path to the National Team set me up perfectly to start my own business. In rowing, representing Team USA required winning Trials every spring. Since the only thing that mattered was crossing the line first at that race, our NGB didn’t regulate where I trained, who my coach was, or who I rowed in a boat with. Often times, I’d even write my own training plan. Don’t get me wrong: I had massive help from coaches, teammates, and supporters. But ultimately I was my own boss – and my teammates were their own bosses, too. 

By the end of my fifteen-year rowing career, this “figure it out yourself” approach felt like no big deal. Like many Olympians and Olympic hopefuls, I was comfortable working hard for a very long-term goal and banking on my own hard work to get there. And more importantly, I understood that I didn’t have to know all the answers right away. I learned that if I studied the sport, followed my intuition, and stayed aggressive in my approach, things often worked out the way I wanted them to. 

When I finally switched to the working world full-time, I had a choice of whether to apply for “real” jobs or to create my own. I felt the same way I did after college when all my friends went into normal jobs and I signed myself up for this crazy ride called elite rowing. Was I really going to sign up for another crazy ride? 

I went back and forth but when it came down to it, I couldn’t find a good reason not to go the entrepreneurship route. I now own a fitness business specializing in personal training and mentoring. In the final three years of my rowing career, I’d been working as a trainer to support myself, so I already had some experience when I started out. More importantly, I had a good handle on what my target market was looking for. 

So far, I’ve loved it. It’s flexible: I get to work whatever days and hours I want and take as much or as little vacation as I want (which, by the way, doesn’t necessarily mean I take more vacation than most people!). It’s creative: I used to study rowing and come up with new ways to improve and now I’m studying my client base to figure out how to better serve their needs. It’s challenging: owning a business requires learning a lot of varied skills. On most days, I have my eyes on both the big, long-term picture, my mid-term goals, and the day-to-day tasks. It’s fun: my aim is to be the best part of my clients’ days, which means I’m always having fun, too. 

Much like rowing, I’m not sure where this path will ultimately take me, but I have a feeling it’s going to be awesome. I won’t pretend that every day is neat and tidy. Realistically, I feel like I’m splashing around like a novice rower on many of my days. But in the end, I wouldn’t trade what I’m doing for a normal life. At least not yet.

For more information on Kristin Hedstrom and her business, follow her on Facebook and Instagram.