Strength is a mindset

For Barbara Berko, strength is a way of life.

It’s how she shows up for her family — her husband Kevin, whom she met while running cross-country in college, and their four active children, Caleb, Camille, Carson and Canaan.

It’s how she pushes herself as a runner, committed to doing the work and embracing the journey.

It’s how she connects with others, including the Her Whole Story community. She’s a #FFCrew original, having discovered Fellow Flowers at the Gazelle Girl Half Marathon in 2013, and she is a consistent presence in leadership, inspiration and support.

And each message and mantra of the Strength flower holds special meaning. Barbara shares more … 

How did you first connect with the red flower? How did it become yours?

The red flower was the first flower ever gifted TO me. After giving many flowers and flowering it forward to friends and even complete strangers, this was the first time that I had ever received one. The card that came with it read: “The love, passion, commitment and spirit you have for running is truly inspiring.” There was power in hearing what this friend saw in me! 

What is your personal definition of strength?

Strength is a mindset.

For me, strength is less about a physical state and more about a state of being. Strong doesn’t necessarily need to be about lifting a heavier weight or running a faster time, although it can be. It may mean living a life that fulfills you and brings you joy! And that looks different for everyone.

When you are in your strength, how do you feel? What are you doing?

When I am in my strength, I feel empowered and unstoppable. I am doing something that I love!

Let’s dig into the words of the red flower. We’d love to know what each line means to you.

Love. Warrior spirit, determined heart.

I have BIG emotions and wear my heart on my sleeve. Those who really know me, know that I’m a crier … happy, sad, proud, you name it. When I am overcome with emotion, the tears just flow and there’s nothing I can do to stop it. Wearing your heart on your sleeve can be a superpower. It’s all in how you look at it!

Caring for the world around me. 

It fills my heart with JOY to support and encourage others as they chase a goal or pursue a dream!

A passion unrelenting. 

Early morning alarms and o’dark thirty runs are not exactly glamorous, but that’s what it takes to go after our goals and dreams. And running is so much more than just physical exercise. It’s good for mental health, too. The runner’s high is real!

What’s more, in following your passion, you are setting an example for those around you. In my case, that’s my children. They may not come to all my races, but they do see the work I’m putting in and learning that it’s good to do something for yourself that fills you up. It instills in them the value of hard work and I see it paying off in their lives, too.

Ready for the challenge, unshakeable in my commitment. 

When I commit to something, I am ALL IN. There is no halfway. 

Grit; earned through effort … because I said I would. 

Five years ago, I ran the Los Angeles Marathon and wrote the final chapter in a book twenty years in the making. As with many things in life, the unexpected became my reality that day and I needed to dig deep to find the courage and strength to carry on. Everything I did in the year leading up to the LA Marathon was dedicated to that one moment in time. I followed my coach’s plan. I got enough sleep. I fueled my body. I gave up alcohol. I was focused and I was ready.

The race plan: Go out, find my pace and settle in. With 20,000 runners on the course, the first 5K was slower than I expected, but not so far off that I couldn’t make the time up later. At some point during the next 5K, I began to struggle and noticed that my heart rate was way too high. I chalked it up to the hills, walked a bit and pressed on. I could still reach my goal time. By the 10K mark, I had come to the realization that this was not going to be the race I had envisioned. I needed to listen to my body and adjust my plan to finish. I slowed my pace, put a smile on my face, took it all in and crossed that finish line with my hands held high.

Take me to my limit and watch me work. 

Show up for yourself! Put yourself out there and ask for help if you need it. Get out of your own head and step out of your way. Amazing things will happen!

Bringing it — every damn day. 

Some days it comes easy, while others days can be a struggle. It’s natural to feel weak or unprepared or even scared at times. In those moments, take the next step. The challenge you are facing will get smaller and more attainable with each passing step. 

It takes strength to do what you love.

In the last few years, our family has weathered devastating lows and experienced some amazing highs together. In those moments we look to each other and draw upon our strength to pull through and carry on … one day at a time.

And one last question: Do you have any advice for other women looking to grow in their strength?

Find a squad that believes in you and inspires you to be the best version of yourself each and every day. We are not meant to journey through this life alone.

Accept the challenge of something that scares you. Take the first step, and then the next. Commit to seeing it through.

Believe in yourself! Turn to your faith or listen to your intuition — your determined heart knows the way.

I’m grateful for this opportunity to reflect on what strength means to me. And now I ask that you use my words to challenge yourself to discover what strength means to you and how it shows up in your own life.

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