Kathryn has a very pleasant, humorous and interesting style of writing that kept me glued to the seam of the book the entire time. The book is about her experience as a pro skater, her love of skating, and how the very sport she loves created a terrible eating disorder that almost took her life. She paints a not so pretty picture of the pro skating “show” world, but in her beautiful words and her way of looking at life ‘half full’ instead of ‘half empty,’ she comes around full circle to create a positive life out of the negatives she survived. Her journey starts in her home town of Bronxville, NY and goes back and forth between growing up at a small, quite dingy ice rink near her home, and living in a make up room/trailer touring through South America with a very low budget ice show.
Her ultimate dream was to perform with the Ice Capades and she signed a contract with them in 1997. But the show officially shut down a few days before she was to leave for the tour. With her bags packed and waiting at the front door, she had to reevaluate her life, career and goals. Not knowing much about the show world, she took whatever jobs she could but ended up in some not so desirable circumstances. Kathryn is a very motivated, driven, sincere and goal oriented person who just wanted to perform in ice shows. She wanted to skate to her fullest potential but the jobs that she took put her in precarious positions like skating in big costumes where she was not able to skate, and then skating in G strings with feathers where the scale was a threat every Sunday when the cast had to get weighed-in. Her winning attitude actually was detrimental to herself and her life when she fought to win the weight loss game. She did “win” the game as she lost 30 lbs. of her already toned and athletic body within a six month period, surviving on things like banana peels and tea.
She finally had to come to terms with herself and her deteriorating body in her lonely hotel room somewhere in South America. She took the bull by the horns and decided to get away from the unhealthy situation that she was involved with and got herself back home, where upon getting off the plane (30lbs lighter) was greeted by her mother who told her how beautiful she looked now.
This book is inspiring and heart wrenching. Her words are haunting, sincere and funny, while telling a tale that is unfortunately all to common among athletes and performers. We can all learn something about this remarkable young lady and how she has turned her life around and is now actively helping other people with similar problems.
Kathryn lives in Boulder, Colorado where she competes as a high level triathlete and coaches young figure skaters. This is her first book but I’m sure not her last. For more information about Kathryn and to find out where to buy her book, go to www.kathrynbertine.com
Craig Heath: Hello Kathryn. I just read your book, “All the Sundays yet to Come- A Skaters Journey” and I wanted to say congratulations on wonderful piece of work! I really liked your writing style and you inspired me to want to interview you! What made you want to write a book about your not-so-good experiences as a pro skater?
Kathryn Bertine: Thank you, Craig! Well, I guess I tend to think of my book more as a life story than a skating story. I love skating–always have, always will–but I wanted to write about what happens when we set goals, reach them, and then find out that some dreams don’t always go as planned. Also, I wanted to fill a void in the area of athletic literature. There are so many books about Olympic champions and there are lots of books about learning to play sports, but there isn’t much about all the athletes in between these levels. We middle-grounders needed some representation!
CH: How do you look at pro skating now? Do you see positives along with negatives or do you still shiver when the topic comes up?
KB: A little of both. I think there are wonderful aspects of pro skating, especially the shows where the skaters actually get to skate. Unfortunately, I didn’t get that opportunity–I was sentenced to waving and prancing. I don’t think we need to sacrifice the athleticism of skating for the artistic element, or vice versa. They can definitely coexist, and I favor ice shows that understand that. I personally boycott certain ice shows because I do not believe in their weight policies/weigh-in procedures. The last thing we need is more young girls believing that you have to be a skinny stick to reach your dreams. I’ll get off my pedestal now. 🙂
CH: If you could turn back time and change anything in your life, what would it be?
KB: That’s a tricky one, as we all know how time travel can potentially derail the future. I’ve learned a lot of good lessons from all my mistakes. So, I think I’d just go back to my teenage self for a day, give myself a big old hug and say, “Hey, you’re gonna be just fine. Don’t take any crap from anyone. Stay strong, kid. Oh, and that shirt really doesn’t go with those pants.”
CH: How does being a triathlete compare to being a figure skater? What did you “steal” from your skating career to use in your new endeavor?
KB: I stole my leg strength from skating and applied it to cycling. Wow! Who knew that skating had such secret powers? Seriously, the two sports are as similar as they are different. The concentration, focus and determination that got me through 4 minute senior ladies freeskate programs is the same energy I use to get me through Ironman triathlons. Only, its about 10 hours longer. Oh, and I don’t fall on my butt as often in triathlon. But that feeling of crossing the finish line provides the exact same sensation as nailing a perfect (or semi-perfect) skating program. Everything I loved about the athleticism of skating carried over directly into triathlon. Craig, you should try one someday!
CH: I am totally inspired by motivated people. You inspire me. How has growing up as an athlete with goals made you into the person who you are today?
KB: My gosh, thank you. What a kind thing to say! Growing up as an athlete definitely made me into who I am as a person. Being an athlete is one of those rare and wonderful things you cannot separate from the rest of your life. You can define yourself as a writer, a skater, a spouse, etc., but being an athlete is something that crosses all boundaries and makes every aspect of life better. I love setting goals, having a good grip on time-management, and enjoying the moment. Athleticism taught me how to do all of that. And I learned it all at a little diamond-in-the-rough place called Murray’s Rink in Yonkers, NY.
CH: What is your main message to young people, athletes or performers who are afflicted with an eating disorder?
KB: How many pages do I get? 🙂 First, I want people who are suffering to know that they really can get through it. If they want to recover, then they will. Seek counseling and stick with it. There really will come a time when food will not preoccupy your life, and you can actually get through a day without thinking about calories. I wish someone had told me that while I was suffering. I used to think, “There is no way I’ll ever be able to eat normally again. This recovery thing is too hard.” But slowly and surely, I got better. It took about 3 years, and I’m all the stronger for it. Remember, you need to be strong and healthy to reach any of your goals, especially if you are an athlete. If there is someone in your life who made you feel that you’re body was inadequate, try to remember this: That person probably has/had issues about their own body, and is projecting their own feelings onto you. Never let anyone make you feel that your muscles or your weight is a bad thing. Stand up for yourself and be proud of your body. And if anyone still makes you feel bad, let me know so I can send them a piece of my mind. 🙂
CH: Sometimes adversity sparks inspiration. Do you think you would have been as motivated as you are today if so many negative things had not happened to you earlier in your life?
KB: You’re absolutely right, Craig. Adversity does spark inspiration. I personally feed off of other people’s negativity. I use it to my advantage. Every time someone says “you can’t” or “that’ll never happen” I set out to prove them wrong. Usually, it works! If it doesn’t, then at least I know I tried. You can’t lose either way. My pro skating career didn’t work out the way I planned, but it also opened other doors for me. Now I love triathlon, I love my strong body, and I have a book about the whole experience, so chalk one up for adversity!
CH: In the book, you describe a relationship of conflict and dysfunction with your mother. How is your relationship now? Has it improved or gone the other way since the book was published?
KB: Let’s just say that my family is still “digesting” my book. Yes, my teenage/adulthood relationship with my mother was turbulent because we embraced such different ideals of what it means to be a healthy, beautiful woman. I was an athlete, she was an interior decorator. You can see the potential conflict: looking good and feeling good were two separate things. Anyway, I chose to write about our “dysfunction” so that people could see a very important angle of family relationships; that it can be tough to break away from familial influences and to be your own person. I’ve gotten emails from young girls who have thanked me for helping them through their own similar mother/daughter problems. That makes me feel great. Even though my mother and I are very different, my Mom really is a good person. She’s had a hard time accepting my book, but I think that we can use it as a way to bring us closer in the future. I think we’ll get past our issues soon.
CH: Your writing is excellent. I really enjoy how you use words to tell your stories. Do you plan on writing another book? Is there anywhere else that we can read your work?
KB: Thank you! Yes, I’m working on a new book idea, which still has to go through the rigors of finding a buyer, publisher, etc. But, if it comes through, I’ll get to work on it right away. It isn’t about skating this time. I’ll have a whole explanation up on my website soon, so please check it out! I want to be a writer for the rest of my life, I’m excited to see what doors it will open. In the meantime, I write regularly for Triathlete Magazine and Inside Triathlon, as well as ESPN, HerSports, and UsWeekly. Most of it is journalism without the narrative edge, so its pretty different from my personal style of prose. Oh, and if you’d like to read a chapter of “All the Sundays Yet to Come” I have some samples up on my website. www.kathrynbertine.com
CH: Thank you Kathryn. You were a joy to speak with and I wish you all the best for a wonderful writing career and anything else that you set your mind to.